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Wikipedia: Fellow traveler
Fellow traveler or fellow traveller is a derogatory term referring to a person who sympathizes with the beliefs of an organization or cooperates in its activities without maintaining formal membership in that particular group. In the early Soviet Union the approximate term was used without negative connotation to describe writers and artists sympathetic to the goals of the Russian Revolution who declined to join the Communist Party. The English-language phrase came into vogue in the United States during the 1940s and 1950s as a pejorative term for a sympathizer of Communism or particular Communist states, who was nonetheless not a “card-carrying member” of a Communist party.
Usage in Europe
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the term “fellow traveler” (Russian: попутчик, poputchik; literally: “one who travels the same path") was sometimes applied to Russian writers who accepted the revolution’s ends but were not active participants. The term became famous because of Trotsky’s 1924 book Literature and Revolution, in which he discussed “fellow-travelers” in Chapter 2: “The Literary ‘Fellow-Travellers’ of the Revolution.” Trotsky wrote:
Between bourgeois art, which is wasting away either in repetitions or in silences, and the new art which is as yet unborn, there is being created a transitional art which is more or less organically connected with the Revolution, but which is not at the same time the art of the Revolution. Boris Pilnyak, Vsevolod Ivanov, Nicolai Tikhonov, the “Serapion Fraternity”, Yessenin and his group of Imagists and, to some extent, Kliuev — all of them were impossible without the Revolution, either as a group, or separately. ... They are not the artists of the proletarian Revolution, but her artist “fellow-travellers”, in the sense in which this word was used by the old Socialists. ... As regards a “fellow-traveller”, the question always comes up – how far will he go? This question cannot be answered in advance, not even approximately. The solution of it depends not so much on the personal qualities of this or that “fellow-traveller”, but mainly on the objective trend of things during the coming decade.
Use in the Americas
In the United States, the term was adapted from Europe to describe those who, while not Communist Party members, may hold views shared by Communists. Given the economic and social problems in the US and the world in the 1920s and 1930s, many younger people, artists and intellectuals, had sympathy for the Communist cause and hoped that it could lead to better societies. Some African Americans joined because the Communist Party held political positions sympathetic to their struggle for civil rights and social justice.
As in Europe, in the 1920s and 1930s numerous American intellectuals sympathized or joined the Communist Party in the United States as young activists. In part this also reflected people’s search for answers to social problems during the drastic dislocations of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl years, when the inequities of American society seemed overwhelming. Columnist Max Lerner included the term in his 1936 article for The Nation called “Mr. Roosevelt and His Fellow Travelers.” Future HUAC chief investigator J. B. Matthews would use the term in the title of his last book, Odyssey of a Fellow Traveler (1938). (In The Age of Roosevelt (1957), Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. would call Matthews in turn a “Social Gospel fellow traveler.") In 1962, reviewing Daniel Aron’s Writers on the Left, Time states “among the famous fellows who traveled were Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, and Theodore Dreiser.” Dos Passos was probably the most notorious of all: in 1940, he was already being cited as “Number One Literary Fellow Traveler.” Whittaker Chambers used the term in a satirical 1941 article for Time: “As the Red Express hooted off into the shades of a closing decade, ex-fellow travelers rubbed their bruises, wondered how they had ever come to get aboard… With the exception of Granville Hicks, probably none of these people was a Communist. They were fellow travelers who wanted to help fight fascism.”
Following World War II, membership in the US Communist Party experienced a dramatic decline. Information reached the West about the widespread purges and show trials conducted by Joseph Stalin. Together with information about millions of deaths during collectivization, many adherents rethought their commitments. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union exercised power over much of Central and Eastern Europe, through puppet governments and its Red Army. Revelations about Soviet use of espionage to expedite development of an atomic bomb in competition with the US led to widespread feelings of threat throughout the U.S., which some historians have described as the Second Red Scare.
Some in the political establishment were quick to capitalize upon it.
Beginning in 1946, a new round of Congressional hearings were held in an attempt to detail the extent of Soviet influence in American government and society and its cultural institutions. It was during this super-heated period that the term “fellow traveler” came into common use as a political pejorative. US Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin claimed there were numerous public and secret sympathizers of the Soviet regime within the State Department and US Army. Many individuals in publishing, film, TV and theater were blacklisted on mere suspicion of Communist sympathies, even when any active affiliation was decades in the past.
In Safire’s Political Dictionary (1978), William Safire defined “fellow traveler” as “one who accepted most Communist doctrine, but was not a member of the Communist party; in current use, one who agrees with a philosophy or group but does not publicly work for it.”
(Oxford English Dictionary)
transf. One who sympathizes with the Communist movement without actually being a party member. Also in extended uses.
The equiv. Russ. popútchik (Trotsky) was used of non-communist writers sympathizing with the Revolution.
1936 Nation (N.Y.) 24 Oct. 471/1 The new phenomenon is the fellow-traveler. The term has a Russian background and means someone who does not accept all your aims but has enough in common with you to accompany you in a comradely fashion part of the way. In this campaign both Mr. Landon and Mr. Roosevelt have acquired fellow-travelers.
1941 AUDEN New Year Let. II. 39 A liberal fellow traveller ran With sansculotte and Jacobin Nor guessed what circles he was in.
1942 E. WAUGH Put out More Flags ii. 131 ‘I was never a party member.’ ‘Party?’ ‘Communist party. I was what they call in their horrible jargon, a fellow traveller.’
OCLC WorldCat record
My fellow-traveller (the story of a journey)
Author: Maksim Gorky
Publisher: Girard, Kan. : Haldeman-Julius Co., 
Series: Ten cent pocket series, no. 389
Edition/Format: Book : Fiction : English
Maxim Gorky and his Russia
By Alexander Kaun
New York, NY: J. Cape & H. Smith
...may not be a communist, he is only a “fellow-traveller,” but he is a talented writer, and should be treated sparingly.
23 April 1933, New York (NY) Times, “Love an Marraige in Russia” by Peter Monro Jack, pg. BR2:
ROMANOF is a “fellow traveler,” as Trotsky phrased it, more generally and sympathetically read by the Western world than by Russia.
Human relationships in the new Russia
By Ella Winter
New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace and Company
The author of this story is a poputchik or fellow traveler, not a Communist, a writer influenced by some of the old class-psychology, who sympathizes with the Soviet regime but does not always understand it.
OCLC WorldCat record
Odyssey of a fellow traveler,
Author: J B Matthews
Publisher: New York, N.Y., Mount Vernon Publishers, 1938.
Edition/Format: Book : Biography : English
5 September 1938, Life magazine, pg. 12 photo caption:
Lecturer J. B. Matthews presented himself as an ex-"fellow traveler” of U. S. Communists, described the Communist strategy of boring from within. Communist-founded and dominated, said he, are the American League for Peace and Democracy, which he once headed, and other anti-fascist, pacifist organizations.
A Handbook on Hanging:
Being a short introduction to the fine art of execution, containing much useful information on neck-breaking, throttling, strangling, asphyxiation, decapitation and electrocution; data and wrinkles on hangmanship; with the late Mr. Hangman Berry’s method and his pioneering list of drops; to which is added an account of the great Nuremberg hangings; a ready reckoner for hangmen; and many other items of interest including the anatomy of murder
By Charles Duff
London John Lane
He may be, indeed, what the contemporary Russians would call a Poputchik: a ‘fellow-traveller’ — one who, without being a confirmed Communist, sympathizes with policy of the Soviet Government.
8 June 1939, Hartford (CT) Courant, pg. 1:
MacLeish Called ‘Fellow Traveler’ Of Communism
Thomas, Republican, Tells House Conn. Man is Red Sympathizer
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