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A Communist Odyssey

The life of József Pogány/John Pepper

Thomas Sakmyster

Publication Year: 2012

Published by: Central European University Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. vii-ix

The Hungarian Communist whose political odyssey is chronicled in this book was a man of many names. For the first seventeen years of his life he was called József Schwarz. In 1903 he became József Pogány, the name he would be known by while active in Hungary as a journalist and leading figure in radical left-wing parties before and after World War I. In 1922, ...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xi-xii

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CHAPTER 1 · The Making of József Pogány

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pp. 1-16

The Hungarian, who as József Pogány would play an important role in the short-lived Communist regime of 1919, was born in Budapest on November 8, 1886, as József Schwarz. The only available account of Pogány’s early life is found in the memoirs of the woman he married in 1909, Irén Czóbel. She stated that her husband came from a “poor, provincial family” that always lived in “straitened circumstances.”1 ...

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CHAPTER 2 · The Revolutionary, 1918–1919

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pp. 17-33

When in January 1918, Pogány had disparaged the leaders of the mass strike in Budapest as “pretend Bolsheviks,” he had argued that radical action was premature because, among other things, those seeking revolutionary change could not count on any support from the armed forces. In the political and social turbulence of late October in Hungary, Pogány’s ...

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CHAPTER 3 · The Communist

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pp. 35-52

The Hungarian Soviet Republic, which lasted only 133 days, has been called a “bizarre experiment of doctrinaire war Communism.”1 It provided the opportunity for zealous Hungarian Communists and Socialists to attempt to put into practice the abstract principles that they fervently believed would abolish the old order based on superstition and class oppression and would bring into being a workers’ paradise. ...

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CHAPTER 4 · Vienna, Moscow, and Berlin

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pp. 53-73

Although the band of Hungarian Communists who arrived in Austria early in August 1919 was granted asylum, they were at first not given the freedom to move about the country. Instead, they were placed under protective custody at Karlstein Castle, a dilapidated relic in northern Austria. The Austrian authorities not only feared that the émigré Communists might create political disorder ...

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CHAPTER 5 · The “Hungarian Christopher Columbus”

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pp. 75-100

The American Communist movement that Pogány, using the name Joseph Lang, encountered upon his arrival in New York in mid-July 1922, was in considerable disarray, racked by a bitter factional struggle, a proliferation of rival organizations, and economic woes. Since its inception in 1919, the CPUSA had to contend with state and federal authorities that sought to suppress the movement. ...

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CHAPTER 6 · “Pepperism” in America

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pp. 101-126

Of the hundreds of delegates who were to attend the “monster convention” scheduled to begin on July 3, 1923, in Chicago, only ten were officially allocated to the Workers’ Party. But Pepper, who as an organizer in Hungary and Germany, had learned certain innovative methods for artificially enhancing the influence of the Communist movement, was confident that with proper planning the Workers’ Party would be able to play the ...

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CHAPTER 7 · The Comintern Cadre

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pp. 127-146

Although in the summer of 1924 Pepper indicated to his American friends that he had hopes of returning before long to the United States, upon sober reflection he must have realized, with regret, that such a prospect was highly unlikely, at least in the immediate future. His nearly two-year long sojourn in the New World had been an exhilarating time for him. ...

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CHAPTER 8 · Pepper and the “American Question,” 1924–1928

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pp. 147-166

In the first two years of his Comintern work, 1924–26, Pepper had become involved in a myriad of activities. Few of his colleagues could match him in the production of articles and pamphlets, which he managed to publish in many languages in leading Communist journals and newspapers worldwide. It is true that his ambition to become the Comintern’s acknowledged expert on Great Britain had been thwarted. ...

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CHAPTER 9 · Return to the New World

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pp. 167-189

It was in mid-March that Pepper arrived in New York unannounced, to the delight of Lovestone and his other friends and to the consternation of the Fosterites. Toward the latter, Pepper was uncharacteristically gracious and conciliatory. He requested private meetings with Foster and Bittelman, at which he apparently promised to refrain from name-calling and other divisive activities that would exacerbate the factional struggle. ...

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CHAPTER 10 · End of the Odyssey

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pp. 191-215

On February 20, 1929, Pepper checked into the Hotel Granaton in Bronxville, New York, under the name “John Rogers.” There he was to remain for more than a month, only occasionally making his way surreptitiously to his regular apartment on 104th Street in New York, where he planned his strategy with Lovestone and Jack Stachel, the only party leaders who knew his true whereabouts. Two party stenographers were also in on the secret. ...

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pp. 217-231

As a young man of considerable intellectual ability and educational attainment, József Pogány had many careers open to him in the first decade of the twentieth century. With the exception of government administration and the officer corps, Hungarians of Jewish backgrounds were free to enter any of the professions, and did so in remarkable numbers. Although Jews represented only 5 percent of the population of the Kingdom ...


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pp. 233-244


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pp. 245-249

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9786155225529
Print-ISBN-13: 9786155225086

Publication Year: 2012

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Subject Headings

  • Pogány, József, 1886-1938.
  • Pepper, John, 1886-1938.
  • Communists -- Hungary -- Biography.
  • Communism -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Communism -- Europe -- History -- 20th century.
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