The Great Soviet Encyclopedia on William Z Foster


Foster, William Z

Born Feb. 25, 1881, in Taunton, Mass.; died Sept. 1, 1961, in Moscow. Figure in the American and international labor movements.

The son of a worker, Foster began working at the age of ten. Between 1891 and 1917 he worked in various branches of industry, in transportation, and as a sailor. He took part in the strike movement from the 1890’s. In 1901 he joined the Socialist Party but left in 1909 after a disagreement over the opportunistic policies of its leaders. From 1909 to 1912 he was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. He was involved, as a founder and leader, in several labor and trade union organizations.

In 1919, Foster led a major steelworkers’ strike. From 1920 to 1929 he headed the Trade Union Educational League, which he founded, and continued to lead it after it was reorganized as the Trade Union Unity League in 1929. He was elected to the executive bureau of the Red International of Trade Unions (Profin-tern) in 1922.

Foster joined the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA) in 1921; he was elected a member of the party’s Central Committee and in 1924 became a member of the Politburo of the Central Committee. From 1929 to 1938 he served as chairman of the Central Committee; he was chairman of the National Committee of the CPUSA from 1938 to 1944 and again from 1945 to 1957. In 1957 he was elected chairman emeritus of the National Committee of the CPUSA.

In 1944 and 1945, Foster led the struggle against the opportunistic wing of the party; as a result, the CPUSA, which had been disbanded in 1944 and replaced by the nonparty Communist Political Association, reemerged in 1945.

Foster took part in the Third, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Congresses of the Comintern. In 1924 he was elected a member of the Executive Committee of the Comintern, in 1928, a candidate member of its Presidium, and, in 1935, a member. He ran for the presidency of the USA in 1924, 1928, and 1932.

In 1948, Foster and other CPUSA leaders were indicted; because he was seriously ill, Foster’s trial was postponed indefinitely, but he was virtually under police surveillance for more than ten years. Not until January 1961, after repeated refusals by the American authorities, was he permitted to leave the country to seek medical treatment in the USSR.

Foster wrote on problems of scientific socialism, the history and theory of the labor movement, and key problems in American history. In Twilight of World Capitalism (Russian translation, 2nd ed., 1959) and The Historical Advance of World Socialism (Russian translation, 1961), Foster analyzed the contradictions corroding American society and the capitalist world as a whole and showed the advantages of the socialist order and the historical inevitability of the victory of socialism. He made an important contribution to the materialist study of American history with the works Outline Political History of the Americas (Russian translation, 2nd ed., 1955) and The Negro People in American History (Russian translation, 1955).


History of the Communist Party of the United States. New York, 1952.
In Russian translation:
Istoriia trekh Internatsionalov. Moscow, 1959.
Ocherki mirovogoprofsoiuznogo dvizheniia. Moscow, 1956.


Grechukhin, A. Uil’iam Z. Foster. Moscow, 1959.
Grigor’ev, I. Uil’iam Z. Foster. Moscow, 1975.
North, J. William Z. Foster. New York, [1955].

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Published by Victor Vaughn

Anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist, National Secretary of the American Party of Labor (APL).

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