Early American Marxism: Document Download Page by Year: 1917
Early American Marxism
Document Download Page for the Year1917
“Report to the National Executive Committee,” by Adolph Germer [circa January 1, 1917] Written report of the National Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party of America to the members of the National Executive Committee sent just prior to the January 6-7, 1917 NEC meeting in Chicago. Germer provides a lengthy summary of the 1916 election, which marks as a “failure to roll up the vote that we so earnestly worked for and confidentially expected.” Germer attributes this step backwards to a number of factors, including “general apathy that has prevailed in the party for the past three or four years” and the effective capture of the anti-militarist vote by the Democratic Party with the slogan “He kept us out of war,” as well as the support of “the Adamson eight-hour law and a few other so-called labor laws” which were instrumental in the Democratic Party “befuddling the workers.” Germer provides the 1903-1916 party membership series, numbers which indicated that the party’s membership slide from the time of the 1912 Convention had been halted, although the miniscule increase was called “far from satisfactory in view of the campaign activities.” Germer also provides data concerning the cost of producing the party’s new monthly agitational leaflets and the official organ, The American Socialist. He further notes the existence of a new referendum being officially circulated for seconds calling for an extraordinary convention of the party in 1917 and advocates the NEC either dispense with the 1917 session of the National Committee in favor of this gathering or actively campaign against the convention in favor of the NC meeting, as there would be no need to undergo the expense of both.
“Constitution of the Socialist Propaganda League of America.” [January 1917] Organizational law of the Socialist Propaganda League of America, the Boston-based forerunner of the “Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party.” According to the group’s state objective, “The SPLA declares emphatically and will work uncompromisingly in the economic and political fields for industrial revolution to establish industrial democracy by the mass action of the working class.” This constitution reveals the SPLA as a dues-based organization (5 cents per month for members affiliated with local “branches,” 10 cents per month for at-large members). The organization was to be governed by a “National Committee” of seven, who would in turn elect a National Secretary and National Treasurer to handle the day-to-day operations of the group. Major policy matters were to be determined by referendum vote of the organization, with 3% of the organization sufficient to call a vote on any matter, irrespective of where those members were located.
“Memorandum on the Severance of Diplomatic Relations with Germany,” by Robert Lansing [events of Jan. 31-Feb. 3, 1917] Memorandum about backstage affairs at the White House at the pivotal moment of the severance of diplomatic relations with Germany written by pro-war Secretary of State Robert Lansing. Lansing makes clear that the action was precipitated by the German decision to renew unrestricted submarine warfare in defiance of their April 1916 assurances issued in the aftermath of the sinking of the Sussex. Lansing indicates that he felt the severing of diplomatic relations was” the only possible” action to take in order” to preserve the Honor, dignity, and prestige of the United States” against the bogey of” Prussian militarism.” The cabinet had agreed as much, as ultimately did Woodrow Wilson, who for all his posturing about” neutrality in thought and in deed” placed the supreme value on the ” right” of American capitalists to freely traverse the seas to profit from the sale of food and armament to the belligerent Allied powers.
“’No War!’ is Socialist Party Demand: Declaration of the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of America.” [Feb. 17, 1917] This resolution of the Socialist Party’s governing National Executive Committee blasts Woodrow Wilson for his unilateral executive decree breaking off diplomatic relations with the German empire and placing “the people of the United States in imminent danger of being actively drawn into the mad war of Europe.” Instead of posturing for the rights of profiteers to make obscene profits by providing armaments and foodstuffs to combatants, Wilson should have banned Americans from the war zone, except those going at their own risk, the NEC statement indicates. “The policy of unrestricted and indiscriminate submarine warfare recently announced by the German government is most ruthless and inhuman, but so is war as a whole and so are all methods applied by both sides. War is murder! War is the climax of utter lawlessness, and it is idle to prate about lawful or lawless methods of warfare. The German submarine warfare does not threaten our national integrity or independence, not even our national dignity and honor. It was not aimed primarily at the United States and would not affect the American people. It would strike only those parasitic classes that have been making huge profits by manufacturing instruments of death or taking away our food and selling it at exorbitant prices to the fighting armies of Europe.” Letters and telegrams to Wilson and to Congress are called for by the Socialist NEC: “Insist that the nation shall not be plunged into war for the benefit of plundering capitalists.”
“A Criticism and a Confession,” by Louis Kopelin [Feb. 3, 1917] The harmonious Socialist Party Presidential campaign of 1916 was met with a demoralizing result, which was the cause of soul-searching throughout the organization. The defeat of the Appeal to Reason’s favorite son, columnist Allan Benson, was particularly hard to bear and it led the paper’s editor, Louis Kopelin, to reassessment of the party’s axiomatic assumptions. For the first time, the Socialist Party was not a young party in the process of growth, but an established minority party in malaise: “For the first time in the history of the Socialist movement in this country our national vote has shown a loss... Moreover, it is not only the loss in the national vote that we have to sorrowfully record. Our party organization has about half as many dues-paying members at this time as we had a few years ago. And our party press has suffered a severe slump in circulation and effectiveness.” While the party Right blamed the Left for the defeat (and vice versa), Kopelin felt that something more fundamental was at work: “The Appeal firmly believes that our entire scheme of propaganda generally adopted by Socialists during the last 20 years has been built on preconceived notions not applicable to conditions in the United States. When we reflect upon the cumbersomeness and fruitlessness of our methods we are amazed that we have made such progress as we have. It is remarkable that American Socialism has grown in spite of the Socialists.” Kopelin launches into a tirade of criticism of the party, including its “artificial and arbitrary plan for propagating Socialism,” “rigid rules of discipline befitting the foreign military nations which gave them birth,” literature with “stereotyped phrases have been imported and rammed down the unwilling throats of a people like ours whose language and logic are simple and direct,” and the “un-American and undemocratic rule of centralized power in the hands of officials and committees, allowing no development and freedom of action on the part of the rank and file.” A new “plan of action” is promised by Kopelin to his readers. It was, in short, the heart-wrenching 1916 Presidential defeat rather than the war and the Socialist Party’s reaction to it which pushed the Appeal to Reason headed by Louis Kopelin to the right.
“’Socialize Now–Railroads First!’ That is the Appeal’s Plan of Action,” [editorial by the Appeal to Reason] [Feb. 10, 1917] One week after flinging down the gauntlet over the poor showing of the Socialist Party in the elections of 1916, Messrs. Kopelin and Haldeman-Julius of the Appeal to Reason come forward with their aggressive new program of constructive socialism. Rather than whiling away for a wholesale revolutionary change of society and its economic system, the Appeal posits the idea of pushing forward with a campaign for piecemeal nationalization, beginning with the nation’s railway system–among the largest industries of the nation. To this end, the paper was placing muckraking journalist Charles Edward Russell, author of Stories of the Great Railroads, in charge of the campaign by writing a series of articles on the topic–which the thousands of members of the “Appeal Army” were to take to the people as part of a grassroots pressure campaign on the nation’s political establishment. “First, we shall sow the seeds of education; later, we shall reap the harvest of organization and victory,” Kopelin declares, failing to mention an associated bump which such a campaign might bring to the newspaper’s circulation and coffers. “We are convinced that the American people are ready for this approach to the Cooperative Commonwealth,” writes Kopelin, because “conditions are ripe” and dissatisfaction with the industry prevalent among the 2 million railway workers.
“Democratic Defense: A Practical Program for Socialism,” by W.J. Ghent, et al. [March 1917] The approach of American entry into the European was spurred Socialists of all colors into action. This document was produced by a group of individuals on the SPA’s Right, signing alphabetically and including prominently W.J. Ghent, the widow of Jack London, Upton Sinclair and his wife, William English Walling, and others. The statement states that there is a fundamental difference between “autocratic” and “democratic” governments, that disarmament is impossible while there are “autocratic” governments in the world, and that “the proper aim of Socialist world-politics at the present time is an alliance of the politically advanced nations for the defense of the democratic principle throughout the world.” While seeking a democratization of foreign policy and the removal of the profit motive from armaments procurement, the SPA Right supports building up of the army and the navy and developing military preparedness through youth organizations like the Boy Scouts, with the use of conscription strongly implied. “To use only volunteers in national defense is to kill off the men of courage and character, and to breed from weakness and incompetence; and this is national suicide,” the social-patriotic appeal declares.
“A Revolutionist’s Career,” by Leon Trotsky [March 1917] Article written in the spring of 1917 and published in Feb. 1918 by the Socialist Party weekly St. Louis Labor providing details of Leon Trotsky’s life in his own words for a breathless public. The 38-year old Soviet leader draws a striking contrast between his politicized upbringing in Jewish Russia with the typical situation in the United States: “Here in America schoolboys seem to spend most of their time in sports, baseball and football. In Russia, the boys–and girls, too, for that matter–use their leisure for reading books like Buckle’s History of Civilization, Marx’s Capital,Kautsky’s The Social Revolution, and our own great classics that throb with the passion of revolt. Our pastime is chiefly attending underground Socialist meetings and spreading the propaganda among workingmen in the city and peasants in the country.” Trotsky does not hedge about his political affiliation during the pre-war period: “I was a Mensheviki of the extreme left, or a near-Bolsheviki.” Trotsky describes his situation in America, where he arrived in Dec. 1916: “Here in New York I lived with my wife and two children in three rooms in a Bronx tenement, wrote for the Novyi Mir,the Russian Socialist daily, and spoke at Socialist meetings. I do not expect my stay here to be very long, however, for a revolution is bound to break out in Russia in a short time, and as soon as that happens I shall hasten to my home country and help in the work of Russia’s liberation.”
“Socialists of City Will Fight War Measures.” (NY Call) [event of March 4, 1917] With the 1916 election successfully completed, Woodrow Wilson threw his pseudo-pacifistic election year pose into the nearest dumpster like a bankrobber’s cheap disguise and began hurriedly pushing America into the European war. During the last days of peace, the Socialist Party attempted to stem the tide by conducting mass meetings as well as conclaves to set policy for the party. On March 4, 1917, a general party meeting was held in New York City at the Lenox Casino, limited to SP members who were residents of Manhattan. This news account indicates that the gathering approved the majority report on the war question over a more radical variant written by Leon Trotsky and Louis Fraina by a vote of 107 to 79. The majority resolution adopted reiterated the Socialist Party’s “uncompromising opposition to war and militarism in all forms” and called for local party units to each conduct “anti-war meetings and demonstrations within its territory on as large a scale and at as frequent intervals as possible.” The National Executive Committee of the party was urged to begin collecting signatures of protest against any move to conscription or to the adoption of draconian restrictions upon American civil liberties. In the event of war, the New York organization pledged to “support the workers in every concerted mass action against extortionate food prices and other sufferings of war, against any suspension of curtailment of their right to organize or strike, and against the tyranny of conscription and martial law, and take advantage of all such manifestations of revolt for the educations of the workers in the principles of enlightened class consciousness and international working class solidarity.”
“The Minority Report: Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by Louis C. Fraina [event of March 4, 1917] Although the Trotsky-Fraina minority resolution was defeated at the March 4, 1917 meeting of Manhattan Socialists by a vote of 107 to 79, the lack of a quorum at the physical meeting meant that the issue would be referred to mail vote of the membership for ratification. Louis Fraina again took up the banner for his radical Zimmerwald Left-style minority proposal, which pledged the party to “resist all efforts at recruiting, by means of mass meetings, street demonstrations, an aggressive educational propaganda, and by any other means in accord with Socialist principles and tactics that may suggest themselves.” In the event conscription was initiated, the Trotsky-Fraina resolution declared that the SPA would “resist conscription, and support by all means in our power mass movements of the people organized to refuse compulsory military service.” The resolution further insists that the Socialist Party “shall not allow the class struggle to relax; moreover, we affirm that the general revolutionary class struggle shall proceed with new vigor and increased intensity during the period of war. The Socialist Party of Local New York, in short, declares war upon war and the measures adopted by government for purposes of war. No ‘civil peace’! No truce with the ruling class! War does not change the issue, but emphasizes it. War against capitalism! On with the class struggle!”
“Principles of Socialist Propaganda League: Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by S.J. Rutgers [March 4, 1917] In this letter to the New York Call, the Dutch engineer Seybold Rutgers (a resident of the United States during the war) steps forward to defend the Left Wing Socialist Propaganda League against its critics, here in the form of New York Call editorial writer James Oneal. Rutgers’ turgid prose inadvertently does little to defend against Oneal’s main charge that the manifesto of the SPL is a “jargon of obscurantism,” and a “mere assembling of words, mingled with revolutionary phrases, some of them obscure, others contradictory.” Rutgers fares better attempting to refute Oneal’s claim that the SPL program has “nothing new in it” compared to the historical program of the Socialist Party. The primacy of “mass action” is pivotal, Rutgers asserts, since “parliamentary action is powerless, unless the capitalists know or fear that the workers finally will use their mass power and political strikes.” He adds that “if this is right, then it is our duty not to become a voting machine, but to strengthen the tendencies toward mass action and political strikers into a system, to consider political action as something more than parliamentary action and office seeking.” Divining the 1919 split, Rutgers declares there are organizational imperatives which inevitably flowed from this orientation: “There is a very close relation between our vision of mass action as a means to exercise power against the capitalist class and the form of organization we stand for. But this, of course, does not appeal to bureaucrats, who will continue to be puzzled about the meaning of mass action until they are swept away by the tide.”
“Letter to Eugene V. Debs in New York City from Ludwig Lore in New York City, March 9, 1917.” Letter from Ludwig Lore of the New Yorker Volkszeitung to Debs attempting to win his cooperation in the launching of a new theoretical magazine, The Class Struggle. “A group of Socialists who endorse the position of the Zimmerwald and Kienthal Conferences has decided to start a new Socialist periodical, whose task shall be mainly to educate the intelligent rank and file of the Party,” Lore notes. An article on “The Defense of the Fatherland” is sought from Debs, who is asked to send the material to Lore’s co-editor, Louis Boudin, if he is able. Lore notes that the editors plan on regularly issuing articles from the journal as propaganda pamphlets—a number of which were eventually issued under the imprint of the Socialist Publication Society.
“Socialist Party Referendum ‘A’ 1917.” [Mailed March 10, 1917] The Ninth Ward Branch of Local Cook County, Illinois, proposed this referendum to call a special National Convention of the Socialist Party in Chicago to begin Sunday, Sept. 2, 1917. Two hundred delegates were to attend. Although it is not so stated, it was implied that the convention would be held to determine the SPA’s position on the European War and the looming participation of America therein. The National Office was inundated with seconds of the motion, including some of the SPA’s largest locals (Local New York City, with 3500 members; Local Kings Co. NY, with 1771; Local Philadelphia, with 1376) as well as from a vast number of Federation branches—particularly German, Hungarian, South Slavic, Slovak, and Bohemian. The list of seconds is appended. The Referendum mailed to the membership of the SPA on Saturday, March 10, 1917, the same day the Executive Committee of the Party met in the National Office. The obvious popularity of the referendum pushed the Executive Committee into immediate action on the matter.
“Minutes of the National Executive Committee Meeting Held in Chicago, March 10-11, 1917.” With a war crisis rapidly approaching and in view of a popular party referendum for a September 2 National Convention certified as seconded and mailed, the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party (Comrades Berger, Hillquit, Maley, and Work) decided at its March 10-11 meeting to set aside the organization’s constitution and to immediately issue a call for an Emergency National Convention. In accord with Referendum “A,” 200 delegates were apportioned to the various states based upon average paid membership for 1916. These are the minutes for this seminal meeting of the NEC, as published for the record in the Socialist Party Bulletin.
“Replies of the National Committee to the Proposed Emergency National Convention of 1917.” [March 12, 1917] With war looming and a popular referendum calling for a September Emergency National Convention qualified to be mailed, the National Executive Committee sprung into action and went outside the SPA’s constitution to rush a convention to April 7 in lieu of the proposed September 2 conclave. The NEC submitted this proposal to the governing National Committee via telegram for an immediate vote by wire. These are the responses of various members of the National Committee of the Socialist Party of America to the proposal for an extraordinary Emergency National Convention to be held April 7, 1917.
“Socialists Call National Convention: War Crisis to Be Dealt With April 7.” [March 12, 1917] With war in the wind and a membership referendum calling for an Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party on the war question headed toward passage by an overwhelming majority, the National Executive Committee greatly accelerated the pace for the meeting’s convocation by passing a similar resolution at its quarterly physical meeting and setting a date. The SP’s state representatives, the National Committee, were additionally polled on the issue by telegraph and responded decisively in the positive. April 7, 1917, was the set for the opening of the convention, with the location still undetermined between St. Louis, Chicago, and Cleveland. Representation was to be on the basis of 1 delegate for each 550 members, with the party’s Language Federations each allowed one fraternal delegate. A 3 point tentative order of business for the convention was approved, consisting of: (1) Political policies of the party in case of war; (2) Revision of the party program; (3) Revision of the constitution.
“Rose Pastor Stokes Leaves the Pacifists: Believes in Peace, She Says, and Is ‘Not a Patriot,’ but Would Serve County.” [March 19, 1917] With America’s entry into the European war clearly in the offing and the Socialist Party showing no signs of vacating its time-honored position of anti-militarism, social-patriots began leaping from the train. One of the most surprising Right Wing Socialist defectors (given her later chameleon-like emergence on the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of America) was Rose Pastor Stokes. Stokes announced her departure from pacifist ranks with this open letter to the Woman’s Peace Party. “I love peace, but I am not a pacifist. I would serve my country, but I am not a patriot. My love of peace does not blind me to the lessons of history,” Stokes declares. In her vaguely Fabian worldview, Stokes expresses a belief both in “the long, slow rise of human society” in which civilization has “moved from less to more desirable systems” as well as a duty to assist her country in the coming crisis. “I would fight or serve if called upon, and I would recognize myself to be fighting and serving, not for national glory or for those petty “spheres of influence” which our loudest voiced patriots would, perhaps, be definitely seeking through the war, but as an infinitesimal part of a great instrument, in use since the beginning of history, for the perfecting of human unity and human freedom,” Stokes proclaims.
“Farewell to the Eleven: Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by Algernon Lee [March 24, 1917] Rand School of Social Science head Algernon Lee issues a quick response to the pro-war declaration of Graham Phelps Stokes, C.E. Russell, William English Walling, Upton Sinclair, and 7 other leading Socialists (published in the edition of the New York Call that same day). “The 11 are ready to support the government in any sacrifice it may require,” writes Lee. “Of them it will require but one, and that one they have already made—the sacrifice of their class loyalty and their political independence. For the rest, they will support the government in forcing thousands of boys to sacrifice their lives; in forcing our unions to sacrifice their right to strike; in forcing our party to sacrifice freedom of speech and press; in forcing the whole working class to sacrifice its hopes of social reform and of emancipation from class rule.” The 11 signatories have by their action helped pave the wary for Prussian-style conscription, militarization of the schools, draconian censorship, and unfettered 1798-style “Anti-Sedition” legislation, Lee believes. The 11 social-patriots have “thrown upon the scrap heap whatever power they might have had to defend working class interests in the time of trial and enlisted themselves for noncombatant service in the domestic war for the supremacy of capital,” Lee declares.
“The Question of War: Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by J.G. Phelps Stokes, Charles Edward Russell, William English Walling, W.J. Ghent, Upton Sinclair, et al. [March 25, 1917] The parade of defections on the Socialist Party’s Right Wing began in earnest in March 1917 as irresistible force of Woodrow Wilson’s policy and Congressional opinion moved towards war and while the immovable object of the Socialist Party reaffirmed its unshakable commitment to anti-militarism and its opposition to the USA’s intervention in the European Imperialist bloodbath. This open letter to the New York Call was signed by a number of the SPA’s best-known public figures, including the muckraking writer Charles Edward Russell, author and formerly esteemed Left Wing analyst W.J. Ghent, millionaire leading light of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society Graham Phelps Stokes, popular novelist Upton Sinclair, and others. Wrapping their decision in words of Morris Hillquit pulled from a Jan. 1915 magazine article and a statement by Congressman Meyer London, Stokes and the social-patriotic signatories assert that the Socialist Party’s refusal to recognize the right of national self-defense to be “unsound from the standpoint of Socialist theory and a betrayal of democracy.” While still paying lip-service to anti-militarism, Stokes and the signatories declare: “A nation should neither sidestep its responsibilities to save itself some present suffering, nor bask behind bulwarks raised and defended by others. To refuse to resist international crime is to be unworthy of the name of Socialist. It is our present duty to the cause of Internationalism to support our government in any sacrifice it requires in defense of those principles of international law and order which are essential alike to Socialism and to civilization.”
“‘Russia is Free!’” by Morris Hillquit [March 25, 1917] The February Revolution which overthrew the brutal dynasty of Nikolai Romanov and established for the first time the makings of a constitutional republic in Russia was greeted with joyous exaltation by tens of millions of Americans, including no small few who were born within the borders of the tsarist “prison house of nationalities.” One of these was leading Socialist Party theoretical Morris Hillquit, an ethnic Jew born in Riga, Latvia. Hillquit hails the great change in Russia: “The government of the country is to be constituted by the free choice of the people. Russia, dark and dumb and joyless Russia, will henceforth be a free, democratic, and happy republic. The 200 million Russian subjects, enslaved and oppressed and persecuted and tortured for ages, have risen in their might and broken their chains. They are free, and no occult power on earth can enslave them again.” Interestingly, Hillquit makes use of a non-class construct which came into vogue only in the last quarter of the 20th Century when he asserts that “the millions of Jews, Poles, Finns, and other oppressed races within the domain of the great Russian empire are at last to be accorded human rights.” Hillquit calls for his readers to honor the memory of the revolutionary martyrs who died at the hands of the Romanov regime. “Let us remember that, if the harvest of popular freedom in Russia is abundant and resplendent, it was their blood that made its soil fertile,” he writes. Hillquit reminds that the Russian revolution, the “first bright ray of light” to emerge from blood-drenched Europe, “was not accomplished by the liberal middle classes in the Duma,” but was rather “born on the streets of Petrograd and forced by the workers in revolt against the war, its savagery, its sufferings, and its privation.” “The spontaneous and victorious revolution in Russia, coming at this time and in this manner, means the beginning of the end of this war, and the end of all wars,” Hillquit optimistically proclaims.
“As to Disrupters: Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by William M. Feigenbaum [March 25, 1917] Prominent Socialist Party journalist cracks back at the criticism of Left Winger (and future Communist Labor Party founder) Jack Carney, who took exception to Feigenbaum’s claim that virtually all the critics of official Socialist Party policy during the two periods of party controversy—1912-13 (syndicalist) and 1916-17 (Left Wing)—“have been disrupters, consciously or unconsciously.” “I held and I hold that there was a well-defined attempt to sabotage the party, and every old-timer—not recent arrivals [like Carney]—knows it. But the time was ripe for our work, and we prospered in spite of disrupters. The successes we won in 1912 and 1913 were in spite of their disruptive work.” Feigenbaum answers Carney’s challenge to “reveal” his stand with the following: “I stand for a 100%, undiluted, unhyphenated, undivided, unswerving devotion to the Socialist movement. I stand for it, and have stood for it for 15 years, and I have lived it every moment of those years. I am read to criticize and to suggest changes. I am ready to take any step that is needed to advance our cause. I am ready to fight for Socialism. Can it be said that those who strove with might and main in 1912 and 1913, and again in 1916, to scatter the strength of our movement are as loyal?” This document provided evidence that the true periodization of the famous 1919 party split was 1916-1919, albeit interrupted by the war.
“National Defense vs. Socialist Principle: Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by Edward Lindgren [March 26, 1917] In this letter to the editor of the New York Call, future CLP founder Edward Lindgren aims coiled leather at the posterior of favored whipping boy of the Left Wing, the Kautskian Marxist Morris Hillquit. Influenced by the use of Hillquit’s words by Stokes, Russell, and the social-patriotic leaders for ideological cover Lindgren charges that it is the position of Hillquit on the question of militarism and national defense which is most deserving of condemnation. The Call editorialist (James Oneal) endorsed the purported position of Hillquit and London and declared it to be the Socialist position. Lindgren asks: “If this is true, why shout against militarism in any form or degree? Why split hairs about the action” of the Stokes & Co. vs. Hillquit and London? “If we agree that national defense is a Socialist principle, there can be no condemnation for those who advocate militarism, whether it is on a large or small scale,” Lindgren insists. Lindgren remarks further that “this viewpoint may be accepted as a Socialist principle by parlor Socialists, lawyers, other professional people, and property-owning members of the Socialist Party, but not so by the enlightened working class members, who understand that the fundamental principle of Socialist agitation is the class struggle; that Socialists when they line up for the defense of any nation with a capitalist government must necessarily suspend this class struggle in order to join hands with their exploiters, to defend their (the exploiters’) territory.” Lindgren’s vitriol flows in his conclusion: “It is high time that you, and others like you, be removed from positions in the party and editors of party papers where you have opportunities to destroy instead of building up a working class movement.”
“On Stokes, Russell & Co.: Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by Morris Hillquit [March 27, 1917] His words used as a protective blanket by the social-patriots, for which he was skewered by Edward Lindgren and the Socialist Party Left Wing, Morris Hillquit eloquently sets the record straight. Stokes, Russell & Co. “have done me the unexpected honor of quoting me in support of their position,” Hillquit declares, gracefully thrusting home the foil: “In declining the unmerited honor, I wish to remind our good friends, most of whom are professional writers, that the practice of fragmentary quotations, of ‘tearing the text from the context,’ is a measure of ruthless warfare which cannot be justified, even by excess of patriotic zeal.” Hillquit points out the original context of the material quoted, appearing in a popular magazine article to explain the situation facing European governments. America’s situation was completely different, Hillquit notes: “The United States is not surrounded by ‘armed neighbors and rivals,’ but by two immense and perfectly well-meaning oceans, a peaceful English colony, and a weak republic. The question before the American people today is not one of progressive as against complete disarmament, but, one of increase of armament; not one of changing an existing large army based on compulsory service into an army of the people organized on democratic principles, but one of creating a new and large standing army recruited by compulsory enlistment. The purpose of the Socialists of Europe before the war was to gradually diminish and ultimately abolish an established and deep-rooted system of militarism. The task to which our pro-war American Socialists are volunteering their support is one of building up a new system of militarism, where practically none has heretofore existed.” Hillquit asks: “Can our American ‘internationalists’ of the new brand learn nothing from the lessons of history?”
“Who Says “Farewell"? Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by A.M. Simons [April 5, 1917] Socialist Party founding member and former editor of the International Socialist Review Algie Simons comes to the defense of the social-patriots Stokes, Russell, Walling, Ghent, Sinclair & Co. against the criticism of Algernon Lee. “I would not have subscribed to everything in the statement of Stokes, Russell, Walling, et al.,” says Simons, “but any Socialist could far better have signed that than the official statements of the NEC.” Simons takes Lee to task for failing to protest “the indifference of party officials” to German submarine attacks of American shipping and other aspects of German propaganda and sabotage. “Algernon Lee would read out of the party everyone who refuses to bend the knee to Prussian autocracy and militarism or dares to stand in defense of democracy, Socialism, and humanity in an international struggle. Is he quite sure that he is the whole Socialist Party and can say ‘farewell’ to all who disagree with him?” Simons asks. He aggressively adds that “if Lee is authorized to say ‘farewell’ to every Socialist and every American in the Socialist Party, then, of course, we must go. But some of us who love Socialism and the Socialist Party more than we do the German kaiser and his form of autocracy will fight before we go.”
“The Reds and the Yellows,” by Henry Ollikainen [April 7, 1917] >This letter to the editor of the Minneapolis New Timesby moderate Finnish Socialist Henry Ollikainen takes English speaking Socialists of the state to task for favoring the syndicalist Left Wing of the Finnish Socialist Federation as the “only movement which represents the revolutionary spirit among the Finns.” Ollikainen charges that the syndicalist wing, headed by the “ill-famous” Leo Laukki, had been engaged in “spreading all kinds of slanderous charges against the Finnish Socialist Federation among the English comrades” and that they had been likewise speaking in a derogatory manner about the majority of the Socialist Party itself. Laukki is characterized as a “shrewd politician” and an opportunistic charlatan who had posed as a Socialist merely to gain employment in a party institution upon coming to America. “When the Federation at its National Convention at Smithville, Minn., in July 1912 decided to stand firmly for international socialist principles and by a great majority rejected the syndicalistic ideas, Mr. Laukki, and his followers started the cry that the whole organization is rotten, and that it is lead by a few blind leaders who do not know and do not care anything about Socialism,” Ollikainen charges, adding that an “underground movement” had been formed to “capture” the Finnish Socialist daily Työmies for the syndicalists. When the attempt on Työmies failed, the syndicalists established their own paper, Ollikainen notes. He also charges that Laukki and the syndicalists “captured about 30 locals, mostly in Minnesota, and the controlled the Socialist Party of Minnesota for the last two years and a half and the result was that the membership fell down nearly 3,000. Now they charge the Finnish Federation for their own fault.”
“Keynote Address to the 1917 Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party, St. Louis, MO.” April 7, 1917, by Morris Hillquit The 1917 St. Louis Emergency Convention of the SPA was held immediately on the heels of the American declaration of war on Germany, called to bring together 200 delegates of the party to set policy in the new drastically changed situation. The anti-militarist tenor of the gathering was fanned by Morris Hillquit, who delivered this keynote address to the convention. The SPA had been in decline since its previous convention in 1912, Hillquit noted, with fewer members, a diminished press, and a general loss of enthusiasm and energy. The collapse of the International Socialist movement associated with the eruption of hostilities in Europe had a profoundly depressing effect on the American movement. Now the war had come to America, said Hillquit, and “millions of our boys will be sent to the trenches to murder millions of other boys in foreign countries, and they will be for the most part boys of the working class on both sides.” Furthermore: “War means reaction at home. War creates a mob spirit of unreason. War creates conditions under which all the powers of reaction, all the predatory powers of the country, can satisfy their desires, and accomplish their attacks upon popular liberty, upon popular rights with absolute impunity.” Only one organization, the Socialist Party, “still retained a clear vision, an unclouded mind, in this general din of confusion, passion, and unreason; and it falls to us to continue our opposition to this criminal war, even now after it has been declared,” said Hillquit. The war would ended by “the rebellious working class of Europe,” in Hillquit‘s estimation, and he called on his comrades to fight against militarism and to stand ready to join the movement when the world once again resumed its struggle for liberty and social justice under the banner of International Socialism.
“Real Patriotism: Letter to the Editor of the Milwaukee Leader,” by James H. Dolsen [April 7, 1917] This letter to the editor of the Milwaukee Socialist daily published by Victor Berger was written by one of the founders of the Communist Labor Party in California, the 31 year old James Dolsen. Dolsen warns that “The conflict between the industrial and financial oligarchy which controls the nation through a feudal system, strikingly similar to that of medieval Europe, and the working people and consuming public under the form of a political democracy, is irreconcilable.” He cites Abraham Lincoln’s admonition that no nation can remain half-slave and half-free” “We can not exist as free men and women in a democracy where all the liberties guaranteed by our political institutions become a mockery under the tyranny of economic power concentrated in the hands of a small, irresponsible group.” Dolsen indicates that the class struggle is reaching an acute stage in the United States and views the move to war as a diversionary maneuver by the American ruling class as a means of sidetracking the growing militancy of the workers. “Let us beware of that ‘patriotism’ rejoiced in by financiers, the intensity of which has a direct ration to its profitableness... We workers do not despise the ‘patriotism’ which finds the nation an organization worth preserving, but we raise above it the concept of patriotism which would secure to the humblest worker in our country the fullest possible opportunity of living a free, useful life,” Dolsen declares.
“Socialists Plan Delegates’ Poll on War Question: Attitude of Speakers Indicates Party Convention Will Not Approve Conflict,” by J. Louis Engdahl [events of April 7, 1917] First of 4 first-hand reports of the activities of the St. Louis Emergency National Convention published in the pages of the Milwaukee Leader by American Socialist editor J. Louis Engdahl. Engdahl writes that “Early indications are that a decisive and determined position on the question of war would be taken by the convention.” Engdahl notes that the convention gave a standing ovation to Morris Hillquit during his keynote speech to the convention on its first day when he declared “It falls to us to continue our opposition to this war even now," again when he stated “the American people are opposed to this war,” and a third time when he asserted that the predatory interests that profit from war must pay its costs. An effort was made by Left Wing delegate Ludwig Katterfeld to force each nominee for the pivotal Committee on War and Militarism to answer yes or no to the question: “"Are you opposed to all wars, offensive and defensive, except the wars of the working class against the capitalist?” After protracted debate, Katterfeld’s motion was defeated 66-96, with the Center faction joining the Right to defeat the measure, which was viewed as being simplistic and demagogic.
“Socialists Have Big Opportunity on War Question: Hillquit at Convention Declares Party is Not Made Up of Pacifists,” by J. Louis Engdahl [events of April 8, 1917] Second of 4 first-hand reports of the activities of the St. Louis Emergency National Convention published in the pages of the Milwaukee Leader by American Socialist editor J. Louis Engdahl. The 15 member Committee on War and Militarism was elected, Engdahl notes, consisting of Kate Richards O’Hare, Missouri; Morris Hillquit, Algernon Lee, and Louis B. Boudin, New York; Kate Sadler, Washington; Patrick Quinlan, New Jersey; C.E. Ruthenberg and Frank Midney, Ohio; Dan Hogan, Arkansas; Job Harriman, California; Victor L. Berger, Wisconsin; John Spargo, Vermont; Maynard Shipley, Maryland; Walter Dillon, New Mexico; and George Speiss, Connecticut. The committee immediately went into session, with Victor Berger expounding upon the relationship between nationalism and internationalism. Engdahl quotes Berger as telling the committee: “Without nations you can not have internationalism. I am both an American and a Socialist at the same time. If I didn’t believe in nations, I wouldn’t be a member of the Socialist Party and I wouldn’t vote. Anti-nationalism is anarchism. It makes a great difference to me whether I am an American or a Chinaman.” Louis Boudin asserted the primacy of the international organization over the national and briefly crossed swords with Morris Hillquit over the question of whether the International had collapsed during the war, Boudin arguing that it had and Hillquit maintaining that it had not.
“Fighting Big Capital: Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by S.J. Rutgers [April 8, 1917] Left Wing Socialist Seybold Rutgers again raises his voice for “mass action” to advance the Socialist cause, citing the February Revolution in Russia as indicative, even if not a direct model for activity in America. Writes Rutgers: “What made the Russian mass action so particularly interesting to us is the fact that it shows practically that forms of action can be used with success quite different from the rigid, centralized, boss-ruled unions of the AF of L. And what makes it still more interesting is the fact that this form of action originated under and had results during the rule of the Iron Heel of an unscrupulous autocracy. This means that results were possible under conditions which lately developed, and continue to develop, in the United States, ruled by the money kings of Wall Street. Furthermore, the best results by the Russian mass action were gained in those centers where industry was most developed.” If the IWW has been so far unsuccessful at organizing the steel industry, for example, at least they had done a better job than the AF of L, which had “not even attempted seriously to organize those industrial slaves.” Rutgers declares that “the old methods fail and the old labor bureaucrats fail to see the new methods. To see them would mean to see their own doom as a mighty and privileged group. So the new methods have to develop from the bottom up and against the stubborn resistance of the old ‘leaders.’”
“’Have We a Country to Defend?’ Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by William M. Feigenbaum [April 10, 1917] Prominent Socialist journalist William Feigenbaum writes in answer to the Left Wing “dogmatists” Edward Lindgren and M.D. Graubard in arguing that the working class does in actual fact have a country to defend. “The poor worker—no matter how poor—HAS a home. It may be a few poor rooms in a tenement. It may be a shack in a mining camp. But he has a home, and the few sticks of furniture that he has purchased with so much sacrifice, the few ornaments, the few dishes, mean more in actual life stuff to him than all the palaces of millionaires, who have homes in every summer and winter resort in the land.” Further, Feigenbaum argues that it does matter whether the working class is subjected to one or another variant of national capitalism, that “to say that it makes no difference who exploits us—Germans or Japs or Americans—is to write oneself down as an imbecile.” Feigenbaum states that the Socialist Party need not fly in the face of reality with inane slogans about the working class having no country, but should rather make the clear case that though there might be “great harm in a (hypothetical and improbable) invasion and occupation of this nation by another nation,” there would result “far more harm in international war.” “Let us not be fools, writes Feigenbaum: “We have a fine case against international war. Let us not spoil our perfectly good case by asinine ‘arguments.’ Our great fight is against capitalism.”
“Corridor Convention Chat,” by Charles W. Ervin [April 11, 1917] This is a folksy, Appeal to Reason-style smorgasbord of short profiles of delegates to the St. Louis Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party. Of particular interest is the substantial review of the ideas of former NEC member Arthur LeSeuer, who viewed the task of the Socialist Party not to win election for its own sake, but rather to serve as a sort of ideological vanguard for the two old parties, winning piecemeal adoption of its program yet remaining staunchly independent of the old parties and always winning the hearts and minds of the public and demanding more. Also of note is the extensive series of profiles of female delegates, who included Kate O’Hare, Anna Maley, Jane Tait, Kate Sadler, Mary Garber, Maud Ross, Margaret Prevey, Ida Biloof, Jennie McGene, Mary Raoul Millis, and Elda Conly.
“Hillquit Starts Debate on Party War Resolutions: Declares Report of Majority Takes Absolute Position Against Conflict: Scores Minority’s Views.” (report in Milwaukee Leader) [events of April 11, 1917] After a lull while the various committees of the St. Louis Convention conducted their work, activity on the convention floor again became fierce on April 11, when the Committee on War and Militarism made its report. This unsigned account from the Milwaukee Leader notes the speech of Morris Hillquit in reporting for the committee majority. Hillquit has kind words for the courage of John Spargo in vetting a (pro-war) report clearly at odds with the sentiment of the overwhelming majority of the convention. On the other hand, Hillquit pilloried Louis Boudin for his sectarian insistence on submitting a “Left Wing” minority report which was not greatly dissimilar from the majority statement. Boudin “submits minority reports on all occasions. He has a minority report in him and it has got to come out,” Hillquit is said to have sarcastically remarked. All 3 reporters -- Hillquit, Boudin, and Spargo -- are said to have been “listened to with great earnestness, and liberally applauded” by the delegates. This news account also includes the full text of Arthur LeSueur’s resolution on the Non-Partisan League, approved by a vote of 114 to 56. The resolution reaffirmed the long-standing principle that for the Socialist Party to compromise on the issue of political fusion “is to be swallowed up and utterly destroyed."
“First Minority Report of the Committee on War and Militarism,” by Louis Boudin [April 11, 1917] Full text of the “Left Wing” minority report of the Committee on War and Militarism authored by Louis Boudin and signed by committee members Kate Sadler of Washington and Walter Dillon of New Mexico. The resolution adamantly declares “our unalterable opposition to all wars declared and prosecuted by any ruling class, no matter what the ostensible purpose.” This refusal to acknowledge the validity of any sort of “defensive war," a corollary of the Left Wing slogan that “the workers have no country,” was the fundamental point of departure from the majority resolution authored by Ruthenberg, Hillquit, and Lee and revised line by line in committee. The Boudin minority resolution asserts that “We deny that any of the nations engaged in this war fight for democracy, or that the ends of democracy in any way will be served by either side to the conflict winning a complete victory. This war is primarily the result of economic forces which have brought about the imperialistic era in which we live, and of the general reactionary trend which is one of the most essential characteristics of this era. Modern imperialism is a worldwide phenomenon, although it may be more pronounced in one country than in another.... The only hope of democracy, therefore, lies in those revolutionary elements of each country which are ready to fight imperialism in all its manifestation and wherever found."
“Second Minority Report of the Committee on War and Militarism,” by John Spargo [April 11, 1917] Full text of the minority report authored and signed by John Spargo of the St. Louis Convention’s Committee on War and Militarism, the position statement of a pro-war Right Wing faction which accounted for only 5 of the nearly 200 delegates to the gathering. The Spargo resolution soft-sells its acquiescence of America’s entry into the European conflict, declaring “Our guiding principle in all that concerns our relations to the people of other lands is internationalism. We are internationalists and anti-militarists.” The resolution asserts that the basis of internationalism is actually nationalism, and that “those who say that Socialism involves the view that the working class has no nation to call its own, that all nations are alike, that there is nothing to choose between a militarist autocracy and a democratic republic, do not preach Socialist internationalism, but pernicious reactionary nonsense.” by extension, the right of nations to defend themselves is explicitly stated and blame for the European war is placed upon German militarism: “Germany began the war, and rejected all attempts at arbitration, because of the peculiar conjunction of economic conditions and political institutions and national ideals characteristic of her national life. The die for war was cast by the triple powers dominating Germany -- the autocratic monarchy, inspired by a great imperialistic vision, the great military class, and that section of the capitalist class closely associated with militarism." Indifference towards the outcome of the war is asserted to be “treachery” towards both the nation and to the principles of international Socialism. “Now that the war is an accomplished fact..we hold that it is our Socialist duty to make whatever sacrifices may be necessary to enable our national and its allies to win the war as speedily as possible.” the Spargo resolution declares.
“Party Demands Capitalists Pay Expense of Conflict,” by J. Louis Engdahl [events of April 12, 1917] Third of 4 first-hand reports of the activities of the St. Louis Emergency National Convention published in the pages of the Milwaukee Leader by American Socialist editor J. Louis Engdahl. This report deals to a large extent with a proposal for the “conscription of incomes” over $5,000 (an idea incidentally first vetted in the pages of the pro-war New Republic magazine). An amendment to this effect to the resolution on war and militarism was made by Dan Hogan of Arkansas and, after extensive debate, was passed by a margin of 101-1/2 to 69. Two amendments to the majority resolution were passed on the floor of the convention making “more emphatic the party opposition to war." In addition, a platform demand for the socialization of all agricultural land was softened into a call for “the socialization and democratic management of all land and other natural resources now held out of use for monopolistic or speculative profit."
“Socialists Avert Radical Changes in Party’s Policy: Convention Ballots Down Suggestion of Compromise with Other Groups,” by J. Louis Engdahl [events of April 13, 1917] Fourth of 4 first-hand reports of the activities of the St. Louis Emergency National Convention published in the pages of the Milwaukee Leader by American Socialist editor J. Louis Engdahl. Engdahl notes the defeat of a proposed change to the party constitution which would have legitimized party members voting for non-Socialist candidates in races in which there were no Socialist candidates standing (a reaffirmation of the party’s long standing paranoia against “political trading” and “fusion"). Even the resounding 59-1/2 to 100-1/2 defeat of the proposal showed “much larger sentiment in favor of this change than had been expected,” in Engdahl’s view. John Kennedy of Illinois, the reporter for the Constitution Committee on the measure, argued the Socialist Party was only fighting the class struggle on paper and that it was not fighting the class struggle in fact, noting that in every European country Socialists were permitted to make their “second choice” in run-off elections from which the Socialist nominees had been eliminated. Engdahl also notes that by a 78 to 42 margin the convention had determined to print and distribute the majority resolution on war and militarism, with the resolution a tentative statement of party policy until formally ratified by the membership in referendum vote. At the same time, war supporter John Spargo unveiled an alternative resolution on war and militarism to which a sufficient number of delegates had attached their signatures to the written document to assure its referral to the membership along with the majority resolution. The complete text of the Spargo alternative report is included. (The party referendum later resoundingly approved the majority resolution over the Spargo alternative by a margin of approximately 9 to 1.)
“Socialists Abolish National Committee: Convention Marked by Stirring Scenes Over Question of Constitutional Revisions,” by Charles W. Erwin [April 13, 1917] While the question of the Socialist Party’s position towards the European war assumed the greatest place on the agenda of the 1917 Emergency National Convention, organizational restructuring was also an object of attention. This news account from the New York Call reviews the major changes in the SPA’s structure implemented by the St. Louis Convention. The National Committee, a body composed of state representatives which had met annually, was abolished. In place of the NC, an expanded National Executive Committee was launched, consisting of 15 members (instead of the previous 5), 3 of which were to be elected by each of 5 geographic districts. In this way, regional diversity would be assured, while the unwieldy and functionally duplicate National Committee would be replaced by a more streamlined and effective body. Meanwhile, an effort to open up membership in the Socialist Party to members of other political organizations, such as the Non-Partisan League, was defeated by a vote of 113 to 51. Finally, the bane of the Socialist Party’s Left Wing, the controversial Section 6 of Article 2 which mandated expulsion of any party member who “opposes political action or advocates crime, sabotage, or other methods of violence as a weapon of the working class to aid in its emancipation” was stricken with little acrimony. The latter provision, enacted by the 1912 Convention and ratified by referendum, had been the cause of the mass departure of the syndicalist Left Wing in 1912-13 and was an ongoing aggravation to the element of the Socialist Party which had limited faith in the efficacy of parliamentarism.
“The 1917 St. Louis Resolution on War.” [April 1917] This vigorous challenge to official American policy was written by a committee including Morris Hillquit, C.E. Ruthenberg, and Algernon Lee at the April National Emergency Convention of the Socialist Party and later ratified by a referendum of the rank-and-file membership. It was a strong Left Wing statement that provoked government repression by the Wilson Administration, led to an exodus of Right Wing intellectuals from the party, and served as a beacon for aggressively anti-militarist Americans to join the Socialist Party. This militant resolution was later approved in a referendum of the Socialist Party membership by a margin of over 8-to-1, 22,345 to 2,752.
“Reorganizing the International: Resolution of Socialist Party, Boston Lettish Branch No. 2,” by Karlis Janson & J. Kreitz [pub. April 15, 1917] This resolution of Lettish Branch #2 of Boston, Socialist Party, while commending the efforts of the NEC to rejuvenate an international Socialist organization, took issue with the effort to revive the moribund 2nd International, rendered inoperative by the social-patriotism of its leading parties with regards to the European war. Instead, international organization should be rendered through the “International Socialist Commission of Berne,” the resolution declares. The NEC should thus rescind its decision to call directly a meeting of the 2nd International's Bureau for the purpose of convening a Congress of that body, the resolution indicates. Organizer of Boston Lettish Branch 2 was Karlis Janson (note correct spelling of surname), better known as one of the 3 members of the Comintern's “American Agency” in 1920-21 under the pseudonym “Charles Scott” or the Americanized version of his name, “Charley Johnson.”
“The Emergency Convention: Unsigned Editorial of the Milwaukee Leader, April 16, 1917.” While this editorial from Victor Berger’s Milwaukee Leader may not have been written by Berger himself, the unknown editorialist certainly dusts off a couple of Berger’s well-worn aphorisms: “The Milwaukee Leader recognizes only two schools of Socialism -- the historical school and the hysterical school," he declares, adding “And only two classes of Socialists -- the Revolutionary Socialists and the Resolutionary Socialists." The editorialist acknowledges that the recently completed St. Louis Emergency Convention “to no small degree was dominated by the Impossibilist element of the party,” but adds that “this is the occasion when some fanaticism for Socialism and for the brotherhood of man is very useful and very necessary for the progress of humanity.” The end result of the convention is judged to have been “good,” in spite of the position of relative strength held by the Left Wing. “This is not the moment for real Socialists to look for the little differences that separate us and to accentuate these differences until we would create a split in our movement. This is the time for Socialists to look for the great principles that unite us. We are facing a world crisis and we must face it together. And it was this thought that made it possible for men holding such different views in our movement as [Centrists] Morris Hillquit and Victor Berger on one side, and [Left Wingers] Maynard Shipley and Frank Midney on the other -- to honestly agree upon a declaration and a program for the guidance of the Socialist Party,” the editorialist indicates.
“Radicals Join Pro-Germans: Platform Action of Socialists: Old Principles Discarded for ‘Mass Action,’” by A.M. Simons [April 17, 1917] As soon as the train from St. Louis pulled into the station in Milwaukee, pro-war convention delegate Algie Simons apparently rushed to his typewriter to prepare this condemnatory article for the Milwaukee Journal, a conservative daily. Simons, a founding member of the Socialist Party of America, became unhinged in the atmosphere of war hysteria, piling on bizarre and demonstrably false accusations against his party. “It is not simply that [the St. Louis anti-war] resolution endorses a narrow jingoistic nationalism stamped with the Prussian double eagles,” declares Simons. “That endorsement was secured only by an alliance between the friends of German militarism and the semi-anarchistic elements in the Socialist Party. That alliance consummated as despicable a piece of treachery as was ever perpetrated.” Simons argues that a call for “mass action” -- meaning to him “riots, general strikes, great processions, and violent revolt" -- had been placed into the resolution by “pro-German nationalists" (i.e. Morris Hillquit and Victor Berger), working hand in glove with “sincere, devoted fanatics.” These “Prussian nationalists” and “German jingoes” were intend upon luring “fanatics to death in the interest of German imperialism,” Simons asserts. “I would be a traitor to America, to democracy, to Socialism, and to humanity if I left unexposed this murderous treason,” Simons shrilly proclaims. (This article was mailed by Winfield Gaylord and Simons to conservative US Senator Paul Husting, who on May 11 inserted the text into The Congressional Record in conjunction with his floor speech in favor of adoption of so-called “Espionage Act" legislation.)
“Anti-Draft Meeting is Prevented by Police: Squad of Patrolmen Sent to New Star Casino to Disperse Crowds: 'Democracy vs. Conscription' was to be Discussed— Capt. Brady Takes Initiative.” [Events of April 16-17, 1917] The lack of repressive federal legislation to impinge the constitutional rights of speech, press, and assembly of “radicals” opposed to militarism was no obstacle for enterprising professionals in the Law and Order industry, as this article from the New York Call demonstrates. An anti-conscription meeting scheduled for April 16, 1917 at the New Star Casino in New York was called off when Police Captain Brady of the 39th Precinct told the hall owners that “he would not permit the meeting.” When the meeting organizer, Abraham Wilson of the Harlem Union Against Conscription went to the 39th Precinct station house to remonstrate, he was give the surly response that “all Socialists ought to be conscripted anyway.” When the Captain was asked whether street meetings would be permitted, another refusal was issued, along with the comment that “You won't have any meetings in New Star Casino or anywhere else if we can help it.” A $1,000 lawsuit was initiated against the owners of the hall by the Harlem Union Against Conscription for damages suffered by the abrupt cancellation of the meeting. Anti-conscription meetings were held by Socialists elsewhere in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Bronx throughout the week in opposition to pending draft legislation in Congress.
“Letter to Sen. Paul O. Husting in Washington, DC from Winfield R. Gaylord and A.M. Simons in Milwaukee, WI.” [April 17, 1917] Three days after the close of the St. Louis Emergency National Convention, soon-to-be-former members of the Socialist Party Winfield Gaylord and Algie Simons were scurrying to their mailbox with a secret letter of denunciation of the “pro-German” actions of their party, addressed to conservative US Senator Paul Husting of Wisconsin. In addition to convention documents and clippings from the conservative Milwaukee Journal, Gaylord declares the convention to have been “irregular” and the decision of the delegates to immediately publish their anti-war resolution to have one purpose only: “to secure 'action' against the government in some 'mass' form, to embarrass the administration in its prosecution of the measures necessary for carrying on the war.” Gaylord urges rapid state suppression of the Socialist Party's published declaration: “What should be accomplished, in the interests of fairness and for the protection of the public peace, is the withholding from circulation generally, for any purposes other than the referendum of party members, of this majority resolution document.... There is no need of estranging the great mass of Socialists and those who sympathize with them by any drastic action. There is occasion for the discreet use of authority for the prevention of general circulation of this pernicious propaganda.” To this Simons adds: “I have read this and agree with it, and join in the hope that some action may be taken to prevent violence.” Husting did not prove to be a discrete pen-pal for the Wisconsin duo, however, publicizing this April 17 letter in a bellicose May 11 speech on the Senate floor and inserting the content into the Congressional Record, thus ensuring an expeditious change in the party status of the duplicitous Gaylord and Simons.
“Circular Letter to All Locals of the Socialist Party of Ohio from Alfred Wagenknecht, State Secretary.” [April 21, 1917] “LET’S ALL ENLIST!!” declares Socialist Party of Ohio State Secretary Alfred Wagenknecht in this mimeographed letter to the rank and file of the state organization, sent immediately after America’s entry into the European bloodbath. He continues: “Let’s enlist in the army of WORKING Socialists - Socialists who know that Socialism will never come if we do no more than dream for it.” There is no letdown for Wagenknecht: “We are NEVER going to lose hope. If you’d see the amount of hope and enthusiasm and determination we have store up in the State Office which we intend releasing every now and then in small packages for quick consumption, you’d know what we mean when we say WE ARE NEVER going to lose hope.” The future Communist Labor Party Executive Secretary Wagenknecht urges activity from the members, subscriptions to the state party newspaper, The Ohio Socialist, and donations to the party’s $1,000 organization fund.
“Why the Majority Report Should Be Defeated,” by Allan L. Benson [April 22, 1917] The Joe Lieberman of American Socialism, Allan Benson (1916 SPA Presidential candidate, soon to be out of the party), takes a swipe at the majority report on War and Militarism adopted by the St. Louis Emergency National Convention. Benson dusts off one last time his utopian nostrum of requiring a plebiscite of the American people before conscription may be implemented: “If the American people should sufficiently petition Congress for the right to vote on conscription, Congress would not dare to try to enforce conscription. If the news were to reach Washington that the people, demanding the right to vote on conscription, were filling all the halls in the land, from the largest to the smallest, there would be no conscription act of Congress...” The legal mechanism for implementing such a plebiscite, given that Congress and Wilson had already committed America to the European war, is unclear, as is the manner in which boisterous masses “filling the halls” differed from the “mass action” filling Benson's heart with dread. The real point of Benson's harangue seems to be the harangue itself: the St. Louis Convention was “permeated” by a “spirit of intolerance,” grumpy old Benson declares, adding that “young hotheads who were wearing knee breeches when many of the middle-aged men present became Socialists felt entirely prepared to brand such of these older men as disagreed with them with regard to tactics as 'traitors.'” In Benson's view, the convention majority consisted of an unholy alliance of “young hotheads,” “pro-Germans,” Hillquitian harmonizers, and naive new delegates wowed by the passion of the “ultra-radicals.” The anti-war resolution was thus an amalgam of “stock words that a certain type of 'r-r-revolutionists' hold dear,” “pro-Germanism,” and utterances which Benson believes “were and are treasonable.” Benson foresees mass executions of Socialist Party members in a grand replay of the Haymarket Affair: “I warn both the party and each member of the party against the ratification of a report which, in the event of a single unfortunate death, might and probably would be so construed by the courts that the signers of the report would be put to death and the Socialist Party hopelessly disgraced for a generation."
“Dishonesty and Treason,” by A.M. Simons [April 25, 1917] Writing on a topic in which by his own recent actions he had demonstrated a savant's expertise, paid state organizer of the Wisconsin Defense League and frequent Milwaukee Journal contributor Algie Simons starts swinging at Socialist Party leader Morris Hillquit, one of the primary authors of the St. Louis Resolution against War and Militarism, and Victor Berger, publisher of the Milwaukee Leader. “It requires language so strong that it sounds like the use of epithets to describe the scuttling of the Socialist Party by German nationalistic jingoes and anarchistic impossibilists at St. Louis,” Simons rails. Simons declares that the resolution is “dishonest,” it advocates “extrapolitical violence,” it is “filled with almost grotesque falsehoods,” is “insolently false and foolish,” and “technically and insultingly treasonable.” Simons casts Hillquit and Berger as two-faced and cowardly, “willing to incite honest fanatics and syndicalists into violence against the United States in time of war, and in aid of German autocracy, while they will remain in their offices.” “This program was fastened upon a political party in the United States by a combination of nationalistic pro-Germans, violent syndicalists, and foreign-speaking organizations ignorant of American institutions. It is an insulting slap in the face to every Socialist,” Simons shrilly protests.
“As to Treason,” by Morris Hillquit [April 26, 1917] Having been called out in his hometown party press by former Socialist Presidential candidate Allan Benson and fellow party founder Algie Simons for having co-authored a “treasonable” majority report on War and Militarism at the recently completed St. Louis Convention, Morris Hillquit responds. Ever the lawyer and diplomat, Hillquit responds to the provocation temperately: “As one of the drafters and signers of the resolution, I have carefully scrutinized and considered every phrase and word of it, and with my limited knowledge of the law, I have been utterly unable to detect any expression of 'treason' in the document, except inasmuch as any opposition to the interests of the ruling classes may be considered as treasonable from the latter's point of view.” Hillquit accuses Benson and Simons of “borrowing unnecessary trouble” by raising a ruckus over purported “treason,” assuring the worthies that the United States government had a secret police and prosecutorial apparatus that would “deal with the offenders promptly and drastically” if there were anything that could be twisted into a violation of the law. “Why should any Socialist go out of his way to volunteer information to the authorities and to furnish them 'evidence' and 'points' against their fellow Socialists?” Hillquit asks, pointedly adding, “There are some things even baser than treason."
“The Russian Revolution and Finland,” by George Halonen [April 27, 1917] Current Finnish Socialist Federation member and editor of Säkeniä and future member of the Workers Party of America George Halonen describes for an English language readership the exciting political situation of the socialist movement in Finland. The “beautiful spring days of liberty” had arrived in Finland with the fall of Nikolai Romanov in Russia, Halonen states. The Finnish parliament, the Diet, formerly stripped of its authority by the tsarist regime, had been thrust to center stage by rapidly evolving events. The last parliamentary elections (June 1916) had seen a majority of 103 of the Diet's 200 seats won by Socialists, who had accordingly split the 12 member executive body, the Senate, down the middle with the conservatives, headed by the Socialist Oskari Tokoi. Despite their parliamentary majority, Halonen states that the Socialists “will have to overcome many profound difficulties which will arise when they touch the sacred body of the capitalist system in order to fulfill their work for the emancipation of the working class,” since “the Finnish bourgeoisie is not going to give way an inch without resistance.” The fact that Finland was a small nation surrounded by capitalist states meant that it was not in a position to become “a complete Socialist state, free of all capitalist oppression,” in Halonen's estimation. The “Red Parliament” had begun the long suppressed work of constitutional revision and were united against the European war, Halonen states, adding that despite tremendous difficulties and complicated problems, “the Finnish comrades will do their work in such a manner that it will arouse astonishment throughout the world."
“Letter to Winfield R. Gaylord in Milwaukee from Adolph Germer, Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party of America in Chicago, April 27, 1917.” The Socialist Party’s April 1917 resolution on war and militarism drew the self-righteous wrath of a social-patriotic minority in the party, typified by Wisconsin state organizer (and delegate on the losing side of the question at the 1917 convention) Winfield Gaylord. This document is a responds to a letter written by Gaylord to the National Executive Committee of the SPA, which took the party majority to task for their “treasonable” action. In his reply, Executive Secretary Germer asks of Gaylord: “Treasonable to whom? Surely it cannot be treasonable to the people of America to keep them from being shot by others with whom they have no difference.... If the Socialists of every nation would take the same view that you do, there would be no rumbling in the respective governments. The ruling class would have the full support of the Socialists.” Germer points out that the nationalist perspective of Gaylord is “not in harmony with the international Socialist movement.” He indicates that Gaylord is both misguided in support of American intervention in the war and hypocritical in his assertion that the Socialist Party is lending de facto support to autocratic regimes. “You speak of the autocratic government of Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, and Turkey. How about the autocratic government of Serbia, Romania, Italy, Japan, and Belgium, and until very recently the despotism of Russia? Do you know of any degree of democracy existing in any of these countries? Do you know of the ruling class of those countries fighting for democracy and civilization? Why single out a few of the autocratic countries who happen to be allied on one side of this war?” Germer asks.
“As to Treason,” by Allan L. Benson [April 28, 1917] Round 2 begins with Socialist author Allan Benson answering Morris Hillquit's April 26 letter to the New York Call. Benson notes that while he respects Hillquit's ability as a lawyer, several other lawyers in the Socialist Party had offered contrary opinions as to the treasonability of the St. Louis Resolution which Hillquit had co-authored. Californian Job Harriman, Milwaukee resident Winfield Gaylord, and an unnamed third person were the contrarian lawyers in question. “ This is no time, nor is this report the place, to use language as to the meaning of which even Socialist lawyers cannot agree,” Benson declares.
“Letter to the Editor of New Times,” by A.L. Sugarman [April 28, 1917] The State Secretary of the Socialist Party of Minnesota, a Left Winger and card-carrying member of the IWW, takes issue here with the April 7, 1917, letter to Minneapolis Socialist weekly New Times by Henry Ollikainen. Sugarman charges that Ollikainen misrepresented the views of the revolutionary socialist Left Wing–the so-called “Reds”–in his letter, which he held actually differed from the the constructive socialist moderates as follows: “The difference lies chiefly in the fact that whereas the Reds want to educate the proletariat, the Yellows wish to elect aldermen. The Reds say that a political campaign is essentially a device of education, a trick to take advantage of the state of the public mind at elections to pound home the message of revolt; the Yellows say it is chiefly an attempt to gain power. The former adopt the logical course; an educated working class will not need to be told how to vote. The latter puts the cart after the horse; secures a vote, and then tries to teach the voter.” Sugarman claims that only an insignificant minority of the Left Wing did not believe in any form of political action and invites the constructive socialists to back up their theoretical advocacy of the principles of industrial unionism with concrete action “by endorsing the one organization that stands for it”–the IWW. Sugarman also charges that a bloc-voting Finnish “machine” is behind the effort to recall him as State Secretary as part of its effort to seize “control.”
“Stand United!” [editorial by the Appeal to Reason] [April 28, 1917] The radical anti-militarist policy of the 1917 St. Louis Convention of the Socialist Party is met with approval in this editorial from the Appeal to Reason, probably authored by editor Louis Kopelin. The paper’s longstanding policy is reaffirmed: “As a consistent and militant opponent of militarism, the Appeal has fought this war from the beginning and to the very last. Even though the controlled press has lashed Congress and the administration into declaring war against Germany, the Appeal can not and will not lend its support to this conflict. The Appeal is not disloyal to the government of the United States. The Appeal has no sympathies for the ruling class of Germany or of any other country. In the best sense the Appeal is pro-American and consequently pro-humanity.” Kopelin notes that “We feel convinced that the present war is the inevitable result of the determination of American capitalists to carry on business as usual in spite of the military operations abroad.” Kopelin urges the united effort of the Socialist Party in this moment of crisis: “At this time there ought not to be carping criticism of the various schools of thought and action. The forces of reaction are united and are working day and night. Let us not weaken the cause of humanity and Socialism by foolish and futile heresy hunts. We need the help of everyone who is in favor of overthrowing the present system of industry with its horrible results, such as war, prostitution, poverty, and the like.”
“Socialists Play Berlin’s Game: Take Pacifist Stand in America—Refused to Do Same Thing at Meeting in Germany,” by A.M. Simons [April 29, 1917] This breathlessly melodramatic article by Algie Simons, inserted by Senator Paul Husting into The Congressional Record, pretends to spill the beans on a “whispered” story “hotly denied by German nationalists” in the Socialist Party. Simons excitedly tells of the double standard held by fellow SPA delegates to the 1907 Stuttgart Congress of the Socialist International Morris Hillquit and Victor Berger on the question of militarism. The Social Democrats of Germany had been placidly allowed to skate by the International on the tactics to be pursued in the event of war. In lieu of an explicit resolution committing parties to engage in a general strike in the event of war (which would have drawn the ire of the German secret police) the Germans had made verbal assurances to this end—which they had promptly broken in August 1914. To this Simons implicitly contrasts the actions of the Socialist Party at St. Louis in April 1917. Useful as a personal memoir of the 1907 Congress, seeming to have no bearing whatsoever on the events of 1917, despite Simons’ anxiously revelatory tone.
“Conscientious Objectors,” by Louis C. Fraina [circa May 1917] In addition to being one of the most important ideologists of the nascent American Communist movement, Louis C. Fraina was a leading member of the resistance movement to conscription, as this signed (!!!) wartime leaflet published by the “League of Conscientious Objectors” in New York testifies. The authorities were well aware of the young Italian-Americans activities— as the specimen of the leaflet which served as the source of this file was ironically preserved for posterity in the files of the American secret police, the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation. Fraina provides a narrow and radical definition of a Conscientious Objector, as one who “refuses any participation in this war”— including alternative or non-combatant service— and states that this refusal is “based not alone upon the objection of his individual conscience, but upon the general social necessity of striking at war and at the reactionary purposes that war promotes.” “The man who refuses to fight at the front, but is will to work behind the lines or at home to assist others to kill and be killed, is a coward. The Conscientious Objector is not a coward and has no use for cowards,” Fraina declares. “Ours is a social cause. We are engaged in a real war to make the world safe for democracy - the social war of the oppressor against the oppressed, the war for the overthrow of the infamous social system that produces the evil of war and evils infinitely more horrible,” Fraina insists.
“The Price We Pay,” by Irwin St. John Tucker [May 1917] A searing polemic prose-poem by the head of the Socialist Party’s Literature Department. Tucker served only briefly at this post, leaving after but a few weeks due to a personality clash with Executive Secretary Adolph Germer, but this blistering statement of anti-militarist rage placed Tucker firmly in the Wilson Administration’s gunsights. For this vitriolic explosion Tucker was prosecuted as part of a case which included Executive Secretary Germer, Congressman and newspaper publisher Victor Berger, editor of the SPA’s official organ J. Louis Engdahl, and head of the party’s youth section William Kruse as part of the Wilson regime’s attempt to decapitate the Socialist Party. The five Socialists each received 20 year prison terms under the so-called Espionage Act, later overturned. The SPA distributed over 600,000 copies of this piece in leaflet form in May and June of 1917.
“After the War Ends," by Anton Pannekoek [circa May 1, 1917] In this article from Ludwig Lore’s journal, The Class Struggle, the Left Wing Dutch astronomer Anton Pannekoek advises his readers to prepare for post-war economic dislocation when the various economies move from uniform, controlled war production, based upon a large single buyer, to chaotic private peacetime production. “The old markets are gone. New markets must be found, new connections established. All this takes time. The enormous antebellum export to the belligerent countries cannot at once be resumed, upon that subject we need entertain no illusions. National hatred, influenced to a white heat will continue, and will create bitter antagonism on the industrial field," Pannekoek declares. As a result, Pannekoek anticipates an expanded roll for the state, “state socialism,” as a means of mitigating the deficiencies of the economy and reducing the potency of class struggle. “The struggle for socialism is always a class struggle for the momentary interests of the proletariat," Pannekoek asserts, noting the opportunity and necessity for increased militancy during the transition period from war economy to post-war economy.
“Letter to Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson in Washington, DC, from William English Walling in Greenwich, Connecticut.” [May 2, 1917] Winfield Gaylord and Algie Simons were not the only individuals from the Socialist Party orbit who engaged in duplicitous correspondence with authority figures from the old parties, this letter from author William English Walling reveals. Walling writes here to Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson in response to rumors of Socialist Party leader Morris Hillquit’s appointment to the Root Commission to Russia. Walling notes: “I write now to point out that none of the official leaders of the Majority now in control of the American Party can be trusted. On the contrary, all of them are in bitter opposition to the American government and the American people, and all are for immediate peace absolutely regardless of the question as to whether it would be favorable to German militarism or not. While Meyer London, for example, is somewhat less rabid than Hillquit and Berger, he has been notoriously pro-German throughout the war.” Walling declares that “The official Socialist Majority should not be represented in the delegation to Russia; the American Federation of Labor alone should represent our working people.” Walling adds that “Allan Benson, A.M. Simons, Winfield Gaylord, and Job Harriman have all openly expressed the view that the St. Louis resolutions are nothing more nor less than treason under the statutes of the United States. To send a supporter of these resolutions to Russia would obviously be insane.” He further indicates that “J.G. Phelps Stokes has just written a careful letter to [Frank] Polk of the State Department, giving at length the most urgent reasons why Hillquit and Berger should not even be permitted to sail for the so-called ‘international’ Socialist conference at Stockholm now being engineered by Berlin.” The allegiance of the pro-war SPA Right Wing to the Wilson administration at the expense of their own ostensible political organization is clear.
“Shall We Commit Suicide? Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by Job Harriman [May 2, 1917] California lawyer and socialist commune patriarch Job Harriman offers free legal advice in this letter to the New York Call. Harriman contends that the St. Louis Resolution on War and Militarism is “exceedingly unwise and extremely dangerous,” both “devoid of wisdom and are pregnant with unnecessary danger.” Harriman notes that opposition to the war plans of the Wilson regime will have dire consequences for the Socialist Party: “if the policy outlined by the convention is adopted by the party, it will lay the foundation for an attack upon our organization which will create consternation in our ranks throughout the land. This document will support a charge of conspiracy to violate the federal statutes. The prison doors will open and gulp in our members by the thousands. No good can come to the movement by such a course.” Harriman advocates that the SPA follow the path traveled by the Socialist parties in the other belligerent nations, rallying around the national government and working to advance the long-term cause of the workers and of socialism by taking advantage of the drive towards state building inherent in times of war. This is depicted as a preferable alternative to the defiantly anti-militarist St. Louis Resolution, which would put the party “in such a position that our services will be spurned, and that the people, who do not understand us, will turn against us and rend us."
“Our ‘Party Killers’: Unsigned Editorial in the Milwaukee Leader, May 3, 1917.” This editorial from the Milwaukee Socialist Party daily ridicules the ham-handed amateur espionage efforts of such self-appointed “party killers” as Winfield Gaylord and Algie Simons. “It is lucky for the Socialist Party and unlucky for its enemies that there is no secrecy of any kind in the Socialist movement. All of our aims and principles, our fears and ambitions, are openly expressed in our meetings and in our papers.... The spy or the secret service agent simply wastes his time if he looks for secrets. Even the “worst” is always known, in fact we do all in our power to give it as much publicity as we can," the editorialist declares. The St. Louis manifesto, while “not quite satisfactory in its details,” is held to be “frank and outspoken -- but most of these things have been said in the Congress of the United States -- especially in the Senate in much stronger language.” Simons is held up for special scorn for having developed “the most virulent case of Germanophobia (German-baiting) known in this part of the country.” A pacifist in 1914, Simons had lost his editorial position at the Leader and had thereafter turned to ultra-nationalism and secured a job as Wisconsin state organizer for the Patriotic Defense League. Similarly Gaylord had “suddenly changed front” on the war and thus become “entitled to all the advantages that this ‘turnabout’ will bring him in ‘patriotic’ circles." “He has conspired and advised with the United States District Attorney’s office against the Socialist movement and acted the part of an ‘informer’ and instigator against the party," the editorialist observes. “There is no precedent for such perfidy in the history of the Socialist movement of any Western European country - at least not in England or Germany. We should have to look to Russia for a prototype,” the editorialist declares.
“What Happened in St. Louis: Socialist Comments on Berger Defense: Sees a New World Republic Rising,” by W.R. Gaylord [May 6, 1917] Former Wisconsin Socialist State Senator Winfield Gaylord explains his flip on the question of the European war in this article written for the conservative Milwaukee Journal. Gaylord cites “the savage ruthlessness of the German U-boat campaign” and the realignment of forces resulting from the replacement of the tsarist regime in Russia with a democratic government as causal factors behind his reappraisal of the international situation. Then came the April St. Louis Convention, when delegate Gaylord “saw those whom Mr. Berger called ‘fanatics’ following their pacifist doctrines to the logical limit” and heard “the syndicalist group denouncing all government and declaring that they had no choice between Kaiser and President.” More unexpected was Morris Hillquit and Victor L. Berger, “tacitly renouncing their nationalist positions” and dropping their “constructive policies of many years” by letting the so-called fanatics” take the lead, and “bulldoze the convention into doing things which it could not be gotten ever to do again.” Thus Gaylord had turned to the capitalist press to “sound a warning to all my comrades who could be reached that they were endangering themselves for a purpose which I believed to be foreign to the Socialist movement.” Gaylord’s secret correspondence with US Senator Paul Husting and advocacy of the assertion of state power to suppress the majority resolution on war and militarism of the St. Louis Convention goes unmentioned in this account.
“Benson on Majority Report: Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by C.E. Ruthenberg [May 6, 1917] Cleveland Left Wing Socialist C.E. Ruthenberg, one of the three primary authors of the St. Louis Resolution on War and Militarism, responds to the ongoing discussion in the pages of the New York Call over the position and tactics of the Socialist Party towards the European war. Ruthenberg is critical of Benson for misrepresenting the atmosphere at the St. Louis Emergency National Convention, which was actually far from “intolerant,” putting John Spargo on the Committee on War and Militarism despite being aware of his social-patriotic leanings and then listening patiently to Spargo's minority report. Rather it was Benson who demonstrated uncomradely behavior, exploding on the floor of the convention when his position had been defeated in a vote, “You are a lot of frauds, frauds--” and sulking in the lobby of the Planters' Hotel, while the convention went about its work. Ruthenberg charges that Benson grossly misrepresents both the size and motive of the German-born delegates, who were “not over 15 in number” and who were “Socialists first” rather than cheerleaders for national advantage in war. Ruthenberg describes the process by which the St. Louis Resolution was drafted and declares that it was no crude compromise between convention factions, as Benson charged, but rather an “uncompromising adherence to Socialist principles, to which the convention gave support by an overwhelming vote. It was not an intolerant spirit which secured support for the majority report. It was the firm determination of the majority of the delegates that the Socialist Party of the United States should not prove traitor to its ideals."
“The St. Louis Convention and Its Anti-War Program,” by Morris Hillquit [May 6, 1917] New York Socialist Party leader Morris Hillquit takes some time to review the April 1917 St. Louis Emergency National Convention and its Resolution on War and Militarism in this article written for the Sunday magazine supplement of the New York Call. Hillquit asserts that the convention was not an irregular and homogeneous body, but rather “ a true and pulsating cross-section of the people of our vast and diversified country.” Not only was the war question broached, but the gathering ably dealt with revision of the party platform, program, and constitution, Hillquit notes. The process of drafting the majority resolution of the 15 member War and Militarism Committee is described, with a subcommittee of 3— consisting of Hillquit, C.E. Ruthenberg, and Algernon Lee— named. The trio spent a full day composing the basic document, and then “the committee as a whole went over it, line by line and word by word, cutting, amplifying, and polishing the instrument until it met the full approval of the majority,” Hillquit states. The charge that this was a “compromise resolution” is true only with regards to method of its construction rather than the document's actual content, Hillquit indicates. Hillquit states that the St. Louis Resolution is no more “ultra-radical” than international Socialist resolutions against war issued in 1907 and 1910, which were deemed safe even for the Socialists of Prussia. Hillquit declares that while to pro-war Socialists the majority report is “quite naturally extremely irrational and dangerous,” given an attitude of “genuine and uncompromising opposition to war, and particularly to our war, the resolution of the St. Louis Convention is a perfectly sane document— sane none the less because it is strong."
“Letter of Acceptance to Woodrow Wilson in Washington, DC from Charles Edward Russell in Washington, DC.” [May 11, 1917] Most of the leading social-patriotic defectors from the Socialist Party in 1917 were happy to make new pen pals of leading old party politicians and to fill the pages of the mainstream press with words of warning about the insidious activities of their erstwhile comrades. This” patriotic” activity earned the SPA’s turncoat wing praise and place. For writer Charles Edward Russell this meant an appointment to the Root Commission to Russia as the group’s token” Socialist” representative. In this letter to Woodrow Wilson, Russell gratefully accepts the appointment:” I am profoundly grateful to you for the opportunity your kindness has conferred upon me to serve the country we love and the great cause in which, under your leadership, we are enlisted. To be able to fill any post at such a time, or to render any service, whether great or small, must fill us with solemn joy.... In thanking you, Mr. President, may I not wish for you all health, strength, and fervent, loyal support in the great task that God has put into your hands for the freedom and advancement of man and the eternal vindication of democracy?”
“Russian-American Feels Hand of U.S. Tsardom.” [re: Boris Reinstein] [May 11, 1917] Brief and unsigned news account about the repression meted out to Boris Reinstein of the Socialist Labor Party, in March 1919 a founding delegate of the Communist International. Reinstein, a naturalized citizen since 1897 and a resident of Buffalo, NY, had sought to return to Russia for a visit following its democratic revolution of March 1917. He had duly applied for a passport. However, when he went to the post office in New York, under the pretense of getting a letter for him, Reinstein had been held up long enough for Justice Department authorities to be contacted. “After a few minutes conversation in which he was asked for his passport, he was “invited" across the street to their office, where he was relieved of other papers and asked many questions. The burdens of all of this cross-examination was as to whether he intended to do anything to help bring about a separate peace between Russia and Germany, and as to what his ideas were as to Root’s acting as a member of the commission going from this country,” the report indicates. Reinstein had been released, but his passport was taken by the authorities. The targeting of Reinstein so soon after American entry into the European conflict seems indicative that the Justice Department had a political intelligence apparatus well in advance of the declaration of war.
“The Provisional Government of Russia and Separate Peace: As Viewed by Socialists,” by Morris Hillquit [May 13, 1917] Socialist leader Morris Hillquit attempts to help curb the right wing's vilification of post-tsarist Russia on the ground that it sought a separate peace with Germany. “The bulk of the Russian Socialists support the revolutionary government of Russia and oppose a separate peace,” Hillquit notes. Hillquit presents a very orthodox Kautskian reading of the situation facing the Provisional Government in Russia: “With the exception of a small group of extremists, the Socialists are free from the illusion that the present political upheaval in Russia offers an opportunity for the establishment of a Socialist regime. Neither industrially nor politically is Russia ripe for the 'cooperative commonwealth.' The Russian Revolution has done for Russia what the great French Revolution has done for France. It has destroyed autocracy and the rule of the landed nobility. It has enthroned democracy and the political leadership of the industrial and commercial middle classes.... The political foundations of Russian are still in the making. Whether she will emerge from her struggles as a limited monarchy, an oligarchic republic, or a true democracy, will be determined by the play of the divergent social forces that will share in the writing of her permanent political constitution.” Hillquit makes the very intelligent observation that turbulence in revolutionary situations is normal, and that “The administration of Russia today is a revolutionary government, resting solely upon the tacit sanction of the people”— not only the “official” cabinet but also the “unofficial” Soviet of Workers' and Peasants' Deputies. “The peace which the Russian Socialists strive for is a general peace, and they have so stated in clear and emphatic terms on numerous occasions.... They urge the workers of all countries, including those in the Central Powers, to exert pressure upon their governments to end the war at once and on a basis which they believe will further world democracy and perpetual peace among nations,” Hillquit declares.
“An Erroneous Impression: Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by Patrick Quinlan [May 13, 1917] Irish-born Left Wing Socialist from Passaic New Jersey Patrick Quinlan, a delegate to the recent St. Louis Emergency National Convention, takes issue with the characterization of the alternative resolution on War and Militarism being put to a referendum vote as a “minority report.” In reality, Quinlan notes, the two minority reports emerging from the Committee on War and Militarism, those of Louis Boudin and John Spargo, were both handily defeated by the convention. The alternate report in question, the so-called “minority report,” was actually a “hastily written and ill-considered document on war” which was “drafted by a few delegates” and allowed to go to referendum vote without even being discussed at the convention by merit of the collection of delegate signatures. “This should never have happened were it not for the well meaning, but absurd, notion that many delegates had on democracy and the rights of minorities. They signed a document which they did not approve of, and when the results of their hasty and ill-considered signatures dawned on them, many of the signers openly regretted having penned their names to what is now mistakenly termed 'the minority report,'” Quinlan declares.
“A Change of Front: Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by Jack Carney [May 13, 1917] The Left Wing movement in the Socialist Party of America was far from homogeneous. This letter to The Call by Irish-born Left Winger Jack Carney illustrates the point, being directed not at the pro-war Right Wing of the SPA, but rather at the ideological views of Dutch-born Left Winger Seybold Rutgers. “It is quite a simple thing” for Rutgers and his Socialist Propaganda League “to denounce the AF of L and boost the IWW and should mass action from the house tops, but it is quite another thing to back up your arguments with sound reasoning,” Carney asserts. “You may find fault with Sam Gompers and his satellites, but when you attack the AF of L because they do not go fast enough for you, you are doing more harm than good. The mistake we have made, myself included, is that we have restricted our vocabulary to such expressions as 'labor fakirs, traitors,' and no progress has been made. Why? For the simple reason that within the AF of L there are good, sound union men, and when you attack the leaders and make general statements, these men resent it.” In the changed wartime situation, isolation was especially damaging, Carney infers, declaring “The party is needed now more than it ever was. The union leaders have gone with the tide of popular feeling. Let us now work with the union men, and the best place to work with him is in the union hall, not on Broadway on a soap box."
“Worse Than Treason: Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by A.M. Simons [May 13, 1917] Two days after his treacherous collaboration with conservative Wisconsin Senator Paul Husting came to light in a belligerent anti-Socialist rant by the later on the floor of the US Senate and two days prior to the US Government's declaration of war on the Socialist Party with the raid and literature seizure at Indiana State Headquarters, Algie Simons makes an unrepentant curtain call in the pages of the New York Call. Simons makes no pretense about his position, the polite appellation “Comrade” does not pass his lips. Says Simons: Hillquit knew when he claimed he could find no treason in the St. Louis Resolution, that the National Office of the Socialist Party had been notified that it was “treasonous” and that based on this had subsequently tampered with the text of a reprint of the resolution. National Secretary Germer had refused to explain the omission. “Are not these kind of tactics worse than treason?” Simon asks. He continues: “Hillquit and Berger knew very well that the use of the phrase 'mass movement' meant the use of violence”— words which “are inserted now to outlaw American Socialists.” And more: “Hillquit and Berger served with Scheidemann at Copenhagen  and Hillquit at Stuttgart . Both worked with him at St. Louis. Both are helping on his Russian intrigue today. There are some things baser than treason.” Simons' clicks his heels and covers his heart with his hand: “Hillquit came from the tyranny of Russia to enjoy that measure of democracy which my ancestors, in common with many others, shed their blood to establish here. Now he is using that liberty and democracy to assist the tyranny of Germany. There are some things worse than treason.” Simons claims that “of hundreds of Americans with whom I have talked, fully 90 percent declare that they were converted to the imperative necessity of war by the lying, intriguing activity of German-American propagandists. I can tell some things of this work within the Socialist Party that will not make nice reading for those who are responsible for scuttling of the Socialist Party.” And he would attempt to do just that during the war, as Literature Director of the ultra-nationalist Wisconsin Loyalty Legion. But first, in less than 2 weeks, it would be SPA founding member Simons who was scuttled from Local Milwaukee, Socialist Party by a vote of 63 to 3.
“The 'Majority Report'— A Criticism,” by John Spargo [May 14, 1917] The social-patriotic Right Wing of the Socialist Party— soon to depart en masse— were not ideologically monochrome. While some funneled party documents and anti-party talking points to old party politicians, or sold a ceaseless barrage of anti-party propaganda to the capitalist press, or even more shamelessly went directly on the payroll of the ultra-nationalist movement, there were others who briefly attempted to blaze a middle path the between flag-waving renegades on the one hand and the anti-militarist Center-Left coalition that solidly dominated the Socialist Party on the other. One of the most thoughtful of the social-patriots during the initial phase of the war was the English-born John Spargo, a prolific author and early biographer of Karl Marx. This lengthy piece written for the New York Call attempts to make sense of the recent St. Louis convention of which he was a part. Not crotchety and embittered (like Allan Benson) or hysterically anti-German and delusional (like Simons), Spargo instead may be described as pensive, characterizing the convention as a missed opportunity at a critical juncture of American history. The SP had failed to adapt itself to the new reality of the Non-Partisan League, instead remaining cloistered within the sectarian doctrinal shell exemplified by the slogan “No Compromise— No Political Trading.” Dominated by its urban component and unwilling to explore new ideas from the periphery, the Socialist Party had thus doomed itself in states like Oklahoma and Kansas and the Dakotas, Spargo believed. In Spargo's words, the party was “entirely out of touch with American life and American needs,” and thus “utterly incompetent to build an American Socialist movement.” At the Convention, the war debate had been little more than stump speeches against militarism, Spargo indicates, and the resulting St. Louis Resolution was “ambiguous and evasive where definiteness is most needed; unsound in theory, especially in its treatment of the causes of the war; inaccurate and misleading in its statements upon matters of fact; out of harmony with Socialist principles; ethically reprehensible and demagogic in the character of its appeal.” Yet, despite the sharpness of his critique, for Spargo the issue still boiled down to a single axiomatic belief which limited his days in the Socialist Party. Whereas the Center-Left saw the European carnage that had slaughtered and maimed untold millions, a war into which America was gleefully marching behind a hypocritical piper in the White House, suppressing civil liberties, cancerously expanding the military, and imposing the anti-American practice of conscription, Spargo felt “the struggle is between the most autocratic nations in the world on the one side and the most advanced and democratic on the other.” And so he stepped away.
“US Raids Socialist Headquarters: Tsarism Reigns in Indianapolis: State Secretary Henry's Wife Held Incommunicado by United States Officers, Who Seek Distributors of the Party's Majority Report on War.” [events of May 15, 1917] The crows came home to roost for the Socialist Party of America on May 15, 1917, when a raid was launched on the state headquarters of the Socialist Party of Indiana. Without warrant, the forces of so-called “Law and Order” raided the premises, seized all literature bearing upon the war, and took the wife of State Secretary William Henry for questioning, holding her incommunicado. Two others were arrested for having made “anti-war utterances.” In addition, news of the Friday May 11 speech of US Senator Paul Husting of Wisconsin is here broken for Call readers, along with the announcement that he had received documents from Winfield Gaylord, a former Socialist State Senator from Milwaukee, in cahoots with Algie Simons. The trenches were dug between state power and radical principle, and the process of hardening on both sides of the line began.
“The Majority Report Should Be Carried Overwhelmingly: Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by Jacob Panken [May 16, 1917] On May 15, 1917, state headquarters of the Socialist Party of Indiana were raided and fisticuffs began in earnest between the Woodrow Wilson regime and the Socialist Party of America. Simultaneously, news broke that two prominent members of the SP Right who had recently attended the St. Louis Emergency National Convention as delegates, Winfield Gaylord and Algie Simons, had supplied a US Senator with documents and urged the “discreet” use of state power to suppress the St. Louis Anti-War Resolution. An enormous uproar ensued in the party and the Center and Left of the SPA joined forces against their common enemies. This letter to the New York Call by Centrist jurist Jacob Panken excoriates Gaylord and Simons for their duplicity. “These comrades have attempted to inspire prosecution of all those who do not agree with them in their jingoism, and now we have reached the crowning act of treachery by Gaylord and Simons,” Panken declares. The forthcoming party referendum of War Resolutions seems a simple matter to Panken: “The majority report should receive, in my opinion, the support of every Socialist; the minority report should receive the vote only of those who are willing to make the Socialist movement the tail to the kite of opportunism and jingoism."
“A Dastardly Attack: Unsigned Editorial in the Milwaukee Leader, May 17, 1917.” This Milwaukee Leader article presciently charges that while a provision for the censorship of war news had been stricken from the pending Espionage Act, “an infinitely more dangerous and dastardly attempt against freedom and democracy...was put into the bill on motion of Senator P.O. Husting of Wisconsin,...at the instigation of A.M. Simons and W.R. Gaylord.” This amendment provided “authority for the post office department to censor mails and exclude mail matter deemed seditious, anarchistic, or treasonable and making its mailing punishable under heavy penalties." The editorialist’s take is uncanny in its accuracy: “This law makes the Postmaster General, or rather his subordinates -- post office inspectors and secret service men -- the sole judges whether a publication is anarchistic, treasonable, or seditious, and gives them the power of life and death over the Socialist press. To most post office inspectors all Socialism is anarchistic, seditious, and treasonable. Consequently, not a single Socialist book -- nor any trade union pamphlets or trade union papers or circulars which the postal department might consider syndicalistic under certain circumstances -- could be sent through the mails without the sender committing a crime and risking the heaviest penalties.” “The Socialist and labor press of this country must be aroused to the danger that is confronting it. Under the pretext of fighting for an alleged democracy in Europe, we are just on the point of losing all democracy at home," the editorialist declares.
“Socialists Urge Russell to Leave Commission Post: Letter Tells Writer He Can Not Represent Party with His War Views.” [May 17, 1917] As the addition of a representative of the American working class to the Root Commission to Russia was deemed politic, a brief search was held by the Wilson administration. Progressive author C.E. Russell, one of the first and most outspoken critics of the Socialist Party’s anti-militarist line, was tapped for the honor. This prompted the “Emergency Committee" of the SPA’s governing National Executive Committee (consisting of Executive Secretary Adolph Germer, Victor Berger, and John M. Work) to issue this instruction to Russell to decline the post. “Any Socialist serving on the commission to Russia should be one who really represents the Socialists of the United States, and should accept the appointment only on condition that he shall be completely at liberty to really represent them. You are, of course, aware that you do not represent them, and that you can not represent them so long as you hold your present views regarding the war.... The most fundamental dictates of good faith and honorable dealing require that you, or any other member of the slight minority, should decline such an appointment," the statement of the Emergency Committee reads. Russell went anyway.
“Example of Democracy,” by Adolph Germer [May 19, 1917] Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party Adolph Germer denounces the raid of Indiana State headquarters of the Socialist Party by federal authorities as “a splendid example of the 'democracy and human rights' for which, we are told, this country has joined in war. If that is their idea of democracy, I want none of it.” Germer also has choice words for Wisconsin delegate to the St. Louis Convention Winfield Gaylord: “What do I think of Gaylord for turning official documents over to Senator Husting and for writing him the letter published in the Congressional Record on May 11? Well, what do Americans think of Benedict Arnold? The world holds an informer in contempt. All the documents and “evidence” Gaylord furnished to Senator Husting 3 days after the St. Louis Convention adjourned reveal no secrets. The secret service agents attended our convention, and were informed of everything that happened. Gaylord simply scabbed on them.” Furthermore Germer denies the charge made “that Hillquit and Berger committed a forgery, and dropped certain phrases from the war resolution.” Germer calls this “a base falsehood” and blames the omission on a line of type accidentally omitted by a Chicago printer when resetting the document.
“Out-Scheidemanning Scheidemann,” by Morris Hillquit [May 19, 1917] Whatever his infractions against the International Socialist movement committed for Kaiser and country by German social-patriot Philipp Scheidemann, Morris Hillquit calls him “at best a bungling amateur compared with our own accomplished masters in the art of party treachery” like Algie Simons, Graham Phelps Stokes, and William English Walling: “Scheidemann has not libeled his party in the capitalist press. They have. Scheidemann has not denounced his fellow Socialists who differ with him in their views on war as traitors to their country. They have. Scheidemann has not turned spy and informer against his comrades or invited criminal prosecution against them. They have.” The loathsome trio have “filled the eager columns of the capitalist press from one end of the country to the other with venomous attacks upon the Socialist Party, branding it as a dangerous and criminal aggregation of foreign-born and pro-German traitors.” Winfield Gaylord and Simons are particularly reprehensible, in Hillquit's estimation, for having “obligingly furnished” documents and suggestions to “the reactionary Senator from Wisconsin”— material which was subsequently employed against the Socialist Party. “I know of no instance of such brazen treachery in the whole history of the international Socialist movement. I know of no Socialist Party in the world that would stand for such 'comradeship,'” Hillquit declares.
“Open Letter to Winfield R. Gaylord,” by John M. Work [May 19, 1917] This letter of Socialist Party NEC member John Work to Winfield Gaylord responds to a recent protest letter by Gaylord sent to the SPA National Office. Work defends the St. Louis Convention’s decision to immediately propagate its majority resolution on war and militarism rather than waiting for its ratification by party referendum: “the purpose of the motion being that we should not have to twiddle our fingers for 2 or 3 months, without any tentative position, and possibly witness the close of the war before the referendum closed." Gaylord did not protest at the convention, Work notes, therefore his hysterical objections after the fact rang hollow. Work adds that “It is particularly out of place for you to apply opprobrious epithets, such as ‘treasonable,’ to us, in view of the considerate and sympathetic hearing which was given by the convention to the little group of 5 minority members. Compared with that broad-minded attitude, your intolerance is in deep contrast.” Work dismisses Gaylord’s charge that the content of the majority resolution had been tampered with by the National Office as nothing more than the accidental product of an obvious typographical error and adds that “your insinuation that the executive officials are trying to shield themselves and place the members in jeopardy is so base and unjust that an accurate characterization of it could not be made in print. I leave it to your own conscience." As for Gaylord’s charge that the SPA was the tool of an enemy government, this Work calls “both false and ridiculous.... Lest someone with a fevered imagination should charge us with being pro-German, you would have us surrender the Socialist movement to the capitalist class."
“Simons, Gaylord, and Others,” by Oliver C. Wilson [May 19, 1917] This article by the State Secretary of the Socialist Party of Illinois takes aim at the Milwaukee pro-war renegades Algie Simons and Winfield Gaylord, along with other pro-war individuals from in or around the party, such as C.E. Russell, William English Walling, Ernest Poole, Max Eastman, and Graham Phelps Stokes. These had, when it appeared that sooner or later the Socialist Party “would become a great power and send many representatives into the halls of our legislative bodies...wrote long-winded articles about the glories of Socialism and the curse of capitalism, arranged long speaking tours, and became very prominent and popular in the movement.” Now, however, “the millions of votes predicted failed to materialized and the easy picking of our popular speakers disappeared” and these literary mavens had opportunistically “turned to others ways and began to predict all over again.” Wilson charges that “these gentlemen had at one time stood for peace and opposed war, and many and brilliant were the articles and books put forth by them, all of which proved that the wars of this age were the outgrowth of the capitalistic system. Then came the entrance of the United States into the war, and these gentlemen again changed front. They were for Wilson in the fall of 1916, because ‘he kept us out of war.’ Now they are for him because he ‘sent us forth to war to slay autocracy.’” Simons and Gaylord are held in particularly low regard by the Centrist Wilson, who charges that the pair “got cold feet, turned yellow, and now are busy denouncing the party in the columns of the capitalist press." “Those who are not against war are for war and there is no place in the Socialist movement for the war advocate. There should be no delay. The Socialist party organization of Milwaukee should act at once. Simons and Gaylord must go and the sooner the better,” Wilson asserts.
“Warns Against 'Cold Feet,'” by James M. Reilly [May 20, 1917] New Jersey Left Winger James Reilly, a delegate to the recent St. Louis Emergency National Convention, begs to differ with Allan Benson's characterization of the convention. Reilly writes that Benson “did not see the convention as it was. He was absent from most of its sessions. After his war program had been defeated he attended none of the remaining sessions. It is doubtful if another delegate took less interest in the convention than Comrade Benson. With regard to his assertion that the delegates were 'intolerant,' I can only say that in 15 years' party membership, during which time I have attended 4 national conventions, I have never attended one at which a greater degree of tolerance for all viewpoints was maintained.” Reilly is sanguine about the Socialist Party's brash declaration against the European War: “This report may be construed as treasonable by the courts. So may the substitute. From present indications, any criticism of the government, to say nothing of opposition to the war, is apt to be construed as treasonable before very long. War having been declared, the Socialist convention had to declare in favor either of supporting or opposing it. The majority of the convention delegates took the view that the interests of the working class required that the party oppose the war. If this is treason, I suppose we must take the consequences."
“Lee and Spargo Debate Party's Report on War: Thousand Socialists at New Star Casino Hear Arguments Pro and Con.” [event of May 20, 1917] In New York City on evening of May 20, 1917, a much heralded face-off took place between co-author of the St. Louis Resolution on War and Militarism Algernon Lee and perhaps the most intelligent of the Resolution's critics in the SPA, John Spargo. For nearly four hours the pair traded barbs and analysis before an audience of approximately 1,000 members of the Socialist Party. This document reproduces long stenographic extracts from the presentation of each, recording for posterity the thinking of Lee and Spargo on the most decisive and divisive issue of the decade. For Lee, the St. Louis Resolution is reducible to one of its lines: “The Socialist Party of the United States in the present grave crisis solemnly reaffirms its allegiance to the principle of internationalism and working class solidarity the world over, and proclaims its unalterable opposition to the war just declared by the government of the United States.” He contrasts the situation in Europe, in which the war was the outcome of a long process of militarization of the governments, despite the objection of their Socialist oppositions. This he contrasts to the situation in America: “The United States was not threatened with invasion, subjugation, dismemberment, or domination” and “fortunately free of militarism.” Nor had it “yet become irrevocably committed to the policy of economic imperialism, as compared to England, France, Germany, and Japan.” The people had not wanted war and it had been the duty of the United States to ultimately impose a peace upon blood soaked Europe which would lead to “simultaneous, progressive, and ultimately complete disarmament.” Yet it had went to war instead; a pivotal opportunity missed. “I am convinced that this statement is not superfluous, not exaggerated, but say that “no war in modern times has been more unjustifiable,” Lee states. For Spargo the St. Louis Resolution is deeply flawed. He bases his critique on 4 points: “1. That it is unsound in theory generally, and especially in its treatment of the economic causes of the war. 2. That it is inaccurate and misleading in important statements of fact and record. 3. That it is a betrayal of fundamental Socialist principles. 4. That it contains a program of action well calculated to strengthen all the greatest and most dangerous enemies of the international Socialist movement, to hinder the progress of our movement throughout the world, and to disrupt and to destroy the Socialist Party in this country.” Spargo argues compellingly that the St. Louis Resolution is based upon a crude economic-determinist explanation for the war— the competition of advanced capitalist states for colonial markets in which to dispose of their surplus products. He finds this idea flawed; the war erupted in the East, but Russia and several other leading participants not faced with large industrial surpluses to dump— nor was the ownership of a colony necessary for capitalists of other countries to profit therein. Spargo blames the war on Germany, the decision-makers of which he describes as “an absolute monarchical government, with big dynastic ambitions to be served, together with the professional aspiration of her military caste, plus the interest of a small and important, but not dominant, section of the capitalist class, the iron and steel interests.” It was the internationalist duty of America and American Socialists to halt the aggression of this nation, Spargo indicates.
“Hillquit, Berger, and Lee Can't Sail: State Department Bars Party from Sending Delegates to Stockholm Conference.” [May 23, 1917] The constitutional freedoms of speech, press, and assembly weren't the only American civil rights under assault during World War I— so, too, was the right of travel. On May 23, 1917, the State Department refused passports to the Socialist Party's elected international delegates to a forthcoming international Socialist conference at Stockholm. Morris Hillquit, former Congressman Victor Berger, and Algernon Lee were thus barred from meeting with their peers in a neutral setting with a view to working to end the European War. Should they attend the conference despite the lack of passports, the trio were threatened with prosecution under the 1779 Logan Law, prohibiting American citizens from conferring or negotiating with representatives of an enemy government. Hillquit met with top State Department officials in Washington in an effort to present his case, but was informed by Counselor Polk that “he had definitely made up his mind that the Stockholm Conference was a pro-German affair intended to promote a separate peace.” Hillquit denounced this decision as “puerile, arbitrary, and shortsighted” and noted that the American delegates were being denied the very same “freedom of the seas” that the Wilson regime claimed was at the root of American entry into the war itself.
“Socialists Expel Simons, Gaylord: County Central Committee Vote Stands 63 For and 3 Against.” [event of May 23, 1917] On May 23, 1917, the final gong was rung on the Socialist Party memberships of Algie Simons and Winfield Gaylord, as the expulsions of both were approved by the Milwaukee County Central Committee by the overwhelming vote of 63 to 3. The pair were convicted of (1) “Publicly slandering the Socialist Party and the Socialist convention in the capitalist press;” (2) “Publicly slandering members of the Socialist Party in the capitalist press;" and (3) “Bringing the Socialist Party into disrepute by accusing it of sending out treasonable matter and of treasonable conduct.” The allegations of Simons and Gaylord sent to US Senator Paul Husting had been used against the party in the expansion of the Espionage Act, it was charged.
“The Majority Report,” by Eugene V. Debs [May 26, 1917] Socialist Party leader Gene Debs lets fly here with both barrels at the “hitherto prominent members of the party” who attacked the majority resolution on war and militarism adopted at the St. Louis Convention as “treasonable.” Debs declares: “We have not a bit of patience for this charge. To us it seems base and cowardly. Let the capitalist press, and not our own comrades, bring this charge. There are time when it is ‘treasonable’ to be law-abiding and when to be ‘treasonable’ is to be true to revolutionary principles and to the cause of humanity. We are aware without being reminded by our own comrades that the charge of treason may be brought against us by the servile hirelings of Wall Street who can construe the law to fasten the charge of treason upon any undesirable citizen, and that, like Karl Liebknecht, we may be put in jail or have to face a firing squad, but we would rather a thousand times meet such a fate than to be craven and cowardly as to resort to parlor tactics when red hell threatens to engulf us for feat of being deemed ‘treasonable’ by the wolves of Wall Street.” Debs parries the charge that the St. Louis Resolution is “Pro-German": “We are neither pro-German nor pro-Ally. We are Socialists, international Socialists, and we have no use, not one bit, for capitalist wars. We have no enemies among the workers of other countries; and no friends among the capitalists of any country; the workers of all countries are our friends and the capitalists of all countries are our enemies. The class war is our war and our only war.” Debs accuses the opponents of the St. Louis Resolution of lining up with “the vultures of Wall Street” and the most reactionary elements of the American foreign policy establishment in their support of the war. Debs heartily endorses the St. Louis majority report in the face of a split of the SPA’s Right Wing, declaring: “We are for the majority report. It states our position in plain terms and we propose to stand by it. Those who believe that it is ‘treasonable’ and fear to be suspected of treason to capitalism, and those who believe that Wall Street is waging war to free the working class and democratize the world may leave the party but the party will live, it will appeal as never before to red-blooded Socialists, and it will bear its revolutionary banner proudly forward to victory.”
“Jewish Socialist Federation Endorses Majority War Resolution: Calls for Expulsion of Russell, Walling, & Stokes— To Establish Socialist Schools.” [May 31, 1917] For 30 days after the closing of the St. Louis Convention, the Socialist Party's position towards the war in Europe was hotly debated in party ranks. After the raid on the headquarters of the Socialist Party of Indiana, the exposure of the treachery of Winfield Gaylord and Algie Simons, and a tidal wave of hostile writing by such worthies as C.E. Russell, William English Walling, and Graham Stokes in the capitalist press, the party closed ranks. This short item from the New York Call notes that the convention of the Jewish Socialist Federation held in New York from May 26 to 30 passed a resolution endorsing the St. Louis majority resolution on War and Militarism, and another calling for the expulsion of Charles E. Russell, William English Walling, and J.G. Phelps Stokes for their public endorsement of the Wilson regime's war work. Max Ludlow and J.B. Salutsky were nominated by the Convention for Secretary of the Federation, the story notes, with the final decision on the post to be determined by vote of the membership.
“The Iron Fist Tightens Its Grip on Nation,” by William F. Kruse [June 2, 1917] The head of the Socialist Party’s youth section, the Young People’s Socialist League, declares that “the powers of reaction, now triumphant in this country, are beginning to tighten their fast forming stranglehold upon the liberties of the American people” and details some of the Woodrow Wilson regime’s repressive actions. These include: the raid without warrant of the Indiana SP office and holding Indiana State Secretary William Henry and his wife incommunicado before ultimately releasing them without charges preferred; arrest of a SP member in Seattle for instigating anti-conscription activity; raid of the Pittsburgh office of the SP without warrant and confiscation of all books and records, many of which were retained, and the arrest of 11 in connection with the raid; the breaking up by police of a peaceable 5,000 person overflow anti-war meeting at Grant Park; unconfirmed reports of disturbances in Cleveland caused when police broke up peaceable outdoor anti-war meetings; the refusal of the State Department to grant passports to Morris Hillquit, Algernon Lee, and Victor Berger, delegates to a Peace Conference in Stockholm; arrest of a Chicago YPSL for disorderly conduct for putting up an anti-war sticker; arrest of another YPSL in New Jersey for “Treason” for putting up the same sticker and another reading “Impeach Wilson.” Kruse warns: “Recent history, in Russia should serve as an eloquent warning to potential despots in this country. There was no provision for impeaching the Tsar. The people could not lawfully remove him from office. Yet they found the means and methods by which his removal was made possible. In this country there are certain clearly marked legal steps that can be taken to remedy an unwise election of a Chief Executive whenever the American people desire to do so. These steps are set forth in the constitution, and if it be treason to request that these steps be taken by Congress, then there are a good many Americans who are guilty of the crime.”
“Spargo Resigns: Letter to Adolph Germer in Chicago from John Spargo.” [circa June 7, 1917] One of 5 members of the governing National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party, John Spargo resigns his position and his party membership with this letter to Executive Secretary Adolph Germer. ” I withdraw from the party without any ill-feeling or sense of personal grievance,” writes Spargo, noting that” in my contributions to the discussion of our war policy I have frequently and vigorously dissented from what seems to be the majority view.” Spargo states that his withdrawal does not mean a disavowal of Socialism, but that” for a long time it has been painfully clear to my mind that the Socialist Party is probably the greatest single obstacle to the progress of Socialism in America.” The British-born Spargo indicates that he hopes to continue to work for Socialism in non-party organizations such as the Intercollegiate Socialist Society and clearly intimates that he will be attempting in the future to help establish a new political party in the future with other former Socialist Party members. In addition to his long-running critique of the party’s St. Louis Resolution, Spargo now unleashes new, politically-charged accusation of pro-Germanism akin to those of the slightly deranged Algie Simons:” From the earliest days of the war the Socialist Party has, in actual practice, been committed to a program essentially un-neutral, un-American, and pro-German.... Through the utterances and actions of the National Executive Committee, the National Committee, and our press, the party has been placed in the position of favoring precisely the things desired by the German foreign office, and of opposing the things which the German foreign office opposed.”
“Thou Art Not Dead, O Liberty! While Plutocratic Interests Prussianize the United States, True Americans Who Believe in Democracy and Peace Hold Inspiring Conference at New York, and Organize Permanent People’s Council to Fight for Freedom in this Country,” [unsigned article in the Appeal to Reason] [events of May 30-31, 1917] This article from the Appeal to Reason reports on the establishment of the People’s Council by the 1st American Conference for Peace and Democracy, held in New York City on May 30 and 31, 1917. The founding convention was addressed by Socialist stalwarts Morris Hillquit and Victor Berger, as well as Rev. Jenkin Lloyd Jones, Judah L. Magnes, Scott Nearing, and Lola M. LaFollette, daughter of Sen. Robert LaFollette. Topics of discussion included America’s aims in the world war’ conscription and the safety of free speech, free assemblage, and a free press; protection of the rights of labor during the war; as well as the Russian revolution and its influence upon the international situation. The gathering concluded with a mass meeting at Madison Square Garden the night of May 31, 1917–attended by 20,000 sympathetic individuals.
“Why You Should Fight,” by Irwin St. John Tucker [June 9, 1917] When an agent of the Bureau of Investigation with whom he consulted flippantly suggested to Socialist Party propaganda chief Irwin St. John Tucker that he should prepare a pamphlet explaining to American workers why they should fight in the European war, Tucker took up the challenge. The result was this red-hot anti-militarist screed, ecclesiastical in tone, poetic in structure, and revolutionary in content. Tucker writes: “You must fight to destroy Kaiserism, for certainly the bloody rule of the Prussian junkers must be brought to an end. For the only thing on earth worse than the Prussian junkers is the National Association of Manufacturers, and our third-generation millionaires.... You must throw bombs and slaughter with machine guns to destroy the Prussian political Kaiser; in order that the American financial Kaiser may remain upon his throne at 26 Broadway and around the corner on Wall Street. You must shoot into the enemy the conviction that he should establish a Congress like ours; in order to convince ourselves that we really have a Congress worth the powder it would take to blow up a muskrat.” To eradicate Kaiserism in Germany, the workers were being armed with dynamite and machine guns and bombs and high explosives. “Learn your lesson well, is all we ask. Your lesson is the destruction of tyranny; learn it,” he implores. Then, when the battle for democracy is won abroad, “COME HOME WITH IT!”
“Speech Delivered at Blackhawk Park, Rockford, Illinois—June 17, 1917,” by Adolph Germer Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party Adolph Germer played a pivotal role in the Socialist Party split of 1919, for which he was attacked as a “Noske,” a “Scheidemann,” and a Right Winger by the adherents of the Left Wing Section. Such a characterization was not fair, however—whatever his failings in the realm of party democracy and adherence to the rule of law, Germer was solidly part of the anti-militarist Marxist Center of the SPA, rather than of the social-patriotic Right. This lengthy speech, delivered to a public picnic and rally on a Sunday afternoon in Rockford, Illinois and saved for posterity courtesy of the United States Department of Justice, emphasizes Germer’s fearless opposition to the imperialist war. “Since Congress declared that a state of war exists and since the mobilization of troops has increased from day to day, we are beginning to ask: ‘What are we fighting for?’ and the reply has been given us that we are fighting to make the world safe for democracy. But if we are to make the world safe for democracy, then why is it that we have singled out one country...when there are other countries in this world that we are trying to make safe for democracy that are just as undemocratic and just as autocratic as the government against which we have declared war. Is it that we are going to make the world safe for democracy only for Germany or are we going to make the world safe for democracy so far as Ireland is concerned, so far as India is concerned, so far as Austria is concerned, so far as Turkey and Belgium and Italy and Serbia and Romania? Are we going to make the entire world safe for democracy and if so, then why not declare war on every country in which democracy does not exist?” In reality the war was beneficial to big business, Germer states. He encourages mass enrollment by the working class in the ranks of the Socialist Party as the only possible way to end militarism and war and advance the cause of liberty and democracy. Includes a photo of Adolph Germer.
“A Statement to Our Readers,” by J. Louis Engdahl [July 7, 1917] The Wilson administration wasted no time in putting the so-called Espionage Law of June 15, 1917 into effect, using it to declare the June 16, 1917 issue of the Socialist Party’s official organ, The American Socialist, to have been non-mailable two weeks after the issue had been already delivered. This decision, never announced to the Socialist Party, set in motion a process whereby each of the future issues of this publication were deemed under suspicion and were consequently delayed until a final bureaucratic ruling on the mailability of each specific issue could be rendered. This culminated with the freezing of a special “Liberty Edition” of June 30. In response, American Socialist editor J. Louis Engdahl reduced the size of the July 7 issue from its usual 4 pages to 2, with this brief “Statement to Our Readers” outlining the cause of the delay of the previous issue. “Our paper will be published regularly. Every effort will be made to comply with the law and at the same time issue a publication that will be a credit to the Socialist movement,” Engdahl declared. Only 9 more issues would be published before Socialist Party headquarters would be raided and the publication terminated.
“War’s Heretics: A Plea for the Conscientious Objector,”by Norman M. Thomas [Aug. 1917] In this pamphlet of the Civil Liberties Bureau of the American Union Against Militarism (forerunner of the ACLU) Rev. Norman Thomas of New York makes a case for the conscientious objectors of America. Thomas cites a broad array of motivations for opposition to participation in the world war, ranging from Tolstoyan non-resistance to evil to Christians, like Thomas, motivated by the biblical injunction against killing, to German-Americans for whom the slaughter of former countrymen and relatives is anathema, to “orthodox Socialists”who are opposed to participation in the current war for ideological reasons. Thomas rejects the common notion that conscientious objectors are anti-social violators of democratic rule, noting that the same individuals who make such a claim are the same who are most opposed to the “conscription of wealth”-- in the realm of which they are arch selfish individualists and therefore hypocrites. Thomas asserts that “We are lovers of America because we believe she still strives for democracy. It is the essence of democracy to believe that the state exists for the well-being of individuals; it is the essence of Prussianism to believe that individuals exist for the service of some unreal metaphysical entity called the state. True, the individual exists and finds his complete self-realization only in society—an immeasurably greater concept than the state”
“American Socialists and the War,” by Morris Hillquit. [September 1917] The Socialist Party’s New York mayoral attempts to clarify the “systematic campaign of misrepresentation” waged against it by “the capitalist press with the helpful cooperation of a group of ‘patriotic’ Socialist intellectuals.” The Socialist Party of America has consistently opposed the “world carnival of slaughter,” Hillquit notes, supporting a policy of strict neutrality, opposing rearmament, and continuing their opposition to the war even after American entry into the conflict. The war was “essentially commercial in its origin” and “largely waged for material gain, at least in so far as the governments of the leading belligerent countries are concerned,” Hillquit states. The key to a permanent peace could be achieved without the total victory of socialism, in Hillquit’s view, adding that the first step was for the governments of the world to be “divorced from capitalist interests.” Thereafter, a program of immediate and complete disarmament, freedom of the seas and of trade, self-government of each nation, and establishment of an “international union for peaceful cooperation” would make possible a lasting peace. The reemergent international Socialist movement would play a key role in this new world as “a compelling power for the restoration of peace,” Hillquit indicates.
“Text of the Search Warrant Served During the Raid of Socialist Party Headquarters and The American Socialist, September 5, 1917.,” On September 5, 1917, a raid was launched on the Chicago headquarters of the Socialist Party of America and its official organ, The American Socialist. This is the text of the search warrant served in conjunction with the raid. The warrant exhaustively lists any possible sort of document, publication, or picture that might be of use to the government’s impending felony case against the officials of the party. Interesting is the rather incoherent list of publications for which the raiders expected to find back-issue files and printing plates, including anarchist publications like The Revolt and Mother Earth, the well-known New York Socialist publication The Masses, and the leaflet of an entirely different political organization, the SLP’s “Manifesto of Socialist Labor Party on Present War Crisis.”
“;The American Socialist Martyred in the Great Cause of World Democracy and Peace,,” by J. Louis Engdahl [Sept. 15, 1917] American Socialist editor J. Louis Engdahl recounts the last two months of existence of the former official organ of the Socialist Party of America. Banned from the mails, the final (Sept. 8, 1917) issue of The American Socialist had been dispatched via rail express in bundles to major cities for local distribution. “To seek to serve all of our subscribers in this manner meant early and complete bankruptcy,” Engdahl noted, adding that post office regulations would not allow The Eye-Opener to take over the old subscriber list under its 2nd Class permit unless the old publication was terminated. Three previous issues (June 16th, 23rd, and 30th, 1917) had been previously declared unmailable under the so-called Espionage Act, and the six issues following were “issued under a local censorship in Chicago,” Engdahl states. A final effort had been made to gain a new 2nd Class permit for The American Socialist, without reply from the authorities until “we got our final answer on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 5 , when a score of operatives from the federal building in Chicago, reinforced by deputy marshals and local police, swooped down on our office and demanded everything in sight, from typewriters to mailing lists.” Consequently, the decision was made to terminate The American Socialist and transfer the flag of the Socialist Party to the Chicago weekly, The Eye-Opener.
“Hillquit Scores Raids on Socialist Headquarters.,” [Sept. 22, 1917] Brief news story from the Socialist Party’s de facto official organ containing SP leader and attorney Morris Hillquit’s comments about the Sept. 5, 1917 raid of Socialist Party headquarters in Chicago. Hillquit declared that the coordinated raids of Sept. 5 were “part of a very definite policy on the part of the federal government to exterminate all organs of opposition and to stifle all voices of criticism of the war.” Hillquit declared that “”I do not know of any country at war that is on the Allied side or in the Central Powers that has dared to go so far in the destruction of democratic institutions and civil rights of the people under pretexts of military necessity as has this country at the very outset of the war.” Proclaiming the Wilson administration’s actions to be “high-handed” and “lawless,” Hillquit noted that the government’s repressive policy, like that of the Tsarist autocracy, was driving the Socialist Party and various pacifist organizations to “methods of secret conspiracy activities” — a state of affairs which did nothing to stave the revolution is Tsarist Russia.
“Face to Face with Facts,” by Eugene V. Debs [Oct. 17, 1918] Brief campaign-related article by Socialist Party orator Gene Debs. Debs gives no evidence of any minimum demands in the coming campaign, declaring “ The issue—the one and only issue — in this campaign is Socialism,” presenting a quasi-fundamentalist dichotomy: “Socialism or capitalism. Freedom or slavery? Which?” Debs places high priority on the election of Congressmen in the forthcoming election, seeking the election of “score of Socialist Congressmen and at least double the Socialist vote ever cast before in the United States.” He also calls for a staunch defense of the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly, challenging the premise that these rights may be suspended by the governing regime during wartime: “Had it been intended that this constitutional guarantee should be suspended in time of war the constitution itself would have explicitly so provided. In war as in peace we believe in the fundamental democratic right of free speech and upon that rock we shall fight it out without compromise to the end.” He also calls for funds to provide for the defense of the myriad of Socialists under arrest or indictment.
“Rights of Democracy Menaced by Duluth Police Officials: Raid West End Meeting, Although Federal Authorities Acknowledge That Speeches Were Not Contrary to Federal Statutes: Scott Nearing Arrested: Trials Set for Wednesday Morning on Charges of Vagrancy Under Safety Commission Ordinance,” by W.E. Reynolds [event of Nov. 12, 1917] News report from the pages of Duluth Truth by editor W.E. Reynolds detailing the Nov. 12, 1917 meeting of over 800 people in Duluth addressed by Scott Nearing that was raided by local authorities. After Reynolds had made a preliminary speech of about 5 minutes’ duration, Dr. Nearing took the podium and spoke for about half an hour “mostly quoting statistics about labor conditions and reading from President Wilson’s book, The New Freedom.” About 40 uniformed officers suddenly filed into the hall. The meeting was ordered to disburse, which it did. Five persons were arrested, including Nearing, Reynolds, and Reynolds’ wife Laura. These three were booked at the station “Captain Fiskett first giving sedition as the charge, then he changed it to ’making seditious speeches against the government in its conduct of the war.’ Then he again changed his mind and ordered the charge left blank.” The next day the zealous local police chieftain learned that no federal charges were to be preferred against any of those arrested. Nearing took a deal an plead guilty to a lesser charge of “disorderly conduct,” paying a $52.50 fine and canceling the rest of a planned speaking tour, returning home instead. The other four refused to plead out on charges of disorderly conduct; one sat in jail on principle, while Reynolds, his wife, and one other woman were released on $100 bail pending court proceedings to answer a farcical charge of “vagrancy.” In such ways were the constitutional rights of free speech and freedom of assembly crushed in the localities during the so-called “War to make the world safe for democracy.”
“ Socialism as a Mental Disease,” by Bertram D. Wolfe [Dec.4, 1917] Occasional contributor to the New York Call Bert Wolfe offers this tongue-in-cheek description of the “disease” of Socialism, defined as “a disease of the political forgettory, a faculty very necessary to the absolute mental tranquility and mental quiescence of the political creature, man.” Socialists “suffer” from the “curse of a political memory,” Wolfe states, and consequently they “cannot forget the campaign slogan of 1916, ‘He kept us out of war.’ Consequently, the Socialists are still stupidly standing behind the President in his long-forgotten efforts for ‘Peace without victory.’” Wolfe whimsically notes that “It is said that this fearful disease is incurable except by an operation to remove the seat of any trouble, the brain, an organ that authorities have recently discovered to resemble the appendix in that each of them apparently serves no useful purpose and may at times become troublesome.”
“ Hourwich Asks ‘Precise Charge’: Government Shrouds Case with Mystery, Says Speaker Jailed for Talk on Russia.” (NY Call) [Dec. 6, 1917] On November 18, 1917, Russian Socialist Federation leader Nicholas Hourwich was arrested in Bridgeport, Connecticut, along with 3 others, charged with treason. This is the full text of a Dec. 6 statement to the press released by Hourwich through his attorney, Charles Recht of New York. Hourwich denies having discussed political conditions in the United States during the hour-long speech for which he was arrested: “The subject of my lecture was the necessity of holding a convention of Russian colonists in America under the auspices of the Russian embassy in this country. I was to speak also incidentally on the Russian Revolution insofar as it opened up new industrial possibilities for the skilled workman in Russia, and also about the change which has taken place in the attitude of the [Russian] embassy in America as a result of the March Revolution.... I did not speak about the political or industrial conditions in this country; in fact, there was no occasion for any remark of that sort.”
“ Fingerprint Each Person in America, Stevenson Demands.” (NY Call) [Dec. 7, 1917] Elements of the American conservative movement have favored the adoption of national identity cards since the second decade of the 20th Century as a means for the state to isolate potential enemies of the state. The intellectual father of this prescribed tool of state repression was Archibald Stevenson, chairman of the Committee on Aliens of the mayor of New York’s Committee on National Defense (later better known as chief investigator of the New York legislature’s anti-red “Lusk Committee"). Stevenson advocates the adoption of a universal identification card for all Americans, with the documents toinclude signature, photograph, and fingerprints. Such cards were seen by Stevenson as the only means by which wartime “enemy alien” regulations could be properly enforced. “The passage of a law requiring all men and women to carry identification cards would give a sense of security to every loyal citizen, while enabling the public to put secret enemies where they ought to be,” Stevenson states.
“ $50 and 20 Days for Pamphlet: Portland Judge Puts Heavy Sentence on Socialist for Mild War Literature.” (NY Call) [Dec. 10, 1917] This short news item from the New York Call documents the hysterical limitations of free speech and free press imposed on the citizens of America during the first world war. J.M. Beck, a Sacramento businessman, was arrested while on a business trip to Portland, Oregon, for distributing copies of John M. Work’s “very tame” Socialist pamphlet, The Cause and Cure of War, without a license. “The very fact that it mentioned war in a critical manner was sufficient to arouse the judge...and bring down upon Beck the limit in the way of a fine and sentence,” the article states. When told by Portland Municipal Judge Rossman of his sentence and fine, Beck requested an attorney, only to be told that he had already been convicted and that he must appeal the sentence to obtain assistance of an attorney.
“ Girl Gets 10 Years for Anti-Draft Letters: Judge Pays Tribute to Her Intelligence as He Pronounces Sentence.” (NY Call) [Dec. 13, 1917] News article noting the sentencing of Seattle philosophical anarchist Louise Olivereau to 75 years in prison for multiple counts of passing anti-draft material through the mails. Due to the sentences running concurrently, the young woman faced “only” 10 years behind bars for her ostensible crime: “Pointing to the flag and declaring that it stands for liberty and justice, Judge Neterer said: “I will not impose maximum penalties. On counts 1, 4, and 7, I sentence you to 10 years each, and on counts 3, 6, and 9—5 years each, or a total of 45. These sentences may be served concurrently, which will make your imprisonment for a term of 10 years.’” The judge expressed his wishes that Ms. Olivereau would while behind bars in Colorado “change her ideas to conform to organized government.” Olivereau ultimately served 2 full years of this term.
“Letter to the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, from Anna Louise Strong in Seattle, Dec. 14, 1917.” Seattle School Board member Anna Louise Strong boldly and aggressively writes to the Department of Justice in protest of the attempt of its agents to use slander and insinuation to cause those they distrust to be terminated from their jobs. Strong cites the case of a high school German teacher named Kilian whom Acting Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Investigation’s Seattle office, Charles Petrovitsky, denounced in a letter as a “rabid pro-German.” Despite Kilian’s commission of no overt act whatsoever, the Seattle secret police boss warned the School Board to “protect” themselves and see that his “activities and mouthings be curbed.” Strong notes that “it appears to be the policy of the representatives of your department in this neighborhood to attempt in this manner to secure the discharge of persons whom they cannot themselves prosecute.” Strong notes that Kilian had a son in the army and a daughter in the Red Cross, and that he “does not want Germany to win.” In contrast to the unity-building efforts of President Wilson, Strong charges that it is becoming increasingly clear that “the activities of the Department of Justice are doing more than any other one thing to create distrust, suspicion, and dissension among the American people. If the Department were run in the direct interest of Germany, it could not be more effective in that direction.” Strong also notes the recent mass arrest of 100 radical trade unionists, amidst false accusations of “anarchism” in the press, and a sensational purported bomb plot that evaporated under the weight of the facts. “Wild accusations and attempts to injure persons and organizations who cannot be prosecuted because of lack of evidence does not tend to create confidence in the government,” Strong notes. Strong was recalled from her position on the Seattle School Board about 3 months later, not accidentally.
“President Wilson Has Heard the ‘Voices of Humanity That Are in the Air’ and Declares in Favor of Democratic Settlement of War,” by Louis Kopelin [Dec. 15, 1917] While attempting to characterize the action as a continuation of previous editorial policy, this lead editorial by Appeal to Reason editor Louis Kopelin marks a major shift in that publication’s editorial line toward American militarism in Europe. The earlier editorial policy of discrete silence was effectively ended for a new policy of outspoken cheerleading for Woodrow Wilson and his war. Kopelin intimates that Wilson had fundamentally altered the political situation the previous week in a speech making a “wholehearted avowal of a democratic peace” and swearing off “conquest and indemnity.” In marked contrast “the Kaiser, autocrat of Germany,” had “not yet specifically renounced conquest and indemnity,”Kopelin declares. Kopelin rationalizes continued intervention, stating: “Today we find that the Prussian military machine still is menacing the world. ...Teutonic troops have invaded Russia and Italy. No soil belonging to Germany and Austria-Hungary is today occupied by Allied soldiers. To make peace with the Teutonic powers while they are victorious and while they are silent on the terms of ending the war is to surrender almost unconditionally. The Allies have put their cards on the table. The Teutonic powers have not. Not until this impossible situation changes can any lover of liberty and democracy do else than vigorously support the position President Wilson has taken.” Kopelin further asserts: “The thing to do is to hasten the end of the war through united effort since the menace of imperialism has been removed by the public espousal of a democratic peace on the part of our President.” Kopelin sees the wartime situation as greatly improving the market for socialist ideas in America: “The world war has done more to stimulate the socialization of industry than a century of propaganda. A new era is dawning. The exigencies of war are dethroning all the sacred gods of capitalism. Government ownership and operation of the principle industries is now in sight. What we have been fighting for a score of years is now coming to pass. We can greatly accelerate these tremendous changes and have them permanently benefit the masses if we adjust ourselves to new conditions and take advantage of our opportunities.” A “constructive, positive, educational” New Appeal is promised—and the publication’s name was so changed in the very next issue.
“ Great Open Air Demonstration Tonight!” (advertisement) [Dec. 21, 1917] Machine readable pdf approximation of an ad which ran in the Dec. 21, 1917 edition of the New York Call advertising a “Great Open Air Demonstration” to support “the Bolsheviki demand for a GENERAL ARMISTICE and IMMEDIATE GENERAL PEACE.” Speakers at the demonstration were to include Joseph D. Cannon, Frank Harris, Juliet Stuart Poyntz, and Ludwig Lore. The sponsoring committee, the “Friends of New Russia,” included James Bagley, Isaac Hourwich, Vida Milholland, Lella Fay Secore, Rebecca Shelley, and J.P. Warbasse.
“ The Bolsheviki—Socialism in Action!” by Louis C. Fraina [Dec. 30, 1917] This lengthy letter to the editor of the Evening Call by New York Socialist Louis C. Fraina is fascinating on two counts: first, as an extremely early expression of the Bolshevik Revolution (which took place just 7 weeks previously) as the fulfillment of American revolutionary Socialist aspirations; second, as a very first emphasis in the New York Socialist press of an ideological division within the Socialist Party of America paralleling the split between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in Russia. Fraina dismisses as “pseudo-Marxists” those believing that Socialist revolution was impossible in Russia due to that country’s failure to have undergone first the “stage” of capitalist revolution. Whereas the Mensheviks in Russia had sought to forge a governing alliance between the revolutionary proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the Bolsheviks had rejected any such notion, instead turning to alliance with a radicalized peasantry and agricultural semi-proletariat. Despite the overwhelmingly pro-Bolshevik orientation of the Socialist Party’s rank and file in support of the Bolsheviks and their call for an immediate general armistice, in Fraina’s view Socialist officials had been criminally silent on the matter, both those of New York state as well as the party’s National Executive Committee. “The Russian proletariat acts internationally, offers cooperation to the proletariat of the world, and our party is silent in this historic crisis!” Fraina protests. “Where does the Socialist Party stand? Let the membership declare itself!” Fraina demands, noting that this is a matter of pledging “moral support to the revolutionary Bolshevik peace policy, and in that way encourage the Russian proletariat and contribute toward the development of action in Europe.” Fraina does not express an opinion that a revolutionary situation is pending in America in this letter; rather, his eyes are on Europe.
NO SPECIFIC MONTH
1917 Constitution of the Socialist Party of America. The basic document of party law of the SPA. This is the amended version of the constitution used between the 1917 St. Louis and 1919 Chicago Conventions. Extremely useful for determining the legality (or lack thereof) of various tactics employed by the “Regular” and “Left Wing” factions in the inner-party struggle that lead to the split of the SPA at the September 1919 Convention. Be advised that the version of this document published in the four volume report of the New York “Lusk Committee” dates from after the SP split; this is the version of the document in force during the bitter faction fighting leading up to the Emergency National Convention of August 1919.