Oliver Carlson (1899–1991) founded the Young Communist League of America and other communist organizations and specialized in communist infiltration of Hollywood.
Oliver Carlson was born on 31 July 1899 on Gotland. In 1919 he was a member of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society. He studied law for a year at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
In 1914, Carlson joined the Young People’s Socialist League (YPSL) while living in the Muskegon and Detroit, Michigan areas. In 1918-1919, Carlson served as the national secretary of the YPSL.
WL and YCL
After the Communist Party was formed in 1919 in the United States, Carlson became a Communist. During the winter of 1920-1921, Carlson (as “H. Edwards”) attended a second convention of the United Communist Party in Kingston, New York, which voted to establish the “Young People’s Communist League.”
In April 1921 he attended a congress in Germany for the Young Communist International. The meeting then moved to Moscow, which Carlson (as “Tucker”) attended.
In January 1922, when the Labor Party of America was formed, the party agreed to establish a National Organizing Committee (NOC) of the Young Workers League of America (YWL), with Carlson as secretary. The group started a second publication called Youth, and soon changed to The Young Worker with Carlson as both YWLA secretary and Young Worker editor, Martin Abern as secretary, and Harry Gannes as business manager.
In May 1922, the Young Communist League of America (YCLA) was formed, at which meeting Max Bedacht spoke. The group published Ung Kommunist quarterly during 1922.
In July 1922, Carlson visited comrades in Gary, Indiana.
In January 1924, Carlson, now ex-editor, measured the circulation of the Young Worker at 7-8,000 copies per issue. After attending the 4th World Congress of the Young Communist International, the leadership was shuffled with three secretaries (John Williamson, Martin Abern and Carlson), Max Shachtman as editor, and Abern and Carlson as heads of the education department (among other positions).
Communist Summer Schools
In 1925, Carlson became director of Communist Summer Schools sponsored by the Labor Party of America.
During the summer of 1926, the Young Workers League of America (YWL) operated several pioneer camps and summer schools: Chicago, Waino, Wisconsin; Waukegan, Illinois and Winchedon, Massachusetts.
During the summer of 1927, the YWL operated four schools in Boston, a city in Ohio, Waino, and Winlock, Washington. Carlson directed the Winlock School.
During 1928, Carlson directed a YWL school in Woodland, Washington. CLA In 1928-9, Carlson joined the Communist League of America (CLA), under the leadership of James P. Cannon, Max Shachtman, and Martin Abern.
By late 1931, Carlson was out seeking reinstatement to the CLA: which he was not to receive.
(In 1934, the CLA folded into AJ Muste’s American Labor Party to form the Labor Party of the United States.)
University of Chicago
In 1930, Carlson taught in the political science department at the University of Chicago, where “I made a special study of the propaganda techniques of the Communist movement both abroad and in this country.”
During 1939-1940 he studied the “problem of communism” in the state of California, which he published as a mirror for Californians in 1941. According to Carlson in 1947, "has a great deal of information about the communist movement in California, and in a chapter dealing with Hollywood devotes I part of that chapter to a discussion of Communist infiltration in Hollywood up to that time. "
Carlson then read several pages from a chapter in the book called “There Is No Town Called Hollywood.” (A May 1941 New York Times review reports that the book focuses on four major players in California history: Denis Kearney, Hiram Johnson, Upton Sinclair, and Francis Townsend and also discusses Harry Bridges.)
On Communism and Education, Carlson testified that William Wolfe of the ILGWU’s Education Department ran a People’s Education Center, succeeded by Sidney Davison (sent from New York). Herbert Biberman taught there (Soviet theater), as did Guy Endore Robert Lees.
Advisors included Lees, Lawson, Healey, Herbert Sorrell, Frank Tuttle and Sondra Gorney.
Personal Life and Death
Mrs. Oliver Carlson was a sponsor of the Hollywood League of Women Shoppers, along with Frances Farmer, Lillian Hellman, Mrs. Boris Karloff and others. Oliver Carlson died at the age of 91 on March 4, 1991 in California.