In Re: Trade Union Educational League, Chicago — Radical Matter. [December 18, 1920] by J.F. Loren. Document in DoJ/BoI Investigative Files, NARA M-1085, reel 917, file 186701-92-4.


Letter to Lewis J. Baley, Chief of the Bureau of Investigation, Dept. of Justice, from Col. Matthew C. Smith, Chief of the Negative Branch, Military Intelligence Division, War Dept. March 18, 1921. Document in DoJ/BoI Investigative Files, NARA M-1085, reel 925, file 202600-92-1. Military Intelligence Division file number 10110-1447 M.I.4-B Report on William Z. Foster's remarks commenting on the unemployment conference of the Chicago Federation of Labor on February 27 [1921]

Note to Leon Trotsky Regarding a Survey on Conditions in America Distributed in Advance of the 1st World Congress of RILU from Earl Browder, Delegate, in Moscow, May 9, 1921. Document in the Comintern Archive, RGASPI, f. 515, op. 1, d. 39, l. 38.


“Appeal to American Workers.” (leaflet of the American Bureau, International Council of Trade and Industrial Unions [RILU]) [May 1921] Before the role was filled by the Trade Union Educational League (TUEL), the program of the Red International of Labor Unions was advanced in the United States by the “American Bureau of the International Council of Trade and Industrial Unions.” This is a rare early leaflet of the “American Bureau,” produced in a run of 40,000 copies and distributed by the Communist Party. A grim situation faces the world, the leaflet indicates: “The specter of starvation haunts the entire world. Victors and vanquished of the late war alike tremble before it. This breakdown of the whole fabric of capitalism is accompanied by a savage drive upon the workers by the massed power of the employing class. The Master Class has declared war on Labor. This war rages in all countries.” White terror was being employed around the world—in the United States as well as Hungary; an open shop campaign had been launched to break American unions; 4 million American workers remained unemployed; new wars were plotted. In response, the leaflet advocates an opening of trade relations with Soviet Russia to provide a willing market for American products and to restore industry. Further, workers are urged that their own international organization is necessary to fight the international organization of the capitalists in the League of Nations. The International Council of Trade and Industrial Unions (RILU), based in Moscow, is just the organization needed by workers, the leaflet claims, standing in stark opposition to the “capitalist international” as well as the “yellow Amsterdam international,” whose “ traitorous leaders, whose hands are stained with the blood of 13 million workers.” The social democratic Amsterdam International is cast in a particularly noxious light, as “agents of the bourgeoisie in the camp of the workers.” American workers are urged to take up the issue of international affiliation at local union meetings and to influence their national unions to affiliate with RILU: “You cannot remain neutral. There can be no neutrality between the workers and the capitalists. You are for the dictatorship of the workers or you are for the dictatorship of the capitalists.”

Wherefore Stand Ye Divided? by William Z. Foster [May 28, 1921] This article is a bit of a curiosity—a piece written by closeted Communist union leader William Z. Foster and published in The New Day, propaganda weekly of the Socialist Party of America (probably distributed by the Federated Press as the conduit). Foster outlines the fundamental principles of his union philosophy: “For a generation virtually the whole radical movement has been wasting itself on utopian union projects,” Foster declares, dedicating themselves to futile radical dual unions and abandoning the mass organizations to the control of a conservative bureaucracy. In Foster’s view the dual unions violate what Foster calls “the first principle of unionism, namely the solidarity of labor.” Foster states that the dual unions are essentially utopian attempts to bypass the normal development of mass unions—which in other countries typically include a broad array of ideological tendencies, including “Anarchists, Socialists, Communists, Catholics, Protestants, atheists, craft unionists, industrial unionists, etc.,” instead basing themselves on narrow ideological tenets “not held by the great masses.” The normal course of union development includes 3 phases, Foster believes, including “(1) Isolation; (2) Federation; and (3) Amalgamation.” Foster bitterly notes: “but our dual unionists ignore it all. They have their spick and span, blueprinted, perfected organizations. And they ask an ignorant working class, habituated to craft unionism, to throw aside their old unions, built through 40 years of strife and struggle, and to join themselves forthwith to the highly advanced type they propose. They would abolish the law of labor union development. That’s all. Is it any wonder that the American radical movement stagnates, resting as it does upon such a bizarre and unworkable economic program?”





Rules of the Trade Union Educational League [February 1922] Published in [Fish Committee]: Investigation of Communist Propaganda: Hearings Before a Special Committee to Investigate Communist Activities in the United States of the House of Representatives, 71st Congress, 2nd Session, Pursuant to H. Res. 220...: Part 3 — Vol. 2 , June 17, 1930. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1930), pp. 180-181.

Order of Business for First Meetings of Local General Groups of the Trade Union Educational League [February 1922] Published in [Fish Committee]: Investigation of Communist Propaganda: Hearings Before a Special Committee to Investigate Communist Activities in the United States of the House of Representatives, 71st Congress, 2nd Session, Pusuant to H. Res. 220...: Part 3 — Vol. 2 , June 17, 1930. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1930; pg. 181.

Circular Letter Mailed to Over 1,000 “Live-Wire Trade Unionists” on Behalf of the Trade Union Educational League from William Z. Foster in Chicago, Feb. 10, 1922 Published in [Fish Committee]: Investigation of Communist Propaganda: Hearings Before a Special Committee to Investigate Communist Activities in the United States of the House of Representatives, 71st Congress, 2nd Session, Pursuant to H. Res. 220...: Part 3 — Vol. 2 , June 17, 1930. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1930; pg. 174.

A Call to Action [c. Feb. 15, 2012] by William Z. Foster Published in The Labor Herald [Chicago], v. 1, no. 1 (April 1922). Reprinted in [Fish Committee]: Investigation of Communist Propaganda: Hearings Before a Special Committee to Investigate Communist Activities in the United States of the House of Representatives, 71st Congress, 2nd Session, Pursuant to H. Res. 220...: Part 3 — Vol. 2 , June 17, 1930. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1930), pp. 181-183.

The League in Chicago [events of Feb. 27 to March 16, 1922] by J.W. Johnstone Secretary Published in The Labor Herald [Chicago], v. 1, no. 2 (April 1922), pg. 29.



"Report on the United States of America: A confidential document prepared for the Comintern, June 1922." by James P. Cannon A lengthy and detailed assessment of the economic and poitical situation in America attributed to WPA man in Moscow James P. Cannon and dated to June 1922 from content. An extremely revealing glimpse at party thinking with regard to specific unions (United Mine Workers, Metal trades, Needle trades, Railway Brotherhoods, local federations) the role of the Trade Union Educational League, the position of the party towards the IWW and the Socialist Party, the Farmer-Labor Party, the Conference for Progressive Political Action, negro political organization, Russian famine relief, application of the United Front policy, role of the party press, position of the CEC towards the Central Caucus faction opposition, and the relationship between the underground CPA and the "overground" WPA — including specifics about the thinking of dissenters on the Central Executive Committee Ludwig Katterfeld, Alfred Wagenknecht, and Robert Minor. Cannon speaks of a conscious strategy of the CEC to shift the "seat of Party authority" from the underground party (as a directing center of the legal organization) to the legal organization (with the underground apparatus a sub-division under the control of the "overground" organization. This transition is slated to take time, Cannon indicates, as "the CEC takes the position that the seat of Party authority can be transferred from the illegal to the legal party only after the latter has become a Communist Party in the full sense of the word — if its program, contents of propaganda, international affiliation, and name are those of a Communist Party.”



“Details of Foster Kidnapping Related: Story of Disguise and False Name Denied and Illegal Arrest and Bertilloning Told."[events of August 6-7, 1922] While the railroad shopmen's strike was raging, Trade Union Educational League chief William Z. Foster found himself the target of terroristic activities by the constabulary of Colorado, this Federated Press report documents. Upon arriving in Denver, Foster was kidnapped by armed plainclothes officers of the Colorado rangers, said to be acting under direction of Governor Pat Hamrock. Without warrant Foster was detained on August 6, 1922 and held overnight. His papers were seized, including a book manuscript. The next day Foster was taken 100 miles by car, photographed, and “deported” to Wyoming. In Wyoming similar illegal treatment was repeated, with a sheriff driving Foster to a point in the middle of nowhere, 6 miles outside of Tarrington, Wyoming, where he was forced to walk to town to catch an east-bound train. Legal action against the authorities in Colorado and Wyoming was forthcoming, the article indicates.


“Michigan Central Wreck is Pretext for Raid,” by Carl Haessler[events of Aug. 20, 1922] Report from the weekly newspaper of the Federated Press news agency concerning the raid on headquarters of the Trade Union Educational League in Chicago. A recent railway wreck in Gary, Indiana, tendentiously blamed upon strike-related sabotage, was used as the formal pretext for the TUEL raid. TUEL head Bill Foster was sanguine about the raid, noting “They have raided the painters, the building trades council, the janitors, and other unions and our turn had to come. It’s all part of the big business attack on labor. When one frame-up fails they start on another. It’s all in the day’s work.”


“Tribune Story Exploded by Facts,” by Carl Haessler[Aug. 26, 1922] This news story by Federated Press staff correspondent Carl Haessler answers sensational but factually correct reporting in the Chicago Tribune that Trade Union Educational League chief William Z. Foster had fled the secret Communist Party convention in Bridgman, Michigan just ahead of raiding authorities with untruth packaged as “facts.” The Tribune's assertion that “Foster, prize of the party, escaped, as did most of the others” is dismissed by Haessler as a “fairy tale.” Haessler falsely asserts that “Foster had not been in Michigan” and contends that Foster's alleged presence at the convention was a pretext for police to conduct another glass-smashing and document-seizing raid of TUEL offices in Chicago so as to “embarrass” and thereby discredit a forthcoming national convention of that organization.



“Lessons of the Shopmen’s Strike,” by William Z. Foster [October 1922] After three months of intensive battle, the Great Railroad Strike of 1922 ground to a halt in the fall, defeated by injunctions, strikebreakers, and division among the 16 railway unions of the country -- 7 of which supported the strike and 9 of which did not. Trade Union Educational League leader William Z. Foster raises the banner of amalgamation of the disparate craft unions into united industrial unions as the way forward for American organized labor. Foster is sharply critical of the “incompetent” central leadership of AF of L leader Samuel Gompers and the “reactionaries” around him and singles out for particular scorn President Grable of the Maintenance of Way Workers, Fitzgerald of the Railway Clerks, and Bill Lee of the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen for undercutting the strike of their fellow railway workers. “Only by consolidating our organizations into one can we prevent a repetition of the disastrous mistakes made in the shopmen’s strike,” Foster declares, prescribing a “general amalgamation convention” called by the unions as a result of rank and file pressure as the means to this end.


The Bankruptcy of the American Labor Movement, by William Z. Foster [Oct. 1922] Full text of a pamphlet published by the Trade Union Educational League as No. 4 in its "Labor Herald Library" series, authored by the founder and secretary of the TUEL organization, William Z. Foster. Foster depicts the weak position of American unionism as a byproduct of the dual unionist tradition of the countries radical labor militants, who anathmetized the American Federation of Labor in favor of a series of ineffectual attempts to build an explicitly radical alternative. This strategy was wrong-headed, Foster argues, noting the unions congealed in the AF of L were actually "primitive but genuine attempts of an ignorant working class to organize and fight the exploiters that are harassing it." It was the widespread perception among the militants that the AF of L was a hopelessly conservative, capitalist organization incapable of development that provided the prime explanation "why the Socialists did not invade the AF of L, depose the Gompers regime, and change the whole face of the labor movement twenty years ago." Foster optimistically adds that "the new movement, as represented by the Trade Union Educational League, repudiates the conception, long a dogma of the dual unionists, that the trade unions are anchored to the principle of craft unionism and cannot develop into industrial organizations." This pamphlet includes a useful chapter in which Foster recounts his previous organizational activities as founder of the Syndicalist League of North America, the International Trade Union Educational League, and the TUEL itself.



"Report on the Labor Union Situation in the United States and Canada, Dec. 16, 1922," by William Z. Foster. A confidential report from the Comintern Archive, likely intended to Grigorii Zinoviev and other decision-makers in the Comintern apparatus. Foster describes the efforts of the Trade Union Educational League in rather heroic terms, stating that with a paid staff of 2 and virtually no funding it had "started" the amalgamation movement, which was "now the sensation of the American trade unions" and "running like wildfire." As unions melted away under the fire of the capitalist offensive, rank and file revolt against "Gompersism" was brewing. Foster requests an annual appropriation of $25,000 to fund four full-time field organizers for TUEL and upgrade the official organ of the organization, The Labor Herald.


“W.Z. Foster Defeats Ranger Autocrat: Labor Leader Returns to Denver and State Official Who Deported Him in Violation of Law Resigns.” (Miami Valley Socialist) [event of Dec. 31, 1922] On Dec. 31, 1922, head of the Trade Union Educational League William Z. Foster made a triumphant return to Denver, Colorado, delivering a public address in a state from which he had been illegally kidnapped and deported the previous August. This report in a Socialist Party weekly notes: “No sooner had Gen. Pat Hamrock, commanding the Colorado Rangers, kidnapped Foster from the Oxford Hotel in Denver Aug. 6 [1922], than arrangements were begun by the American Civil Liberties Union to bill Foster at a public protest meeting in Denver. Roger N. Baldwin, director of the union, carried on correspondence with Gov. Shoup, under whose authority Hamrock held his job, and finally after the November election, Shoup climbed down. His policies had been overwhelmingly repudiated by the Colorado voters, who had elected William E. Sweet, Democrat, as Governor. Sweet had denounced Hamrock’s lawless Rangers.”


"'Militants, Notice!': An Advertisement for the Trade Union Educational League" (circa 1923). Machine-readable facsimile of an advertisement appearing on the inside front cover of an early TUEL pamphlet by William Z, Foster — almost certainly written by Foster himself. The ad states that the Trade Union Educational League is "in no sense a dual union," but rather is "purely an educational body of militants within existing mass unions, who are seeking through the application of modern methods to bring the policies and structure of the labor movement into harmony with present day economic conditions." TUEL is called "a system of informal committees throughout the entire union movement, organized to infuse the mass with revolutionary understanding and spirit" and basing its work on the existing union structure rather than upon "starting rival organizations based upon ideal principles." It is this tendency of progressive unionists to establish dual union organizations that is "one of the chief reasons why the American labor movement is not further advanced," the ad declares.



"An Open Challenge,"by C.E. Ruthenberg. [March 1923] At the end of February 1923, jury selection for the first trial resulting from the August 1922 Bridgman, Michigan raid was begun. The best-known public figure among the defendants, William Z. Foster, was chosen by the prosecution to first face the jury. This article by C.E. Ruthenberg, published in the March 1923 issue of The Liberator, marks the beginning of this trial. Ruthenberg charges that the Palmer Raids of 1919-20 had as their goal not prosecution for crime but rather destruction of the radical movement and that the "bugaboo of violence" alleged of the revolutionary socialist left would be belied by the evidence presented at the Michigan trials. "No Communist advocates the use of violence in the class struggle in the United States today.... No Communist has been convicted of an overt act of violence in the United States," Ruthenberg notes.



A Year of the League by Charles Krumbein Published in The Labor Herald [Chicago], v. 1, no. 12 (Feb. 1923), pp. 3-4. [alternative formatting]

"The Trial of William Z. Foster," by Robert Minor. [April 1923] Labor cartoonist and Communist Party leader Robert Minor writes here about the start of the William Z. Foster trial. Foster was charged in conjunction with the 1922 raid of the CPA's Bridgman, Michigan Convention with "unlawful assemblage" under the state's Criminal Syndicalism Law, for which he could have been imprisoned for up to ten years. Particular attention is paid to the seating of the jury and efforts of the government — in conjuction with the Burns Detective Agency — to sway public opinion in the case. Minor states that "the prosecution of Foster is a bald attempt of the Harding Administration to mould the American labor movement in its own image. Before the jury was completed the prosecution had deÞnitely outlined its purpose to eliminate the Trade Union Educational League from the American Federation of Labor, the imprisonment of Foster being one of the intended means.”


"Getting Together," by Eugene V. Debs. [April 1923] Article by the Socialist Party of America's 5-time Presidential candidate on the trade union situation in America, published in the monthly magazine of the Trade Union Educational League. Debs states that recent defeats of major strikes in the steel, mining, and railroad industries would have been winnable had they been conducted by unified industrial unions rather than a multitude of fragmented craft unions — a form of organization which Debs believed to be an obsolete relic of individual handicraft production, utterly unsuited to the large-scale and complex industry of the modern world. In advancing the end of amalgamation of existing craft unions into large industrial unions, Debs wholeheartedly supports the work of the TUEL: "The Trade Union Educational League, under the direction and inspiration of William Z. Foster, is in my opinion the one rightly directed movement for the industrial uniÞcation of the American workers. I thoroughly believe in its plan and its methods and I feel very conÞdent of its steady progress and the ultimate achievement of its ends.”



"On Trial in Michigan," by William Z. Foster. [May 1923] On April 4, 1923, after 31 hours of deliberation and 36 ballots, the jury in the William Z. Foster case resulting from the Aug. 1922 Bridgman Raid was declared deadlocked 6-6 and dismissed, resulting in a mistrial. This is Foster's interesting personal account of the trial, written in the immediate aftermath of the proceeding and published in the pages of the monthly TUEL journal, The Labor Herald. Foster noted that his case had been rightfully made into a test of Free Speech rights and that the mistrial represented a major defeat to the forces behind the case: the federal Department of Justice and the Burns Detective Agency. Foster asserts that government agent Francis Morrow was a provocateur who voted repeatedly for maintenance of the underground party at the Bridgman convention and who lied repeatedly on the stand in an effort to bolster the government's case for conviction.




“Attempt to Murder Foster! Gunmen Burst in on Union Meeting and Open Fire on Labor Leader as He Commenced Speaking at Protest Meeting Against Expulsion of Garments Unionists by Perlstein,” by Jack Johnstone [events of Aug. 27, 1923] One of the little-known details about the life of William Z. Foster is that he survived an attempt against his life by a gunman, as this news report from the Workers Party’s Chicago English language weekly recounts. Foster was speaking before nearly 2,000 at Carmen’s Auditorium in Chicago at a mass meeting called to protest the expulsion of a number of TUEL activists by the General Executive Board of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. “Foster had just commenced speaking, when suddenly the door to the right of the platform was thrown open and 3 shots fired - all of them at Foster, who owes his life to the fact that the gunmen were so anxious to cover their faces that it interfered with their aim. The gunmen came up the fire escape and went out the same way,” Johnstone notes. Johnstone indicates that this attempt at Foster’s life came only after a failed attempt by ILGWU partisans to disrupt the meeting by steadily heckling each speaker. The meeting passed a resolution, included here, condemning the expulsions and urging the GEB of the ILGWU to reconsider its actions.




The Yellow Streak in Coal. by J. Louis Engdahl Published in The Liberator [New York], v. 9, whole no. 65 (Sept. 1923), pp. 23-25.

"The Yellow Streak in Coal," by J. Louis Engdahl. [Sept. 1923] During the first half of the 1920s the most volatile sector of the American economy was that of coal mining — a wave of strikes swept the country. This wave of militacy found reflection in the United Mine Workers Association, as insurgent leaders like Alexander Howat of Kansas came to the fore, clashing with the established leadership of the union, led by John L. Lewis. This article, published in the Communist Party press in September 1923, details the struggle between the Trade Union Education League-backed UMWA militants and the leadership of the International Union. Engdahl characterizes the militants and reflective of the desires of the rank-and-file and the established leadership as corrupt and collusionist.


“Police Report that Real Bullets Were Fired at W.Z. Foster,” by Carl Haessler [Sept. 8, 1923] Whether the gunman that fired three shots at William Z. Foster at an August 27 TUEL protest meeting was actually trying to kill him was a matter of some debate in the mainstream press, with the Right Wing Chicago Tribune twice levying the charge that the entire incident was a fake planned by Foster and his associates to garner publicity and support. This article by Carl Haessler of the Federated Press quotes Detective Sergeant Crowley of the Chicago police: “From our investigation we have no reason to believe the Tribune statement that the shooting was ‘faked,’” reads Crowley’s statement, adding that “we have not caught the assailant, but are working on the case.” Haessler also cites the unnamed manager of Carmen’s Hall: “The manager of the hall declares that he had noticed a number of interrupters who were getting ready for more pronounced action and he spoke to them asking who they were. They told him, he says, that they were members of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. He advised them to abandon their tactics and for a while there was quiet. Then after Foster had begun speaking a man in the audience near the emergency exit tapped loudly on the bottom of a seat. Immediately afterwards, the door suddenly opened, a single gunman fired, masking his face with one arm, and fled.” Haessler states that “The bullet holes were plainly visible to me. They were evidently made through hasty pulling of the trigger while the gunman brought the revolver down forearm to level it at Foster. The first bullet narrowly missed a huge inverted electric light bowl, of which there were 2 in the line of shots. The second shot wavered a little to the right of the first, but 6 feet nearer the platform. The last was in direct line and 10 feet closer to Foster."


Advertisement Requsting TUEL Members to Purchase Shares in the Daily Worker Publishing Co. [Sept. 1923] Machine-readable text of an advertisement in the monthly organ of the Trade Union Educational League soliciting the purchase of $5 shares of "preferred stock" in The Workers Publishing Co. A fundraising drive to raise $100,000 to fund the Daily Worker was hereby announced, with the paper to be launched by the Workers Party of America in Chicago on November 7, 1923 — the 6th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. While the paper was to be published in Chicago, funds for shares of stock were to be sent to 799 Broadway in New York City.