If it's true that all politics is local, then the American Communist Party might well have had its roots in Brooklyn's Sunnyside Gardens brought vividly to life in Jonathan Lethem's soaring novel, Dissident Gardens
. The story visits not just the growth (and the eventual sputtering out) of communism in these environs, but also traces the arc of subsequent political activities leading all the way up to the recent Occupy movement.
The Sunnyside Gardens that Lethem draws so well bears a striking resemblance to the real-life Sunnyside Gardens in Queens which is on the National Register of Historic Places because it was one of the country's first planned urban garden centers. During the 1950s when the novel gets its start, the Brooklyn neighborhood is made up of Jewish and Irish immigrants. The novel's primary character, Rose Angrush Zimmer, is a...
Beyond the Book
While communism might be a dirty word today, its principles held a lot of appeal for the working poor in the United States for much of the 1920s through the 50s. The idea of a "workers' revolution" akin to the Russian October revolution of 1917 didn't seem too far-fetched. The stock market crash of 1929 followed by the Great Depression further cemented the popularity of a movement that promised better labor arrangements in general - improved working conditions and equal rights for all. Communism grew to such a strong extent that it soon became a vital part of left-wing American politics.
Religious organizations with their emphasis on "social justice" also found roots in this left-wing movement. Soon Jewish women played a large part in keeping numbers strong, especially in New...