Early American Marxism: Document Download Page by Year: 1904

Early American Marxism

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“The Multnomah County, Oregon, Socialist Party Convention of 1904: Two Reports from the Contemporary Press.” An esoteric piece of local history, this file consists of two pieces of newspaper reportage on the Multnomah County Convention held by the Socialist Party of Oregon in Portland in April 1904. The convention nominated a complete slate of candidates for the November 1904 election, a complete list of which appears in the article. A demonstration of the deep roots of the early SPA in the periphery of America, far away from the urban meccas of Chicago and New York.


“ Constitution of the Socialist Party of America: Adopted in National Convention at Indianapolis, Ind., August 1, 1901—as revised.” This is the version of the SPA’s constitution in effect on the eve of the 1904 Party Convention, with editorial footnotes indicating the specific alterations made to the document over the party’s first 2-1/2 years. Chief among the changes made in this interval were a respecification of the Local Quorum—a 5 member body that approximated the National Executive Committee in function; the alteration of the position of National Secretary to a position with a fixed 1 year term of office; and the elimination of constitutionally-required reporting by the Executive Secretary and the National Committee to the state organizations. Also apparently removed was a paragraph that was probably regarded as superfluous at the time but which would be a matter of extreme importance 15 years hence, specifically: “The platform of the Socialist Party, adopted in convention or by referendum vote, shall be the supreme declaration of the party, and all state and municipal organizations shall, in the adoption of their platforms, conform thereto.” This fundamental position remains in less strenuous language in Art. VI, Sec. 1: “Each state or territory may organize in such way or manner, and under such rules and regulations, as it may determine, but not in conflict with the provisions of this constitution.”



“ The Working Class Convention: National Convention of Socialist Party at Chicago, May 1 to May 6, 1904,” by Hermon F. Titus Eyewitness account of the 2nd Convention of the Socialist Party of America by Washington delegate Hermon F. Titus—Socialist publisher, medical doctor, and for over a decade a former Baptist preacher. Titus makes use of language of a religious revivalist in hailing the convention as a gathering of comrades “aflame with an enthusiasm born of awakening class consciousness and determined to effect their own emancipation,” who saw their “enthusiasm and determination” made more intense by the “sense of fellowship and union which gradually developed during those 6 days’ sessions.” Titus declares that “Suspicions and differences disappeared as it became evident that the great majority of the delegates stood unmistakably for the working class first, last, and all the time. Factions and schemes were annihilated before the proletarian will that asserted itself in every test vote. There were no combinations or caucuses to effect this result.” Titus asserts that there was an effort on the part of the delegates of Kansas, Missouri, and Wisconsin to arrive at slates for key convention committees ahead of the gathering, but that this effort came to nothing and “there were no more caucuses during that convention.” The sharpest points of contention came upon the Trade Union resolution and the new program for the party. The contentious “immediate demands” which divided the founding convention in 1901 were reduced to a “Program for State and Municipal Socialist Officials,” a set of “mere suggestions for action where we succeed in electing candidates before our full triumph.” Includes short biography and picture of Hermon F. Titus.


“The Chicago Convention: National Socialist Party Convention Held at Chicago, Ill., May 1-6, 1904: Official Report of H.F. Titus, Delegate-at-Large from State of Washington.” Delegate Hermon Titus details for the membership of the Socialist Party of Washington his actions on their behalf at the 2nd Convention of the Socialist Party of America. Titus notes three challenges of delegates before the Committee on Credentials on which he sat, those of Gridley of Indiana (for being a city engineer for a capitalist government), J. Stitt Wilson of California (for sending a congratulatory telegram to a Mayoral victor who was a member of another party), and Charles Randall of Utah (who was the delegate of a Walter Thomas Mills-backed faction embroiled in a dispute with another recognized Utah state organization with ties to the radical Socialist Party of Washington). Titus also details his work on the platform committee and notes that he made the nominating speech for Ben Hanford for Vice President of the United States—a nomination which received many seconds and which was approved unanimously by the convention. Mills notes his additional efforts to stir up enough locals around the country to demand the submission of the constitution, platform, and resolutions of the Chicago Convention to the membership for ratification by referendum vote. “I freely said and still maintain that the platform adopted at Indianapolis and confirmed by referendum of the party, remains our national platform until another is adopted by the party membership itself,” Titus notes. Titus also points out two actions he took in an attempt to reduce overhead costs of the SPA—the reduction of the party’s representation to the forthcoming International Socialist Congress from 3 to 1 (successful), and to scale back the salary of the National Secretary from $1500 to $1200 per year (failed). “I urged that our dues are paid by workingmen on small wages and that we must economize in every possible way,” Titus reports.



“ The Federal Government and the Pullman Strike: Eugene V. Debs’ Reply to Grover Cleveland’s Magazine Article,” by Eugene V. Debs [circa July 7, 1904” The 10 year anniversary of the seminal 1894 Pullman Strike was the inspiration for former President Grover Cleveland to pen a tendentious history of the event, published in the pages of McClure’s magazine. Cleveland’s one-sided misrepresentation of the affair drew the ire of former head of the American Railway Union, Eugene V. Debs, who wrote this lengthy article in reply (rejected by McClure’s and ultimately published in the pages of The Appeal to Reason). Cleveland’s triumphalist self-vindication was based on inaccurate information; Cleveland had seemingly not even bothered to consult the report of his own hand-picked commission to investigate the strike, Debs states. The strike had been peacefully and effectively won by the strikers, Debs indicates, before the organized railway managers in collusion with a railroad lawyer appointed by President Cleveland as special counsel to the government, gained relief through the courts via an injunction against the ARU. Working hand-in-glove with the Chicago police, the railroads had thousands of unsavory “thugs, thieves, and ex-convicts” hired as “deputy marshals,” who caused acts of violence, including the burning of boxcars and the cutting of fire hoses to insure the spreading of the flames. This ploy in turn gave the Cleveland administration a pretext to intervene with federal troops—against the explicit recommendations of the Mayor of Chicago and the Governor of Illinois. Thereafter, an effort was made to decapitate the ARU by trial of its officers for “conspiracy”—but before documents could be brought into the trial proving the culpability of the Railway Managers’ Association and winning, the trial was suddenly halted due to the suspicious “illness” of a juror. Instead, the ARU officers were summarily sentenced to jail terms ranging from 3 to 6 months for “contempt of court” by the judge—a procedure of dubious legality which was finally upheld by a bought-and-paid-for Supreme Court composed of former corporate lawyers, in Debs’ view.


“To The Socialist and Its Readers,” by Eugene V. Debs [July 10, 1904] When Hermon Titus’ Left Wing weekly The Socialist ran into financial trouble in the summer of 1904, SPA Presidential hopeful Eugene V. Debs immediately contributed a full-length article expressing his support for the publication and upbraiding Socialists for lack of support of the party press. Debs insists that readers of The Socialist make an immediate 50 cent contribution to help put the publication on its feet financially: “Socialists are not consistent, to put it mildly, when they talk continually about ‘education’ while they let their own press starve to death. Socialists, who stand against exploitation, have no right to exploit those who serve them.” Debs notes that “Trade unionists, made up wholly of workers, manage to support their press, at least a large part of it, in decent order, so that the press can live comfortably and serve instead of starving and dying. I have always been opposed to a two-for-five press. I want to see a substantial paper, the best that can be produced, and a reasonable price paid for it, instead of a flimsy sheet on crutches that manages to limp from one issue to another, almost a walking epitaph.” Debs demands that “The Socialist must be put upon its feet, and at once. Dr. Titus and his colleagues have done their whole duty and gone far beyond it, and now we have got to show some inclination to do ours.”


“Letter to S.S. McClure in New York from Eugene V. Debs in Terre Haute, July 22, 1904.” On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Pullman Strike of 1894, McClure’s magazine published a lengthy article on the affair by former President Grover Cleveland. Cleveland’s one-sided account inspired strike leader Eugene Debs to write an extensive article in reply. This Debs article was rejected by publisher S.S. McClure, who wrote to Debs that “Instead of giving a plain narrative of the strike seen from your point of view, you have taken up most of your space in calling to witness the unfairness of the other side and abusing the same.” He invited Debs to rewrite the piece for publication—which Debs rejected in no uncertain terms with this July 22, 1904 letter. Debs replied that “If a statement of absolute facts taken from the official records and made in decorous language is not a ‘sober’ statement it is simply because the facts do not admit of sober treatment. I quite realize that there is “nothing so eloquent as the facts,” but when the facts prove the highest public official of a great nation to have debauched his trust at the behest of corporate capital they may not appear so eloquent to him or to his friends, but they lose none of their charm of eloquence for men whose record and character are such that they can face the facts without fear of dishonor.” Debs adds that “In answering Mr. Cleveland I wrote under great restraint to keep within the bounds of prudent expression and I would rather far have the article rejected than have it appear emasculated, a miserable apology, deserving of contempt.”



“ Apostrophe to Liberty,” by Eugene V. Debs [Aug. 27, 1904] Short florid prose poem dripping with florid language and dedicated to the importance of liberty by the 2-time Presidential candidate Gene Debs: “If liberty is ostracized and exiled, man is a slave, and the world rolls in space and whirls around the sun a gilded prison, a domed dungeon, and though painted in all the enchanting hues that infinite art could command, it must stand forth a blotch amidst the shining spheres of the sidereal heavens, and those who cull from their vocabularies of nations, living or dead, their flashing phrases with which to apostrophize Liberty, are engaged in perpetuating the most stupendous delusion the ages have known. Strike down liberty, no matter by what subtle and infernal art the deed is done, the spinal cord of humanity is sundered and the world is paralyzed by the indescribable crime.”




“ ;1904 Average Paid Membership by States, Socialist Party of America.” Alphabetical listing of official state-by-state totals of average paid membership in the SPA. Data for all 37 organized states is included. Top five state memberships included: Illinois (1,851), New York (1,791), California (1,566), Washington (1,146), and Massachusetts (1,101). There was an average paid membership of just 145 in Oklahoma in 1904, while Wisconsin surprisingly finished behind the state of Missouri, 775 to 650.




&# 8220;1904 Average Paid Membership by States, Socialist Party of America.” Alphabetical listing of official state-by-state totals of average paid membership in the SPA. Data for all 37 organized states is included. Top five state memberships included: Illinois (1,851), New York (1,791), California (1,566), Washington (1,146), and Massachusetts (1,101). There was an average paid membership of just 145 in Oklahoma in 1904, while Wisconsin surprisingly finished behind the state of Missouri, 775 to 650.