Early American Marxism: Document Download Page by Year: 1918
Early American Marxism
Document Download Page for the Year
“State Constitution of the Socialist Party of the State of New York.”  Perhaps the most bitter war zone during the 1919 factional struggle between the Regular and Left Wing factions of the Socialist Party of America was the state of New York, where Left Wing branches and locals were “reorganized” wholesale by the Regular-dominated State Executive Committee. Without access to the state constitution, the basic document of party law of the Socialist Party of the State of New York, it is impossible to appraise the legality (or lack thereof) of the various actions of the SEC and to weigh the merits (or lack thereof) of the Left Wing’s criticism. Thi document is believed to be the variant of the New York constitution in effect during the turbulent year of 1919 and should be of great use to scholars of the factional war which gave rise to the American Communist movement.
“Our National Executive Committee,” by Ludwig Lore [late Jan. 1918] This editorial appeared in Ludwig Lore’s magazine The Class Struggle, one of the first proto-communist periodicals in the United States. Lore notes that some 9 weeks after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the timid NEC of the Socialist Party of America (Berger, Hillquit, Work, Stedman, and Maley) had yet to take a stand. In contrast to the decisive positions of European socialist parties, Lore charges that the American NEC “preferred to wait for developments in Russia, to see whether or not the Bolsheviki would be maintained in power.” Lore declares for a new orientation for the SPA: “In the new epoch of severe social struggles into which the world is evolving, the Socialist movement of the world, and certainly that of the United States, will sorely need the socialist clearness, the revolutionary determination, the proletarian fearlessness and consistency of the Bolsheviki. Spirit and tactics of the Third International will be permeated with the spirit of the Bolsheviki, or it will cease to be. The new election of the National Executive that is already under way gives the Socialists of the United States the opportunity to “do their bit” in preparing the Socialist movement to cope with the problems that are awaiting it.”
“Manifesto of the Socialist Propaganda League of America.” [January 1918] In the aftermath of the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Revolution, the Socialist Propaganda League of America issued a new organizational manifesto attempting to make general application of some of the forms and principles of the Bolsheviks. The SPLA advocated for the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” calling “bourgeois democracy” a “fraud” by which “Imperialism promotes the most brutal interests of the ruling class.” The manifesto stated that “the revolution of the proletariat annihilates the parliamentary regime and state,” replacing it with “a new form of governmnet ... consisting of the industrially organized workers” in the form of workers’ councils. The group called for “the unity of industrial action and Socialist politics” and stated that it was organized “to work in the Socialist Party as well as independently of the party.” It called for the coordinated international action of the proletariant and the establishment of a new International of revolutionary socialist organization—a call rewarded by inclusion of the Socialist Propaganda League by name in the first formal call for the establishment of a Third International in Moscow.
“ Seattle Labor Paper Wrecked by Sailor Mob: Men in Naval Militia Uniform Destroy Part of Plant, Burning Nearby Hotel.” (NY Call) [Jan. 6, 1918] Yet another in a seemingly endless series of incidents of Right Wing thuggery which took place during and immediately after World War I. On Jan. 6, 1918, “Armed men in naval militia uniforms held up the printing plant of the Seattle Daily Call, a Socialist and labor newspaper, endangering the lives of hundreds and causing a fire which burned out a nearby hotel. A job for the Red Cross society was on the machines when the raid was made. Three linotypes and 4 presses were ruined but enough was left in the wreck so that the paper, which has antagonized the big shipbuilding interests, was issued today.” Damage was estimated at $100,000, according to this press report. Anti-labor organizations like the 4 Minute Men had been organized and bankrolled by open shop employers and the Chamber of Commerce, it was charged. “It is feared that a violent war will open against labor in Seattle as it did in San Francisco, only in this case the capitalists opened the battle by attacking the citadel of the workers -- the vigorous daily which they have established within the last 6 months,” the article declares.
“ Letter to the Editor of the New York Evening Call,” by Morris Zucker [Jan. 10, 1918] This letter to the editor of The Call by future Left Winger Morris Zucker expresses his personal sense of growing apathy towards the national Socialist Party of America. “Years ago I took as keen an interest in the elections in California as I do right here in Brownsville. I used to read of Tom Hickey and his Rebel. I marveled at the gigantic encampments of our Oklahoma comrades; I prayed for Socialist unity in Oregon, and waxed enthusiastic over our prospects in Ohio. While now my thoughts scarcely pass beyond the bounds of my Assembly or my Congress district. And this reflects the thoughts of most of my comrades,” Zucker asserts. Zucker calls for the current “Million Dollar Fund” for the coming campaign to be made occasion for a revitalization of the rank and file’s interest in and loyalty to the national SP organization.
“Socialist Peace Plan Wins! President Wilson Adopts Bolsheviki Policy: Socialists of Nation Rally to Back Them Up,” unsigned article from St. Louis Labor [meeting of Jan. 13, 1918] After the overthrow of the Tsarist autocracy in November 1917, the perspective of many of the American Left turned from a position of unalterable hostility to American participation in the World War to one of critical support. On Jan. 13, 1918, Local St. Louis, Socialist Party, held a mass meeting at which the keynote speech was given by Irwin St. John Tucker. This unsigned news report from St. Louis Labor reports on the meeting and its extensive resolution adopted, which hailed Wilson’s adoption of “the Bolsheviki policy of appealing to the radical forces in Germany against the forces of their own militarist caste.” The resolution declares that “It is evident that the salvation of the world depends on the overthrow of the German militarist and junker party by the Socialist movement in their own land. President Wilson has recognized this, and his utterances tend steadily toward that end.” The resolution continues that “President Wilson has followed the steps taken by the Russian Bolsheviki toward the realization of this great hope of the destruction of the cause of war, by making the principal aim of the strategy of the world the final overthrow of the militarist and imperialists classes by the Socialist, radical, and liberal forces.” It adds that “In order that this judgment of the people may be intelligently formed and adequately expressed, we demand the restoration in this country of the right of free press, free speech, free assemblage, free petition, convinced that only by this means can the forces of justice and right unite the world over to overthrow the dark and bloody power of absolutism.”
“ Cleveland Socialists Go to Jail for Cause.” [Statement by C.E. Ruthenberg] [Jan. 17, 1918] On Jan. 17, 1918, Ohio Socialist Party leaders C.E. Ruthenberg, Alfred Wagenknecht, and Charles Baker were informed of the US Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the 1 year prison terms imposed upon the trio for violation of the Espionage Act by a Federal Court. Ruthenberg issued a short statement to the press on behalf of the three: “The crime for which we are convicted is truth telling. We believe in certain principles; we fought for those principles, and we go to jail ostensibly for inducing a certain Alphonse Schue not to register. The charge is merely an excuse. Neither of us knew Schue; neither of us heard of him until his name appeared in the indictment against us. The ruling class is always able to find a Judas. Schue was induced to say he heard our speeches, and had been influenced thereby not to register by the promise of his freedom. It is not the Judas that is important. The important fact is that the ruling class feared our message to the workers and tried to silence that message. That fact should make a hundred willing workers take up the work we lay down.” The three were going to jail “smilingly” and would return a year hence to work for the cause in which they believed, Ruthenberg declares.
“Statement to the American Socialist Movement when Sentence was Affirmed,” by Alfred Wagenknecht [circa Jan. 17, 1918] In July of 1917, leading Ohio Socialists Alfred Wagenknecht, C.E. Ruthenberg, and Charles Baker were sentenced to 1 year in jail on charges of having obstructed the draft by making anti-militarist speeches. This sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court on Jan. 15, 1918. This is the statement which Wagenknecht published in the radical monthly The International Socialist Review at the time of his incarceration. Wagenknecht boldly declares: “There’s no fear of prison written on the face of sentenced Socialists.... In a day, the “underdogs” of Russia became the rulers of the land. In a day the overburdened, overworked, bent Russian straightened up, cast the parasites from his back, took a deep breath, and said: ‘This is my Russia.’ Only a year in jail! We gladly make the sacrifice. It is about the least we can do as our part in the work of freeing the workers from their masters.”
“Rose Pastor Stokes Asks Privilege to Return to Socialist Party Ranks”, by J. Louis Engdahl [Jan. 19, 1918] Rose Pastor Stokes, prominent lecturer, social worker, and future member of the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of America, had a“Zinoviev moment” in 1917 when she, together with her millionaire husband J.G. Phelps Stokes, exited the Socialist Party to help found the social-patriotic National Party shortly after the American declaration of war on Germany. While Graham Stokes never looked back, Rose Pastor Stokes thought better of her decision and wrote a letter appealing for readmission to the SPA in January of 1918 — much of the content quoted verbatim in the news report reprinted here. Stokes’ departure and return from the SP ranks has been noted by here biographers (Arthur and Pearl Zipster, Fire and Grace). What has been less definitely understood is that Stokes did not make her return as a fire-breathing radical, chastened by a momentary lapse of political judgment, but rather that she made her return amidst heartfelt declarations for consensus and unity.“Unless all individual Socialists and Socialist factions sink their minor differences and work together for national and international, social, economic, and industrial democracy,” she wrote,“the ideals embodied in President Wilson’s declarations and the principles embodied in the Russian endeavor, which have heartened and fortified the democratic and social democratic forces throughout the world, may easily fail of establishment.” She advocated unified action of Right and Left Socialist forces in Germany and Russia, in Italy, France, and England.“If I see and deplore the results of disruption and desire unity for my Comrades abroad, I must surely strive for unity here,” she declared. Such sentiments were absolutely NOT those of the revolutionary Socialist Left but were rather an expression of Social Democratic Centrism. Stokes clearly moved a very great intellectual distance between her exit from the Socialist Party to help form the National Party in 1917 and her exit from the Socialist Party to help form the Communist Party of America in 1919 — a fact which is underappreciated.
“Open Letter to George Goebel, SPA NEC member, in Newark, NJ, from Louis Kopelin, Editor of The New Appeal, in Girard, KS, January 19, 1918.” The Appeal to Reason did not change its name or its line on American participation in the world war until December of 1917, at which time it signed on to Woodrow Wilson’s effort with little hesitation. This open letter from Appeal to Reason editor Louis Kopelin to Socialist Party National Executive Committee members George Goebel in reply to Goebel’s inquiry for clarification illuminates the social-patriotic turn of the Kansas weekly. Kopelin states that while he hates war as much as he ever had in his 15 years in the Socialist movement, Wilson’s declaration of democratic war aims on Dec. 4, 1917, had turned the tide. Kopelin writes: “I felt that the White House would be led to believe that the country did not care a snap about a democratic statement of aims because the newspapers and telegrams would feature the belligerent part of the address. I therefore came to the conclusion that so far as our paper was concerned we would stand by the President so long as he stood by a democratic peace such as we advocated. I telegraphed him to that effect.” Kopelin asks “if the proposals made by the Bolsheviki, the United States, and Great Britain, are answered with a tremendous military offensive on soil not belonging to Germany, what in God’s name are we to do? How can any sane and active Socialist or Socialist newspaper remain aloof in this greatest of all human crimes?”
“ Socialist Party Offices Raided in Cleveland.” (NY Call) [Jan. 23, 1918] On January 23, 1918, less than a week after the sentences of Socialist Party of Ohio leaders C.E. Ruthenberg, Alfred Wagenknecht, and Charles Baker to 1 year jail terms under the Espionage Law for their outspoken opposition of the European war had been upheld by the US Supreme Court, authorities conducted a raid against the SP’s Cleveland headquarters. This brief article from the Socialist press documents this action, which lead to the seizure of 55,000 flyers produced on behalf of the 3 imprisoned Ohio Socialists. The plates for production of the leaflets were seized from a local printer after a warrant was obtained in the aftermath of the raid, which was conducted by US Deputy Marshals and the Secret Service department.
“John Reed Named Consul General to NY by Bolsheviki.” (NYCall) [Jan. 30, 1918] The first effort of the Soviet Russian republic toestablish a diplomatic presence in the United States apparently revolved aroundnoted radical journalist John Reed, who is reported in this article to have beenappointed Soviet “consul general” in New York on Jan. 30,1918—less than 3 months after the Bolshevik Revolution. Reed ischaracterized as “one of the most brilliant of the younger group ofAmerican journalists” and a champion of “the cause of thosestruggling for better conditions.” Reed, formerly on the staff of TheMetropolitan Magazine, had left for Russia late in the summer of 1917 on behalfof The Masses and the New York Call, the article states. Only 2 dispatches fromRussia were successfully received by The Call, however, and Reed’s Russiajournalism was to appear exclusively in The Liberator—Max Eastman’ssuccessor to The Masses, which had been sunk by the Wilsonadministration’s censorship. Reed had been indicted with other formerassociates of The Masses, the article notes.
“John Reed, Bolshevik Envoy to the United States—A Character Sketch,” by Max Eastman [Feb. 3, 1918] This article by JohnReed’s friend and employer, Max Eastman of The Liberator, provides a briefcharacter sketch of the charismatic young journalist, who was appointed consulgeneral of Soviet Russia to the United States on Jan. 30, 1918. Eastman declaresthat “John Reed was born to fill a high place in revolutionary times. Heis one of the few universal men - the men who combine that arrant imaginationand head strong will of adventure which are the attributes of poetic genius, witha diligent and real power to achieve and understand. There is nothing that needs to be done, either in the technical routine of a consul general’s office,or in the extraordinary and delicate duties of a revolutionary emissary, thatJohn Reed is not abundantly equipped to do.” Eastman states that he hasknown Reed for 5 years and that he holds him in the highest regard, both as askilled writer and astute ambassador from radical America to radical Russia.“I knew when we sent him to Russia we were sending a boon and counselor to the revolution,” states Eastman, adding he also knows that Reed’shistoriography of “those great days at Petrograd will be a light in theworld’s literature.”
“The Campaign This Year,”, by Eugene V. Debs [Feb. 9, 1918] This article by Socialist Party leader Eugene Debs, prematurely declaring an end to state repression of the Socialist Party, is most interesting from the standpoint of irony: “The Socialist Party is emerging from another struggle crowned with victory. When the party declared its attitude toward war at the St. Louis convention [April 7-14, 1917] it was fiercely attacked from within as well as without as an anti-patriotic, seditious, traitorous organization.... Since that time and especially since President Wilson’ s recent message virtually recognizing the Bolsheviki and proposing to accept their peace terms there has been a marvelous change of sentiment toward socialists and the Socialist Party. The capitalist press is today actually covering Lenin and Trotsky with fulsome praise in the vain attempt to square itself for the foul abuse it has poured upon their heads.... No more speakers are being arrested and no more indictments are being found, and it is a sage prediction that acquittal will follow the trials of those under indictment if the trials ever taken place.”
“Bolsheviki Power Comes From Masses,” by Louis C. Fraina[Feb. 9, 1918] Louis Fraina, characterizing himself as the“Director” of “the American Bolshevist Bureau ofInformation,” writes this extensive letter to the editor of the New YorkCall to challenge assertions made to the press by the representative of theRussian Provisional Government in New York, A.J. Sack. Sack had characterizedthe Russian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries (PSR) as “the recognizedparty of the Russian peasantry” who would wage a “defensivefight” against “Bolshevik usurpation” and “Bolsheviktyranny.” Fraina argues the unfairness of such acharacterization—since the Soviets had ratified the Bolshevik action ofdissolving the Constituent Assembly. Nor did the PSR truly represent thepeasantry as a whole, Fraina asserts, declaring that the PSR historically was“the party of the middle class peasants, whose bourgeois ideology andinterests dictate a ‘distribution’ of the land along the old linesof capitalistic private property and accumulation. The great mass of thepeasantry consists of men with a small patch of land and agricultural laborerswithout any land at all. This peasantry accepts the Bolshevist program ofnationalization of the land, and have been organized by the Bolsheviki in accordwith the revolution of the workers against the bourgeois propertied classes,industrial and agrarian.” Fraina concludes that “The dissolution ofthe Constituent Assembly was neither unjust nor undemocratic. It was a necessaryand a revolutionary act.”
“Max Eastman—A Portrait,” by Irwin Granich [”MikeGold”] [Feb. 9, 1918] With Max Eastman’s new radical magazine, TheLiberator, due to launch in the coming week, the future Mike Gold offers thischaracter sketch of the grey-haired editorial savant to the readers of theweekend magazine section of the New York Call. Granich-Gold calls Eastman“many sided and subtle”—a brilliant editor, an effectiveSocialist agitator, a perceptive literary critic, and a “humane andcharming” man. Granich-Gold characterizes Eastman as “a synthesis ofthe two moods, of East and West, of meditation and action, of science andart.” He astutely observes that Eastman “writes as a poet turnedscientist, his own ideal; and he acts as a scientist turned poet, one urged bymystic necessity into the leadership of men.” Granich-Gold indicates that“Max Eastman’s natural bent” is to live on the “clear,high world of the mind, to be a teacher of beauty and science, to be thearistocrat untouched by the vulgarity of action.” World events had movedhim to action. As for his forthcoming magazine, Granich-Gold states that“The Liberator will be the old Masses, with the vital fire ofRussia’s revolution a new element in its composition. Russia has given apulsing reality to all the abstractions we used so wearily to reiterate in theold days before the tsar fell. Men are dying for and living under the ideas webelieved in; a whole nation has listened to our soapbox harangues, and has takenout its red card; and this has made all the difference in the world.” Amore realistic and practical new magazine would now emerge “becauseSocialists are being asked now to take over the management of the world’smuddled affairs, and they must train themselves for the task,”Granich-Gold states.
“Towards the Rising Sun”, by Eugene V. Debs [Feb. 15, 1918] The quasi-religious aspect of Socialist publicist Gene Debs’ political faith are evident in this gushing paean to freedom from the pages of Duluth Truth: “Prophets and philosophers, catching the spirit of coming events, force and proclaim them; and as they approach, poets and pamphleteers, orators and agitators, dramatists and musicians, animated by the new spirit, acclaim the glad tidings of the sunrise of the morrow. These are the heralds of the dawn; the torchbearers of progress, the evangels of advancing civilization. Living, they are hated and reviled, crucified and damned. Dead, they live again and forever. Freedom is the universal shibboleth of the present age.” Debs declares that “Freedom in its true sense is yet unknown to man. It cannot abide where slavery exists.” Only with the abolition of wage-slavery can freedom be truly achieved, Debs indicates, adding “the earth is not yet fit for human habitation; but the long dark night is passing, and humanity is moving grandly towards the sunrise.” Debs states as axiom that “The development of machinery necessitates the concentration of capital, and this in turn crushes out the middle class and compels the revolutionary organization of the working class.” “Wage servitude in the capitalist system is the last phase of Labor’s slavery. This system, like those that preceded it, must go the way of all things,” he declares. Includes an extended prayer to Freedom in archaic and biblical King James English.
“Leaflet of the Socialist Propaganda League for a Meeting Held in New York City, Feb. 15, 1918.” Machine-readable approximation of a promotional leaflet touting a mass meeting hosted by the Socialist Propaganda League (publishers of the proto-Communist journal, The Class Struggle). The “monster mass meeting” was entitled “Bolsheviki and World Peace,” with a purpose of explaining “the international aspirations of the Bolsheviki.” Speakers at the free meeting at the Harlem Casino on 116th St. in NYC were to include Louis Fraina, Ludwig Lore, and Nicholas Hourwich, with Justis Ebert sitting in the Chair.
“Advertisement Announcing The Liberator,” by Max Eastman [Feb. 16, 1918] Machine-readable pdf"> recreating an advertisement in The New Republic magazine which announced the creation of The Liberator by Max Eastman, former editor of the banned monthly,The Masses. The Liberator is touted as “a great magazine of liberty.” “With the Russian people in the lead, the world is entering upon the experiment of industrial and real democracy. The possibilities of change in this day are beyond all imagination. We must unite our hands and voices to make the end of this war the beginning of an age of freedom and happiness for mankind undreamed by those whose minds comprehend only political and military events,” the ad reads. Among the impressive editorial staff, place of honor and emphasis is given to “John Reed, Exclusive Correspondent in Russia.”
“Memorial: To the President and Congress of the United States from the NEC of the Socialist Party of America”, [circa Feb. 15, 1918] This is a road map to peace in the European war issued by the governing National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party. The statement declared that “we endorse unreservedly the peace program of the Russian Socialist government” based upon 7 specific actions, including (1) evacuation of all territory occupied by hostile forces and its physical restoration from an international fund; (2) the right of all nations and inhabitants of disputed territories to determine their own destinies; (3) the unrestricted freedom of travel and transportation over land and sea; (4) full equality of trade conditions among all nations; (5) universal disarmament; (6) open diplomacy; and (7) an effective international organization to preserve peace, to protect the rights of the weaker peoples (including the natives in the colonies), and to insure the stability of international relations. Recognition of the Bolshevik government in Russia is urged, as is the immediate joining of the peace negotiations between Soviet Russia and the Central Powers—an action which would “electrify the peoples of the world. It will taken the ground from under the crowned robbers of the Central Powers. It will deprive the autocrats of all arguments now used to deceive their people and maintain themselves in power.”
“Proclamation to the People of of the United States from the NEC of the Socialist Party of America.”. [circa Feb. 15, 1918] This message to the American people was issued by the NEC of the Socialist Party (Berger, Hillquit, Maley, Stedman, and Work) at the same time as Memorial to President Wilson and Congress on ending the war. “Within a few short months, the war has threatened civil and political freedom in our country. The radical, labor, and Socialist papers have been despotically crushed by exclusion from the mails or by heavy burdens imposed upon them.... In violation of the Constitution of the United States and regardless of its provisions, free assemblage has been denied, meetings have been dissolved or prohibited, free speech has been suppressed, mob violence and personal assaults have been encouraged, and a vast army of paid secret service agents operating as detectives and spies has been foisted upon us....” While immediate attention is needed to halt these and other losses of liberty, the proclamation declares that two tasks face the working class: the establishment of an “immediate and democratic peace” and the costly process of rebuilding the war-torn areas. Open and public diplomacy and the principle of self-determination of all peoples is called for. “The responsibility for the world catastrophe is collective. The outrages of capitalism are national and international. The offense is that of a worldwide capitalist class. Therefore, the burden of restoration becomes an international obligation,” the proclamation declares. The Bolshevik revolution is heralded: “They come with a message of proletarian revolution. We glory in their achievement and inevitable triumph.” The proclamation expresses special concern that “our own country, which purports to be fighting for democracy, should itself become democratic. At present, it is one of the least democratic of all countries. It has neither political democracy nor industrial democracy. There is no other nation on earth in which the highest ruler has greater autocratic power than the President of the United States.”
“Food Kaisers,” by J. Louis Engdahl [March 1918] Organizational Leaflet No. 15 of the Socialist Party of America. In this newsprint agitational leaflet Left Wing journalist Louis Engdahl takes aim at the “five food kaisers” controlling the supply of meat in America–Swift, Armour, Morris, Cudahy, and Wilson. Engdahl proclaims there is “no hope from the old parties” in curbing the excesses of the meat oligopoly and cites figures to demonstrate the great increase in profits of the meat industry during the war year of 1917. “Millions dying of neglect, millions on the brink of starvation, millions on the hunger line, other millions, even up into the ranks of the middle class; all help swell the increasing demand for liberation from the greatest evil of all ages–THE PROFIT SYSTEM,” Engdahl declares.
“State Convention,” by Alexis E. Georgian [March 2, 1918] In the aftermath of the Feb. 23-25, 1918 State Convention of the Socialist Party of Minnesota, constructive Socialist newspaper editor Alexis Georgian reflects upon the factional situation in Minnesota and across America. Georgian rejects the one-sided terminology of the “two fairly distinct factions” as “Reds” and “Yellows”– instead opting to call them the “minority” and “majority” factions, respectively. Georgian states that there were two main points of departure between the constructive Socialist “majority” and the revolutionary Socialist “minority” factions: the place of immediate demands in the program and the question of recognition of the IWW. With regards to immediate demands, Georgian argues quite lucidly that those seeking to delete them from the Socialist program are “Utopians,” likening the Socialist Party’s pursuit of immediate demands in the political arena to the IWW’s “daily struggle for immediate demands” in the economic sphere. “They can readily understand that it is only by waging a constant struggle on the industrial field for immediate demands to better the present condition of the workers that their organization is strengthened and that the workers acquire the necessary experience, intelligence, and numbers to accomplish the overthrow of capitalism,” Georgian declares. As to the second question, Georgian states that the constructive Socialist “majority” faction already recognizes the superiority of industrial unionism over craft unionism, meeting the IWW more than half way, “but this does not satisfy the minority. They must have an endorsement of the IWW organization.” Georgian believes this impossible unless and until “the IWW cease their opposition to independent political action of the working class.”
“Where Miss Strong Stands: Statement by Anna Louise Strong, Member of Seattle School Board,” by Anna Louise Strong [March 2, 1918] Anna Louise Strong, a minister’s daughter, was elected to the Seattle School Board in 1916. An outspoken radical, in February and March of 1918 Strong was subjected to a recall campaign for her alleged participation in anti-war activities. This is Strong’s unsuccessful statement in her own defense, published in the pages of the Seattle Union Leader — a publication for which she wrote regularly. Strong asserts that she is the victim of “false charges and twisted rumors.” She states that her opposition to the war came before American entry and her opposition to conscription came before the passage of the draft law. She implies support for President Woodrow Wilson and his “war to make the world safe for democracy.” Strong states that “I take patriotism to mean love of country and devotion to its service. My whole life has been given to the service of my country, in efforts to establish better and more wholesome conditions for its citizens, more equal opportunities for the children who are to build its future, and a steadier maintenance of those ideals for which this national was founded — freedom of thought and expression and democratic control. This I take to be the essence of patriotism.” Includes a photo of Anna Louise Strong from the time of the School Board Recall campaign.
“Resolution of the Executive Committee of the First United Russian Convention Sent to President Woodrow Wilson, March 4, 1918.” This is the resolution sent by the first plenary session of the Executive Committee of the “First United Russian Convention,” an organization which brought together liberal, socialist, and anarchist members of the “Russian colony” in America, claiming to represent members of some 200 organizations. The resolution declares “the Executive Committee of the First United Russian Convention in America expresses its deep indignation against the prospective attack on revolutionary Russia with the consent of the allies and declares that any intervention of Japan in the internal affairs of Russia regardless of the form of such intervention is nothing more than a badly disguised attempt to take advantage of the embarrassing situation of Russia in order to suppress in alliance with the German imperialists the struggle of the Russian proletariat for the liberation of the whole world from the yoke of capitalism.” Three of the 5 signatories were prominent members of the Communist movement –Gregory Weinstein (of the Russian Soviet Government Bureau and the Communist Labor Party), Alexander Stoklitsky (Translator-Secretary of the Russian Socialist Federation and founding member of the Communist Party of America), and Nicholas Hourwich (editor of Novyi Mir and founding member of the CPA).
“Imprisoned at McNeil’s Island,” by Floyd C. Ramp [March 6, 1918] Floyd C. Ramp, son of radical Oregon farmer named Benjamin Ramp, was one of the state’s leading Communists, maintaining an unswerving allegiance to the party from 1919 until his death in 1984 at the age of 102. Ramp had joined the Socialist Party during the first decade of the 20th Century. Ramp graduated college in 1908 and later attended 3 years of law school. On Sept. 25, 1917, Ramp fell afoul of the law, however, arrested in his hometown of Roseburg for alleged conspiracy to obstruct the draft. Ramp defended himself in court in a much publicized case but was found guilty and sentenced to 2 years in prison. Ramp was sent to the facility at McNeil’s Island, Washington, where he was incarcerated briefly until a mass food riot at the facility resulted in his being transferred to Leavenworth Penitentiary in Kansas, where he remained until his release in November 1919. Very nearly prose poetry, this brief document—scrawled on a length of toilet tissue and rather miraculously preserved—offers a reflection of the feelings of one locked behind bars. “Never to see the sun come up or go down for 2 long years. In a cage, behind great gray stone walls—shut in from the beauties of a sunset, denied the inspiration of a glorious sunrise—could anything be more wrong?"
“Platform and Constitution of the National Party:...Adopted March 6-7-8, 1918: Principles, Spirit, and Aims.” In 1917 a substantial percentage of the Right Wing of the Socialist Party of America quit the party over the SPA’s militant opposition to American intervention in the European war. Rather than race into the ranks of Wilson’s Democratic Party, in October of 1917 many of these individuals attempted to make common cause with Prohibitionists, Single-Taxers, and the Left Wing of the former Bull Moose Progressive Party in establishing a new political party, the National Party. This is the platform and organizational rules of that organization. The officers of and advisors to the National Party included a number of nationally recognized names, such as John Spargo, W.R. Gaylord, Upton Sinclair, J.G. Phelps Stokes, and Demarest Lloyd.
“Financing a Party of the People.” Statement of the National Party outlining its system of finance. Each “active member” was urged to “contribute in accordance with his means, but not less than $2.00 per year,” which was to be split between the national office and the state organizations. In this way, “strong organizations” could be built at the local level, “with necessary funds to carry on educational work and contest elections.” The National Party was to be a “mighty engine” to “wage a war of extermination on the liquor traffic; on political oligarchy and despotism; on economic privilege and injustice; and upon all those evil forces which burden the people and create conditions for war,” the party declared.
“Special Socialist National Convention Proposed by Local St. Louis, Mo.” [March 14, 1918] On March 4, 1918, Local St. Louis, SPA, passed a resolution calling on the National Executive Committee to “call a special national convention of the party, to be held not later than the second week in June of this year, time and place to be fixed by the NEC.” This letter of March 14 to the NEC announced this decision and asserts that “the Russian situation and other most vital questions affecting the present and future policy and attitude of our national and international movement” demands “our close and conscientious consideration, which can only be given by the representatives of our Socialist Party from all parts of the country in national convention assembled.” The letter was distributed to the Socialist press and a call made for the various State Secretaries of the SPA to take up the call for a special convention of the party in their own states.
“Views on the Double Attack on Russia,” by Eugene V. Debs [March 16, 1918] Still more evidence of the thorough support for the Bolshevik revolution by American Socialists of all stripes in 1918 and 1919. Apparently written just prior to the Wilson administration’s coordinated attempt in March 1918 to decapitate the Socialist Party and silence its most vigorous and vocal political opponents, Debs credits Wilson for attempting to “pave the way to the recognition of the Bolsheviki and back them up in their struggle to crown their revolution with victory.” However, the Bolshevik call for a multilateral peace was not heeded by the combatants of the world, but rather, Soviet Russia was attacked simultaneously by the autocratic regimes of Germany in the West and Japan in the East. Debs laments that “It is a thousand pities from my point of view that the allies failed to lend a hand to the Bolsheviki in the hour of their crucial need... Instead of this, however, all the nations of earth, allies as well as the central powers, have sought either openly or covertly to discredit, defeat, and destroy the Bolsheviki and prevent the rise of the Russian people. The reason for this is obvious enough. If the Russian people could at one stroke rid themselves of their landlords, their capitalists, their exploiters, and their profiteers of all description, the people of all the other countries would speedily follow their example.” Debs also has choice words for the “Prussianized” majority Socialists of Germany and their complete prostration before the militarist regime of that country.
“Indicted, Unashamed and Unafraid”, by Eugene V. Debs [March 16, 1918] The March 10, 1918 announcement that federal indictments had been returned against 5 top officials in the Socialist Party of America for purported violation of the so-called “Espionage Act” came as a bolt from the blue, ending what seemed to the Socialists to be a brief moment of social peace. Little more than a month earlier Debs had written that “no more speakers are being arrested and no more indictments are being found” and that the SPA was emerging “crowned with victory” for its principled opposition to the war. Now, however, Debs declared that “the party indicted is brought in a flash completely to its senses.” He railed “Free speech, free assemblage, and a free press, three foundation stones of democracy and self-government, are but a mockery under the espionage law administered and construed by the official representatives of the ruling class.... I am surprised only by the blind folly of the ruling masters. Their sublime stupidity has surpassed itself. They have aimed a blow at the Socialist Party that will give the party greater impetus and more vital force than could be imparted to it by a thousand of its most effective agitators.” He declared that “If Germer, Berger, Engdahl, Kruse, and Tucker are guilty, so are we all. ...[T]he administration, to be logical and consistent, should indict, prosecute, and imprison not only the spokesmen of the party but its entire membership of more than 100,000 social rebels, who in opposing the damnable profiteering system which has precipitated this bloody deluge upon humanity are alike guilty of sedition and disloyalty in the bleared eyes of the autocratic rulers of this country.”
“The Onward March of the Socialist Party,” by Adolph Germer. [April 1918] The National Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party of America reviews the party’s fortunes after the first year of American involvement in the European War. “But few have faltered and fallen, in spite of the intimidation and threats by insane and drunken mobs and by nagging public politicians,” Germer notes, stating that the SPA was at that moment numerically stronger than at any time since March 1916. Includes the official series of average dues stamps sold over the course of each year from 1903 through 1917.
“Miners’ Organizer Lynched by Illinois Mob of ‘BestPeople.’” (NY Call) [Event of April 4, 1918] On thenight of April 4/5, 1918, a crowd of about 350 “patriots” inCollinsville, Illinois, confronted German-American union organizer RobertPrager, active in an ongoing strike of mine workers in the neighboring town ofMaryville. The Dresdener Prager was dragged from his home by the rabid mob,which accused him of “disloyalty,” and forced to repeatedly kiss theflag. Police rescued him from the rampaging reactionaries and took him to CityHall for his own safety. The 100% Americans stormed City Hall and an armedpolice guard failed to use their weapons to defend their charge. Prager wasthrown to the ground and forced to praise Woodrow Wilson repeatedly. Then themob dragged him down the road, bound him hand and foot, and hanged him from atree until dead. Collinsville Captain of Police Frost was quoted as saying hedid not believe that Prager was guilty of disloyalty, but rather “therehas been considerable labor trouble at Maryville, a mining town near here, and Ibelieve Prager became involved with the union.” The mayor of the townechoed the sentiment that there was no evidence of any disloyalty by Prager, whohad taken out his first papers and applied for full citizenship.
“Abraham Cahan,” by William M. Feigenbaum [April 6, 1918] Thissympathetic short biography of one of the leading lights of the Jewish-AmericanSocialist movement was written by the son of one of Cahan’s closecomrades. Feigenbaum characterizes Cahan as simultaneously “a successfuleditor, a Socialist agitator, a recognized novelist”—a man who hadproduced significant works of literature in both the Yiddish and Englishlanguages. Cahan’s primary mission is characterized as seeking to buildbridges between the Jewish immigrant community and native bornAmericans—both by helping the native born to understand the commonhumanity that they shared with the immigrants and by teaching immigrants aboutthe institutions and customs of their adopted land. Feigenbaum notes that Cahanwas born in Vilna, Lithuania (part of the Russian empire) in 1860 and hademigrated to America in June 1882. Cahan was initially a participant in theanarchist movement, before eventually converting to social democracy. Cahan had,along with economist Isaac Hourwich (father of Nicholas Hourwich), been part ofthe 1897 split of the Socialist Labor Party, joining the Social Democratic Partyof Eugene Debs two years before the great “Kangaroo” split of 1899.Cahan had founded the Jewish Forward in 1897, but was shortly forced out of theeditorship for factional reasons, honing his craft as a “straight”journalist for the Mail and Express for several years before his triumphantreturn to The Forward. Feigenbaum indicates that the 57 year old Cahan remainedinvigorated with a bubbling youthful enthusiasm and commitment to the Socialistcause and that he continued to actively speak and campaign on behalf of theSocialist ticket. Includes a photograph of Abraham Cahan.
“Benson Scores Proposal to Withdraw US Army,” by Allan L. Benson [April 6, 1918] In this article published in the pro-war New Appeal, former Socialist Presidential candidate Allan Benson voices his desire that the Socialist Party restate its position on the European conflict. “I have no reason to doubt that American Socialists are as loyal to the Allied cause as are any other Americans,” Benson declares. Benson states that “tremendous excitement attendant upon the outbreak of war unsettled many judgments” at the party’s 1917 St. Louis Emergency National Convention, that war profiteering was being combatted by the Wilson administration, and that Wilson “has given every indication of his desire to end the war on just terms, and we may be sure that he will continue this policy to the end.”
“May Day Message,” by C.E. Ruthenberg, A. Wagenknecht, and Charles Baker. [April 7, 1918] A short communique written by three imprisoned leaders of Local Cuyahoga County, Socialist Party to Cleveland party members. The trio call for their comrades to stand firm for the principles of International Socialism, as exemplified by Karl Liebknecht and his companions in Germany and “Trotsky and the Bolsheviki” in Russia.
“Letter to Adolph Germer in Chicago from Eugene V. Debs in Terre Haute, April 8, 1918.” In this letter to Executive Secretary of the SPA Germer, Gene Debs urges the convocation of a special convention of the Socialist Party to refine its position on the war. “To enter the national campaign this year on the war platform adopted a year ago would be a colossal blunder and make of our campaign a losing one from the start. We cannot go before the country in the present state of affairs on that platform. A year ago when that declaration was adopted, barring certain unfortunate phrasing, it was all right. Today it is flagrantly wrong and it will not do at all. You cannot defend it nor can I or anyone else in its entirety.” Debs indicates that the “ruthless” German invasion of Soviet Russia and its attempt to dismember the country and reduce the Russian people to “a Hohenzollern vassalage” had changed world sentiment towards the war. Debs also indicates his support for the recently concluded Inter-Allied Conference of representatives of Labor and Socialist organizations. “I feel that the Socialist Party of America should at this time make a similar declaration, defining clearly its present attitude toward the war and the policy it proposes shall be pursued in the making of the peace and in the reconstruction era that is to follow the war,” Debs declares.
“The Strike That Should Have Won,” by Eugene V. Debs [April13, 1918] This little-known article from the New York Call’s magazinesection about a failed strike in 1888 is very illuminating about the causes ofSocialist leader Gene Debs’ discontent with the Brotherhood of LocomotiveFiremen—a deep dissatisfaction which caused him to leave his oldorganization and to establish a new industrial union, the American RailwayUnion. Debs is disdainful of the division of the various railroad workers bycraft, with hegemony exerted by the arrogant Brotherhood of LocomotiveEngineers, headed by P.M. Arthur. The self-assured Arthur had arbitrarilydismissed the aid of the unions of the brakemen and switchmen, characterizingthe strike as a matter between the engineers and the Burlington line. A boycottof Burlington cars across other roads, in which the switchmen played a decisivepart, had paralyzed the lines. The decisive moment came when an injunction wasgranted against the boycott, and Arthur had immediately caved in, rather thanface jail time by defying and fighting the ruling of the court. “A finer,braver, more loyal and determined army of strikers I have never seen. They hadthe strike won from the start but were betrayed into defeat through the cowardlyand stupid leadership,” Debs asserts.
“Free Press Fight in America On As Masses Trial Opens: Eastman, Rogers,Young, Dell, and Miss Bell Appear as Defendants in Case Being Tried Before JudgeHand; Eight Jurors Chosen.” [April 16, 1918] On April 16,1918, jury selection began in one of the landmark censorship cases of the WorldWar I period, pitting the Woodrow Wilson regime against the New York radicalartistic and political magazine, The Masses. There were initially 5 defendantsin the box, including most prominently editor Max Eastman, writer Floyd Dell,and illustrator Art Young. Heading the defense were prominent New York attorneysMorris Hillquit and Dudley Field Malone. This first article from the New YorkCall details the jury selection process and the steep road faced by the defense,forced to work with an aged, economically self-satisfied, and politicallyconservative jury pool. The article notes: “Some of them confessed thatthey did not even know what Socialism was; others had heard of it but had neverstudied it; but all were majestically sure they were prejudiced against it, andthat it was unworkable, unreasonable, and probably somehow un-American. Theirfeelings about pacifism were as absolute and uninformed. They evidently thoughtit meant non-resistance. They thought all pacifists were traitors, and onebelligerent juryman said he thought all pacifists ought to be interned as ananswer to their insidious teachings.” Despite the shortcomings of the jurypool, 8 jurors had been seated at the end of the first day of jury selection,the Call article indicates.
“Letter to Eugene V. Debs in Terre Haute from Adolph Germer in Chicago, April 18, 1918.” In the tendentious mythology of the wartime Socialist Party, Eugene V. Debs was a faultless anti-militarist and Adolph Germer a bureaucratic frontman for the duplicitous SPA Right. This reply to Debs’ April 8 letter and a follow-up query belies both of these commonly accepted caricatures. Germer takes issue with Debs’ willingness to lend critical support to the Wilson war effort in light of the German invasion of Soviet Russia: “In view of what the Democratic Administration has done to the members of the Socialist Party all over the country, and in view of the merciless suppression of the press and the interference with our general propaganda, I don’t see how we can consistently support the policy of the Democratic Administration.” While Germer agrees with Debs and most SP members who have corresponded with the National Office or spoken with Germer in person that some restatement of the SP position on the war was necessary, Germer asserts that “In my opinion we should formulate a policy that will command the confidence of the working classes of all the countries, a policy of clearly defined Democratic aims, and then insist that the Allied governments adopt them as a basis for peace negotiations at the earliest possible moment. If the governments adopt such a policy, then we will have something to get into the war for. If they refuse, we have a right to be suspicious of them and to refuse our support.” He believes that the constitutionally necessary annual meeting of State Secretaries should be combined with a session of the SPA’s NEC to formulate this revised program, which would then be submitted to referendum. Such a meeting was preferable to a convention for reasons of both speed and economy, in Germer’s view.
“The Right Socialist Platform,” by Carl D. Thompson [May 4, 1918] Christian Socialist Carl Thompson hails the program of the February 1918 Inter-Allied Socialist and Labor Conference as “the most logical, constructive, and consistently socialistic program that has so far appeared” in this article published in the pro-war New Appeal. Thompson notes the conference’s endorsement of the policy and war aims of the Woodrow Wilson administration and its declaration that it is “inflexibly resolved to fight until victory is achieved” for these principles –“the continuance of the struggle that the world may henceforth be made safe for democracy.” Thompson urges the Socialist Party to take this “practical, constructive, statesmanlike” position, which Thompson asserts is furthermore “thoroughly consistent with the principles of Socialism.” Thompson throws down the gauntlet to his party, announcing that “from this time on, I am for the vigorous prosecution of the war until we have secured a peace based upon the principles laid down by the Inter-Allied Socialist and Labor Conference and affirmed by President Wilson.”
“Socialists Must Clean House or Begin Anew.” [editorial in The New Appeal] [May 18, 1918] New Appeal Editor Louis Kopelin ratchets up the rhetoric with this editorial in the pro-war Socialist weekly, accusing the Socialist Party’s leadership of pro-Germanism: “The Kaiser, Von Hertling, Hindenburg, and Ludendorff could not have devised a more cunning and hypocritical excuse to avert an expression of a majority than Hillquit, Berger, Stedman, and Germer, the bosses of the Socialist Party, have just announced to prevent the rank and file of the American Socialists from repudiating the un-American and anti-internationalist platform adopted by the party convention last year.” by rejecting reconsideration of the Socialist Party’s war program established by its 1917 St. Louis Emergency National Convention, Kopelin shrilly asserts that the “wreckers of the Socialist Party and the besmirchers of the name of Socialism” have prevented the party “from taking its rightful place in the worldwide struggle against autocracy and militarism.” The St. Louis Resolution is dismissed as a “pro-German...official pronunciamento of an organization claiming to be the Socialist Party of America.” Kopelin demands either a purge of the party’s leadership or a split of the organization: “The New Appeal, as the leading organ of the Socialists of America, publicly calls attention to this situation and demands that the party either purge itself of its disloyal platform and leaders or prepare itself for a new political alignment that will serve both our country and the cause and not the disloyalists and Central Powers.” Kopelin appeals both to the “Americanism” and the “internationalism” of his readers in rallying “to the support of our country and the Western European democracies in their life and death struggle against the most ruthless and powerful military despotism in human history.”
“The Russian Revolution and the Germans [excerpt],” by Eugene V. Debs [May 18, 1918] The pro-war Right of the Socialist Party attempts to wrap themselves in the mantle of popular party leader Gene Debs with this tendentiously-introduced excerpt. Debs declares the war situation to be “radically different” for the Socialist Party in the wake of the Bolshevik revolution and decries the failure of the German Socialist movement to rise up against the German autocracy. “The German war lords, their junker allies, and the military hordes that do their bidding, no longer are in disguise with reference to the Bolsheviki. They have shown to the world beyond cavil that they propose to annihilate social democracy in Russia and reduce that great people to a nation of vassals. That is their naked, shameless purpose, in violation of their own treaty, and with but feeble protest on the part of the German people.” Debs continues in this harshly critical vein: “The Russian revolution may be crushed, the unarmed proletariat overwhelmed, and the noble and aspiring peasants and workers reduced to vassals; the Bolsheviki may be overthrown, and the nascent democracy may lie weltering in its own blood and ruins; province after province may be wrested from a subjugated and helpless people; Poland may be outraged, Finland seized, and Bohemia persecuted; Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg may be thrown into prison; every Socialist aspiration may be strangled and every blood-bought democracy ground beneath the iron heel of the Kaiser, but the German people may not audibly protest. The much-vaunted social democratic movement of Kaiserland is as helpless as if it consisted of so many babes.”
“St. Louis Resolution Must Be Repudiated is Decision of Loyal American Socialists,” by Emanuel Haldeman-Julius [May 25, 1918] In the spring of 1918, sentiment among the social patriotic minority still inside the Socialist Party (and their apostate co-thinkers now outside of the party) began to build for the formation of a new political organization. This article by Managing Editor of The New Appeal Emanuel Haldeman-Julius reprints the text of a letter “To the Socialists of America” from Carl D. Thompson, William E. Rodriguez, and 33 rank-and-filers from the Chicago Socialist organization, endorsing the program of the Inter-Allied Socialist and Labor Conference as well as the stated war aims of Woodrow Wilson. The Thompson-Rodriguez letter states their logic as follows: “Collectivism alone is not Socialism, as we conceive it. To be true Socialism, collectivism must be under democratic control. Therefore, before we can hope for the realization of the Socialist ideal, we must achieve greater democracy. Militarism threatens to deprive the people of even that measure of democracy which has been achieved in all the struggles of the people of past generations. It is our duty not only to maintain what has been achieved by our forefathers, but to extend the rule of the people. To make that possible, militarism must be crushed. In that fight, the Socialists can well afford to combine their forces with all elements that are now engaged in the struggle against militarism.” To advance this pious end, the Chicago Socialist signatories eagerly jumped aboard the bandwagon of Wilsonian militarism and the regime’s denial of democratic rights in America, uncritically accepting Wilson’s democratic-internationalist bluster at face value.
“Prager Lynch Murder Trial Ends in Miscarriage of Justice.”(St. Louis Labor) [event of June 1, 1918] On June 1, 1918, a jury inCollinsville, Illinois, took 39 minutes to acquit 11 nationalist“patriots” of the murder of German-American mine union organizerRobert Paul Prager. Prager had been dragged from City Hall on the night of April4/5, forced to kiss the flag and praise Woodrow Wilson, and then was dragged tothe edge of town and hung by the neck from a tree. This news account from St.Louis Labor recounts: “When the verdict was read there was a wilddemonstration in the courtroom which the authorities could not halt. Hats werethrown into the air and the spectators ran to the front of the courtroomcheering the defendants, shaking their hands, and patting them on theback.” One of the victorious defense attorneys said after the verdict that“we wanted to show that the men who did the hanging were good, patrioticAmerican citizens. But this man Prager was not loyal. He was a pro-German andthe people not only of Madison County know it, but the people in other placeswhere this man moved about unmolested.” Even Assistant Attorney GeneralMiddlekauff of the prosecution seems to have been caught up in the frenzy of100% Americanism, declaring “If Prager was a pro-German he is where hebelongs—in his grave,” before adding “he ought to be dead, butthe courts should have passed sentence.”
“So Long, Louis! Our Hearts Are With You!” by Emanuel Haldeman-Julius [June 8, 1918] New editor of The New Appeal, Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, bids farewell to former editor of the paper Louis Kopelin, headed from his home in southeastern Kansas to service in the American Army in the European war. No sooner has Kopelin melodramatically been waved out of town by Haldeman-Julius than the future father of the “Little Blue Books” has moved into his patented crass hucksterism: “You are going to be given a chance to show your loyalty to The New Appeal right now. I want you to demonstrate your conviction that The New Appeal should climb to new achievements, to new victories. You will do this by going among your friends and getting them to subscribe for this paper–you will do it NOW, so that I can send word to Louis that the Army is standing by and there will be not the slightest let-up.... Undoubtedly you little expected The New Appeal to give copies of its Socialist Classics as premiums for subscriptions, but it is true. The New Appeal wants to spread the good message of international democracy and Socialism and it wants your help. Get busy today and secure four 20-week subscriptions at 25 cents each, making a dollar for the four subscriptions. Send us the dollar and the book you covet will be sent postpaid by return mail. There are 12 volumes in this set and you will want to get all of them.”
“A Convention to Restate, Not Apologize,” by Eugene V. Debs [June 21, 1918] Somehow Gene Debs ambiguous statements about the necessity of reworking the SPA’s 1917 St. Louis platform in the face of changed war conditions and his unconditioned support for the proceedings of the Inter-Allied Socialist and Labor Conference (which supported the war effort) leaked to the press, prompting Debs to issue this angry denunciation of editorials appearing in the capitalist papers. “Years ago I declared there was only one war in which I would enlist, and that was the war of the workers of the world against the exploiters of the world. I declared, moreover, that the working class had no interest in the wars declared and waged by the ruling classes of the various countries upon one another for conquest and spoils. That is my position today. I have not changed in the slightest, and any report to the contrary is absolutely untrue and is hereby branded accordingly,” Debs declares. In view of the fact that “certain propositions stated” in the St. Louis platform which are “now impossible,” Debs advocates the rapid convocation of a party convention to clearly and fearlessly restate the party position on the war. Various ambiguities and problems in Debs’ argument are pointed out in extensive footnotes.
“The Russian Gay-Girls and the War,” by Louise Bryant [July 1918] This article from Pearson’s Magazine by Left Wing journalist Louise Bryant mixes autobiography with analysis in considering the issue of prostitution during the period of the Great War in Europe. Bryant tells the tale of her girlhood in a small Nevada town and the unkind and discriminatory treatment meted out to prostitutes in that milieu. Bryant notes her long-running concern for the “unhappy girls”of the western sex industry, to whom she says she weekly brought flowers, candy, magazines, and sympathy at the local jail. Bryant took her interest in the subject with her when she went to Europe as a war reporter. She compares the wartime prostitution policies of France (negligent non-concern, refusal of rations) with Germany (“systematic, brutal, and efficient”organization of prostitutes “into a huge army”with superfluous individuals sent into the munitions manufacturing industry). To these she contrasts the enlightened Russian policy of “love and understanding”in which “since the revolution prostitutes have been allowed to become nurses and to enlist in the women’s regiments.”Bryant asserts that “The only place where prostitution still thrives in Russia is in the cafes frequented by rich speculators and foreigners.”Bryant declares: “There is no economic reason for being a prostitute now in Russia, and it isn’t even a disgrace to be one, and so the whole pitiful business is just toppling over. With the most lax marriage laws, prostitution banished, and divorces as easy to get as a cup of tea, there is less immorality in Russia than anywhere in the world! It seems to me that it wouldn’t be a bad idea for some of the professional soul savers with elaborate systems for saving the ‘fallen’ to ponder a little on the simple methods of the much-maligned Bolsheviki.”
“Labor and the War,” by Morris Hillquit [July 6, 1918] Socialist Party leader Morris Hillquit makes clear that the world was paying a terrible price through war for the continuation of capitalist hegemony: “The millions of human lives that have been destroyed and wrecked, all the misery of the nations of the world, would have been spared if the people, the working class, had ruled instead of their employers.” Even greater than the war in world historical terms, according to HIllquit, was the Russian Revolution. “I believe I am safe in saying that for the historian of the future the revolution in Russian will be of greater importance than the war itself,” Hillquit states: “The war will pass some day! It cannot last forever. But the fact that one of the greatest countries in the world has broken away from the old capitalistic moorings, has turned a new page in history and proclaimed the rule of the people instead of the rulers—this cannot pass without the most vital effect upon the whole future of the human race. The present regime in Russia may change, but whether or not there is any chance in the administration, on thing is certain—autocracy, capitalism, and oppression are dead in Russia.”
“A Dream No Longer,” by Abraham Cahan [July 13, 1918] Given his later vehement and vocal opposition to the regime in Soviet Russia and its American adherents, this article by renowned Yiddish Socialist editor Abraham Cahan rings ironic: “A statue of Karl Marx in the Kremlin! A monument to the father of the Socialist movement in the “holy of holies” of Russian darkness and Russian despotism! It sounds incredible, but it is true nevertheless. It is a gorgeous piece of historical reality.... What has been one of our golden dreams has become an inspiring reality. It seems to me that in view of that glorious monument to Marx which now stands in the Kremlin, the most bitter opponent of the Bolsheviki among our comrades should forget his former feeling and become inspired with affection and enthusiasm for them.... We have criticized them; some of their utterances often irritate us; but who can help rejoicing in their triumph? Who can help going into ecstacy over the Socialist spirit which they have enthroned in the country, which they now rule?”
“The IWW Scare,” by Jack Carney [July 26, 1918] This editorial by future member of the NEC of the Communist Labor Party Jack Carney in the pages of Duluth Truth appeals to Socialist Party members to support the Industrial Workers of the World in their time of need. The specter of the IWW had been used by the capitalists as a bogey to split the working class, Carney asserts. “Get out and prove your loyalty to your class. If you allow the IWW to march down the plank of capitalist oppression, then stop and pause for a moment, for your turn is next. Self-preservation commands you to stand by the IWW now, when your time comes do not whine if the gods show you as little mercy as they are showing the IWW,” Carney states. Carney urges his readers to each send a dollar to the IWW for their legal defense fund and declares: “By all the powers that be, you have GOT to help. It is your bounden duty. If you fail, then tear up your card and hide your head in shame. For let it be known that in the fight for human liberty, you stood idly by and allowed the wolves of capitalism to tear your own fellow-workers limb from limb.” Includes photo of Jack Carney.
“Sunday Night Lectures by H.M. Wicks, Socialist Candidate for Congress, Third District of Oregon.” [August 1918] Text of a rare leaflet produced by Local Portland Oregon, Socialist Party, touting the “second season of the lecture courses with H.M. Wicks as permanent lecturer.” Wicks is remembered as the mean-spirited editor of the official organ of the United Toilers of America, Workers Challenge, a stint as a pugilistic writer for The Daily Worker, tenure as a Comintern functionary, and for his ultimate downfall in 1938 amidst allegations of government spying. What is less frequently appreciated is that this CPA founder had his roots in the Socialist Party of Michigan—an organization with its own distinct ideology, marrying an educationalist and majoritarian view of the revolutionary process with a very narrow and sectarian interpretation of ideology, placing an emphasis upon the struggle against religious superstition as a key to emancipation. This orientation shows through in the subject matter of the 10 lectures to be made by Congressional candidate Wicks. Fellow Michigander Oakley Johnson later recalled of Wicks: “He was a master of profanity and invective, and his speeches and articles were full of both. He had extraordinary intellectual vanity (knew everything, was always right), and very little charm. He was a fattish man, with plump hips, eyes that were round and small, and a red face. I was relieved to learn, years afterward, of his defection from the Left.”
“Cop Pictures Dodge at End of Rope, the Victim of Mob: Associate Protests Innocence of WIIU Leader Who Comes to Trial on Monday on Charge of Evading the Draft,” by Philip S. Kerr [events of June 22-28, 1918] On June 22, 1918, a Socialist Labor Party activist mounted a soapbox on the corner of Mohawk and Main Streets in Buffalo, New York, where he spoke on behalf of the Workers International Industrial Union. “William Dodge, the speaker, pointed out that as long as the capitalist system continued there would be an endless struggle between the working class and the employing class. He explained the manner in which the capitalist class came into power and the methods by which they retained their power. Only by cooperating upon the political and industrial field could the workers hope to cope with the ever-growing power of capitalists.” Dodge began to be heckled by a conservative in the crowd, who he parried with his words. “In a rage the skunk went up the street and, as was afterwards learned, told a couple of sailor boys whom he met that a soap-boxer was down the street criticizing the government. He advised them to beat the speaker up.” This effort at inciting violence failed. Finally, a policeman showed up and yanked Dodge off the platform with the words, “Come, get out of here with that pro-German stuff.” Dodge and his comrade Philip Kerr were arrested, and 2 others who protested the falsity of the arrest were held for 4 hours before being released. Kerr was ultimately released (an effort to immediately conscript Kerr failing when he could not pass the army physical exam), but Dodge was held for purported seditious statements made to a police spy. “Dodge is entirely innocent of the charge against him, but there are forces at work that seek to weed out every active member of the labor movement,” Kerr declares.
“Letter to Morris Hillquit at Saranac Lake, NY, from Adolph Germer in Chicago, August 3, 1918.” With the constitutionally mandated “Conference of State Secretaries and Party Officials” around the corner, Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party Adolph Germer sent this note to Morris Hillquit expressing disappointment that he would not be on hand to assist with the delicate task of formulating a new party program on the war. Of particular note is Germer’s statement of disapproval regarding Hillquit’s desire to resign from the NEC for reasons of health: “I advise against it not only for fear that it might be misconstrued, but for other good and legitimate reasons. It may make an opening for disturbing elements on the NEC,” Germer writes—this several months in advance of the Left Wing Section’s emergence as a concrete faction in the party. Germer notes that he is sure that Seymour Stedman and Victor Berger feel likewise on this question and he tells Hillquit that he will have them write with their opinions on the matter in the near future.
“Report of Executive Secretary to the National Executive Committee: Chicago, Illinois,” by Adolph Germer [Aug. 8, 1918] This exhaustive and lengthy (20 pp. in this format) report was delivered by Socialist Party Executive Secretary Adolph Germer to the August 1918 convention of State Secretaries and Elected Officials, a conclave mandated by the constitutional revision of 1917 in lieu of meetings of the national committee in non-convention years. The document provides a comprehensive report of SPA activities in the interval since the completion of the St. Louis Emergency National Convention of 1917. A complete list of court cases in which the SPA is involved is included and an extensive, although not complete, list of similar legal activity at the state level. Germer also provides an extremely useful set of dues figures for the organization for the entire year of 1917 and the first half of 1918, breaking down the dues stamp sales for each state, month by month. Germer's statistics indicate a slight drop of dues payers for the year 1917, less that 3,000 out of an organization of 82,000, a deficit almost completely recovered in the first half of 1918. In short, the loss of the SPA Right Wing due to the organization's staunch anti-war stance was both minimal and temporary. Also included is a month-by-month accounting of dues revenue from each of the Socialist Party's Foreign Language Federations, including salary expenditures on those party divisions. This material shows that the Federations (later denounced by Germer and the Regular faction of the SPA when they began to flex their political muscle) were actually a cash cow for the financially-strapped party, generating nearly $10,000 in surplus for the National Office for the 18 month interval.
“Raymond Robins,” by William Hard [Aug. 10, 1918] Magazine article by the future author of the book, Raymond Robins’ Own Story, attempting to explain the controversial public figure of the day to a propagandized public. Hard cites incidents from his own personal acquaintance with “our principal present witness about Russia” to demonstrate that far from being a secret Bolshevik, Robins “knows more arguments against socialism than any other man I have ever listened to. He specializes on arguments against socialism. And he specializes on saving people from socialism.” Hard characterizes Robins as an inveterate and intense orator, “the only American I would gamble on to talk a Bolshevik under the table.” The former social worker and progressive Republican is described as a committed evangelist constantly in debate with “impossibilists” and “regular” socialists alike. “How many really competent witnesses, competent to tell a Bolshevik from a Menshevik without looking at their labels, have we received back from Russia?” Hard asks, noting that the Germans were stepping in where the Americans seemingly feared to tread. “Till Robins’ testimony about Russia is undermined by testimony equally competent and more voluminous, it stands strong,” Hard declares.
“Socialist Party Protests Allied Invasion of Russia: Resolution of the National Executive Committee, Aug. 1918.” Still more evidence that whatever the issues were behind the Socialist Party’s 1919 factional war, position of the organization towards the Bolshevik Revolution was not one of them—all factions of the SPA earnestly supported the Bolsheviki and their fledgling state without reservation in the years 1917-1919.“Since the French Revolution established a new high mark of political liberty in the world, there has been no other advance in democratic progress and social justice comparable to the Russian Revolution,” the NEC declares. The use of Czechoslovak troops in Russia as a counterrevolutionary force and their advocacy of an invasion from the east is denounced as“utterly incompatible with any principle of democratic or international decency.” The NEC urged“all true believers in democracy in the United States to join with us in urging our government to recognize the Russian Soviet Republic,” which“In spite of the hostility of the most powerful forces, it has endured for 10 months, successfully performing the great task of reconstructing the social and economic life of Russia. The Socialist Party of America declares itself in accord with revolutionary Russia and urges our government and our people to cooperate with it and to assist it to the end that democratic forces of the world may be victorious and autocracy and imperialism banished forever.”
“Sugarman Replies to Työmies: Says Finnish Machine is Menace to Party: Urges Election of Dirba as State Secretary,” by A.L. Sugarman [Aug. 16, 1918] This testy letter from the outgoing State Secretary of the Socialist Party of Minnesota attacking the Finnish Socialist daily Työmies for a laundry list of alleged misdemeanors against the cause and touting the candidacy of Charles Dirba for new State Secretary may seem like an esoteric factional quibble—and perhaps it is. Nevertheless, this letter demonstrates several interesting things at variance with Customary Belief. (1) Both publications embroiled in this war of words were publications from the Socialist Party's “Left Wing”—Truth [Duluth] was later a publication closely associated with the Communist Labor Party, Työmies with the Workers Party of America. The Left Wing was heterogeneous, with personal rivalries and antipathies (Sugarman hated Finnish Secretary Henry Askeli) and policy disagreements (Työmies was hostile to the IWW, Truth supportive of it). (2) There was quite clearly debate back and forth across linguistic lines; Sugarman takes umbrage to Finnish language journalism published in Työmies; Työmies editor Eemeli Parras is offended and rebukes Sugarman and Truth for charges levied in the English language. Language groups were clearly not strict enclaves, but rather related with one another at least to some limited extent. (3) Dirba, the future Executive Secretary of the old Communist Party of America and leader of the Central Caucus faction's Communist Party of America, is depicted as someone very well qualified for the specific tasks of party secretaryship: “Dirba is so far superior to [competitor Anna] Maley that there can be little comparison. By trade a bookkeeper and stenographer, he is easily able to handle the work of the office. His wide propaganda experience as Secretary of the Hennepin County organization makes him far the best fitted for the position.... Dirba is not an IWW, but he believes that socialism means socialism and nothing else. Both in matters of policy and efficiency, Dirba will make a secretary that will help the movement grow, whereas if Miss Maley is elected, it can be expected that our organization will lose its identity in a sea of Non-Partisanism.”
“Socialism, Revolution, & Civilization” by Victor L. Berger [Aug. 19, 1918] Milwaukee, Wisconsin Socialist leader Victor Berger editorializes on the need for socialism and its relationship to revolution in the turbulent European world. Berger sees an increasing division of every country into“two nations":“One nation will be very large in number, but semi-civilized, half-fed, half-educated, and degenerated from overwork and misery; the other nation will be very small in number, but over-civilized, overfed, over-cultured, and degenerated from too much leisure and too much luxury.” Unless something is done to bring capital under society’s ownership and control, the day approaches when“there will be a volcanic eruption. The hungry millions will turn against the overfed few. A fearful retribution will be enacted on the capitalist class as a class—and the innocent will suffer with the guilty.” Berger notes that such a revolutionary upheaval will be“retrograde” and push society back towards barbarism. He sees a real threat of such a revolutionary upheaval in England, France, and Italy, and indicates that“there will undoubtedly be a revolution in Germany and Austria.” He calls upon honest and practical men and thinking patriots to shortcircuit this drift towards a revolutionary bloodbath by working for the socialization of productive capital.
“Työmies Reply to Sugarman,” by Eemeli Parras [Aug. 23, 1918] Työmies Editor Eemeli Parras takes umbrage to State Secretary A.L.Sugarman’s claim that “Työmies advocated scabbery during the Mesaba strike.” He challenges Sugarman to immediately produce evidence backing up this claim. Parras’ tone is arrogant and dismissive, as he condescendingly calls the outgoing State Secretary “an enthusiastic young comrade in the party” who “may still be a socialist sometime in the future, when he matures and is schooled.” Similar treatment is dealt to Truth Editor Jack Carney, who is chastised for “boyishness that is befitting only to a youngster” for having pecked at Työmies. “ For some reason - we do not know what - the Truth has written against the Työmies. And the Työmies has not given any reason for it,” Parras writes. In a rejoinder, Editor Carney (a founding member of the CLP National Executive Committee) hammers Työmies for allowing syndicalist leader Leo Laukki to be mocked while he was jailed by the Wilson administration. Carney declares: “We may be boyish, but we have never been guilty of making sport out of a comrade who is in prison: Työmies someday will recognize the fact that the members of the IWW are members of the working class, and they will also understand that the basic principle of the Socialist Party is: AN INJURY TO ONE IS THE CONCERN OF ALL. Until they recognize the foregoing, let them forever hold their peace.” Includes a short biographical footnote on Eemeli Parras, a prolific journalist and writer who was deported from the United States to Soviet Russia in 1931 and who perished during the last days of the Ezhovshchina, in January 1939.
“Wisconsin Socialist Platform.” [as published Aug. 31, 1918] The Social Democratic Party of Wisconsin is sometimes caricatured as a parochial and racist organization, whose sole program was the winning of elective office to implement a laundry list of ameliorative liberal reforms. Those believing that this was the limit of the Wisconsin party's vision might be interested in investigating the organization's 1918 platform, which declared the organization's continued allegiance to international Socialism (i.e. Marxism), against the importation of European style militarism to American society, for a rapid end to the European conflagration without annexations or indemnities imposed on any party, against racism and mob rule and in favor of the freedoms of speech, press, and assemblage then being trampled by the Wilson regime and the Democratic-Republican bloc in Congress, and in favor of the principles of collectivism and cooperation and the policy of state ownership of trustified industry. The platform called upon “all lovers of freedom to rally round the banner of Socialism—which represents the only genuine patriotism of today. Socialism will guarantee to every man the full fruit of his labor and thus do away with the main cause of wars. It will usher in a new civilization based upon the welfare of all.”
“The American Race Problem,” by Cyril Briggs [serialized Sept.-Dec. 1918] This set of four articles, serialized as “The American Race Problem” by editor Cyril Briggs in his new monthly, The Crusader, puts the pioneer black radical on the radar screen of the black liberation movement of his day as a leading exponent of racial separatism. Briggs sees American White-Black racism as a form of “hatred of the unlike” which draws “its virulence from the firm conviction in the white man’s mind of the inequality of races—the belief that there are superior and inferior races and that the former are marked with a white skin and the latter with dark skin and that only the former are capable and virtuous and therefore alone fit to vote, rule and inherit the earth.” Briggs reminds his readers that racial antipathy is a two-way street and that “the Negro dislikes the white man almost as much as the latter dislikes the Negro.” Briggs takes aim at fundamental flaws of white economy and society, including the systemic peonage of black agricultural workers in the South, the brutality of lynch mob rule, the horror of convict slave labor, and the dehumanizing effect of Jim Crow segregation, using as illustrations of these evils quotations from those he depicts as “white men, naturally in half-sympathy with the South and only protesting when cracker cruelty went too far.” Briggs proffers the “new solution” then emerging, in which the American black had come to the realization that “the salvation of his race and an honorable solution of the American Race Problem call for action and decision in preference to the twaddling, dreaming, and indecision of ‘leaders.’” Instead, “nothing more or less than independent, separate existence” was called for—“Government of the (Negro) people, for the (Negro) people and by the (Negro) people.”
“Gene Debs at the Socialist Conference,” by William Kruse [Sept. 1918] In August 1918, State Secretaries and elected officials of the Socialist Party gathered in conference in Chicago to discuss the party’s political position and to make plans for the forthcoming fall election campaign. The meeting featured a surprise appearance by the party’s leading orator, soul, and conscience, Gene Debs—who delivered a fiery oration that brought down the house. This report by YPSL National Secretary Bill Kruse (who attended the conference) directly quotes Debs’ speech at some considerable length. Debs stated that “The party has been passing through what may be called a fiery ordeal during the past few weeks, subjected as perhaps never before to a test of the very fiber of its being; and during all this time the party has stood and withstood all of the attacks that have been made upon it... It is true that there have been certain desertions, but the party has not been weakened in that account. We are indebted to the master class for at least one service, and that is for having rid us of those who do not properly belong here. Numbers do not always count. We are stronger because of the test to which we have been subjected, and for myself, I believe the outlook for the party was never more encouraging and inspiring than it is today.” Debs declared that “Now is the time for action,” adding “In every hour of trial that has come they have stood staunch and true. With them I gladly share my life, and come good or ill as it may, we will not weaken, we will not compromise, we will not retreat an inch, we will stand our ground, we will fight together unitedly all along the battle line for victory for the International Socialist Movement.”
“Claude MacKay Describes His Own Life: A Negro Poet,” by Claude MacKay [Sept. 1918] Jamaican-born black American poet Claude MacKay offers this brief autobiography to the readers of Pearson’s Magazine, detailing his origins and his journey to America. The grandson of slaves and son of a free-born agrarian, MacKay was raised by an older brother, a teacher, who instilled a love of classical literature in him at a young age. MacKay trekked to America in 1912 to study agriculture at Tuskegee University, coming face to face with virulent Southern American racism for the first time. Not finding the quasi-military structure of Tuskegee to his liking, MacKay left for two years of study at Kansas State, before moving to New York City, where he briefly and unsuccessfully ran a restaurant with a friend. MacKay married, but after 6 months his wife went home to Jamaica, while MacKay remained in New York City, working a series of service industry jobs and writing poetry. The article includes 5 of MacKay’s poems from his early New York period, including the provocative and aggressive anti-racist verses of “To the White Friends.”
“Does Conviction Mean Guilt? An Editorial on the Chicago IWW Trial from The Milwaukee Leader, September 3, 1918.” During the Cold War, a mythology sprang up — particularly among the Social Democratic Right — about the ideology and practice of the Social Democratic Party of Wisconsin and its de facto official organ, Victor Berger’s Milwaukee Leader. The Wisconsin party and the Leader were falsely represented as programatically ultra-minimalist, limiting their vision to patchwork reform policies and taking an unchanging “principled” stand against “extremism” and “Communism.” In reality, the ideology of the Wisconsin movement in the 1910s and 1920s was considerably more left wing and nuanced than the politicized caricature propounded by the 1950s and 1960s SD Right — as this Leader editorial demonstrates. The recent conviction and sentencing of 97 IWW defendants by Woodrow Wilson’s Department of Justice and Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis is likened to the persecution of Jesus Christ — the guilty verdict having no more validity in real life than the one passed upon him by Pontius Pilate. Despite “a great diversity of opinion” about the divinity and doctrines arising around Jesus, “we do not know of even one person in the whole world who believes that Jesus was rightfully convicted and executed,” the editorialist opines. “On the contrary, it is the unanimous opinion of the human race at the present time that He was infinitely superior to his persecutors. It is now the universal belief that His persecutors were the real criminals and that He was guiltless.” Like Jesus, the Wobblies were guilty only of having new and unpopular ideas — ideas that made it impossible to obtain a fair trial in the present supercharged climate of political hysteria. Complete solidarity is voiced: the IWWs “stand for principles which would result in real democracy — industrial democracy,” the editorial states. No matter what tactical errors the organization may have committed in the past, “that is no reason to believe that they were guilty. We are just as confident of their innocence as we were when they were tried.” The conviction might actually have the opposite of its intended effect, in the editorialist’s opinion, actually boosting the IWW: “t is entirely possible that, if the IWW is ready to drop its undesirable features, it may have a brilliant future as a labor organization. Certainly there is abundant room for a real labor organization in the industrial field in this country - one that is loyal to the working class — one that will not barter its principles for a few loaves and fishes - one that understands the ultimate as well as the immediate needs of the workers.”
“Debs Trial Opens Monday [Sept. 9]; Defendant Makes Speeches As Lawyers Prepare Case: Seymour Stedman, Attorney for Defense, Says No Attempt Will Be Made to Excuse or Apologize for Any Statement by Veteran Socialist—Recognizes Trial as Attack on Socialism,”by J. Louis Engdahl [Sept. 9, 1918] With war hysteria at a fever pitch the Wilson administration pushed forward its agenda of stomping out left wing dissent by the exertion of crude state power. Four time Socialist Party Presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs was hauled before the bar on September 9, 1918, to answer for spoken words he uttered to the Ohio Socialist Party convention at Canton in June. This pre-trial report by J. Louis Engdahl quotes lead lawyer Seymour Stedman as saying that “No attempt will be made to excuse or apologize for any statement made by Debs in his Canton speech. Debs and those associated with him recognized this case as an attack on Socialism and the freedom of discussion.” As for the defendant, Debs is quoted as saying “I amount to nothing in this. Tens of thousands have gone to prison; thousands have been executed; who am I that I should do less for the cause that means so much to the working class? I propose to keep my self-respect, and I can not retract anything that I have said and do so. I would rather go to prison with the consciousness of being true to myself than to escape through any subtleties of the law.” Engdahl makes clear the jury venire is stacked against Debs and lists previous repressive action in the venue, including the sentencing of Socialist school board member A.L. Hitchcock to 15 years in federal prison for his words; of Ohio party leaders C.E. Ruthenberg, Alfred Wagenknecht, and Charles Baker to 1 year in the Toledo workhouse for their words; of Ukrainian Socialist editors Paul Ladan and Charles Switenko to 3 months in jail for failing to file a translation of their stories with the post office and the subsequent seizure (without warrant) of printing equipment owned by the Robitnyk Printing & Pub. Co. by the Federal government; as well as the collaboration of Democrats and Republicans to expel two elected Socialist members of the Cleveland city council without cause (nearly 2 years before the same sort of anti-democratic power politics was practiced by New York state Assembly).
“Seven Socialists at Debs Trial Held for Applause After Stedman’s Speech: Outburst Follows Attorney’s Acceptance of Challenge by Prosecution—Jury Made up Mostly of Farmers Accepted—Average Age of Jurors 70. Prosecution Omits Parts of Canton Speech,” by J. Louis Engdahl [Sept. 10, 1918] Report of the first day of the Debs trial for violation of the so-called Espionage Act, as reported in the pages of the Milwaukee Leader. The first day of the trial [Sept. 9, 1918] was dedicated in large measure to jury selection, with a group of 12 men ultimately selected, ranging in age from 52 to 73 and including a large percentage of retired or current farmers, real estate men, or businessmen. The opening statement for the defense by lead attorney Seymour Stedman was met with applause in the court, which caused Judge Westenhaver to round up 7 Socialists (including Marguerite Prevey and Rose Pastor Stokes) for this “riotous” conduct—fines of from $10 to $25 were dispensed the next day [Sept. 10].
“C.E. Ruthenberg Hurried from Canton Workhouse to Testify in Debs’ Free Speech Trial: Prosecution Introduces St. Louis Program Over Objections by Stedman—Government Trusts Boy Office Stenographer with Taking Down Address on which Indictment is Based,” by J. Louis Engdahl [Sept. 10, 1918] Report of the second day of the Debs trial for violation of the so-called Espionage Act, as reported in the pages of the Milwaukee Leader. The day featured the surprise calling of C.E. Ruthenberg as a witness by the prosecution in an attempt to tie Debs with the 1917 St. Louis anti-war manifesto which Ruthenberg had co-authored with Morris Hillquit and Algernon Lee. Ruthenberg’s appearance on the stand, “gaunt and emaciated” from his imprisonment, was for dramatic effect, with the testimony actually linking Debs with the St. Louis resolution actually coming from a journalist employed by The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Testimony also revealed that the Wilson administration’s Department of Justice had entered into an active collaboration with Hearst’s Chicago Herald Examiner, with reporters of that paper acting as government informants on “anything that happened at Socialist meetings that they thought would be of interest” to the federal agents. Appearing for the defense was a stenographer employed by the Socialist Party who read the complete transcript of the Debs Canton speech—between 25 to 30% of which was said to have been missed by the DoJ’s 20 year old rookie stenographer. Both the prosecution and the defense rested their cases, with the forthcoming closing statements to the jury limited to 2 hours and 15 minutes by the court.
“Jury in Eugene Debs’ Trial on Free Speech Gets Its Instructions: Former Candidate for President Makes Address in Own Defense, Refusing to Retract Anything Uttered in his Canton Talk—Case Will Be Appealed if Jury Returns Verdict of Guilty” by J. Louis Engdahl [Sept. 10, 1918] Report of the third day of the Debs trial for violation of the so-called Espionage Act, as reported in the pages of the Milwaukee Leader. Having rested its case without presenting a single witness in Debs’ behalf, the defense let defendant Debs address the jury at length to make his case that the Canton, Ohio speech for which he was being tried was protected free speech under the constitution. “I am not guilty of the charges in the indictment. What I have said I felt that I was justified in saying under the law of the land,” Debs declared, noting that this was the first time in his life that he had appeared before a jury charged with a crime. “I wish to admit the truth of what has been testified to in the proceedings here. I have no disposition to deny anything that is true. I would not retract a word I have uttered, that I believe to be true, to save myself from going to the penitentiary for the remainder of my days,” Debs told the 12 assembled jurors. “There isn’t a word in that speech to warrant the charges in the indictment against me. In what I had to say there, my purpose was to educate the people to understand something about the social system in which we live, and to prepare them to change this system by perfectly orderly means into what I conceive to be a real democracy,” Debs declared, adding that contrary to the assertions of the prosecution, “I have never advocated force or violence in any form.” Debs announced his sympathy with other Socialists convicted exercising their right to free speech before him, including specifically C.E. Ruthenberg, Alfred Wagenknecht, Charles Baker, Kate O’Hare, and Rose Pastor Stokes. He defended the Bolshevik revolution for having “written a chapter of glorious history that will stand to their credit forever,” and noted that minorities rather than majorities had generally been correct at the turning points of history that Washington had been called a “disloyalist,” Samuel Adams an “incendiary,” and Patrick Henry a “traitor.” Moreover, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Sumner, Daniel Webster, and Henry Clay had characterized the Mexican-American war as a crime against humanity in their day and none of these figures had been prosecuted during wartime for sedition. Reporter Engdahl records that Debs had read the section of the constitution dealing with free assemblage to the jury, declaring its English so plain that a child could understand it, and that the revolutionary fathers had mean just what they said when they adopted it. “That is the right I exercised at Canton,” declared Debs. “For exercising that right I am here.”
“Debs Held Guilty on Three Counts, Will File Appeal: Veteran Socialist Received Verdict Which May Mean 20 Years in Prison with Same Congenial Smile that has Endeared Him to Millions. Declares He has No Fault to Find with Decision. Sentence May be Passed Saturday [Sept. 14],” by J. Louis Engdahl [Sept. 13, 1918] Report of the jury verdict, coming after the 3 day trial in Cleveland of Eugene Debs for alleged violation of the so-called Espionage Act. After six full hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of Guilty on 3 of 4 counts against Debs, with a Not Guilty verdict returned on the 4th charge of opposition to the cause of the United States in the war. An appeal was planned, with sentencing expected to follow the next day. Debs remained free on the $10,000 bail put up for him by Marguerite Prevey of Akron.
“Debs Sentenced to 10 Years Jail on Three Counts: Socialist is Allowed Bail Pending Hearing on Appeal Only on Condition He Return to Home in Terre Haute, Ind., and Remain There Until Case is Passed On: To Serve Time in Moundsville, W.Va.,” by J. Louis Engdahl [Sept. 14, 1918] Final report of J. Louis Engdahl to the readers of the Milwaukee Leader on the 4 day Debs free speech trial of Sept. 1918. On Saturday, Sept. 14, Debs was sentenced to 10 year concurrent sentences for each of the three counts under the so-called Espionage Law of which he was convicted. Bail was continued throughout the appeals process, conditional upon Debs’ return home to Terre Haute, Indiana and his removal from political speaking. Engdahl states that Debs spent a day in “peace and quiet” at the home of his bondsman Marguerite Prevey in Akron on Sept. 13, and that he remained in fine spirits, holding a very friendly meeting there with his legal defense team to consider appeals strategy. A request for a new trial was to be made on the grounds of incompetent evidence and a faulty indictment, Engdahl reports, although expressing doubts as to whether this request would be granted. Engdahl recalled Debs’ words to the jury that “If it be a crime punishable under the laws of the United States for me to exercise my constitutional right of free speech in time of war as well as in peace, then I am willing to be clothed in the stripes of a convict and spend the rest of my days in a cell.”
“South Slavic Federations Withdraw From Socialist Party; May Combine with Social Democratic League,” by Emanuel Haldeman-Julius [event of Sept. 20, 1918] The war in Europe was a divisive issue within the South Slavic Federation of the Socialist Party of America, with the radical Croatian component staunchly supporting the party’s unbending anti-militarist position, while the large Slovenian and small Serbian component bitterly disagreeing. The federation effectively split over this issue, with the Slovenian and Serbian Federationists voting to separate from the SPA at a conference held in Springfield, Ill. on Sept. 20, 1918. The main resolution of the Slovenian-dominated South Slavic conference states that the tactics of the Socialist Party had “estranged the American toiling masses, thus making itself impossible of representing them politically or otherwise” and effectively excluded socialists “from all actual participation in the peace conference, and also from cooperation in reconstruction after the war.” In effect, the Socialist Party had rendered itself “merely a pacifistic sect,” in the judgment of the Slovenian socialists, who withdrew. This event was gleefully reported by Managing Editor Emanuel Haldeman-Julius of The New Appeal, the social-patriotic incarnation of The Appeal to Reason, who breathlessly speculates that the Slovenian socialists might well soon join the upstart Social Democratic League which Haldeman-Julius “provisionally” headed. Pouring on the invective, Haldeman-Julius calls the action of the Slovenian socialists “additional proof that The New Appeal was entirely justified in its policy against the party’s treasonable stand against the government and against the democratic ideals of the Entente.” About 6 weeks later, the war would end, effectively terminating Haldeman-Julius’ delusions of grandeur as a party leader. A few months after that Haldeman-Julius again altered his personal business plan, turning to the mass marketing of “Little Blue Books”—a rather more effective means to the fame and fortune he so anxiously desired.
“Shiplacoff is Indicted with John Reed for Bronx Speech: Socialist Assemblyman Who is Candidate for Congress and Famed Writer Charged with Violation of Espionage Act—What Offending Words Were.” (NY Tribune) [event of Sept. 23, 1918] On Sept. 23, 1918, nearly 2 weeks after armistice was declared in the European war, indictments were returned against New York Assemblyman Abraham Shiplacoff and radical journalist John Reed for comments which each made at a Sept. 13 meeting in the Bronx held under the auspices of the Socialist Party. Shiplacoff’s purported offense was making the following statement about the American military occupation of Soviet Russia: “You will remember with what bitter feelings your teachers have tried to plant in you a sort of hatred toward the Hessians, those soldiers who came from the other side, hired to do the work of King George III against the American colonists, and those were only the ragtag off the people; they were the hired murderers who came to do the bidding of King George III—think how much better the Russian people of today have a right to feel against the people who in the name of democracy, in the name of everything that seems sacred, come there to hand out the same dose to Russia today that was handed out by the Hessians to the American Republic.” As for John Reed, his so-called crime was making the following: “This intervention that I am talking to you about is here not allowed to be spoken about in any way other than the government wants it to be spoken about, but in every other country in the world—in France, in Italy—this intervention is characterized very boldly as a direct adventure of brigands.”
“The Fourth Liberty Loan” by Victor L. Berger [Sept. 28, 1918] Excerpt from an Victor Berger “Current Topics” column in which he urges Socialist Party members and readers of The Milwaukee Leader to actively purchase bonds from the 4th Liberty Loan, “not because the Socialists or the readers of The Leader endorse this war, or any other war—but because the government has the power to tax the citizens of this country for manpower and money. And I consider the various Liberty loans a tax put upon the people which they must pay.” Berger states that “it would be foolish and contrary to Socialist tactics to try and resist them in any other way than through the ballot”—and he urges his readers to turn out on Nov. 5 to vote a Socialist ticket, as the Socialist Party “represents the only party today that is against all wars, except revolutionary wars, wars of emancipation, and wars to repel actual invasion.”
“Punishment of Political Offenders in Germany and America” by Victor L. Berger [Oct. 10, 1918] An Victor Berger “Current Topics” column in which he ironically describes the forthcoming amnesty of political prisoners in “autocratic” Germany with the draconian punishment meted out to political objectors for exercising their free speech rights in what Berger called “the American ‘democracy,’ so called.” While German Socialist leaders Karl Liebknecht and Wilhelm Dittmann had received sentences of 30 months and 5 years, respectively (to be amnestied) for comparatively major crimes against the state, in the United States such Socialists as Eugene Debs and Rose Pastor Stokes had received 10 years in prison for the comparatively innocuous statement that the European war was capitalistic in nature, and 20 religious pacifist Mennonites in Kansas had received sentences of 20 and 25 years for adhering to the tenets of their religion. Moreover, in Germany the Socialist press was in full swing, with only the occasional repressed issue, whereas in the United States post office regulations had terminated the great majority of the Socialist press. The contrast alluded to by Berger was stark.
“Prosecution or Persecution?” from The Milwaukee Leader [Oct. 17, 1918] Unsigned article from the front page of the Milwaukee Leader revealing the highly suspicious timing of a Federal Grand Jury indictment returned and pressed against Victor Berger. The original secret indictment was returned Feb. 2, 1918, but not announced until more than a month later, two weeks before the election for an open seat in the US Senator for which Berger was a candidate—timing which smacked of campaign-related foul play. Then this case sat dormant for 7 full months, until 2 weeks before the fall election for US House, for which Berger was a candidate. The coincidence was amazing or the sabotage of the Socialist Party's electoral efforts intentional.
“Autocracy, Democracy, Hypocrisy,” by Victor L. Berger [Oct. 18, 1918] Unsigned editorial from the front page of the Milwaukee Leader attributed to Victor L. Berger. Berger ironically contrasts the continued operation and access to the mails of left wing newspapers Vorwaerts and Unsere Zeit in “autocratic” Germany with the banning of similar publications from the mails of “democratic” America by the whim of one man, Postmaster General Albert Burleson. “Under this law ONE MAN, the Postmaster General, upon EVIDENCE SATISFACTORY TO HIM, may deprive any person or any concern of the use of the mail. Under this law, one man, without judge or jury, without due process of law, may ruin the business of any person or any concern by simply cutting off its mail. Not since the interdict has wielded by the Popes of medieval times has so much power been placed in the hands of one man. Under this law, Mr. Burleson can bankrupt any Republican or Democratic newspaper in the country. His whim is law. There is no appeal. 'The king can do no wrong.' But so far, the law has only been applied to The Milwaukee Leader.” Berger vows to fight on despite the so-called Espionage Act.
“In the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave,” by Victor L. Berger [Oct. 19, 1918] Another indictment of Woodrow Wilson's Postmaster General, Albert Burleson, and the “cowed Congress” which passed the unconstitutional “Espionage Act,” which Berger states stood in violation of “every principle of Americanism.” Since the Milwaukee Leader had lost its mailing privileges on Oct. 3, 1917, a loss of $70,000 in subscription money and $50,000 in advertising revenue was claimed. “This tremendous loss of $120,000 was the result of the act of one man—the Postmaster General of the United States,” Berger charges, adding that this autocratic power to seize property and destroy business stood in opposition to the US constitution, which stated clearly that “No property shall be confiscated without due process of law.” Berger remains unbent: “Go on, gentlemen, and do your worst! Someday a bruised and outraged people will rise in holy anger and cast you on the rubbish pile of history. Hiding behind the plea of making the ’world safe for democracy’ you are assassinating the freedom of the American people themselves.”
“Report of Treatment of Conscientious Objectors at the Camp Funston [Kansas] Guard House,” by David Eichel, et al. [events of Sept. 5 to Oct. 21, 1918] There are some in the Washington political elite who claim that the abuses and crimes of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo were “aberations” by “rogue” members of the military. This ahistorical perspective is belied by this first-hand collective diary of the systematic tortures and abuses suffered by 16 conscientious objectors held in a military stockade in Kansas during the waning days of the “war to make the world safe for democracy.” The litany of inhumanity and violence is straight out of Sollzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago: verbal abuse, beatings, incitement of guards and favored prisoners to violence against the political detainees, threats, dietary manipulation, enforced physical exertion to the point of exhaustion, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, ritual humiliation of nude prisoners... The only features seeming to have been missing the ironically named Camp Funston from a thoroughly 21st Century approach to American political torture would be the use of sensory deprivation, psychoactive drugs, and amplified music. Camp Funston does get bonus points for what seems to have been attempted mass murder by pneumonia (given the state of medical knowledge of the day)— the enforced administration of repeated cold water showers followed by enforced outdoor exertion. As in Solzhenitsyn, the hapless prisoners employed their only available means to end the most onerous of these abuses— an organized hunger strike. This material was published in pamphlet form by the National Civil Liberties Bureau, forerunner of the American Civil Liberties Union. It remains timely and would make an excellent assigned reading for undergraduate students of 20th Century American history.
“Five Russians Jailed for Distributing Nuorteva Reply: Three Men who Circulated Denunciation of Creel ‘Exposé’ of Bolsheviki Get 20 Years—Woman 15.” [Oct. 26, 1918] Unsigned news report from the Milwaukee Leader detailing the draconian sentences levied upon anarchists Samuel Lippman, Jacob Abrams, Hyman Lachowsky, and Mollie Steimer and the lesser sentence meted to their erstwhile comrade Hyman Rosanzky, who flipped to become state’s evidence. The four main defendants received sentences of from 15 to 20 years in the federal penitentiary for distributing leaflets publicizing the claim of Santeri Nuorteva of the Finnish government bureau that the so-called “Sisson Papers” purporting Lenin’s sponsorship by the Imperial German regime, published by Wilson Administration propaganda chief George Creel’s Committee on Public Information, were fabrications. The defendants were prevented from calling Creel and Sisson in the trial to defend the documents in question, or Raymond Robins to challenge them. The defendants were also cut short by the presiding judge from making an appeal to the jury, Judge Henry D. Clayton decreeing that he would not allow the accused to “make themselves out as martyrs.” The convicted anarchists ultimately sat in prison until Oct. 23, 1921, when their sentences were commuted and they were deported to Soviet Russia.
“Joseph A. Weil Devised Arm and Torch Emblem for NY Socialist Party.” This unsigned article from The New York Call of Sunday, Nov. 3, 1918, was published to promote the candidacy of longtime member Joseph A. Weil for NY State Assembly. Weil, a member of the Socialist Labor Party from 1895 and participant in the 1899 split of that party, was revealed in this article as the creator of the SP’s “arm and torch” logo—one of the two primary emblems of the Socialist Party of America. Includes a photograph of Weil from the original article and a color shot of a vintage “arm and torch” pinback button.
“To Our Russian Comrades!” by Eugene V. Debs [Nov. 7, 1918] Short salute from the Socialist Party of America’s most popular leader to the Russian Soviet Republic and its Bolshevik leadership in commemoration of the first year of the regime’s existence. Debs neither hesitates nor hedges in his support of the Soviet Republic, stating, “When the Revolution in Russia occurred a year ago and the actual toiling and producing masses came into power under the leadership and inspiration of Lenin and Trotsky, all the ruling class powers on earth, the United States not excepted, instinctively arrayed themselves against the newborn working class Republic... But in spite of all these stupendous reactionary and destructive forces, the Soviet has survived and the Russian proletariat, thanks to its heroic and uncompromising leadership and its own inflexible determination...” Debs stated that American Socialists pledged not only to protest their government’s meddling and interference in Soviet affairs, but also “to strive with all our energy to emulate your inspiring example by abolishing our imperialistic capitalism, driving our plutocratic exploiters and oppressors from power, and establishing the working class Republic, the Commonwealth of Comrades.”.
“Lenin—An Appreciation,” by Louis C. Fraina [Nov. 7, 1918] Article from a magazine published by the Socialist Publication Society of Brooklyn in commemoration of the first anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Class Struggle co-editor Louis C. Fraina provides a well-informed synopsis of the significance of V.I. Ul’ianov (N. Lenin) as a Marxist thinker and revolutionary leader. Lenin’s primary significance, in Fraina’s view was, was that of rescuer of revolutionary Marxism from opportunist degeneration: “During the past twenty-five years, Marxism has experienced a transformation, becoming the means of interpreting history and a fetish of controversy, instead of a maker of history and an instrument of revolutionary action. This degrading conception of Marxism was dominant in the old International.... Lenin used Marx against these pseudo-Marxists, insisted on making Marxism an instrument of revolutionary action, built upon the basis of Marxism and amplified its scope.” Fraina lauded Lenin’s ability to bring together theoretical acumen with uncompromising revolutionary action—“every opportunity, every crisis, every strength, weakness, and peculiarity of the social alignment becomes the subject of study and appropriate action.” The theoretical work of Lenin will “become a source of inspiration in the coming reconstruction of Socialism, supplemented by the accomplishments of the proletarian revolution in Russia,” Fraina states.
“Leon Trotsky,” by Ludwig Lore [Nov. 7, 1918] Article from a magazine published by the Socialist Publication Society of Brooklyn in commemoration of the first anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Class Struggle co-editor Ludwig Lore provides an absolutely invaluable account of the ten month tenure of Leon Trotsky in New York—Lore crediting Trotsky and his fellow Russian expatriates with a leading role in the establishment of an organized Left Wing faction in the Socialist Party. The list of the Russian luminaries who assembled in a Brooklyn apartment together with American revolutionary socialists is impressive: Trotsky, Bukharin, Kollontai, Vorovsky... While Bukharin advocated the immediate formation of a new organization with its own official organ, his proposal was defeated, Lore says; instead Trotsky’s idea to establish a Left Wing bi-monthly theoretical magazine as an initial step was accepted—the end result being the magazine The Class Struggle. Lore calls Trotsky a born leader, able to stir audiences of thousands but unprepossessed enough to speak intimately with smaller gatherings, a voluminous and perceptive journalist and pamphleteer, a gifted theoretician able to propagate his ideas clearly and in an interesting manner. Lore states that Trotsky was adament about the Left Wing of the Socialist movement needing to organize itself for action, quoting him as saying, ” “The European proletariat is vitally interested in the growth of a strong, revolutionary American movement. For your democracy is the only hope, the last refuge of the European bourgeoisie, who will appeal to your capitalists for help.”.
“The Common Laborer,” by Eugene V. Debs [Nov. 11, 1918] This article by Socialist Party orator and publicist Gene Debs extols the place of the so-called “common laborer,” the of-scorned “chief prop in the social fabric and the main support of all civilization.” Debs charges that among the worst offenders in the marginalization of “unskilled” labor are certain “insolent” and snobbish trade unions, with high initiation fees barring the way to admission. However, the leveling influence of mechanized production was rapidly eliminating the distinction between skilled craft and “unskilled” labor. “The common laborer today is no longer ignored or treated with scant decency by the labor movement,” writes Debs. “He may still be ostracized in certain select craft union circles but he is taking his rightful place in the great industrial movement that is spreading over the world. The common laborer is the chief sufferer and the most aggrieved victim of the capitalist system.... The fate and destiny of not only the whole working class but the whole of humanity are irrevocably bound up in the common laborer and his emancipation is the condition of the emancipation of the race.” Debs exclaims: “All hail the common laborer wherever he may be found! He is the stuff of which the revolution is made, the revolution which will lift common labor out of common slavery and make it the common glory of mankind.”
“In re: Socialist Meetings in Boston,” by BoI Special Agent Albert W. Lyon [Nov. 11, 1918] This report of Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Albert Lyons details a march through the streets of Boston and subsequent celebratory meeting in honor of armistice in the European war and the 1st anniversary of the Russian Revolution. The Bureau was tipped off about the demonstration by a phone call to headquarters; agents were scrambled to investigate. The evening session was held from 8:00 to 10:30 pm and was addressed by journalist and lecturer Louis C. Fraina. Fraina announced the formation of a new newspaper, to be called Revolutionary News, which was to be launched the following Saturday and issued 3 times a week. A $2,000 target for initial subscriptions was set. (The paper to have been called Revolutionary News was ultimately launched on Nov. 16, 1918 as The Revolutionary Age.)
“In re: Socialist Activities in Boston,” by BoI Special Agent William E. Hill [Nov. 11, 1918] Report of Bureau of Investigation Special Agent William Hill about the bureau’s response to a report that “Socialists were parading the streets of Boston bearing red flags.” Hill attended an evening mass meeting at the Dudley Street Opera House, which was addressed by Louis C. Fraina, editor of The New International and The Class Struggle. Hill confirms that Fraina announced the imminent launch of a new thrice-weekly publication to be known as The Revolutionary News, which was to be published simultaneously in “Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, and all large cities in the US.” The newspaper about which Fraina spoke debuted less than a week later following an 11th Hour name change as The Revolutionary Age. Another meeting was planned the next Sunday, featuring revolutionary music and speeches by prominent revolutionary socialists John Reed, Santeri Nuorteva, Louis C. Fraina, and Gregory Weinstein.
“In re: Bolsheviki Activities,” by BoI Special Agent Charles M. Robinton [Nov. 11, 1918] This report of BoI Special Agent Charles Robinton documents the Nov. 11, 1918 march of “a body of ‘Reds’...carrying red banners and red signs.” A total of 43 participants were counted, marching under the slogans “Long Live the Workers’ Republic,” “Workers Unite and Break Your Chains,” “Red Dawn,” and “Open the Jail and Free Debs.” That evening at Dudley Street Opera House, the headquarters of the Latvian Socialist Federation, about 200 listeners heard Louis Fraina announce the establishment of a new revolutionary socilaist newspaper, to be called Revolutionary News. The paper was planned to launch as a thrice-weekly, eventually becoming a daily publication. At this meeting some $500 was raised for the new publication and “cheers were then given for the American Bolshevik Republic, for the Russian Soviet Government, for the German Revolution and Bolshevik Movements, for Tom Mooney and for Debs,” according to Robinton. Robinton also notes that the meeting was addressed in Russian by Jacob Klawa, a Latvian revolutionary socialist, and that an extended debate took place afterwards in the Latvian language. “In his Russian remarks [Klawa] referred to the freedom which the Russian workers have established for themselves and which the German workers were just establishing and he hoped soon to see such freedom established here in the United States and he hoped it would not be long before a war would be started for such freedom here,” Robinton states.
“The Crisis and the Socialist Party,” by Louis C. Fraina [Nov. 30, 1918] This article from an early issue of The Revolutionary Age by editor Louis Fraina moves the focus of the publication from European events to the situation in America. Fraina saw the European situation as “more potential of great success or infinite disaster,” with the European proletariat in the process of “preparing itself for the final struggle against Capitalism and Imperialism.” Reaction to the European situation was marshaling its forces in America, according to Fraina; however, he adds, “In this crisis, the Socialist Party as represented by its national administration, is not measuring to the opportunity.” Fraina declares that “Never, in the history of the world, have more momentous events developed than during the past two months. The crash of thrones and of Capitalism, the coming of peace with all its hopes and fears, the development of revolutionary Socialism in action, the emergence of the international class struggle between Socialism and Capitalism—these are unprecedented historical events, the realization in life of the concepts of Socialism. Two months—in which hours represented years, in which every minute issued a call to international Socialism—and our National Executive Committee has been silent, inert.” Fraina calls for the convocation of an Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party as “the only body that can adequately express the attitude of the membership on the momentous events that are at present shaping the destiny of the generations to come.”
“Beware of Red Flag Exploiters! An Editorial from St. Louis Labor,” by G.A. Hoehn [Nov. 30, 1918] In this editorial in St. Louis Labor, Editor Gus Hoehn condemns the recent unprovoked attack of a New York mob of soldiers and sailors on a peaceful meeting featuring Scott Nearing–and their attempting to blame the victims for the violence. “The fact of the matter is that the meeting did proceed peacefully and adjourned peacefully, and it was not until the exits were opened to let the thousands of people out quietly and peacefully that the soldiers and sailors broke through the lines of police officers and brutally attacked the men, women, and children. Women were brutally beaten because they wore red roses in their hair or red carnations in their coats. Men were knocked down because they wore red neckties, etc.” The New York police were to blame for their inability to contain the “uniformed rowdyism” of the Right Wing mob. This violence was glorified in the capitalist press, Hoehn notes, “because their masters need these riots. Because their capitalist masters want to exploit these riots as a means of propaganda not only against the European revolutions, but against the American Socialist and Labor movement!” Indeed, it was not the participants who were to blame, in Hoehn’s view, but rather the capitalist puppeteers pulling the strings: “Don’t blame those soldier and sailor boys in New York for what they did; but look for the powers behind the scenes that managed the ‘Red Flag Riots’ for national and worldwide stage effect!"
“Organizational Preamble of the Communist Propaganda League of Chicago. (Adopted Dec. 6, 1918.)” Organizational manifesto calling for a fundamental change in the form and course of the Socialist Party, demanding that “the personnel of our party officialdom and our candidates for public office...must be brought into harmony with the revolutionary character of our movement. The preamble was signed by a prominent group of members of the Socialist Party of America including the Translator-Secretaries of the Russian, Lithuanian, Latvian, German, and Scandinavian Federations. Secretary of the group was I.E. Ferguson.
“The Fundamentals of Bolshevism,” by N.I. Hourwich [Dec. 7, 1918] A brief exposition of the fundamental premises of Russian Bolshevism, written by a Contributing Editor of The Revolutionary Age for the readership of that paper. Nicholas Hourwich, the son of a radical Jewish lawyer who emigrated from Tsarist Russia to America, was an editor of the New York-based Russian language newspaper Novyi Mir and was better versed than most on matters of Bolshevik history and ideology. Hourwich characterized the Bolsheviks as “first of all a party of revolutionary action, a party of dynamic Socialism.” Their unswerving object was “the revolutionary seizure of power by the proletariat, as an inevitable and necessary condition for the accomplishment of the transition from Capitalism to Socialism,” Hourwich stated. Key to the equation was the Bolsheviks’ melding of “democracy with centralism, of democracy with iron discipline,” in Hourwich’s view. While the Mensheviks refused to take revolutionary measures but instead made alliances with the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie, the Bolsheviks and their revolutionary allies were uncompromising in their efforts to establish the proletarian dictatorship and to overturn the capitalist world, thus their success in becoming the “’government party’ of the first Socialist republic on earth.
“Bolshevism in America,” by John Reed [Dec. 18, 1918] Thisarticle by Jack Reed in the leading weekly affiliated with the Left Wing Sectionof the Socialist Party belies the claim that he was blinded by romanticrevolutionary fantasies. Reed had no illusions whatsoever about the proximity ofSocialist revolution in America. Reed classically remarks: “The Americanworking class is politically and economically the most uneducated working classin the world. It believes what it reads in the capitalist press. It believesthat the wage system is ordained by God. It believes that Charley Schwab is agreat man, because he can make money. It believes that Samuel Gompers and theAmerican Federation of Labor will protect it as much as it can be protected. Itbelieves that under our system of government the Millennium is possible. Whenthe Democrats are in power, it believes the promises of the Republicans, andvice versa. It believes that Labor laws mean what they say. It is prejudicedagainst Socialism.” Little hope is held for the Socialist Party, as Reedasserts that “with the exception of the Jewish workers, other foreigners,and a devoted sprinkling of Americans, the Socialist Party is made up largely ofpetty bourgeois, for the most part occupied in electing Aldermen or Assemblymento office, where they turn into time-serving politicians, and in explaining thatSocialism does not mean Free Love. The composition of the English-speakingbranches is: little shopkeepers, clerks, doctors, lawyers, farmers (in theMiddle West), a few teachers, some skilled workers, and a handful ofintellectuals.” Reed states that “nothing teaches the Americanworking class except hard times and repression. Hard times are coming,repression is organized on a grand scale.” If current trends continue,Reed asserts that a revolutionary movement might emerge in the United Stateswithin about 5 years’ time.