“The National Defense Committee.” [Dec. 1921]. This report from a pamphlet published by the group was probably written by the NDC’s Secretary-Treasurer, Communist Labor Party founding member Edgar Owens. This is a brief history of the establishment and first year’s activities of the National Defense Committee, the first of the communist-sponsored mass organizations dedicated to legal defense of political prisoners in the United States. Owens notes that in the aftermath of the January 1920 “Palmer raids,” with their thousands of arrests, local Defense Committees were organized to meet the local needs, although much of this work was duplicated from place to place. “Coordination of defense work was imperative. The answer was the National Defense Committee.” Includes a summary of the organization’s major activity as well as financial receipts and expenditures.
“CEC Settles Defense Policy. A document sent by the Workers Party of America to its press, DOs, and Language Bureaus, April 1922.” A document announcing an agreement on the structure of the WPA’s defense committee, reached between a subcommittee of the governing Administrative Council of the Workers Party of America and the previously-existing National Defense Council. A structure of local organizations, separate holding of treasuries, and new defense cards and 5 cent assessment stamps was part of the new system. The new National Defense Council was to be headed by a “Secretary of the National Defense Committee” appointed by the CEC of the WPA. Edgar Owens of Illinois was to remain in this role due to his experience with the task and “widespread satisfaction” with the quality of his work.
“Nine Questions and Eight Answers About the Michigan “Red Raid” Cases: A leaflet of the Labor Defense Council, circa Oct. 1922.” This leaflet was an early attempt by the Communist Party’s new defense organization, the Labor Defense Council, to build popular support and raise funds for the defendants of the police raid on the August 1922 Bridgman, Michigan, Convention of the CPA. The attack on the “constructive revolutionaries” at Bridgman was an attack on the labor movement itself, the leaflet indicates: “In looking over the records of these 19 labor militants, it is not difÞcult to imagine why these men have been singled out for persecution. When the employing class finds the time ripe for an attack on the labor movement, it is always the outstanding labor militants who have to bear the heaviest burden.” Includes short biographies of six leading defendants (Foster, Ruthenberg, Dunne, Krumbein, Harrison, and Browder -- in that order) and union affiliations of 13 others. This version includes a contrived police propaganda photograph showing the notorious Bridgman defendants seated behind an array of typewriters and mimeograph machines—an image used with effect in another contemporary leaflet of the LDC.
“Letter from Edgar Owens and C.E. Ruthenberg in Chicago to Vasil Kolarov in Moscow, Feb. 17, 1923.” This is an informative review of the status of “political” cases in the United States, in response to a request from Moscow for information in conjunction with the formation of a new international legal defense organization. Owens details the activities of the National Defense Committee for Deportees and Political Prisoners (which he headed) and the Labor Defense Council in fighting against the prosecutions initiated by federal and state authorities against the radical movement. According to Owens, as a result of recent releases on bail, only three prisoners were being held for explicitly Communist activities: Israel Blankenstein, Joseph Martinowitz, and Charles Spinack. Others were held in jail on political charges which predated establishment of the Communist movement, including J.O. Bentall and a host of IWW prisoners. Still others, including Benjamin Gitlow, Harry Winitsky, I.E. Ferguson, C.E. Ruthenberg, and 35 Philadelphia party members, were free on bail pending appeals or initial legal proceedings. Owens summarizes the results of the 1922 Bridgman prosecution as a positive for the party, which was said to have established solid new contacts with the progressive wing of the labor movement and to have exposed the nature of the spycraft of private detective agencies as a result of the trials. The new “International Relief for the Fighters of the Revolution” organization is welcomed by Owens, who promises close cooperation through the party’s legal defense organizations.
“Report on the American Party Situation to the Enlarged Executive Committee of the Communist International, April 11, 1923.” This is an official report by the “Secretariat” of the Workers Party of America (C.E. Ruthenberg - Executive Secretary; Josef Pogány - Political Secretary; Abraham Jakira - Secretary for Confidential Work) to the Enlarged ECCI summarizing the American party’s work. A monthly dues-paying membership of “approximately 18,000” is claimed. The three old factions ("Liquidators,” “Goose Caucus” and the “Opposition” [Central Caucus faction] are declared eliminated. Instead, three “tendencies” are said to now exist in the party—a small “right” group opposed to underground organization, a small “left” group which considers underground operations the most important aspect of the party, and “the great majority” of party members who support the primacy of the open party. Details are provided about the Labor Defense Committee, the campaign to protect Foreign-born workers, the amalgamation campaign in the trade unions, the anti-Fascist campaign intitated by the WPA’s Itallian section, and the ongoing drive to establish an American labor party. The costs of legal defense of the Bridgman defendants are held to be oneroous: “We have been obliged to put all our energy into the work of raising money for the defense of the comrades arrested at Bridgman, for which tens of thousands of dollars have been needed. This has made it impossible for us to raise money for other party purposes and has left us in a very difficult financial situation. The needs of defense will require all the money we can raise for a considerable time to come.”