Early American Marxism: Document Download Page by Year: 1912

Early American Marxism

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Work Among Women: A Progressive Woman Leaflet” . [circa 1912] Short leaflet soliciting subscriptions to The Progressive Woman, a publication from J.A. Wayland’s Girard, Kansas Appeal to Reason Socialist stable. The leaflet lists reasons why Socialist propaganda work among women is important, including: “Woman is disfranchised. The Socialist Party demands equal suffrage for all, regardless of sex, color, or race. Woman’s disfranchisement is a great factor in holding here in economic slavery. Woman’s position in industry is of a much lower status than man’s. She seldom receives equal wages for the same grade of work. Woman has become a very large part of the industrial world. She is the most formidable competitor man has in the industries.”



“How I Became a Socialist: An Episode of My Boyhood,” by Alexander Jonas [published March 1912] Alexander Jonas was the most important figure in the history of the 19th Century German-American Socialist movement — a fact somehow missed by historical encyclopedia editors of left (Buhle, Buhle & Georgakas) and right (Johnpoll & Klehr) alike. Co-founder and editor of one of the longest-lived and most influential periodicals of the American left (the New Yorker Volkszeitung), Jonas played an important role in educating German-speaking American Socialists for a generation. In addition to his literary contributions, Jonas also played an important role as a political actor in all three of the great factional wars of the 19th Century Socialist Labor Party — the battle with the anarchist and Social Revolutionary groups of 1883-86, the recall of W.L. Rosenberg of 1889, and the pitched battle with the DeLeon-Kuhn faction for the soul of the party in 1899. Jonas and those around the Volkszeitung went 2-for-3 in these struggles, winding up outside the SLP and founding members of the Socialist Party of America in 1901. This article was translated from the German for the magazine of the Young People’s Socialist Federation in memory of Jonas, who died on January 30, 1912. In it, Jonas grippingly describes the revolutionary events of March 1848 in his native Berlin, and how he, the young son of a petty bourgeois bookseller of democratic sympathies, came to understand the existence of an inevitable division between the bourgeoisie and the working class even within the revolutionary forces and how he thus gained consciousness of the Socialist mission. Includes a brief biography and photo.


“’Nigger’ Equality,” by Kate Richards O’Hare. [March 1912] One of the Socialist Party’s dirty little secrets was the presence in its ranks of a significant number of individuals with frankly racist perspectives. This 1912 pamphlet by Kate Richards O’Hare appealing to Southern voters is the epitome—the most racist document ever issued on the Socialist Party’s behalf. The Socialists do not seek social, physical, or mental equality, O’Hare states, but rather “Equality of Opportunity.” “Just as long as a ‘nigger’ can be robbed of the product of his labor by the capitalist class by being shut out from access to the means of life, just that long he can be made the club and chain that will drag and beat the white workers down into the mire of poverty,” O’Hare states. The only answer to the race question is segregation, O’Hare declares: “Let us give the blacks one section in the country where every condition is best fitted for them.... If the negro rises to such an opportunity, and develops his own civilization, well and good; if not, and he prefers to hunt and fish and live idly, no one will be injured but him and that will be his business.”.



“Report of Bohemian Section to the Socialist Party National Convention, May 1912,” by Josef Novak. The Bohemian (Czech) Section of the Socialist Party of America was formally organized in December 1911, with 37 branches and about 800 paid members. This report to the 1912 Indianapolis Convention of the SPA by the first Translator-Secretary of the Bohemian Section details a bit of organizational history and lists the location of the various branches of the organization, which had grown to 44 branches in 11 states with 1,164 members at the time of this report.


“Report of the Finnish Translator-Secretary to the Socialist Party National Convention, May 1912,” by J.W. Sarlund. Report by the Translator-Secretary of the Finnish Socialist Organization in the United States to the 1912 Indianapolis convention of the Socialist Party of Ameica. Sarlund provides details on the history of the Finnish socialist movement, its size, demographics, finances, publications, and educational efforts. Sarlund includes specific recommendations fo the 1912 convention with regards to language federations, notably a nationally-binding rule making federation branches answerable to the national and state party organizations only, rather than state and local party groups.


“Report of Italian Section to the Socialist Party National Convention, May 1912” by Joseph Corti. The Italian Section of the Socialist Party—soon to become the Italian Federation—was formally organized in December of 1910. By the time of this report of the group’s Translator-Secretary to the 1912 Indianapolis Convention of the SPA, the Italian Section boasted about 1,200 members in 48 branches—with another 21 Italian branches not affiliated with the party. This report details the early history of the Italian section, including details on membership size, geographic concentration, the party press, and propaganda by organizers.


“Report Submitted in Behalf of the Jewish Socialist Agitation Bureau to the Socialist Party National Convention, May 1912,” by Jacob Panken. Prior to its 1912 establishment as a formal Language Federation of the Socialist Party, Yiddish-speaking socialists were organized in a “Jewish Socialist Agitation Bureau,” which maintainted contact between the various branches and helped coordinate the production of Yiddish-language leaflets and pamphlets. This is the report of the Jewish Bureau’s delegate to the 1912 SPA Convention, Jacob Panken. Panken counts about 80 Yiddish branches in 30 states with which the Jewish Bureau was in contact and provides some statistics on the number of meetings held and the production of socialist literature.


“Report by the Executive Committee, National Lettish [Latvian] Organization, SP to the National Convention, May 1912,” by C. Karklin. Organizational report by the Secretary of the Latvian Federation of the Socialist Party of America to the 1912 convention of the party—the longest and most detailed of the various federation reports so submitted. Includes financial data and a complete summary of Federation referenda for the years 1910 and 1911, as well as details about the central organ (“Strahdneeks,” published twice weekly), propaganda circles, the tours and subject matter addressed by various organizers for the federation, and complete text of Latvian Federation resolutions on (1) The Attitude of the SP Toward Trade Unions; (2) In favor of a Party Central Organ; (3) Opposed to the trend of the SP to attempt “to voice the interests of the farmers or some other non-proletarian social group;” (4) On the Church; and (5) On the SP’s Legislative Tactics. With regard to all these matters, the Latvian Federation took a position on the left of the Socialist Party’s ideological spectrum, oriented to philosophical materialism and the militant class struggle.


“Report of Polish Section to the Socialist Party National Convention, May 1912,” by H. Gluski. Until the groups unified in February 1913, there were two Polish-language affiliates of the Socialist Party of America. This is the report of Translator-Secretary of the larger of these two groups, the Polish Section of the Socialist Party (Zwiazek Polskiej Partii Socjalistyczne—ZPPS), to the 1912 Indianapolis National Convention of the SPA. A few details about organizational history, size, and the Polish-language press are provided in this very short document.


“Report of the Polish Alliance to the Socialist Party National Convention, May 1912,” by L. Banka. Until the groups unified in February 1913, there were two Polish-language affiliates of the Socialist Party of America. This is the report of Translator-Secretary of the older-but-smaller of these two groups, the Alliance of Polish Socialists in America (ZSP), to the 1912 Indianapolis National Convention of the SPA. A few details about location of party branches of the Polish Alliance and the group’s dues stamp sales in the first quarter of 1912 are provided in this very short document.


“Report of Scandinavian Section to the Socialist Party National Convention, May 1912” by N. Juel Christensen. Christiensen, the first Translator-Secretary of the Scandinavian Socialist Federation, outlines the group’s short history from its establishment in Chicago at a July 2-4, 1910, convention to its current status with 30 branches and “over 1,000” members. The Scandinavian Socialist Federation owned and published two weekly newspapers, The Svenska Socialisten [Swedish] and The Social Demokraten [Danish]. The group was particularly strong in the midwest, facing competition with the established SLP Scandinavian organization in the East and a largely unorganized Scandinavian population in the West, Christensen notes.


“Report of the South Slavic Section to Socialist Party National Convention, May 1912,” by Frank Petrich. The South Slavic Socialist Federation affiliated with the Socialist Party of America in January of 1911. This is the report of the Translator-Secretary of the Yugoslav Federation Frank Petrich to the 1912 Indianapolis Convention of the Socialist Party of America. Details about membership demographics, size, and the financial status of the organization up to March 31, 1912, are provided.



“The Socialist Party's Appeal”, by Eugene V. Debs [Oct. 24, 1912] This 1912 campaign statement by Socialist Party Presidential nominee Gene Debs appeared in the pages of The Independent—a mainstream news weekly. Debs declares that for the first time since the abolition of slavery “a great moral question cleaves the political atmosphere of this nation.” The choice is stark, Debs indicates: “Either capitalism, with its gorgeous wealth and power for its successful devotees and owners, and its brutal, degrading struggle for existence for its workers, will write ’esto perpetua’ upon the scroll of Time and this civilization will enter eclipse and decline, as have the civilizations of every previous age, or else capitalism will surrender the scepter of power to socialism and the race will progress to heights undreamed and establish a civilization as far in advance of capitalism in its beneficence to mankind as capitalism is in advance of savagery.” Debs’ analysis is Lassallean in essence, nary a word being uttered about trade unionism (in marked contrast to Debs’ orientation in the first decade of the century), while salvation is held to lie in the transference of political power. “The Socialist calls upon his brother worker to join him in the overthrow of capitalism through capturing the powers of government and legally transferring the ownership of the world from capitalism to socialism.... It invites them to seize political power in the name of the working class, and to legally write their own economic emancipation proclamation,” Debs declares.



“Story of the Tragedy,” by Fred D. Warren [Nov. 11, 1912] News account of the suicide of the 58 year old publisher of the Appeal to Reason, J.A. Wayland, by that paper’s editor, Fred D. Warren. “Wayland, at the last term of court testified he had no connection with the management of the paper. Government officials claim they were prepared at this term to prove Wayland’s responsibility as publisher and that an indictment may have been asked on a charge of perjury,” Warren noted, adding that Wayland had been periodically depressed over the death of his wife in an automobile accident the previous year. Warren adds that a suicide note was found offering Wayland’s bleak last words to the movement: “The struggle under the competitive system is not worth the effort; let it pass.”

““Telegram Read at the Funeral of Julius Augustus Wayland: Girard, Kansas—Nov. 13, 1912,” by Eugene V. Debs Scheduled to speak at the funeral of his close friend and former employer, J.A. Wayland of the Appeal to Reason, Eugene Debs was distraught and found himself unable to make the trip. Instead this short telegram was dispatched and read at the grave site: “Today you will give back to mother earth the mortal remains of our fellow warrior. The hearts of a million loving and loyal comrades will beat his funeral march. He fought the good fight without flinching to the end. He gave to the cause of the oppressed all the strength of his body and soul and future generations will reap the harvest he has sown and pay his memory the homage of their love and gratitude.” Includes photo of J.A. Wayland.


The Results of the 1912 Election: A Statement,” by Eugene V. Debs [Nov. 16, 1912] In this statement published in the Appeal to Reason in the aftermath of the 1912 election, Socialist Party Presidential candidate Gene Debs attempts to depict the SP’s rather disappointing vote total (about 1 million votes, when about twice that number was predicted and expected) in the best possible light. Emphasizing quality over quantity, Debs declares that “the million votes cast this year, be it understood, are Socialist votes. The possible vote that could have been taken from us was taken by the so-called Progressive Party, and the vote which remains is a solid Socialist vote upon which we can count in the future without fear of disappointment.” Debs believes that intra-party warfare is about to split the Democratic Party in the same way that it divided and weakened the Republican Party, opening up the way for future Socialist victory. “Soon after the Democrats go in power they will demonstrate their utter impotency and helplessness and thousands who voted their ticket will turn from them in disgust,” Debs wishfully predicts, adding that Socialists should be prepared for an economic panic “to be precipitated” during the Democratic administration.


“Last Conversation with My Father,” by Jon G. Wayland [event of Nov. 5, 1912] On the evening of Nov. 10/11, 1912, publisher of America’s largest Socialist newspaper, J.A. Wayland, took his life by his own hand. He was due to appear in federal district court in nearby Fort Scott the next day to face trial for a trumped-up mail-obscenity charge brought by zealous federal prosecutors with a rumored additional indictment to follow for perjury committed at a previous proceeding. This brief account published in the Appeal to Reason by Wayland’s 2nd son, Jon, recounts his last meeting with his father and sheds light upon the older Wayland’s motivation for his suicide. “ “My boy, I am going to end it all; I cannot longer stand this persecution, mental oppression, and misunderstanding. I have done my work living and worn myself out, and perhaps my death will further the interests of the cause,” the younger Wayland quotes his father as telling him at their parting. “Not once during this talk did he exhibit any feeling of malice or hatred toward even those government officials who are directly responsible for his death. He felt it was all a part of the order of life and unavoidable,” Jon Wayland adds.




“The Red Flag and the Stars & Stripes,” by Morris Hillquit [Dec. 1912] In this short article from The Young Socialists’ Magazine, Socialist Party leader Morris Hillquit asserts the “open and honest” allegiance of the Socialists to the Red Flag as a symbol of “worldwide peace, harmony, and brotherhood” in the “great international fight against corruption, exploitation, and oppression.” Right Wing detractors are eager to flaunt the Stars & Stripes in provocative opposition to the Red Flag, but Hillquit demands: “What claim do you have to the emblem of American independence, democracy, and justice? You have ruthlessly destroyed the ideal of social equality, which was fondly woven into the texture of the American flag by the revolutionary founders of the republic, and have delivered the country and its people to a gang of financial freebooters. You have reared a purse-proud aristocracy more unbearable than ever was the rule of George III. You have driven millions of American men, women, and children into industrial slavery, misery, and destitution. You have banished the American ideals of civic righteousness, and have poisoned the public life of the nation by wholesale fraud, bribery, and corruption.” The Red Flag is complementary to the Stars & Strips, Hillquit asserts. “When Socialism will win its battles, both emblems will flutter together from all huts and palaces, gaily proclaiming in their multiform colors that mankind is free.”