MIA : Early American Marxism : Writers Page: Jay Lovestone

Jay Lovestone

1897 — 1990



“‘Parliamentarism’ and ‘Political Action,’” by Jay Lovestone and William Weinstone. [March 17, 1919] Former City College of New York Young People’s Socialist League leaders Jay Lovestone and William Weinstone co-authored this lengthy letter to the New York Call in response to New York Socialist leader Cameron King’s critique of the Left Wing Manifesto published earlier in those pages. Lovestone and Weinstone conceive of the radical movement as being divided between “moderates” and “socialists.” The pair conclude that “the moderate contends that the industries can be socialized by means of the present bourgeois state... Our conception of socialist political control is, to quote Marx, ‘a transition period, in which the state cannot be anything else but a dictatorship of the proletariat.’ We hold with the Communist Manifesto that ‘the proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of this state—i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class.’... It is not by attempting to solve the insolvable, capitalism’s contradictions, but by ‘teaching, propagating, and agitating exclusively for the overthrow of capitalism and the necessity of instituting of the proletarian dictatorship’ that socialism can be attained!”.




“Our Next Step,” by Jay Lovestone. [Feb. 1922] This fascinating document was written immediately prior to the founding meeting of the Conference for Progressive Political Action by Jay Lovestone for the official organ of the new “legal political party,” the Workers Party of America (Lovestone was made Executive Secretary of the underground Communist Party of America that same week). It may be regarded as an authoritative exposition of Communist thinking about the forthcoming CPPA. Lovestone argued that the Conference offered the WPA “an opportunity of joining with large sections of the workers in the immediate struggle” as part of the united front against the capitalist foe. The demand for common action was growing in the ranks of labor, Lovestone believed, and the fact that the WPA had not been invited to the conference “does not matter a straw.” “We should not stand on ceremony and refuse to participate in any conference where representatives of the workers are found,” Lovestone stated, arguing that if the WPA was denied from the assembly, the falsity of the CPPA’s unity claim could be conclusively proven to the working class, while if they were admitted, the opportunity for airing the organization’s program and advancing effective slogans would present itself. The CPPA’s declared intent not to establish a Labor Party in America would give fuel to the WPA’s objective of constructing ” genuine Labor Party along federative lines and modeled after the British Labour Party.”.



“Report No. 11 to Jay Lovestone et al. in New York from Ludwig Katterfeld in Moscow, March 13, 1922.” The CPA’s man in Moscow notes the arrival of John Ballam on behalf of the Central Caucus faction on March 12, 1922. Katterfeld states that he was “undergoing a process of disillusionment as he meets one after another of his old cronies and friends. I think he received the surprise of his young life when he discovered that I had not been fired and shipped home by Marshall [Max Bedacht] as he expected, but found us living amicably together in Hourwich’s old castle,” The ECCI was about to resolve the Central Caucus split in favor of the CPA majority, Katterfeld believed, and anticipated details were outlined in this letter to help clarify the forthcoming cable on the matter, to be sent after final decision was rendered. A Ukrainian comrade was being dispatched to help win the Ukrainian elements in the Central Caucus faction back to the party, Katterfeld noted.


“Minutes of the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of America, March 1922.” An apparently complete set of minutes of the governing CEC of the underground CPA for the month of March 1922. The body met 8 times during the month and dealt with a wide range of topics. Highlights include: (A) decision to circulate a photostatic copy of the Comintern letter resolving the Central Caucus faction split in favor of the CPA majority (3/8), (B) declaration by Executive Secretary Jay Lovestone that “the treasury is totally empty, that the needs were pressing, no funds coming in from the districts and that the outlook for improvement was very dark.” (3/8); (C) appointment of Morris Kushinsky as the Philadelphia District Organizer (3/8); (D) an attempt to name Abram Jakira the Detroit DO (3/8), which was rejected by Jakira. The CEC then demanded a letter of explanation (3/14). Jakira continued to strenuously object and the CEC resolved to establish a voluntary (unpaid) DO for the district (3/23). Further tidbits: (E) Rep to the CI Katterfeld in Moscow was instructed to “try to secure an appropriation of at least 25 [thousand dollars]” (3/10); (F) a per capita convention assessment of $1 was levied to support the forthcoming 2nd Convention of the CPA and a 1-for-200 members representation agree upon ((3/10); (G) Katterfeld recalled from Moscow, to be replaced by Bedacht (3/10); (H) a forthcoming miners’ strike was prepared for (3/14 and passim); (I) division of work in writing the theses for the 2nd [Bridgman] convention was made (3/16); (J) an attempt to censure Bittelman for editorial misconduct failed and Minor and Cannon resigned from the Editorial Board in protest — Bittelman also attempted to resign, but his resignation was rejected on a tie vote (3/16); and (K) Joseph Zack Kornfeder and Joseph Stilson were appointed as a committee to investigate and reorganize the CPA’s Russian and Jewish Bureaus (3/23, 3/29).


“Letter to Ludwig Katterfeld in Moscow from Jay Lovestone in New York, March 21, 1922.” This letter from Executive Secretary Lovestone to CI Rep Katterfeld in Moscow notes the decision of the CEC of the CPA for Katterfeld to return to the United States to attend the 2nd Convention of the party. The CPA is unable to locate Louis Fraina, who is said to be in Argentina—Lovestone asks Katterfeld to have the Comintern tell the Argentine Party to get Fraina to leave the country or comply with his instructions. The struggle with the Central Caucus faction continues unabated, Lovestone notes, with pressure being put on by the Central Caucus for representation on the board of the Friends of Soviet Russia “on the threat of spreading misinformation which will give away our best workers and break up the whole relief show.” Gene Debs is reported to have regretted his errors, but any trip by him to Soviet Russia is dismissed by Lovestone as speculation. Lovestone again emphasizes the dire financial straights of the CPA: “Rush help and rush it at once. You can’t be too soon,” he pleads.



“Report to the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of America, April 14, 1922” by Jay Lovestone. Jay Lovestone served a first stint as Executive Secretary of the CPA in 1922, taking over for Will Weinstone on Feb. 22, 1922, and serving for several months. This is an interesting document from the Comintern Archive, a report by Lovestone to the guiding CEC of the party—a sort of “State of the Party” speech. Lovestone provides a district by district breakdown of the faction fight with the Central Caucus opposition, as well as brief reports on the federations, the status of the Friends of Soviet Russia organization, the Workers Party of America, and party finances (cutbacks of staff and tight budgets being the order of the day),



“Open Letter to Every “Minority” Member, from the Central Executive Committee, CPA.” [circa May 1, 1922] This document, very likely written by CPA Executive Secretary Jay Lovestone, was transmitted to the members of the Central Caucus faction, inviting them to rejoin the party “without discrimination” in accord with the unanimous decision of the Executive Committee of the Communist International. According to terms of the CI’s binding directive, 60 days after first publication of the decision were to be allowed for those who had left the CPA to rejoin without penalty. After June 28, 1922, however, “in accord with this decision...you are definitely expelled from the CI.” Each member was invited to decide for themself whether to rejoin— bearing in mind that the decision might mean the severing of old friendships and associations. To help resolve difficulties that may arise as part of the reunification process “the CI has sent a special plenipotentiary representative” [Genrik Valetskii] the document notes.



“Bi-Weekly Newsletter #7 of the National Office, CP of A, May 15, 1922.” Internal party communication produced by CPA Executive Secretary Jay Lovestone. Lovestone notes the return of John Ballam from Moscow and his presentation of the decision of the Executive Committee of the Comintern on the factional situation in America. He notes that the answer of the Central Caucus Opposition was “a flat refusal to accept the decision of the CI” and the declaration signed by their own delegate. Further, “an attempt was made to expel Comrade Moore [Ballam].” Lovestone notes that a special bulletin republishing all the official documents of the factional controversy was in preparation. On an unrelated note, Lovestone states that work among striking miners “is going on with success,” particularly in the St. Louis district (which included Southern Illinois, Kansas, and the Southwest). A special leaflet for the Mingo Co., WV miners was planned, Lovestone notes.




“Ruthenberg Convicted,” by Jay Lovestone. [June 1923] The second trial springing from the August 1922 raid of the Bridgman Convention of the Communist Party of America saw Executive Secretary of the Workers Party of America C.E. Ruthenberg in the dock. This article from The Liberator by former and future CPA Executive Secretary Jay Lovestone details the course of the trial, which resulted in a conviction of Ruthenberg under the Michigan “Criminal Syndicalism” law. Lovestone attributes the success of the prosecution to a number of factors: avoidance of mistakes made in the earlier Foster trial, the greater ease of linking Ruthenberg to actual membership in the Communist Party, the Michigan law by which only registered property-owners could serve on a jury, and one-sided instructions by the judge to the jury in which it was stated that “the advocacy of Soviets and of the dictatorship of the proletariat might impliedly be taken as an advocacy of force.”.




“John Reed and the Real Thing,” by Michael Gold [Nov. 1927] This article came from the issue of the Communist Party’s artistic and literary monthly commemorating t he 10th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution—a tribute by Mike Gold to his friend Jack Reed. The article is written against the views of Walter Lippmann and other “pale, rootless intellectuals” who smugly claimed that Jack Reed was a romantic, a playboy, and a superficial adventurer. Gold replies “The Revolution is the romance of tens of millions of men and women in the world today. This is something many American intellectuals never understand about Jack Reed. If he had remained romantic about the underworld, or about meaningless adventure-wandering, or about women or poem-making, they would have continued admiring him. But Jack Reed fell in love with the Revolution, and gave it all his generous heart’s blood.” Gold further sees Reed as pivotal in destroying the historic prejudice against intellectuals held by the American far left, noting that for the IWW “the word ‘intellectual’ became a synonym for the word ‘bastard,’ and in the American Communist movement there is some of this feeling.” However Reed “identified himself so completely with the working class; he undertook every danger for the revolution; he forgot his Harvard education, his genius, his popularity, his gifted body and mind so completely that no one else remembered them any more,” thus proving for all time that the line between intellectuals and workers was not impassable. Gold concludes that the “war to end wars” supported by Lippmann and his associates—those who denigrate Reed and the Russian Revolution—was false, a mere “prelude to a more rapacious capitalist imperialism and a greater imperialist war,” but that John Reed had given his life for the “real thing.”




“Ruthenberg as Fighter and Leader,” by Jay Lovestone. This hagiographic biography of the deceased Executive Secretary of the Workers (Communist) Party of America was originally written by his successor to introduce a collection of speeches published by International Publishers. Although thoroughly uncritical, this article nevertheless provides a useful summary of the political career of Ruthenberg, including an impressive list of political offices for which he was a candidate during the period 1910 to 1919 (Mayor, State Treasurer, Congressman, US Senator). Nary a word is mentioned about Ruthenberg’s social origins, education, factional orientations over time, nor any hint given of any tactical difficulties faced or political errors made by Ruthenberg over the course of his political career. Instead, Ruthenberg, rendered a faultless icon, is depicted as “The Founder of the Communist Party” and lauded for “Leninist faith in the masses” dating back to 1911.




Soviets Doom Plotters Lovestone comments on the trial of sixteen former members of the Russian Communist Party, accused of terrorist activity against the leaders of the Soviet state, resulted in a death sentence for the whole group. The prisoners, including Zinoviev and Kamenev, were given seventy hours to appeal to the Central Executive Committee for mercy. At the time of writing it is not known whether the appeal will be made.



The Russian Events. Comments on the trial and execution of Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov, and thirteen others guilty of active conspiracy to murder the leaders of the CPSU and the Soviet Government has caused a profound stir, especially in the ranks of the class conscious labor movement.




“The Moscow Trial in Historical Perspective,” by Jay Lovestone. [February 13, 1937] As with Leon Trotsky, Lovestone looks to French Revolutionary history for an explanation of the Zinoviev-Kamenev-Radek trial of 1936—the first of the three Great Soviet Show Trials of 1936-38. Lovestone contends that while “the merest glance at the ofÞcial proceedings...is enough to convince any candid person that some, at least, of the charges and allegations...cannot hold water for a moment since they are full of gross contradictions, material and psychological.” Lovestone’s chief interest is the political implications of the trial, seeing an extremely close historical parallel in the patently false charges of “monarchism” levied by the Jacobins against their Girondin and Dantonist opponents in order to justify their destruction. The truth or falsity of such charges is of little long-term importance relative to the political implications of the physical destruction of the defendants, in Lovestone’s view.



“The Meaning of the Soviet Purges,,” by Jay Lovestone [June 18, 1937]. A lengthy reassessment of the burgeoning purges in Soviet Russia by the head of the Independent Communist Labor League. “It is with the deepest regret that I must admit that there is an acute crisis in the regime, in the inner life of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union,” Lovestone states. “If we cast a retrospective glance at Russian party developments, we will find that it was entirely natural and understandable—especially under the circumstances of the stifling inner party regime headed by Stalin—that the logic of the political positions of Trotsky or of Zinoviev, Radek, and Kamenev, should lead them to an out-and-out anti-Soviet course. However, it is obviously absurd to ask us to believe that suddenly, mysteriously, Yagoda, Tukhachevsky, Gamarnik, and Rudzutak became degenerates, became mortal foes of the Soviet Union, became agents of German and Japanese imperialism.” Lovestone is chagrined at the situation: “I am face to face with a Hobson's choice. I pick only the lesser of two very serious evils. That Stalin is an expert of trumping up charges against opponents or potential opponents is not new to us. Nevertheless, here I must stress we deal with a more flagrant type of frame-up than has ever been perpetrated in factional struggle. To me the recent demotions, arrests, accusations, suicides, and executions mark the low point of the Stalin hero-cult.”




“Extract of the Testimony of Jay Lovestone, Secretary of the Independent Labor League of America, Before the House Special Committee to Investigate Un-American Activities, December 2, 1939.” Extended extract of former Secretary of the Communist Party Jay Lovestone’s testimony before the “Dies Committee” of the US House of Representatives. While Lovestone’s appearance was not voluntary, once he appeared he testified expansively as a friendly witness of the committee. Lovestone’s testimony took nearly four hours and over 90 pages of the printed transcript (including appended documents), here distilled to 32 edited pages of committee interrogation and response. Lovestone’s main analytical idea is that (1) the function of Communist International evolved from a bona fide revolutionary organization intent on establishing an international socialist society in a crumbling world to a “puppet organization” with policies which were merely the mechanical reflection of Russian foreign policy; and (2) there took place a parallel evolution of the nature of Comintern decision-making process, from democratic participation of equals to a top-down rule by administrative fiat. In the beginning, Lovestone testifies, the Russian members of ECCI led “through prestige, through achievement, through the fact that they had conquered one-sixth of the world for socialism,” He declares that the Russians “were living a dream we had, and naturally we looked up to them. Besides, they treated us as equals, with equal respect...” Gradually a culture of “kowtowing to the potentates” emerged and worked itself into a formal system which Lovestone likens to “the story of Caligula” and the “Roman consul system.” Lovestone asserts that this shift began to take place not with the rise of Stalin to supreme authority, but before—with Lenin’s departure from politics and the rise of Zinoviev. With regard to his own time at the helm of the Communist Party, Lovestone reveals that average Comintern funding of the American movement in 1926-1928 averaged “no more than about $20 to 25,000 a year” with periodic additional funding for special projects and an independent channel of funding to the Profintern. He alleges that Profintern funding was used by the Foster faction to fund its factional war against the Lovestone faction. He also asserts that his late predecessor as Executive Secretary, C.E. Ruthenberg, was vigorously hostile at an earlier date than he to Moscow’s meddling in the American party’s political affairs. Lovestone asserts that the forced shift to the ultra-Left policies of dual unionism and the primacy of the fight against “social fascism” prompted the 1929 split. Lovestone advises the Congressmen that “you cannot fight Stalinism in this country, or elsewhere, by repression, by outlawing legislation,” which only strengthens the movement repressed by extending to them the mantle of martyrdom, but that rather that the battle must be fought by publicity on the nature of “Stalinism” and the action of the labor movement to cleanse itself. On the other hand, Lovestone acknowledges the right of nations to defend themselves against intervention in internal affairs via espionage or external control of unions by foreign governments.