Lettish Federation of the Socialist Labor Party

There was a Lettish Federation of the Socialist Labor Party in the first decade of the 1900s. The Federation disbanded in 1911, with about 50 of its members individually joining the National Lettish Organization of the Socialist Party.

(fn. C. Karklin, "Report by the Executive Committee, National Lettish Organization, SP" in Proceedings: National Convention of the Socialist Party 1912. (Chicago: Socialist Party, 1912), pp. 244-245.)

National Lettish Organization of the Sociailst Party

The Socialist Party's Latvian ("Lettish") Federation was organized in "clubs" -- each of which paid dues to the regular locals and state organizations of the Socialist Party through 1912. According to the Federation's official report to the Socialist Party national convention, there were 1001 members in good standing in 27 clubs in 1910 and 983 members in good standing in 26 clubs in 1911 -- the decline caused by the disaffiliation of the 170 member Boston Lettish Workers Association from the National Lettish Organization. This important Lettish club remained affiliated with the Socialist Party, however.

The National Lettish Organization of the Socialist Party published a 2-times weekly paper at Fitchburg, MA called Strahdneeks. This four page paper had a circulation which varied between 1200 and 1500 in 1911-12. In January 1911 and again in January 1912, John G. Ohsol was elected editor of this publication. The paper employed two editors, two printers, and a mailing clerk.

The Organization was led by an Executive Committee which served a one year term from April 1 through March 31 of the next calendar year.

(fn. C. Karklin, "Report by the Executive Committee, National Lettish Organization, SP" in Proceedings: National Convention of the Socialist Party 1912. (Chicago: Socialist Party, 1912), pg. 245.)


The Latvien Federation published a newspaper in Boston called Rihts (The Morning).


Lettish [Latvian] Federation of the old Communist Party of America

The Lettish [Latvian] Federation was one of the 6 language organizations which comprised the old Communist Party of America. It was smaller than the Lithuanian and Russian organizations, comparable in size and strength to the Ukrainian and Polish, bigger than the Jewish [Yiddish].


Lettish [Latvian] Federation of the United Communist Party of America

In the fall of 1920, controversy erupted in the Latvian Federation, said to be due to an article in the Federation's newspaper pledging support of Latvians in America to the bourgeois government of Latvia. According to the not sympathetic United Communist Party, this article "caused wholesale secessionfs from the Lettish Federation," culminating in a Nov. 20-21, 1920 conference of branches.


1. "Conference of Lettish Communist Internationalists of America" --- [city?] --- Nov. 20-21, 1920.

The Nov. 1920 "Conference of Lettish Communists Internationalists" was attended by delegates purporting to represent 400 of 550 former members of the old CPA. The gathering passed a resolution deciding "to unite immediately with the United Communist Party, which represents the Communist International in America."


In December of 1920 the UCP had 49 of its 673 primary party units ("Groups") which used the Latvian language, more than the Jewish, Finnish, Polish, or Ukrainian languages. Of these, 20 were in the Boston District and another 13 in New York.

[fn: DoJ/BoI Investigative Files, NARA M-1085, reel 940, doc. 501.]


Lettish [Latvian] Federation of the unified Communist Party of America

The Secretary of the Lettish Federation of the CPA in mid-June 1921 was "W. Sars." "Sars" sought postponement of the Conference of the Language Federation called for July by the CEC postponed until August, since most of the Federation's members in the west were forest workers and the July date was inconvenient.

[fn: Comintern Archive: f. 515, op. 1, d. 75, l. 106-107.]


In late 1921, during the 5 months between formation of the unified CPA and the split of the Central Caucus faction, the Communist Party's Latvian Federation had an average monthly paid membership of 659, making it the 3rd largest Language group in the party.

[fn: Comintern Archive: f. 515, op. 1, d. 75, l. 12.]



Lettish [Latvian] Federation in the 1921-22 Central Caucus split

The Latvian Federation was the most militant of the CPA federations in the Dec. 1921 party split. Even in November 1922, three months after the Bridgman Unity Convention, it remained aloof from the party, its Executive Committee -- alone of all the Federations which affiliated with the Central Caucus -- refusing to rejoin. Some of the branches reaffiliated on their own, "over the heads" of their leadership.

[fn: Comintern Archive: f. 515, op. 1, d. 93, l. 75.]


A Latvian Bureau was reconstituted, with Boodman ["R. Robins"] of Boston the Federation Secretary. According to a Nov. 13, 1922, report to the Federation Director of the Communist Party, as of June 23 only 31 Latvian members of the Central Caucus faction had rejoined the party. The Latvian Federation stood a 12 branches with a total of 53 groups and a total membership of 452 as of the date of the report.

[fn: Comintern Archive: f. 515, op. 1, d. 116, l. 9.]




"Report of Committee on Foreign Speaking Organizations to the National Convention of the Socialist Party, May 17, 1908." Committee report to the 1908 SPA Convention in Chicago, delivered by S.A. Knopfnagel. The Committee advocated the acceptance of all foreign language organizations seeking affiliation with the Socialist Party, subject to 5 conditions: "(1) They are composed of Socialist Party members only. (2) Any foreign speaking organization having a national form of organization of its own be recognized only if all the branches composing this organization having been chartered by the national, state, or local Socialist Party organizations, and pay their dues to the respective Socialist Party organizations. (3) No foreign speaking organization asking the Socialist Party for recognition shall issue their own particular national, state, or local charters. Same to be issued only by the respective organizations of the Socialist Party, as the case may require. (4) All foreign speaking organizations affiliated with the Socialist Party must and shall conform in every respect with the Socialist Party national, state, and local constitutions, platforms, and resolutions. (5) They should function only as agitation, education, and organization bureaus of the Socialist Party." Includes an amendment made from the floor but not published in the SP's Official Bulletin (probably due to incompetence rather than malice) prohibiting the refusal of admission to the SPA on account of race or language.



Report by the Executive Committee, National Lettish [Latvian] Organization, SP to the National Convention, May 1912," by C. Karklin. Organizational report by the Secretary of the Latvian Federation of the Socialist Party of America to the 1912 convention of the party -- the longest and most detailed of the various federation reports so submitted. Includes financial data and a complete summary of Federation referenda for the years 1910 and 1911, as well as details about the central organ ("Strahdneeks," published twice weekly), propaganda circles, the tours and subject matter addressed by various organizers for the federation, and complete text of Latvian Federation resolutions on (1) The Attitude of the SP Toward Trade Unions; (2) In favor of a Party Central Organ; (3) Opposed to the trend of the SP to attempt "to voice the interests of the farmers or some other non-proletarian social group;" (4) On the Church; and (5) On the SP's Legislative Tactics. With regard to all these matters, the Latvian Federation took a position on the left of the Socialist Party's ideological spectrum, oriented to philosophical materialism and the militant class struggle.




“Reorganizing the International: Resolution of Socialist Party, Boston Lettish Branch No. 2,” by Karlis Janson & J. Kreitz [pub. April 15, 1917] This resolution of Lettish Branch #2 of Boston, Socialist Party, while commending the efforts of the NEC to rejuvenate an international Socialist organization, took issue with the effort to revive the moribund 2nd International, rendered inoperative by the social-patriotism of its leading parties with regards to the European war. Instead, international organization should be rendered through the “International Socialist Commission of Berne,” the resolution declares. The NEC should thus rescind its decision to call directly a meeting of the 2nd International's Bureau for the purpose of convening a Congress of that body, the resolution indicates. Organizer of Boston Lettish Branch 2 was Karlis Janson (note correct spelling of surname), better known as one of the 3 members of the Comintern's “American Agency” in 1920-21 under the pseudonym “Charles Scott” or the Americanized version of his name, “Charley Johnson.”



"Scuttling the Ship: A Statement of the Seven Suspended Language Federations, June 2, 1919." This is the joint protest statement of the 7 affected Language Federations of the SPA (Russian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Polish, Hungarian, South Slavic, and Latvian) in response to the May 27 action of the party's National Executive Committee to unilaterally suspend the entire memberships of these organizations. The "autocratic 7" members of the National Executive Committee who approved this action on "over 30,000 dues payers" are rebuked for failing to provide notification, time for preparation, or a trial. In addition, the NEC bloc of 7 suspended the party elections and expelled the Michigan organization of nearly 6,000 without trial, locked up the party headquarters in the hands of a private holding company outside of party control, and arbitrarily threw the Translator-Secretaries of the affected federations out of party headquarters without allowing time for them to locate new quarters. "In short, this group of seven National Committeemen, drunk with power they assumed, feeling aggrieved because these federations dared to criticize the National Executive Committee, made themselves guilty of an act which will discredit them forever in the International Socialist movement," the joint statement charged.




“Circular Letter to All Members of the Latvian Federation of the CPA from Central Committee Member ’Zehkali,’ circa May 1, 1920.” Circular letter sent to CPA Latvian Federation at the time of the split of the “CEC Minority” faction headed by C.E. Ruthenberg. Latvian CC member “Zehkali” attacks Ruthenberg and the CLP (which would soon unite) as “ex-centrists” and “me-too communists” for whom electoral politics a la the Socialist Party was the ultimate objective. He charges that “they say: ’down with theoretical clearness, more practical work and unity with social-patriots’ — splitting our organization, taking its treasury, and fooling its members with phrases about unity and one big movement.” “Zehkali” exhorts his Federation to “Tear off the mask of those who come to you in the name of unity but who themselves split your organization, using the present moment to realize their traitorous aims.They take the party’s treasury and paralyze your activities. Down with traitors! Prove once more that you have power which no counterrevolutionaries can break.”

United Communist Party -- "Groups" According to Language: As of December 1920." This is based upon an internal document of the United Communist Party captured by the Department of Justice's Bureau of Investigation in the April 1921 raid on UCP National Headquarters in New York. The UCP prided itself on having largely eliminated the federation-based form of organization which typified its rival, the Communist Party of America. Groups (Primary Party Units of between 5 and 10 members) were nevertheless based around language as well as geography and statistics tabulated by the organization. This snapshot from the midpoint of the UCP's one year of existence surprisingly shows more South Slavic (Croatian and Slovenian) language groups than any other (144), followed by the Russian (136), English (121), German (61), Latvian (49), Yiddish (37), Lithuanian (34), and Finnish (31) language groups.



CPA Condensed Cash Statement, Feb. to May 1921, Including Federations, But Not Including Payments to and from the National Office and the Federations: Presented to the Joint Unity Convention, Woodstock, NY - May 15, 1921." This is a very esoteric budget document, but specialists in the history of the early American Communist movement will probably immediately recognize its import. For me, at least, this document has led to a fundamental rethinking about the nature of the old CPA, for it shows that the organization truly was a "federation of federations." Five of the old CPA's 6 Language Federations possessed assets at least twice the size of the National Office of the organization. The same 5 possessed printing plant in excess of the National Office. Three of them retained substantial real estate holdings. Three of them spent more money than the National Office on literature production, and a fourth spent approximately the same amount as the National Office. These were clearly fully functioning political organizations in their own right, not tiny social groups of members speaking a common language. It is little wonder that the "Federation Issue" stood so large on the landscape as the primary issue impeding merger efforts between the UCP and the old CPA for so long and fueling the Central Caucus split that erupted in late November of 1921.



Dec. 1921 Resolution of Three Boston Latvian CPA Branches. Late in November of 1921, a split developed in the Central Executive Committee of the unified CPA over the question of formation of an underground party. Three members of the CEC (John Ballam, Charles Dirba, and George Ashkenudzie) appealed the CEC majority's decision to the Executive Committee of the Comintern and organized their supporters factionally. A split, which gathered its strongest support among the ex-old CPA Language Federation groups of the Northeast, ensued. This document is an early expression of the views of some of those who supported the breakaway "Central Caucus."


"Membership Series by Language Federation for the Workers Party of America. 'Dues Actually Paid' -- January to December 1923." Official 1923 data set of the Workers Party of America, compiled from a document in the Comintern Archive. This series shows a great numerical dominance of the WPA by its Finnish Federation, accounting for a massive 42.8% of the average monthly paid membership of the organization (6,583 of 15,395). The total of the English language branches is the 2nd strongest amongst the federations (7.6%) followed by the South Slavic (7.5%), Jewish [Yiddish language] (6.9%), and Lithuanian (6.0%) Federations. In all, there were statistics kept for 18 different language groups of the WPA in 1923, including the English and the barely organized Armenian sections.


"Initiation Stamps Sold by Federation for the Workers Party of America. January to December 1923." Official 1923 data set of the Workers Party of America, compiled from a document in the Comintern Archive. This series once again (repeating the previous published 1924 series) shows a schizophrenic pattern of stamp sales among language groups . Some federations clearly did not collect the initiation fees called for in the WPA constitution at all (Jewish, German, Latvian) while at the same time the quantities sold via the English branches are ridiculously high. Over 53% of the initiation stamps sold for the entire WPA were credited to the English branches -- nearly three times as many initiations than there were average duespayers in those English branches! Even assuming a significantly higher than average "membership churn" rate for English branches, there is clearly some other unexplained phenomenon at play in these English branch initiation stamp sale figures...



undetermined date

"Membership Series by Language Federation for the Workers Party of America. 'Dues Actually Paid' -- January to December 1924." Official 1924 data set of the Workers Party of America, compiled from a document in the Comintern Archive. This shows a continued numerical dominance of the Workers Party of America by its Finnish-language federation, averaging a paid membership of 7100 (41% of the entire organization) for the year 1924. Impressive growth is shown by the Yiddish-language ("Jewish") federation, which moved to the third largest language group in the WPA in 1924. The English branches comprised the second largest language group in the WPA, but still remained just 11% of the overall organization. The South Slavic federation (predominately Slovenian and Croation) was the 4th largest language group in the WPA, topping the Russian, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian federations.


"Initiation Stamps Sold by Federation for the Workers Party of America. January to December 1924." Official 1924 data set of the Workers Party of America, compiled from a document in the Comintern Archive. An extremely interesting monthly series in which two unexplained anomalies are apparent: (1) The failure of at least 8 of the WPA's 18 language sections to make more than a token effort to collect the $1 initiation fee and obvious similar behavior (to lesser degree) among branches of other language groups; (2) A preposterously large sale of 5,264 initiation stamps to "English" branches, which averaged a paid membership of just 1909 over the course of the year. Either there was a revolving door in the English branches that was entirely dissimilar to the situation in any other language group of the WPA; or there was some sort of effort to collect initiation fees among "English" workers without organizational follow up; or there was some sort of strange accounting practice used by the WPA in which miscellaneous sales of initiation stamps were lumped into the "English" category (or some combination of these explanations). A perplexing question in raised, with further archival research clearly necessary.