MIA : Early American Marxism : The Communist International [Comintern] (1919-1930) downloadable documents
“Application for Membership in the Communist International on Behalf of the Communist Party of America,” by Louis C. Fraina. [Nov. 11, 1919] In 1919, all four of the existing radical parties in America (CLP, CPA, PPA, SPA) made application for membership in the Third (Communist) International in Moscow. This is the document prepared by Louis C. Fraina on behalf of the Communist Party of America, outlining the history of the American movement and making that organization’s case for membership in the Comintern.
“Circular Letter to Comintern-Affiliated Parties on Parliamentarism and the Soviets from Grigorii Zinoviev, President of ECCI, September 1, 1919.” This communique from the President of the Executive Committee of the Communist International to affiliated Communist organizations around the world (received and published in the United States in February 1920) deals with the hot-button topic of parliamentarism. Communist elements were uniting across Europe and in America around the slogan of Soviet Power and “at all costs” needed to implement “uniform tactics,” Zinoviev states in the September 1 letter. Zinoviev indicates that the “universal unifying program” of the revolutionary socialist Communists and those whom they left behind in the “official Social Democratic parties” was “at the present moment the recognition of the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat in the form of the Soviet power.” Citing precedent in Russia, Sweden, Bulgaria, and Germany, Zinoviev forcefully argues for the “complete admissibility and usefulness” of parliamentary campaigns and use of the parliamentary tribune by socialist revolutionaries. He continues: “Such ‘parliamentary work’ demands peculiar daring and a special revolutionary spirit; the men there are occupying especially dangerous positions; they are laying mines under the enemy while in the enemy’s camp; the enter parliament for the purpose of getting this machine in their hands in order to assist the masses behind the walls of the parliament in the work of blowing it up.” Zinoviev emphasizes his position by asking and answering a rhetorical question: “Are we for the maintenance of the bourgeois ‘democratic’ parliaments as the form of the administration of the state? No, not in any case. We are for the Soviets.” Noting that the Russian Bolsheviks variously boycotted and participated in Duma campaigns depending upon the situation which they faced, Zinoviev allows that concrete national conditions must be considered in the matter of electoral participation: “The matter of taking part in the election at a given time during a given electorial campaign, depends upon a whole string of concrete circumstances which, in each country, must be particularly considered at each given time.”
“To the Foreign Committee of the American Communist Party and the American Communist Labor Party. A Confidential Letter from the Executive Committee of the Communist International, circa December 1919.” One of the earliest communiques from the Communist International to the American communist movement. The letter indicates the ECCI had “received more or less exact information concerning your differences” from a “reliable and unbiased source” and that the differences between the two American communist parties were not based upon questions of program, but rather on questions of tactics and organization, particularly the place of parliamentarism and the relationship of the communists to the labor movement. The letter is particularly critical of the CPA’s position on both counts. With regards to parliamentarism, the need was for “a mass party, and not an isolated group”—“an active force and not a narrow academic group.” The CPA is also implcitly singled out for its views regarding the Soviet Embassy, “there can be no question of his responsibility to any American organization even if it is largely or even exclusively composed of citizens of the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic.” A split of the movement is “ impossible and unthinkable,” the letter indicates, and the position of the CI on vital points of difference is hoped to be a basis for merger of the two American communist organizations.
“Letter from Grigorii Zinoviev on behalf of the ECCI to the Central Executive Committee of the CPA and National Executive Committee of the CLPA, January 12, 1920.” A seminal document in the history of the American Communist movement, the first official statement of the position of the Communist International on the division of the American Communist movement into two competing organizations. Zinoviev represented the split a “heavy blow to the communist movement in America” which was in the final analysis based upon “certain disagreements on the question of tactics, principally questions of organization” rather than differences of program. Zinoviev stated that the foreign language based and theoretically more advanced Communist Party and anglophonic Communist Labor Party were supplemental to one another and noted that the ECCI “categorically insists” on the immediate unification of the two organizations. A joint unity conference based upon equal representation of the two groups was proposed. Zinoviev brought 9 points to the attention of the American parties: (1) The need for a broad-based party; (2) While a complete break with the old socialist parties was necessary, individual members and groups from those organizations were suitable for communist membership; (3) “It is particularly necessary to remember that the stage of verbal propaganda and agitation has been left behind, the time for decisive battles has arrived” and the broad proletarian masses thus must be attracted to the communist party; (4) The Communists should work to hasten the demise of the AF of L by supporting the revolutionary industrial unions of the IWW, OBU, and WIIU; (5) The party must build workers’ committees in the shops in parallel to the party organizations therein; (6) While the language federations had played and would continue to play an important role in America integrating workers into the English-speaking movement, “the party must not represent a conglomeration of independent or semi-autonomous ’national federations;’” (7) The use of referendums should be reduced to a minimum with the Central Committee vested with “complete authority” between party conclaves; (8) The establlishment of a daily newspaper was one of the most important immediate practical tasks of the American party; and (9) An underground party organization comprised of trusted comrades was immediately necessary, to conduct revolutionary propaganda and to carry on the party’s work in the event of violent suppression of the party apparatus.
“Application of the Socialist Party of America for Membership in the Communist International. A letter from Otto Branstetter to Grigorii Zinoviev, March 12, 1920.” Even after suspending and expelling a majority of the members fo the Socialist Party for endorsing the program of a formal Left Wing faction within the party, the rump of the organization approved via referendum vote a minority plank on international affiliation calling for the SP to immediately join the Communist International. This is the letter which SP National Executive Secretary Otto Branstetter composed and sent to Moscow in accordance with this decision of the party membership. Branstetter’s official letter, typed up by future National Executive Secretary Bertha Hale White, was pro forma and made no concrete case for inclusion of the Socialist Party in the Comintern. It was dispatched to Russia together with the rejected “Majority plank” and the approved “Minority plank” on international affiliation.
“Draft of a Supplemental Appeal to the Executive Committee of the Communist International from the Socialist Party of America, circa March 12, 1920,” by Otto Branstetter” While the official application for inclusion in the Communist International submitted on behalf of the Socialist Party of America by its National Executive Secretary, Otto Branstetter, was tepid and certain of immediate rejection, there was considered a strong appeal affirming with vigor the SPA’s credentials for membership. This fascinating document is a draft of a supplemental appeal to the ECCI composed by Branstetter. The Socialist Party’s opposition to the European war is characterized as militant, consistent, and nearly unanimous. The SP’s officials are characterized as “no less loyal and devoted and steadfast in maintaining the position of the Party,” as examplified by the draconian legal action taken against them by the “black reaction” of the capitalist state. “There was no split in the American Socialist party on account of or during the war. The split in this country occurred a year after the signing of the armistice” and “was largely composed of comrades who had never been affiliated with the Socialist Party until after the signing of the armistice and of those who, though affiliated, were conspicuously silent and inactive during the war.” The courage and capability of those Left Wing leaders is called into question by Branstetter, who observes “the fact that the most prominent and influential leaders in the recent split have fled to safety in foreign countries, while their deluded and deserted followers are being thrown into jails and penitentiaries by the thousands, is significant of the caliber and character of those leaders.” The leaders of the Socialist Party are held up in contradistinction to the successionists as the authentic representatives of American radicalism, worthy of inclusion in the Communist International in their stead.
"Message from the Amsterdam Sub-Bureau of the Comintern to the American Communist Movement, March 20, 1920.” A sympathetic message to the Communists of America sent by the Executive Committee of the short-lived Amsterdam Sub-Bureau of the Communist International and published in the party press. The letter rather melodramatically likens the persecution being suffered by the American movement to that of the Russian revolutionaries under the Tsarist regime and links it to a forthcoming final battle against world capitalism: “Nothing short of the fall of American Capitalism will mean the end of that gigantic historical drama of which the world war seems to have been the prologue. The ruling classes of America know this, and that is why they try to crush Communism before it has taken hold of the masses; they want to violently tear it out, before it has deeply struck root into the American soil.” According to the letter, it is the task of the American Communists to preseve their party organization and “to carry on, on broader lines, the task that the IWW first took in hand, to lead the masses against capitalism; to become the nucleus, the heart and the brain, of a stronger and more determined working class movement."
“Dictatorship and the International,.” by Morris Hillquit. [May 1920] Speech by the International Secretary of the Socialist Party of America delivered at the May 8-14, 1920 New York Convention of the party. Hillquit, supportive of the Russian Revolution and the legitimacy of Lenin and Trotsky’s government, calls the Third International “a nucleus, but no more than that, of a new International.” Hillquit objects to any international organization which might impose theoretical interpretations and tactical policies on member parties, noting that “the rule of self-determination in matters of policy and matters of struggle” had been a fundamental principle of both the First and Second Internationals. In particular, Hillquit considers the Third International’s interpretation of the phrase “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” to be historically erroneous (citing the phrase’s origin in Marx’s 1875 “Critique of the Gotha Program") and tactically disastrous, opening the the Socialist movement to abrogation of democratic norms and victimization by its bourgeois opponents. Hillquit seeks the SPA’s participation in a future International including both the Russian Communist Party as well as the Independent Labour Party of Britain, the Socialist Party of France, and the Independent Socialists of Germany.
"Greetings to the Communist International.” A Message from the First Convention of the United Communist Party of America, May 31, 1920. Convention greetings to the Executive Committee of the Comintern from the newly established UCP announcing the formation of that organization. “Unfortunately, however, this unity is not complete as to the Communist Party, in which a new separation has lately arisen. But this is a division so entirely artificial in its nature that we are confident it cannot long be sustained,” the message notes, adding that some of the members of the Russian, Ukrainian, Latvian, Polish, and Lithuanians have stayed aloof from the new organization, the “separatist leaders” of which seemed to be motivated by “control not based on any distinction of Communist principles but upon the personal desires of a few Federation leaders for position and influence."
Challenge of the Mandates of the CPA Delegation to the 2nd Congress of the Communist International, August 5, 1920.” The CPA dispatched two representatives to Moscow to serve as its delegates at the 2nd Congress (Louis C. Fraina and Alexander Stoklitsky) prior to the Bridgman Unity Convention of May 1920. The majority of the members of the old CPA refused to join the United Communist Party of America at this time, resulting in the continued existence of two communist organizations in America. After the conclusion of the Unity Convention, UCP member Edward Lindgren ["Flynn"] was sent to Moscow to serve as a Comintern Congress delegate, joining three other members of the former CLP already there: former CLP International Delegates John Reed and Alexander Bilan, as well as Eadmonn MacAlpine. Lindgren brought news of the Unity Convention and the group decided to press for Comintern ratification of the new party by unseating the CPA delegation. No information on the Unity Convention and continued split had arrived from the old CPA, however, and the Credentials Commissionm, reluctant to make a ruling on the basis of incomplete information, upheld the mandates of Fraina and Stoklitsky. This decision, ratified by a 19-9 vote on the floor of the Congress, recognized the UCP as the majority party in America and accorded its delegates 6 votes, while the old CPA was regarded as the minority party and allocated 4 votes. This is the stenographic report of the brief debate on this matter, Lindgren speaking for the UCP and Fraina for the old CPA.
“Two Resolutions of the Executive Committee of the Communist International on America, August 8, 1920.” Two very short ECCI resolutions on American matters. The first sets a 2 month deadline (October 10, 1920) for amalgamation of the two American Communist Parties. This deadline later extended to January 1921 by action of the ECCI taken on September 20, 1920. The second resolution gives clearance to Louis Fraina to “take a responsible position in the American Labor movement”—indicating that Fraina held the confidence of the Executive Committee of the Comintern in the face of allegations that he was a spy.
“To the Manager of the Communist International” from Louis C. Fraina, August 15, 1920.” Louis Fraina, one of two delegates of the Communist Party of America to the 2nd Congress of the Communist International, dispatched this protest letter to “the manager of the Communist International” in reponse to the United Communist Party’s attempt to receive the exclusive funding of the American Communist movement. “The two delegations, in accordance with the Executive Committee’s decision for unity, had agreed to work as one delegation; but in this (as in other matters) the United Communist Party delegation is acting for itself, and not for the whole American delegation and the whole American movement,” Fraina charged. Fraina suggested that to avert future factional disputes “the American appropriation be made for the whole movement, and that it be given only to the Central Committee of the completely unified Party, on conditions determined by the Executive Committee of the International,” with a small interim appropriation made to cover the costs of immediate work until unity was achieved —a process which Fraina thought would take “a few months to achieve."
“Official Decision of the Third International in the Fraina Case.” [Sept. 30, 1920] Official version (from a photostatic original of the document) of the Sept. 30, 1920 decision of ECCI declaring Louis C. Fraina to be “innocent” of the charges levied against him by Santeri Nuorteva of being an agent in the employ of the United States Department of Justice. The Investigating Committee of 3, consisting of the Communist Labor Party of America’s Alexander Bilan, Rosmer from France, and Rudniansky from Hungary, decreed: “1) Neither the former nor the new accusations brought by Nuorteva against Fraina give cause for altering the previous decision of the committee. Nuorteva’s evidence consists of his personal opinion only. He offers no real arguments to prove any of his accusations. 2) On the basis of his personal opinion, Nuorteva openly spreads the story (even in the capitalist press) that Fraina is a police spy, that the program of the Communist Party of America was written by a police spy, etc. Such proceedings are absolutely contrary to the attitude of a true socialist." Nuorteva was ordered to cease an desist in his accusations against Fraina, and further, to issue a retraction of his charges in the press.
“Resolution of the Executive Committee of the Communist International on the Case of Louis C. Fraina, Sept. 30, 1920.” Full text of a leaflet published in 1920 by the Communist Party of America detailing the absolution of Louis Fraina from charges preferred by Santeri Nuorteva of the Russian Soviet Government Bureau in New York that he was a secret police agent. Two hearings were actually conducted, the first by an investigating committee of three (including CLP member Alexander Bilan) which cleared Fraina of the charge; the second a trial reopening the case at Fraina’s request when Nuorteva showed up in Moscow in August 1920. Fraina was again found not guilty of Nuorteva’s allegation and Nuorteva was instructed to cease making accusations against Fraina or else “THE GRAVEST MEASURES” would be used “TO STOP HIM.” A further resolution was made by ECCI on September 29, 1920, insisting that Nuorteva retract publicly, in the press, all charges made against Fraina.
“A Letter to the Communist Party of America, Oct. 9, 1921,” by Grigorii Zinoviev. The head of the Communist International sent this note to the American Communist Party urging the immediate formation of a legal political party. “It is necessary to fight for every inch,” Zinoviev states, urging that the example of the Russian Bolsheviks be followed in establishing a seemingly innocuous legal organization to propagandize the basic ideas of Communism or even simply the ideas of the class struggle. Russian comrades in America would be taking great responsibilities upon themselves if they stood in the way of this unquestioned directive of the Comintern, Zinoviev warned.
“The Socialist Party and Moscow: Statement Issued by the NEC in Reply to An Inquiry by the Executive Committee of the Finnish Socialist Federation. [Nov. 1920]” A Minority Resolution initiated on the floor of the 1919 Chicago Emergency Convention and ratified by the membership of the Socialist Party via a referendum vote called for the party to affiliate in an international organization along with the Russian Bolsheviki and the German Sparticans. An application was duly sent to Moscow by National Executive Secretary Otto Branstetter on March 4, 1920. By the time of the SPA’s 1920 Convention, no answer had been given from Moscow. Following the close of the 1920 Convention, membership of the SPA again reaffirmed their desire for affiliation with Moscow via referendum, placing more restrictions upon this allegiance. Shortly thereafter, the content of the “21 Conditions” for affiliation to the Communist International became known, throwing a wrench into the works. This report of the National Execuitve Committee of the SPA is intended to explain this political situation and to answer a request made by the Finnish Socialist Federation to “state clearly the attitude of the Party on the question of affiliation with the Communist International."
“Moscow and the Socialist Party of the United States,” by Bertha Hale White. [June 11, 1921] White, one of the leading female members of the Socialist Party, writes in a pre-convention discussion bulletin that any discussion about SPA affiliation with the Third International in Moscow is moot, since the question has already been answered in no uncertain terms in the negative. Interesting for its discussion ofthe lengths taken by National Executive Secretary to make application to the Comintern for membership in 1920—as he was instructed to do by party referendum. White states the SPA must rebuild its shattered organization into a powerful force before being able to affiliate with Moscow on its own terms rather than be subject to conditions amounting to “tyranny."
“For the United Front of the Proletariat: The Call for the First Enlarged Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, January 1, 1922.” The 3rd Congress of the Communist International (Summer 1921) barely mentioned the tactic of the “United Front.” This was, indeed, a slogan advanced in the aftermath of the Congress, during the run-up to the First Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI— a new institution to which member parties sent double their usual contingent of representation to both increase the range of perspectives heard by the conclave and to improve the transmission of the decisions of the gathering from Moscow to the member parties abroad. This call for the First Enlarged Plenum was an open manifesto, published in the pages of the Communst press around the world. It marked an important change in the line of the CI: instead of a world on the brink of revolution, the Comintern posited a new phase in which regroupment and unification were the order of the day. The manifesto declared frankly to the workers of the world that “you are not yet ready to renew your struggle, you do not yet dare the armed conflict for power, for the dictatorship, you do not yet dare the great attack on the citadels of world reaction. Then at least join forces for the struggle for a bare existence, for the struggle for a bit of bread and peace. Join your forces in a battle front, unite as a proletarian class against the class of the exploiters and pillagers of the world. Tear down the walls which have been built up between you, take your place in the ranks—whether Communist, Social Democrat, Anarchist, or Syndicalist—for the battle against the misery of the hour.” It was stated that the realities of the daily struggle would generate awareness of the necessity for fundamental change: “Only when you, proletarians, in shop and factory so unite, will all parties which rest upon the proletariat and wish to be heeded by it, be compelled to united for a common defensive fight against capitalism."
“To the Communist Party of America: A Communique from the Executive Committee of the Communist International, March 30, 1922.” This document was the cover letter for a 10 point decision of the ECCI on the American factional situation, specifically the split of the Central Caucus faction of Dirba, Ballam, and Ashkenudzie (the decision document appears in Klehr et al., The Soviet World of American Communism, pp. 20-21). This letter notes the ruling of the ECCI was unanimous, that the Central Caucus faction must rejoin the regular CPA. “Our opinion is that the majority of the Party has acted fully in accordance with the spirit of the Theses of the World Congress when it quickly proceeded to prepare and carry out the formation of a legal party,” the letter states, adding that the minority secessionists had “broken the unity of the Party, you have opened fire on the Party from the outside.” The Central Caucus’ representative in Moscow, John Ballam, had been won over to the argument of the ECCI and come to an agreement with the regular CPA’s Moscow representative, Ludwig Katterfeld, the document states, arguing for a quick end to factionalism. The dispatch of a CI plenipotentiary (Genrik Valetskii) to aid in the reunification process is also noted.
“Letter to the Executive Committee of the Communist International,” by L.E. Katterfeld, May 25, 1922. Katterfeld, a member of the ECCI Presidium, writes to his colleagues in Moscow on the American political situation. He finds a confusing situation in which some members of the Central Caucus group (an organization which spliit the party over establishment of a legal political party late in Nov. 1921) favored and were working for reintegration into the regular CPA, while members of the group were not. At the same time, some members of the regular CPA (Cannon, Bedacht, and others) were anxious to keep the Central Caucus group out altogether and were likewise working to sabotage the CI-mandated program of reunification. On top of that, Katterfeld notes a growing trend favoring outright “liquidation” of the underground CPA apparatus and the naming of the Workers Party of America as the official affiliate of the Comintern. Katterfeld states that a substantial majority of the party shares his view favoring retention of some sort of underground apparatus in addition to the legal WPA.
“Report of “John Moore,” Delegate of the Minority Faction of the CP of A to the Comintern, to the CEC, June 27, 1922, “ by John J. Ballam.Ballam, one of the leaders of the Central Caucus faction that split from the CPA in late November and early December of 1921, went to Moscow to state his faction’s case. He was met with a torrent of harsh criticism, and the Anglo-American Department of the Executive Committee of the Comintern stated in no uncertain terms that the factional struggle should come to an immediate close, with members of the Central Caucus faction to rejoin the CPA within 60 days of publication of its directive or face expulsion from the American party and the international communist movement. Ballam was converted to this task but was unable to persuade the Central Caucus to end its fight at a conference held in the middle of May. As a result, Ballam was sent on a tour of the country by the CPA’s Central Executive Committee, along with Ludwig Katterfeld, in an attempt to win back the rank and file members of the Central Caucus “over the heads” of the factional leadership. This is a report written by Ballam for the CEC on the results of his tour, featuring district by district analysis of the strength of the “Minority faction."
“Cable to the Workers Party of America in New York from Grigorii Zinoviev in Moscow, early December 1922.” In 1922 the Jewish Federation of the Workers Party of America was racked by an internal split, pitting the historic leadership of the Jewish Federation dating back to Socialist Party days, headed by Alexander Bittelman against the Jewish component of the Workers’ Council group, headed by Moissaye Olgin. The Federation Executive Committee was initially divided down the middle between these two factions, but over the course of 1922, several members of the Federation Executive Committee began to vote with the Olgin faction, resulting in a working majority for the militantly anti-underground Olgin group. Although the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party insisted upon parity on the Federation Executive Committee prior to the WPA Jewish Federation’s 2nd Convention, the Olgin group sought to consolidate its position by calling a convention of the Jewish Federation for the first half of December, prior to the 2nd Convention of the WPA—intent on presenting the national organization with a fait accompli. This is a cable from Moscow signed by Zinoviev condemning the antics of the Olgin group as a “frivolous breach of discipline” against the Administrative Council of the Workers Party “perpetrated by [a] group which did not even attempt inform its representatives in Moscow” about the object of their conflict and “did not await decision of court of last resort as was their right as well as their duty.” Using this cable as additional ammunition, an agreement was brokered between the two factions of the Jewish organization prior to the scheduled Dec. 16, 1922, start of the wildcat convention.
“Report on the 4th Comintern Congress to the Central Executive Committee of the Workers Party of America,” by Max Bedacht [circa December 1922].A very informative summary of the activities of the 4th World Congress of the Communist International (Nov. 5-Dec. 5, 1922) as they related to the Communist Party of America, written by WPA delegate Max Bedacht for the Central Executive Committee of his party. Bedacht mentions two pivotal changes in the evolutionary history of the Comintern: (1) a structural change in which the 25 members of the Executive Committee of the Communist International are no longer to be elected representatives of the various member parties (responsible to those parties) but rather are to be elected by the CI Congress itself for the task of advancing its decisions (responsible to the next CI Congress); and (2) the establish of a precedent in which the French Commission reorganized the Executive Committee of the French Party and instructed all factions to submit to this reorganized committee. “Thus the CI established its right to oust elected officials of any of its sections and to replace them with its own appointees,” Bedacht notes. The merger of the underground CPA and the open Workers Party of America was mandated by the American Commission of the 4th Congress, which called for the amalgamation of the Executives of these two organizations into a single Executive Committee which was to direct both legal and illegal activities of the unified organization. The Workers Party of America was thus to be the official section of the Comintern in America, its members subject to CI discipline, Bedacht notes, although “for legalistic purposes...such affiliation will be acknowledged by the Comintern only as one of a sympathetic party. But the delegates of the WP will enjoy all the rights and privileges of delegates of other sections of the CI."
“Letter to the Workers Party of America from the Communist International, January 1923.” The Second Convention of the legal Workers Party of America, held in New York in December of 1922, formally applied for admission to the Communist International. This reply of the CI informs the WPA that its party is admitted only as a “smpathizing party” rather than as a fully affiliated organization. The CI calls on the Americans to support the workers in every strike and carefully follow their daily life so as to better bring the proletariat into alliance with the party “against the capitalist offensive.” Trade union work is particularly important, the Comintern advises, stating that in the “correct application of united front tactics” it was essential to “unite the masses over the heads of the yellow leaders” of the trade union movement.
“Letter to the Workers Party of America and all its Language Federations from the Executive Committee of the Communist International, January 25, 1923.” The ECCI salutes the seeming unity of action coming from the WPA’s Dec. 1922 Second Convention and congratulates it for solving the question of Language Federations in a “satisfactory way, in that it regards the Federations merely as propaganda sections of the Party.” The 16 foreign-language sections of the WPA are unique among the world communist movement, it is noted, and represent both a beneficial way to communicate with the most hyper-exploited segment of the American working class, the foreign born workers, as well as a fetter to broad revolutionary propaganda. The immediate task facing the party is the establishment of an English-language daily organ, the letter states, contrasting the existence of ten foreign-language WPA dailies with the lack of a single daily in English. The Language Federations are directly challenged to take up this “most urgent” task and to “demonstrate whether the WP is a unit or not.” Without an English daily newspaper, the WPA would have no means to reach sufficiently broad masses of American workers with its revolutionary message; the slogan of “An English daily for the WP by November 7, 1923”— Russian Revolution Day—is proposed.
“Letter No. 6 to the Executive Committee of the Communist International in Moscow from C.E. Ruthenberg in New York, February 6, 1923." Message from the Executive Secretary of the American Communist Party to the CI that not only would the CPA be acting on the instructions of the Comintern to amalgamate the underground CPA and the “legal” Workers Party of America, but that even prior to the CI statement “the CEC decided to take steps to convert the Party into an open Party.” Ruthenberg states that since the 1922 Bridgman Convention, the CPA has been working harmoniously, with the three former factional groupings (Goose Caucus, Liquidators, Central Caucus) actively working to advance policies that had previously been underappreciated or even regarded as anathema. The division of the American bourgeoisie over the question of repression of the Communist movement and expansion of sympathy for the Communist movement among the working class and the ability of the WPA to work more and more as an open Communist Party had changed the situation in the country, Ruthenberg notes. “We trust that we will be able to carry out the reorganization of the Party without a crisis. It is possible that a few sectarian elements will leave the Party. But we are convinced that no organized faction will fight against the policy of the CEC and the CI, and that we will be able to lead the Party into the open without a split,” Ruthenberg concludes.
“Letter No. 7 to the Executive Committee of the Communist International in Moscow from C.E. Ruthenberg in New York, February 20, 1923.” Communication from the head of the American Communist Party to the ECCI informing them that administrative amalgamation of the underground Communist Party of America and the legal political party, the Workers Party of America, had taken place as per the Comintern’s instructions. Only one member of the CEC of the CPA, L.E. Katterfeld ("Carr") had failed to agree with the CI’s decision to dissolve the formal underground apparatus, and he had accepted the decision of the majority as a matter of party discipline. Ruthenberg also provides a short update on the Cleveland Conference for Progressive Political Action’s failure to endorse a Labor Party, noting that instead various state Labor Parties had been established, some of which included the Workers Party as participants. Also includes brief notes on the Michigan Foster case, the campaign for protection of the foreign-born, trade union work (said to key on the struggle in the United Mine Workers of America), and forthcoming literature.
“On the Foster Trial,” by Grigorii Zinoviev [circa March 29, 1923]With Secretary of the Trade Union Educational League William Z. Foster embroiled in a trial for “criminal syndicalism” over his participation in the August 1922 Convention of the Communist Party of America at Bridgman, MI, head of the Communist International lends his support with this article in the press. “The record of the American labor movement is one of persecution and attacks by the capitalist class through the means of armed guards and detective agencies striving to destroy the labor organizations,” Zinoviev says, noting that the charge against Foster are “old tactics employed by the capitalists in every country whenever the workers organize for the purpose of improving their conditions.” Zinoviev states that “America today is under the absolute dictatorship of Wall Street.... The radical workers advocate a government of the workers and farmers operating in the interests of the workers and the exploited farmers, just as the capitalist government is operating in the interests of the capitalists.” Zinoviev calls Foster “a true friend of the interests of the American workers and farmers” and states that he “cannot understand how a thinking worker or farmer living in America under the oppression of billionaire capitalism hesitates to accept” the program of the Workers Party of America.
“C.E. Ruthenberg in New York to the Executive Committee of the Communist International in Moscow on the Dissolution of the Communist Party of America, April 11, 1923.” Official notification by the Secretary of the Workers Party of America that the Third National Convention of the Communist Party of America [April 7, 1923] had adopted a decision “to dissolve the underground party, leaving the Workers Party of America as the only Party having relations with the Comintern.” Ruthenberg states while at present the name of the Workers Party and formal status of its affiliation with the Comintern as a “fraternal party” needed to remain unchanged, nevertheless the new unitary body should be accorded full rights of a member party of the Communist movement—the right of its members to transfer into membership of other member parties, including the Russian Communist Party, and full voice and vote for its delegates to Congresses and other sessions of the Communist International.
“The Nucleus in America: A Secret Memo on Party Organization from the Executive Committee of the Communist International to the Central Executive Committee of the WPA, July 11, 1923.” The underground Communist Party of America was formally liquidated at a convention starting April 7, 1923, in New York City. This secret memo, probably written by Grigorii Zinoviev, reminds the WPA that despite the complete move to an “open” party, “American comrades would be greatly mistaken if they cherished the illusion that henceforward they will be in a position to carry on their work unhindered exclusively in a legal organization.” The memo instructs the party to base itself on a new form of organization based upon “factory nuclei” of three or more communists in a single workplace, with isolated individuals assigned to specific nuclei by the relevant party committee. This structure would allow for a quick transition to underground work should the need arise, the memo indicates. Importantly, these nuclei are to be comprised without respect to the native language of the participants—language groups are henceforth to be territorially-based propaganda organizations with multi-national factory nuclei the basis of organization. Due to the widely scattered nature of American production and the relative unimportance of the factory in daily life, geographic organizations are also to be permitted, says the memo. The WPA is to centralize its press, make use of all avialable legal means of agitation for communism, to mandate union membership of its members, to coordinate its defense organization with International Red Aid, and to play closer attention to conspiratorial methods—“even to the extent of removing comrades most responsible in this respect from responsible party work, and even exclusion from the party."
“Letter from C.E. Ruthenberg in Chicago to Vasil Kolarov in Moscow, September 5, 1923.” This letter to the General Secretary of the Comintern was written by WPA Executive Secretary Ruthenberg on behalf of the governing Central Executive Committee of the party. A request is made to allow an exception to Comintern rules so that the WPA might hold its next annual convention in December 1923 or January 1924. Ruthenberg cites two reasons for the necessity of this convention: (1) rapid development of the Labor Party policy, necessitating extended discussion and an endorsement of the CEC’s line by the organization as a whole via a convention; and (2) an unwieldy 29 member Central Executive Committee, created through the merger of the underground CPA with the WPA. Election of a new, smaller, and more intimately connected CEC was necessary, Ruthenberg indicated. The Comintern must have acted on this request in the affirmative, as the WPA’s 3rd Convention was held in Chicago from Dec. 30, 1923 to Jan. 2, 1924.
“Report on the 3rd Enlarged Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (Held in Moscow, June 12-23, 1923),.” by Israel Amter [Aug. 1, 1923] Very lengthy official report on the proceedings of the 3rd Plenum of the Enlarged ECCI by Workers Party of America delegate Israel Amter—distributed to the party press with instructions from the CEC of the Party to translate and publish. Amter delves into the limitations of “Democratic Centralism” —stating that the Congress of the CI, not the national parties themselves, must have the power to determine the membership of ECCI and that the CI must have the power to alter the composition of national party leaderships, when necessary. With regards to religion, Amter states that the ECCI has taken the position that religious belief is a private matter between the individual and the state, but that Communist Parties exist not only to liberate workers economically and politically, but also ideologically, and that they “will not fail to conduct educational work for enlightening the workers on the nature and content of religion, and to free them from its domination.” Amter relates the ECCI’s position on the the world political situation, with special emphasis on Bulgaria, Germany, England,and France. The new slogan of “Workers’ and Farmers’ Government” was approved by the 3rd Plenum, Amter states, with credit for the slogan attributed to the Workers Party of America by Zinoviev. The importance of Anti-Fascist organization, trade union work, and the implementation of the “factory nucleus” form of party organization are noted by Amter.
“Letter to the Workers Party of America on the Establishment of an English-Language Daily from Grigorii Zinoviev, Chairman of the Communist International in Moscow..” [publ. Jan. 21, 1924] Congratulatory letter from the head of the Communist International to the newly established English-language daily newspaper of the Workers Party of America, The Daily Worker. Zinoviev likens the fundraising efforts of the American Party to help establish the Daily Worker (the establishment of which also was funded by a large conditional grant by The Comintern) to the fundraising process undertaken by Lenin and the Bolsheviks at the time of the establishment of Iskra. In a line pregant with implications for the policy of the Pepper-Ruthenberg faction, Zinoviev states that “Whoever wants to help the Communist Party to become, not a guild organization which defends only the narrow class interests of the working class, but a party of proletarian revolution, of Socialist upheaval, of the hegemony of the working class, must, after the establishment of a party of workers, direct its attention also to the winning over of the farmers.... The chief difference between the Russian Bolsheviki and Mensheviki could, in the final analysis, be brought down to the question of the farmers.” (Not surprisingly, Pepper directly quoted from this letter in a theoretical article in the party press even before the letter was published!) Zinoviev additionally sets a task for the future agenda of the WPA: “At the first opportunity the American comrades must establish a special mass Communist newspaper designed for hundreds and hundreds and thousands of small farmers."
“Speech on Bolshevization of the American Party to the Organizational Conference of the Communist International, Moscow, March 18, 1925,.” by William Z. Foster Beginning March 15, 1925, a conference was held in Moscow, chaired by Osip Piatnitsky, dedicated to the restructuring of Communist Parties around the world on the basis of “factory nuclei”—so-called “Bolshevization.” William Z. Foster, representative of the Workers Party of America, was elected to the 10 member Presidium of this gathering (the candidates nominated en bloc by Piatnitsky and elected unanimously). On March 18, Foster addressed the gathering on the reorganizational situation in the Workers Party of America. Restructuring of the WPA on the basis of factory nuclei was only initiated at the time of the 5th World Congress of the Comintern in the summer of 1924, Foster said, noting that the fragmented nature of the American Party—split into 17 language federations —hampered the ready adoption of this scheme. Instead there was a general state of passive resistance, institutional inertia for the preservation of the current system, in which the center dealt with local organizations only through the intermediary of the Central Bureaus of the various Language Federations. Foster stated that of some 19,000 members of the WPA only 2200 were members of English-language groups, although he added that about half of the Federationists knew English well enough to engage in party work.
“Recommendations to the American Commission of the Executive Committee of the Communist International,.” Submited by William Z. Foster and James P. Cannon. [circa March 1925] This undated document from the Comintern Archive was apparently submitted by American delegates to the American Commission of the 5th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI, held in Moscow from March 21 to April 6, 1925. Foster and Cannon here attempt to instruct the American Commission as to what concrete steps to take in order to liquidate the factional dispute in the Workers Party of America. Foster and Cannon are particularly adament in their opposition to the notion that the Labor Party can or should be developed into a mass Communist Party—a situation which even if successful would create a parallel organization with the WPA. Rather, the United Front should be conceived of as a mass organization of workers, while the WPA attempts to build itself into a mass Communist Party. Within this United Front it would be unions and not political organizations like the FFLP that best elicit the active participation of the working class, Foster and Cannon argue. Indeed, the development of the trade union movement was the prerequisite: “The Labor Party can be formed only under conditions where it secures genuine mass support from the trade unions,” they state. The duo call for an instruction that all members of the WPA are to join and participate in unions and that the party is to expand its membership by addition of members of the working class to counterbalance an unhealthy reliance on the intelligentsia. “Bolshevization” of the party is strongly urged, including increase centralization (at the expense of language federation autonomy) and reconstruction of the party on a shop nucleus basis. The “reckless and irresponsible factional conduct of the Minority” is condemned, and Foster and Cannon urge that “Caucuses and fractions shall be dissolved and prohibited, and the practice of circulating underground ’documents’ in the Party shall be condemned."
“Speech at the 5th Plenum of the Enlarged Executive Committe of the Communist International: Second Session, March 25, 1925,.” by Grigorii Zinoviev. The head of the Communist International states his perspective on the evolving international situation, attempting to stake out a middle position between the erroneous views of the “prophets of collapse” and “the worshippers of stabilization.” The new ideological buzzword “Leninism” is front and center in Zinoviev’s presentation, defined by him as “Marxism of the present.” At issue was the “tempo and route of march of the proletarian revolution.” Capitalism had achieved a short respite, Zinoviev states, with currencies around the world stabilized and credit restored—with the finance-capital of the United States of America back of the restoration. While Central Europe was unstable, Zinoviev cites contradictions between the emerging United States and declining England as “the most important factor in the world political situation.” Differences included matters of world hegemony; the issue of economic relations with Canada, Mexico, and Australia; the oil question; armaments; and the matter of debt. As a result “The comrades building upon the rapprochement of England and America [meaning Karl Radek, among others] are dangerously close to a revisionism of Leninism in the question of imperialism,” Zinoviev says. Zinoviev also touches briefly on the rather ill-defined issue of “Bolshevization” and the critique leveled against ECCI for installing new party leaderships, about which he states: “No one wants to remove the old leaders in order to flatter the young ones. The young leaders must learn from their own mistakes, and must Bolshevize themselves. We require an amalgam of both generations..."
“On Boshevization and a Labor Party: Speech to the 5th Plenum of the Enlarged Executive Committee of the Communist International, Moscow.” March 30, 1925,” by James P. CannonSpeech by Workers Party of America delegate to the 5th Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI (March 21-April 6, 1925) during the period of discussion about the political situation in the various countries and the next tasks of the Comintern in the restructuring of the constitent communist parties upon a basis of workplace party nuclei (so-called “Bolshevization"). With regard to Bolshevization, Cannon cites the lack of a tradition of revolutionary mass action by the working class, weak trade union organizations and the associated neglect of party work in the unions, and a fragmented party organization of just 20,000 —of whom only 2,000 were enrolled in English-speaking organizations. “The Language Federation form of organization is absolutely incompatible with a Bolshevist organization,” Cannon emphatically states, adding that “We must have a centralized form of organization or we will never have a Bolshevist Party.” With respect to establishment of a Labor Party in America, Cannon states that “the organized American workers are not yet class-conscious enough to develop a labor party on a mass basis.” The situation was entirely different in the United States than in Great Britain, Cannon argued, citing the strength of the British union movement and long historical standing of the British Labour Party. In contrast, all attempts to create a Labor Party in America in the preceeding two years had been “disastrous failures.” “It would be premature to form a labor party now, and even dangerous, for we would quickly become isolated from [the] growing mass labor movement,” Cannon declares.
“Resolution of the 5th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI on the American Question.” [adopted April 6, 1925] The 5th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI included a special American Commission, per usual, to attempt to mediate and resolve the ongoing factional war in the American Communist movement, per usual. This is the final American Resolution adopted by ECCI. The 1924 LaFollette movement is called a “genuine petty-bourgeois phenomenon” and his successful isolation of the Communists from the LaFollette-Farmer-Labor movement deemed something that “was to have been expected at the beginning.” The policy of the Workers Party of America to oppose LaFollette and his broad alliance in the elections is deemed to have been a correct one. The CI indicates that the Communists will continue to attempt to exert influence in the budding Third Party movement, but now under the slogan “For a Labor Party” instead of “For a Farmer-Labor Party” owing to the objective lack of farmer support for the movement. Attention is paid to Volkszeitung editor and CEC member Ludwig Lore, who is deemed an “opportunist” and leader of a “non-Communist tendency in the Workers Party.” ECCI once again weighs in against the ongoing factional war in the American Party, acknowledging that it “arose out of real differences” but had subsequently “been of too acute a character on both sides and at times assumed impermissible forms.”
“Report to the 6th Plenum of the Enlarged Executive Committee of the Communist International, February 20, 1926,.” by Grigorii ZinovievThe massive (31 pages in this format) keynote report of the President of the Comintern to the delegates assembed at the 6th Plenum of the Expanded Executive Committee of the Communist International —essentially a summary report of CI activity through 1925. Zinoviev reaffirms the idea of the “temporary stabilization of capitalism,” likening the situation to that faced by the Bolsheviks after the failure of the 1905 revolution—that revolution around the world was beyond doubt, but the timetable was difficult to predict. A dual “perspective” was advocated, whereby the move to a new revolutionary period might be either fast (for example, in 2 years) or slow (in 10 years). Regardless, Zinoviev stated, “our diagnosis is the same as before: the death of capitalism, dictatorship of the proletariat within a comparatively short time!” Zinoviev more than once emphasizes the importance of the 3rd Congress of the Comintern (1921) over that of the 4th (1922) and 5th (1924), strongly advocating the continuance of the slogan “To the Masses!” and the unceasing utilization of “United Front tactics.” The goal, Zinoviev states, is to win the support of a majority of the working class to the leadership of the Communist Party —something that was as yet unobtained. With regards to the United States, Zinoviev calls America “but one of the links of world capitalsm as a whole (although the strongest link)” and calls it “the promised land of reformism.” He sees a trend among the nations of Europe towards the “Americanization” of the labor movement, attempts to strip the trade unions of their radical political perspective and to reduce them to negotiating devices for purely monetary objectives. Zinoviev criticizes both “Ultra-Left” (anti-United Front) and “Right” (Social Democratic) opposition movements within the Communist Parties, and is critical of the misapplication of United Front tactics by erstwhile well-meaning supporters of the Comintern general line (he incidentally uses that exact term to indicate the broad program of the CI, as opposed to specific details relating to its application). He advocates increased “self-reliance and independence” among the parties of the Comintern, while acknowledging situations in which the CI must “dissolve some CC” and “appoint another in its place” due to “situations when this can not be helped."
“Inner-Party Questions of the VKP(b): A Report to the 7th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI, Moscow—December 7, 1926,.” by I. StalinThe 7th Enlarged Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International [Nov. 22-Dec. 16, 1926] marked the formal removal of Grigorii Zinoviev as head of the Comintern and his replacement by Nikolai Bukharin, close factional ally of Iosef Stalin. At the 18th Session of this plenum, the agenda moved to the USSR and the situation in the All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks). Stalin delivered this warmly-received three hour report (republished in 1954 in v. 9 of Stalin’s Works as “Once More on the Social-Democratic Deviation in Our Party") to the delegates detailing the development of the opposition in the Soviet party. Stalin characterized this oppositiion as the by-product of latent bourgeois ideology and a bourgeoisified upper segment of the Soviet working class. Following a path blazed in the years 1911-1914, Stalin states that Trotsky was once again attempting to cobble together an alliance of distinct “oppositions,” including this time remnants of the Democratic Centralists, the Workers’ Opposition, and Zinoviev’s “New Opposition” in addition to his own “Trotskyist” faction. Due to the Russian proletariat’s intense hostility to “anti-revolutionary and opportunist elements,” the Trotsky-led alliance had “for several years” (i.e. since 1923) been conducting criticism of the Russian Communist Party using “Left” phraseology, according to Stalin. Stalin enumerates a series of points upon which the opposition and the VKP(b) differ, including, first and foremost, whether socialism is possible in the USSR alone. The Opposition is characterized by Stalin as “having no faith in the internal forces of our revolution” and of being “scared by the partial stabilization of capitalism,” which it considered to be “a fact which may seal the doom of our revolution.” The Opposition bloc launched an aggressive attack on the nature of the Soviet regime, which Stalin depicts as objectively counterrevolutionary, earning the plaudits of Mensheviks and Cadets alike. Isolated in the Party and “thrown into the camp of the opponents of Leninism” by the inexorable logic of their position, the Opposition was compelled to “admit defeat and retire” at the recent 15th Conference of the VKP(b) [Oct.-Nov. 1926]. It was now up to the Enlarged ECCI to “recognize the policy of the [Russian] Party in relation to the Opposition as being correct” and to thus make the defeat of the Opposition international in scope, Stalin declared.
“Stalin’s Speeches on the American Communist Party,” by I. Stalin. Full text of a pamphlet published by the CPUSA early in 1931, containing three of Stalin’s speeches on the American factional situation, delivered before the Presidium of the Executive Committee of the Communist International. Stalin is harshly critical of the lack of discipline and unprincipled factionalism of both of the Lovestone majority faction and the Foster-Bittelman minority faction. CPUSA Executive Secretary Jay Lovestone drew particularly heavy fire, with Stalin noting that “In factional scandalmongering, in factional intrigue, Comrade Lovestone is indisputably an adroit and talented factional wirepuller. No one can deny him that. But factional leadership must not be confused with Party leadership. A Party leader is one thing, a factional leader is something quite different. Not every factional leader has the gift of being a Party leader. I doubt very much that at this stage Comrade Lovestone can be a Party leader.” As part of Stalin’s proposed solution, Lovestone and Bittelman were to be held in Moscow and reassigned to Comintern work elsewhere—a decision which precipitated the split of Lovestone and his closest circle. Includes an unsigned preface emphasizing Stalin’s correctness and dismissing allegations made by the Left Opposition movement that publication of the document marked a first step towards Foster’s removal from the ranks of party leaders.