William Weinstone

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Will Weinstone, 1927.

William Wolf "Will" Weinstone (1897–1985) was an American Communist politician and labor leader. Weinstone served as Executive Secretary of the unified Communist Party of America, the forerunner of today's Communist Party USA, from October 15, 1921 to February 22, 1922 and was an important figure in the party's activities among the auto workers of Detroit during the 1930s.

Biography[edit]

Early years[edit]

William Weinstone was born December 15, 1897 in Vilnius, then part of the Tsarist Russian Empire. Will was the son of ethnic Jewish parents who emigrated from Russia to escape that nation's pervasive anti-semitism during the late Tsarist period. His original surname was "Winestein," a name which Will Americanized when he was older.

Political career[edit]

Weinstone was elected as an alternate delegate to the Left Wing National Conference held in New York City in June 1919, at which he was seated to replace a regular delegate on the last day of the gathering.

Weinstone was elected as a delegate to the founding convention of the Communist Party of America, called to order in Chicago on September 1, 1919.

During the first years of the 1920s the Communist Party of America was forced underground by the mass operation of the U.S. Department of Justice remembered as the Palmer Raids. During this interval, Weinstone served as Executive Secretary of the secret party organization from October 15, 1921 to February 22, 1922, under the pseudonym "G. Lewis."[1]

Following the removal of Jay Lovestone and Benjamin Gitlow from the leadership of the Communist Party in the summer of 1929, Weinstone was added to the ranks of a new collective leadership called the Secretariat.[2] Although he had aspirations of permanent leadership, he was ultimately unable to retain the top leadership, which soon fell to Earl Browder, a longtime factional rival.[2]

Weinstone ran for Mayor of New York City in 1929.[3] Following the campaign, Weinstone was selected by the Communist Party as its representative to the Executive Committee of the Communist International in Moscow, a post which he occupied until 1931.[2]

He ran for U.S. Senator from New York in 1932.

As an executive officer of the Communist Party in Michigan during a wave of Great Depression union activity during the mid-1930s, Weinstone played a significant role in the founding of the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) in May 1935, pressing the unionized workers to make use of the sit-down strike, a tactic first employed by the Industrial Workers of the World union.[4] The union's wave of successful sit-down strikes culminated in the Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1936-1937, in which the striking UAW workers occupied several General Motors plants for over forty days – repelling the efforts of the police and National Guard to drive them from the auto plant's premises.

A member of the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party during the same period, Weinstone concurrently worked on the party's cause on behalf of oppressed African Americans in the segregated southern states. Writing for such Communist publications as The International Communist, he was a strong champion of the defense of the falsely-accused Scottsboro Boys, whose successful legal defense was organized by the Communist-funded International Labor Defense, as was the famous case of young African American organizer Angelo Herndon.

In 1938 Weinstone was named Director of the New York Workers School, the Communist Party's ideological training school located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.[5]

Later years[edit]

Still publishing material for the communist cause into the twilight of his life, Winestone, together with Theodore Bassett and Philip A. Bart, was also co-editor of Highlights of a Fighting History: 60 Years of the Communist Party, USA, a broad selection of speeches, essays, and documents from the party's history; his recollection of organizing work during the autoworkers' sit-down strike was published in The Great Sit-Down Strike, a work produced by the party-organized Workers Library Publishers in 1937.

In 1953, he and 12 other Communist leaders were convicted in Federal District Court in Manhattan under the Smith Act of conspiracy to advocate the violent overthrow of the Government. His role in the conspiracy was the writing of two newspaper articles, in 1948 and 1950, reviewing the party's educational work and plans to raise membership. He served two years in a Federal prison and was fined $4,000. [6] Weinstone remained a loyalist to the Communist Party throughout his entire life, remaining in the organization even after its bitter factional struggle of 1956 to 1958, brought about by the so-called "Secret Speech" of Nikita Khrushchev in February 1956 and the Soviet invasion of Hungary in November 1956.

In 1959, Weinstone was among the first American Communists to visit the Soviet Union again, following a protracted break in direct contacts with the outside world. Weinstone traveled at that time without portfolio and was reported by high-ranking party member and FBI informant Morris Childs to have been considering seeking employment and staying in the USSR on a long-term basis.[7] Childs persuaded Weinstone to return to the United States, however, and he returned to America on November 1, 1959.[7]

Death and legacy[edit]

Will Weinstone died on October 26, 1985. His papers reside with the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.[8]

Weinstone was immortalized in film as one of the "witnesses" in Warren Beatty's film, Reds, sharing his personal recollections of radical journalist John Reed and his wife, Louise Bryant.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "The Communist Party of America (1919-1946): Party Officials," Early American Marxism website, www.marxisthistory.org/ Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Theodore Draper, American Communism and Soviet Russia. New York: Viking Press, 1960; pg. 431.
  3. ^ "Communists Name Municipal Ticket: Weinstone Chosen to Run for Mayor," New York Times, July 15, 1929.
  4. ^ Berger, Michael L. The Automobile in American History: A Reference Guide. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001; pg. 76; the Industrial Workers of the World union's role in the founding of the sit-down strike is retold by Bruce Watson in Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream. New York: Penguin Books, 2005; pg. 54.
  5. ^ Marvin E. Gettleman, "The New York Workers School, 1923-1944: Communist Education in American Society," in Michael E. Brown et al., New Studies in the Politics and Culture of U.S. Communism. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1993; pg. 271.
  6. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/1985/10/26/nyregion/william-w-weinstone-dead-a-marxist-scholar-and-editor.html
  7. ^ a b Morris Childs, "Information Concerning William Weinstone," December 3, 1959. Published in "FBI SOLO Files - March 1958 to August 1960." Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Investigation, August 2011; part 15, pdf page 12.
  8. ^ Laura J. Kells, William W. Weinstone Papers: A Finding Aid to the Collection in the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, 2009.

Works[edit]

  • How the Auto Workers Won'.' (with William Z Foster) New York: The Daily Worker, 1937.
  • The Freat Sit-down Strike. New York: Workers Library Pub., 1937.
  • Factionalism — The Enemy of the Auto Workers. (with Boleslaw Gebert) Detroit, Communist Party of Michigan 1938.
  • The Case against David Dubinsky'.' New York: New Century Publishers, 1946
  • The Atom Bomb and You. New York: New Century Publishers, 1950.
  • Our Generation Will Not Be Silent: Statement of the Labor Youth League in Answer to the Attorney General's Charges under the McCarran Act. New York: The League, 1953.
  • Against Opportunism: For a Marxist-Leninist, Vanguard Party of the American Working Class. New York: Waterfront Section, Communist Party, U.S.A., 1956.
  • Study Outline on the History of the Communist Party, USA. New York: National Education Dept., Communist Party, U.S.A., 1969.

External links[edit]