William Z. Foster was the real article. "He personified the American proletariat as few radical leaders have ever done," Theodore Draper writes. Foster's life story, which encapsulates so much of the history of the American left, is in many ways a tragedy, conveying both the great potential of the radical working-class movement in the United States through the era of the Great Depression and its catastrophic defeat and disintegration in the postwar era. Foster stands above all as the historic symbol of American Communism. Understanding his grim commitment to this movement goes a long way toward explaining its rise and fall in the United States.