File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-01-29.113, message 65

Date: Tue, 28 Jan 1997 20:36:23 -0500 (EST)
Subject: M-I: CPUSA and Culture (Post #2)

Kevin Cabral asked me to recommend books on the CP and culture.  These are
three that I am using as background in my profile of Fred Baker, but I'm
sure that there are many others out there. 

The first is a book by Robert Cantwell called "When We Were Good--The
Folk Revival" (Harvard, 1996). The cover leaf is pretty accurate in
stating that "a body of music once enlisted on behalf of the labor
movement, antifascism, New Deal recovery efforts, and many other
progressive causes of the 1930s was refashioned as an instrument of
self-discovery, even as it found new agenda and styles in the peace, civil
rights and beat movements." 

In a similar vein is "My Song is My Weapon--People's Songs, American
Communism, and The Politics of Culture 1930-1950" by Robbie Lieberman
(University of Illinois, 1989). This book as the title indicates is more
directly involved with the CP as an organization and the choral group it
initiated called People's Songs. Fred Baker was a member of People's Songs
as was Irwin Silber, a well-known socialist activist who led a group
called Line of March in the 1980s. In the introduction, Lieberman notes
that People's Songs drew on the traditions of abolitionists, labor
organizers, populists, socialists and others who had used songs in their
efforts to change the world. The organization was formed during a decisive
period in American politics in order 'to create, promote, and distribute
songs of labor and the American people.' To this end People's Songs
produced concerts, filmstrips, songsheets, and a songbook; staged concerts
and hootenannies; and taught classes in the use of music for political
action. People's Songs held one naional convention, in 1947, and devoted a
major effort to Henry Wallace's 1948 presidential campaign. At its height
People's Songs had between two and three thousand members, with strong
chapters in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Its Board of Sponsors
included Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Paul

The third book is Martin Duberman's biography of Paul Robeson, which is
available in paperback everywhere. 

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