Early American Marxism: Document Download Page by Year: 1910

Early American Marxism

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“Hoboed Over 8,000 Miles,” by Thomas J. Mooney [May 1910] An article weird and wonderful from the pages of The International Socialist Review. In 1910-11, the P.T. Barnum of American Socialism, Gaylord Wilshire, conducted an 11 month long subscription-selling contest with the lucky winner to receive a trip around the world. The battle of the socialist salesmen shook down to a head to head competition between SP National Organizer George Goebel and an unknown young man from San Francisco named Thomas J. Mooney—this well prior to the latter’s de facto martyrdom as America’s most famous class-war prisoner in 1916. Mooney describes his more than six month investment, riding the rails throughout the west from town to town selling newspaper subscriptions, “over the deserts of Utah, California, and Nevada in scorching suns of July and August; through October and November rains in Oregon and Washington; and worst of all the ice and snow and sometimes zero weather of December and January in Montana, Idaho, Utah, and Nevada.” He contrasts this life of privation to that of his competitor, Goebel, who traveled the country on the Socialist Party’s dime as part of his paid employment, bending the contest rules. As a desperation measure, Mooney wrote this letter to ISR in an effort to garner Wilshire’s subscriptions on his behalf. An interesting sidebar to the political biography of Tom Mooney... Includes a photograph of the young Mr. Mooney and a “To Whom It May Concern” testimonial letter written by Gene Debs on his behalf.



“Accident Insurance and Political Action,” by Charles Ruthenberg. [Aug. 1910] A very early example (from his second year of SPA membership) of the writing of Cleveland Socialist C.E. Ruthenberg, later the head of the Workers (Communist) Party. “The industries of the United States kill, injure, and maim twice as many workers in proportion to the number at work as any other civilized country.... The capitalist class knows no other law than the law of profits... The workers have the power to place on the statute books a compulsory insurance law, but they cannot secure such a law by voting for the candidates nominated by parties owned and controlled by their employers.” 


“Working Class Politics: Extracts of a Campaign Speech for Local Cook Co. SPA at Riverview Park, Chicago, Sept. 18, 1910,” by Eugene V. Debs Debs launches the 1910 fall campaign for Local Cook County, Socialist Party with a rousing speech to the faithful. Debs declares that the millions of wage workers have common economic interests, regardless of nationality, race, or sex, and that it is only the “ignorance” of the working class majority which enables the ruling capitalist minority to keep them in subjugation. “The primary need of the workers is industrial unity and by this I mean their organization in the industries in which they are employed as a whole instead of being separated into more or less impotent unions according to their crafts,” Debs argues. This move from the hundreds of competing craft unions to large industrial unions is seen by Debs as essential: “So long as the workers are content with conditions as they are, so long as they are satisfied to belong to a craft union under the leadership of those who are far more interested in drawing their own salaries and feathering their own nests with graft than in the welfare of their followers, so long, in a word, as the workers are meek and submissive followers, mere sheep, they will be fleeced...” Emancipation is in the hands of the working class, Debs believes: “The workers themselves must take the initiative in uniting their forces for effective economic and political action; the leaders will never do it for them.” While the Socialist Party is declared to be the political arm of labor, “the new order can never be established by mere votes alone,” says Debs. Instead, “this must be the result of industrial development and intelligent economic and political organization, necessitating both the industrial union and the political party of the workers to achieve their emancipation.”



“Conference of the Polish Socialist Organizations: National Headquarters, Socialist Party of America: Chicago -- Oct. 29, 1910: Minutes by Mabel H. Hudson, Secretary” The year 1910 saw a move for admittance to the Socialist Party by the Polish Socialist Alliance [Zwiazek Socjalis√≥w Polskich—ZSP], which sought to join the Polish Socialist Section [Zwiazek Polskiej Partii Socjalistyczne -- ZPPS] in the ranks of the Socialist Party of America. A conference of the two organizations and NEC member George Goebel was held in Chicago on Oct. 29, 1910 to discuss possible obstacles to the ZSP’s joining the Socialist Party. Chief among ZSP concerns was the prospect of an excessive rate of dues (it needing to support its own official organ and propaganda efforts) as well as to an overly complex set of requirements for payment of dues to state and county organizations. There seems to have been little if any turf-related controversy between the ZSP and the ZPPS and ZSP delegate L. Banka seems to have been satisfied by the SPA’s dues policy towards federations (of which he had not been previously aware, apparently adopted in 1909). The ZSP and ZPPS agreed to exchange fraternal delegates to each others’ organizational conventions, scheduled to be held in the 4th quarter of 1910.



“Operating a Socialist Sunday School,” by Kenneth Thompson [November 1910] Rare participant’s account of the structure and operations of a Socialist Sunday School written by a Bay Area Young People’s Socialist League activist. The SSS in Oakland was established by the YPSL Study Class in February of 1909, Thompson says, with an elected instructor coordinating the lesson and leading singing in conjunction with a YPSL standing committee of 3, of which Thompson was a part. The SSS elected its own officers and conducted its own formal meetings, a form of practical training “not taught in any other school for children,” Thompson indicates. Suggestions about lesson content were made by the children themselves. “The lessons are carefully worked out so that the class struggle is always before the children as the basis of the Socialist philosophy, and without the class struggle we would have no Socialist movement; always careful not to blind their young minds with any false conceptions of ‘justice, right,’ etc., other than class justice,” Thompson states. Picnics were held, group singing and “red flag drill” conducted in association with entertainments of the regular SP, and newspaper advertising sales contests held in conjunction with The Oakland World. “The Socialist work among children is one of the most important branches of the party work, and should be encouraged in all cities and towns where there is a party organization,” Thompson states.