The Labor Defense Council was established by the Communist Party of America in September of 1922 as a broad-based organization for raising funds for bail and legal defense fess for those embroiled in the Aug. 22, 1922, raid on the Bridgman, Michigan, convention of the underground party. The LDC also attempted to raise public consciousness about the fate of the Bridgman defendants and the importance of those trials to larger issues of free assembly and free speech.
According to a Sept. 24 circular sent out by Executive Secretary of thw Workers Party of America C.E. Ruthenberg to all party branches, District Organizers, and Secretaries of Language Federations which announced the new organization, the LDC would be "a delegated body which will include representatives of the Trade Unions, the Trade Union Educational League, the Workers' Party, the Socialist Party, the Farmer-Labor Party, the Socialist Labor Party, the IWW, the Proletarian Party, the United Toilers, liberal organizations, and workers' social, relief, and cooperative organizations." Not only would the LDC deal with defendants in Michigan cases, but it would likewise come to the aid of defendants in "other similar cases arising out of the present attack upon the working class movement."
The Labor Defense Council was to be directed by a Secretary serving with a National Committee. A 'Provisional National Committee" was immediately named, consisting of Roger N. Baldwin (ACLU), Dennis Batt (Proletarian Party), Robert M. Buck (Farmer-Labor Party), Eugene V. Debs (SPA), Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (Workers Defense League of New York/CPA), Moritz J. Loeb (WPA),
William Z. Foster was later elected the National Secretary of the LDC. Its official (and figurehead) National Committee of 21 in 1923 included:
Roger N. Baldwin, New York (American Civil Liberties Union)
Normin B. Barr, Chicago (Oliver Institute)
Dennis E. Batt, Detroit (Editor of Detroit Labor News; Proletarian Party)
J.G. Brown, Chicago (National Secretary of Farmer-Labor Party)
Robert M. Buck, Chicago (Editor of New Majority; Chicago Federation of Labor)
John C. Clay, Chicago (Secretary of Teamsters Union Local 712)
Lenetta M. Cooper, Chicago
R.D. Cramer, Minneapolis (Editor of Minnesota Labor Review)
Eugene V. Debs, Terre Haute, IN (Socialist Party of America)
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, New York (CPA)
John C. Flora, Chicago
John Haynes Holmes, New York
Max S. Hayes, Cleveland (Typographers' Union and Socialist Party of America)
Francis Fisher Kayne, Philadelphia
Dr. John A. Lapp, Chicago (Director, National Catholic Welfare Council)
Moritz J. Loeb, Chicago (Workers Party of America)
Frances C. Lillie, Chicago
Father John A. Ryan, Washington, DC (Director, National Catholic Welfare Council)
John T. Taylor, Detroit
Hulet M. Wells, Seattle
George P. West, San Francisco
[fn. R.M. Whitney, Reds in America. (NY: Beckwith Press, 1923), pp. 172-176.]
The Labor Defense Council made use of local organizations to raise funds.
An assessment of the post-Bridgman situation to Moscow by WPA Executive Secretary Ruthenberg optimistically noted that "The net result of the reaid on the Bridgman convention of thte Communist Party has been to establish closer contract between our party and the unions. It gave us the opportunity to go to the unions with the reasons why the Communist Party was an underground organization and to enlist the organized labor movement in the fight for the right of Communists to openly conduct their work. The results gained, while not as great as we hoped, have placed us in a stronger position than before this raid."
[fn. Ruthenberg to W. Kolarow, Feb. 17, 1923: Comitern Archive, f. 515, op. 1, d. 149, l. 2.