Early American Marxism: Document Download Page by Year: 1919
Early American Marxism
Document Download Page for the Year
“A Pledge of Americanism.” (Constitutional Government League—Spokane Centre)  Given the exhaustive examination given to 20th Century Socialism in its various ideological permutations, it seems remarkable that so little scholarly attention has been paid to the primary concrete conservative ideology that was launched in direct opposition—so-called “Americanism.” This little leaflet from the Constitutional Government League, Spokane Center—forerunner of the Constitutional Government League of America—reduces “Americanism” to 9 affirmations: (1) “I am proud that the United States of America is my country, the Stars and Stripes my flag” (as opposed to the internationalism and red flag of the Left); (2) “ I will uphold our officials in the administration of the law” (as opposed to those seeking an overturn of the bourgeoisie and its bureaucratic servitors); (3) “I will cherish and uphold the divine principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity, for which American patriots sacrificed their fortunes and their lives; and I pray God to bless my country and her people” (positing natural law and a theist worldview against the godless materialism of the Left); (4) “I believe my country’s protection, her rights and privileges, her burdens and duties, should be justly distributed to all—to the poor, the rich, the laborer, the capitalist” (as opposed to the Left’s desire for working class domination and staunch taxation or expropriation of big capitalists); (5) “ I will do my best to keep physically strong, morally clean, and mentally active; to know my country’s history and the laws of my city, state, and nation, so that with the voice and vote of a citizen I may take an intelligent part in our government” (in contrast to the sometimes unhygienic non-voting aliens who comprised a significant percentage of the Left); (6) “ I believe in the vital importance of education, the sacredness of the home and the marriage tie” (in contrast to the “free love” and libertine ways of the bohemian Left); (7) “Since our Constitution guarantees that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification for public office, and since Congress can make no law to establish a religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof, I will never discriminate against any citizen because of his religion” (attempting here to place distance between wholesome “Americanism” and the reactionary and divisive religious chauvinism of the extreme Right); (8) “ I hold in grateful memory the gallant service of our army and navy in defense of our liberty and our rights” (as opposed to the anti-nationalist and anti- militarist “anti-patriotism” of the Left); and (9) “Therefore, I PLEDGE to my country the love of my heart, a true, constant, and absolute loyalty. I pledge respect and obedience to her laws. I pledge my property, my service, my honor, and, if need be, my life to defend her. I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
“Now For the Next Step,” by C.E. Ruthenberg. [Jan. 1919] Text of a direct mail piece sent out to subscribers of the Socialist News [Cleveland] by Local Cuyahoga County, Socialist Party over the signature of Sec. C.E. Ruthenberg. Ruthenberg seeks to bolster the subscription roll of the newspaper in order to fund its expansion. The capitalist press was poisoning the minds of the workers, both with regard to the Russian Revolution and as to the nature of the American workers’ movement itself, Ruthenberg states. “There will never be any hope for us unless we can build up newspapers pledged to the interests of the workers which will present the truth about the workers’ cause and offset the lies of the capitalist press.”.
“The Situation in Ohio,” by Eugene V. Debs. [Jan. 8, 1919] This article was written for The Ohio Socialist by Gene Debs, essentially the Socialist orator’s hometown newspaper during from the tail end of 1918 into early 1919 during the legal persecution of Debs for his Canton speech. Prohibited from public speaking outside of the court’s jurisdiction, Debs concentrated his efforts on rousing the Ohio Socialist movement. Debs portrayed the situation in the heavily industrialized state of Ohio as “extremely favorable” and noted that he was in the process of speaking to a series of large and enthusiastic crowds. ” Let me ... bid you take advantage of the present favorable situation and combine all your energies to organize thoroughly the class-conscious forces of labor for the mighty task which now confronts it,” Debs urged. Debs also noted the release from prison of leading Ohio Socialists Charles Baker, C.E. Ruthenberg, and Alfred Wagenknecht, “These comrades have been consecrated behind prison bars and will now rise to their full stature in the service of the revolutionary movement,” Debs prophetically noted.
“ International Socialist Delegates,” by Louis C. Fraina [Jan. 11, 1919] This editorial by Louis Fraina in The Revolutionary Age sharply criticizes the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party for arbitrarily appointing Algernon Lee, James Oneal, and John M. Work as delegation to a forthcoming international convention called by Camille Huysmans, while it was Morris Hillquit, Victor Berger, and Lee who had been elected delegates to an altogether different international gathering by party referendum a year previously. “The constitution of the Socialist Party provides for the election of delegates to International Socialist Conventions, it provides several ways in which they may be elected, but it does not provide that the National Executive Committee shall appoint delegates. The appointment of the present men in contrary to the constitution, it is arbitrary and it is illegal,” Fraina charges. He notes that the NEC had been previously approached by various units of the party to call an Emergency National Convention in order to give the membership an opportunity of “expressing their will on all the matters arising out of the present crisis through which the world is passing,” including the question of international affiliation and the selection of international delegates.
“Summary Results of Voting for Candidates to Membership in the Executive Committee and for Secretary of the Russian Socialist Federation.” [Jan. 15, 1919] Extract of an interesting (albeit highly esoteric) document seized by the Bureau of Investigation during the Palmer Raids of Jan. 1920—the tally sheet for the Russian Socialist Federation’s election which closed Jan. 15, 1919. Candidates were nominated by the 4th Convention of the RSF (Sept. 28-Oct. 2, 1918) and the EC was elected by referendum vote of the rank and file. The race to replace Detroit resident V. Rich as Secretary of the RSF was not close, with Oscar Tyverovsky netting 627 votes to a combined 624 for his two opponents. The two top vote- getters in the contest for the 14 CEC slots were individuals whose names have not thus far been remembered by history—Babich and Bogopolsky; Communist Party of America founder, New York DO, and Central Caucus chief George Ashkenuzi finished a respectable 3rd on the 24 name list. Two big names are missing: Russian Socialist Federation Translator- Secretary Alexander Stoklitsky was elected by the 4th Convention itself, as was Nicholas Hourwich (Nikolai Gurvich), elected editor of the Federation’s organ, Novyi Mir. [Note finally that ASHKENUZI is the correct Library of Congress transliteration of that particular surname, as opposed to the 6 or so various other ways that the name has been spelled in the literature; ditto TYVEROVSKY, using terminal -Y instead of terminal -II.]
“A New Appeal,” by John Reed [January 18, 1919] Substantial essay by famed journalist John Reed about the state of the Socialist Party and the task of the revolutionary socialist movement in America. Reed sees a dichotomy in the ranks of the SPA—“American” members of the petty bourgeoisie and intellectuals and “Foreign-born” workers and intellectuals. He states that due to its vast size and seemingly limitless resources and fluidity of social boundaries “the American worker has always believed, consciously or unconsciously, that he can become a millionaire or an eminent statesman,” no matter how far detached from reality is this premise. The American worker also views his world politically rather than economically, Reed says, having a healthy disgust for the “dirty” politicians of both the Republican and Democratic parties but viewing Socialism as an alien system “worked out in foreign countries, not born of his own particular needs and opposed to ‘democracy’ and ‘fair play,’ which is the way he has been taught to characterize the institutions of this country.” The task of the Left Wing is not to pander for support of American workers at the ballot box, but rather to go to the workers, listen to their needs, and implement a practical program which not only meets those needs but raises the workers’ thinking beyond these immediate wishes—to “make them want the whole Revolution.” It is not the ballot box but “revolutionary direct mass action” in the workplace that will bring about the Social Revolution, Reed states. He concludes that “the workers must be told that they have the force, if they will only organize it and express it; that if together they are able to stop work, no power in the universe can prevent them from doing what they want to do - if only they know what they want to do! And it is our business to formulate what they want to do.”.
“The Bolshevists: Grave-Diggers of Capitalism,” by C.E. Ruthenberg. [Jan. 29, 1919] Ruthenberg, Secretary of Local Cuyahoga Country [Cleveland], first published this article in the Jan. 29, 1919, issue of The Ohio Socialist, the official organ of the Socialist Party of Ohio. Ruthenberg poses the question whether the Russian Bolsheviks actually represented “something new”—“anarchy, ...rioting and bloodshed, wholesale murder and destruction.... the collapse of orderly society...” (as depicted in the pages of the capitalist press)—or whether it represented instead the consistent application of the established principles of Marxian Socialism. After outlining the basic tenets of Marxism, Ruthenberg argues in favor of the latter proposition, of course, stating that Bolsehevism is “Marxian Socialism in action. It is the workers on the road to victory and a better world.” Ruthenberg later served as the first Executive Secretary of the Communist Party of America.
“A View of the Trial,” by Adolph Germer. [Jan. 22, 1919] National Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party Adolph Germer (in the past a miner and United Mine Workers Union official, in the future one of the key participants in the 1919 Socialist-Communist split) briefly summarizes the results of the Trial of the Five Socialists, in which he was a leading defendant. The Guilty verdict was “disappointing though not in the least surprising,” Germer states, as the jury pool was carefully screened by the prosecution against those with any knowledge of the labor movement and in favor of those “who are instinctively hostile to us.” The trial was not of the individuals named as defendants, Germer says, but rather of the Socialist Party and its principles. Germer is unrepentant, declaring “I have nothing to regret and nothing for which to apologize. If the democracy of which we heard so much and for which we were told we entered this war can be had only through prison cells, I am willing to take my place with countless others who have been denied their liberties because of a conviction.”.
“The Background of Bolshevism,” by John Reed [Jan. 25, 1919] On Jan. 15, 1919, over 2 months after conclusion of the World War, Dr. Morris Zucker was convicted of 4 counts of violating the Espionage Act for comments made in a speech protesting soldier attacks on Socialist meetings. In this article in The Revolutionary Age, John Reed addresses the question of factuality and viability of each of Zucker’s “criminal” assertions: (1) “America is becoming today what Russia used to be in the old, old days....” (2) “Here in America they may tear the red flag from our hands, but they only implant it more firmly in our hearts....” (3)”While I confess, my friends, I claimed exemption in America, if I were in Germany or Russia I would only be too proud to fight in the first trench lines...” (i.e., in a Revolutionary Army). (4) “Yes, it is might that we are after....” (5) “Next Thanksgiving Day we will celebrated the fact that the United States recognizes the red flag as the flag of democracy....” With regard to the controversial statement that “it is might we are after,” Reed declares: “When the official organs of justice themselves disregard the law, what is there left but ‘might’? When the political ballot is canceled by the money power which corrupts or nullifies the men we elect to represent and govern us, what is there left but to oppose it with some other kind of power? When, in this ‘land of the free,’ men are sent to prison of 10 and 20 years for political offenses --punishments unparalleled in the Empire of the Russian Tsar—when conscientious objectors are tortured more fiendishly, and military offenders broken more brutally, than ever under the autocracy of the German Kaiser, what are we to do but resist?” Reed only disagrees with Zucker’s assertion that a revolution was proximate.
“Problems of American Socialism,” by Louis C. Fraina [Feb. 1919] Lengthy theoretical article by one of the leading lights of the early American Communist movement, Louis Fraina. America had become the greatest capitalist power, in Fraina’s view, with tremendous natural wealth within its borders, twice the financial wealth of its nearest competitor, Great Britain, geographic proximity that would allow it to make a play on the wealth of Central and South America, a large navy and the proven capacity to rapidly generate a large standing army. In short, Fraina declares, “American Capitalism has all the physical reserves for aggression and is becoming the gendarme of the world.” It was therefore pivotal to the world socialist movement to challenge and defeat American capitalism. This task was not being accomplished, however, due in large measure to the petty bourgeois spirit which animated both the Socialist Party and the Socialist Labor Party. These organizations were both slaves to “the illusions of democracy,” failed to aggressively participate in the industrial class struggle, failed to deliver aggressive support of the epochal Russian Revolution, and were trapped in petty bourgeois parliamentarism and anemic daily routine. Instead, it was the task of the Left Wing to revitalize the Socialist Party for the final struggle with capitalism and imperialism. “The revolutionary crisis in Europe is spreading, becoming contagious. It is admitted that if Germany becomes definitely Bolshevik, all Europe will become Bolshevik. And then? Inevitably, this will develop revolutionary currents in the United States, will develop other revolutions, will accelerate and energize the proletarian struggle. The United States will then become the center of reaction; and imperative will become our own revolutionary struggle.” The victory of socialism in America is ultimately essential for the victory of socialism on world basis, in Fraina’s view: “it is necessary that we prepare ideologically and theoretically for the final revolutionary struggle in our own country—which may come in 6 months, or in 6 years, but which will come; prepare for that final struggle which alone can make the world safe for Socialism.” Fraina urges that a revitalized Socialist Party take advantage of the future strike wave by promoting revolutionary industrial unionism, in contrast to the “reactionary trade unionism and laborism” of the Right Wing of the Socialist Party. “The problem of unionism, of revolutionary industrial unionism, is fundamental” since “the construction of an industrial state, the abolition of the political state, contains within itself the norms of the new proletarian state and the dictatorship of the proletariat,” Fraina states. “The fatal defect of our party is that there is no discussion of fundamentals, no controversy on tactics,” Fraina asserts, adding, “Let us integrate the revolutionary elements in the party, an organization for the revolutionary conquest of the party by the party!”
“The Chicago Socialist Trial,” by J. Louis Engdahl . A contemporary account of the Dec. 1918-Feb. 1919 Trial of the 5 Chicago Socialists written by one of the defendants. J. Louis Engdahl was the editor of “The American Socialist,” the official monthly periodical of the Socialist Party of America. He was convicted along with his comrades of violating the infamous Espionage Act and was sentenced to a term of 20 years imprisonment at Leavenworth Penitentiary. This material was first published in the 1919-20 edition of “The American Labor Year-Book,” published by the Rand School of Social Science.
“The Socialist Party on Trial,” by William Bross Lloyd [February 1919] An extensive report of the trial of Beger, Germer, Kruse, Engdahl, and Tucker by the financial angel of the Left Wing, published in the pages of The Liberator. The trial of the five began in Chicago on December 9, 1918, before Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis for conspiracy under the so-called Espionage Law, which Lloyd characterizes as a “clumsily subtle way of lending to the Administration the aid of the courts in enforcing the official war morality.... Criminality under this law consists of any attempt to impugn the idealistic advertisement under which the war is being imposed. And conspiracy is a joint attempt.” Lloyd provides brief character-sketches of the five principle defendants, as well as the judge and the chief accusers, District Attorney Clyne and Assistant District Attorney Fleming. He characterizes the trial as “twenty days of irritating stupidity” wrought by the prosecution, notes that the focus of the attack was on William Kruse, who as head of the Young People’s Socialist League was cast as the leading figure in a conspiracy to subvert conscripton (despite Kruse’s personal decision to register for the draft), and comments extensively on the testimony of defense witness Carl Haessler, a Socialist already convicted and imprisoned under the so-called Espionage Act whom the prosecution approached in an attempt to construct its case against Victor Berger. When the prosecution was rebuffed, retaliatory action was taken against Haessler’s wife, who lost her job as an Illinois teacher.
“The Day of the People,”; by Eugene V. Debs [Feb. 1919] “From the crown of my head to the soles of my feet I am Bolshevik, and proud of it,” famously declares Socialist Party leader Gene Debs in this article from Ludwig Lore’s quarterly magazine, The Class Struggle. Debs salutes the Left Wing Socialist leaders of Germany, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, in their struggle against “Ebert and Scheidemann and their crowd of white-livered reactionaries,” acting in concert with German reaction against the revolutionary movement in that country. Now “the battle is raging in Germany as in Russia, and the near future will determine whether revolution has for once been really triumphant or whether sudden reaction has again won the day.” says Debs. “Scheidemann and his breed do not believe that the day of the people has arrived. According to them the war and the revolution have brought the day of the bourgeoisie,” Debs notes, arguing that instead, “The people are ready for their day.... Who are the people? The people are the working class, the lower class, the robbed, the oppressed, the impoverished, the great majority of the earth. They and those who sympathize with them are the people...” Debs declares that “in Russia and Germany our valiant comrades are leading the proletarian revolution, which knows no race, no color, no sex, and no boundary lines. They are setting the heroic example for worldwide emulation. Let us, like them, scorn and repudiate the cowardly compromisers within our own ranks, challenge and defy the robber-class power, and fight it out on that line to victory or death!”
“The Yipsels and the Socialist Sedition Case: Part 1—The Prosecution’s Case,” by William F. Kruse. [Feb. 1919] One of the biggest show-trials conducted by the Wilson Administration against its radical opponents was the Trial of the Five Socialists —a group of defendants which included former Congressman and NEC member Victor L. Berger, Socialist Party National Executive Secretary Adolph Germer, Secretary of the Young People’s Socialist League William F. Kruse, Editor of the SPA’s official publications J. Louis Engdahl, and former head of the SPA’s Literature Department Irwin St. John Tucker. The five were indicted for alleged violation of the so-called “Espionage Act” on Feb. 2, 1918, and were finally brought before Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis for trial beginning on Dec. 9, 1918—nearly a month after conclusion of the war. This article on the presecutorial hijinks behind the trial was written by defendant Bill Kruse for the monthly magazine of the YPSL. This first installment of a three part series was published in the Feb. 1919 issue of The Young Socialists’ Magazine.
“Declaration to the Members of the Socialist Party of America of the Communist Propaganda League: With comments by Alexander Stoklitsky, Feb. 6, 1919.” While the nascent Left Wing of the Socialist Party of America in the years 1915 and 1916 was grouped around an organization called the Socialist Propaganda League, the Left-Right conflict was submerged under a panoply of greater issues during the years of American participation in the European war. On Nov. 7, 1918, with the war coming to a merciful close, the Left Wing’s struggle against the Regular wing of the Socialist Party erupted anew, starting with the formation of a group based in Chicago called the Communist Propaganda League (CPL). According to this statement of the CPL, the organization was launched by bringing together members of the “Bolshevist Federation of the American Socialist Party” (i.e., the Russian Federation and the various Federations comprised of nationalities of the former Russian empire) as well as “several important active members of the local Socialist movement who thoroughly agree to the program and principles of the Russian Bolsheviks.” The group is said to have been formed to discuss the current situation facing the Socialist Party and “to determine the methods and means of directing our American Socialist Party to the truly revolutionary way.” According to the program of the CPL (included here), the Socialist Party “all in all does not take into consideration to a sufficient degree the importance of mass demonstrations of the proletariat, which are the only means of leading us to the revolution,” but instead lent its support to the “pure parliamentary system.” A key element of the CPL program declared that “Socialistic propaganda must be exclusively the revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat” and demanded an end to “the use of small bourgeois reforms as a basis for the activities of the Socialist Party.” A professional, paid National Executive Committee at the head of the party, close party control over all officers and other officials, and a centralized party press and lecture bureau were also significant demands of the Communist Propaganda League. Nominal Secretary of the CPL was Isaac Ferguson, although it appears that mail was actually sent to the office of Alexander Stoklitsky, Translator-Secretary of the Russian Socialist Federation, at party headquarters in Chicago.
“The End of War,” by C.E. Ruthenberg. [Feb. 12, 1919] This article by the Secretary of Local Cuyahoga County, Socialist Party was published in the official organ of the Socialist Party of Ohio. In it Ruthenberg addresses the proposed League of Nations— specifically its claim that it will be an institution able to abolish future wars. While acknowledging the desire of the capitalist class to avert destructive wars and the revolutions which they may well precipitate, Ruthenberg states that the division of the non-industrial world into “mandatories” would do nothing to alleviate the “inexorable conditions of capitalist production” that causes capitalist powers to compete for foreign markets. “In spite of all the machinery of arbitration and conciliation” the capitalist countries would be driven “to an appeal to arms in the struggle for survival,” Ruthenberg says. He contrasts this with a system in which the full product is appropriated by the workers producing it, which would have no innate dynamic to secure foreign markets, with its products either consumed, traded to other countries for necessary products produced elsewhere, or production contracted through the reduction of working hours.
“What Is the ‘Left Wing’ Movement and Its Purpose?” by Edward Lindgren. [Feb. 1919] Lindgren, one of the organizers of the Left Wing section of the Socialist Party in New York City, outlines a brief history of the faction in this article published in Louis Fraina and Ludwig Lore’s theoretical journal, The Class Struggle. Lindgren contends that while factions had long existed inside the SPA, firm dividing lines were not drawn up until 1912, when the Right Wing won firm control of the party apparatus and launched a purge around the “sabotage” clause of the party constitution. The test of the 1914 war and failure of the party leadership to act in a principled manner led to an alienation of the rank and file membership of the party, which demanded and received an Emergency Convention in 1917 to declare its antimilitarist principles in no uncertain terms. The violent splits of the socialist movement in Germany (majority socialists/Spartacists) and Russia (Mensheviks/Bolsheviks) made the situation in the American party clear to “almost anyone who understands the theory of the class struggle.” The “Left Wing” group was thus “the logical outcome of a dissatisfied membership—a membership that has been taught by the revolutionary activities of the European movements ‘to compromise is to lose,’” says Lindgren. Includes a “Tentative Program” and “Immediate Demands” of the Left Wing section.
Manifesto of the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party of America: As Modified by Local Cuyahoga County, Socialist Party [Feb. 1919]. The Manifesto of the Left Wing Section is the fundamental theoretical document of the American Communist movement, an analysis and program that was systematically promoted by an organized faction within the Socialist Party of America intent on moving that party’s orientation from the electoral to the revolutionary socialist path. The original document was collective work written in early February 1919, attributed by the historian Theodore Draper to the pens of Bertram Wolfe and John Reed, then extensively revised by Louis C. Fraina. Whatever its origin, this document was further extensively revised before being published in the pages of The Ohio Socialist on Feb. 26, 1919. Whether these changes were rendered by C.E. Ruthenberg, Alfred Wagenknecht, or some other figure in the Cleveland Socialist Party organization remains unknown—although Ruthenberg would certainly seem the most likely candidate. The version reprinted here compares the text of the “official” New York variation with the revisions made in the document as published in Ohio.
“Report on IWW or Bolsheviki Activities in the District of Massachusetts to William E. Allen, Acting Chief of the Bureau of Investigation in Washington,” by Boston BoI Informant J.S. Peterson [Feb. 13, 1919] This document summarizes Bureau of Investigation reports on “recent developments in the IWW situation in this district”—actually the doings of the revolutionary Socialist movement rather than syndicalist unionists. Individuals reported upon hailing from the Boston area included Louis C. Fraina, Eadmonn MacAlpine, Ludwig Lore, Gregory Weinstein, Nick Hourwich, Santeri Nuorteva, and Peter P. Cosgrove. Publications briefly mentioned include The Revolutionary Age (English), Il Pensiero (Italian), A Luz (Portuguese), Atbalss (Latvian), and Raivaaja (Finnish). Additional coverage is given for the Eastern, Southeastern, and Western regions of Massachusetts. Informant Peterson indicates that the “deportation of leaders may not solve the whole problem of industrial unrest,” instead advocating a betterment of working conditions, housing, and recreational opportunities for the workers. Peterson states that he “has felt very keenly, on attending the various meetings in which the audience was largely foreign born, that to these people the radical meetings, instituted by the local socialists, and charging no admission, were a real enjoyment, purely from the opportunity it gave them on their free day to mingle with their own kind and enjoy the program. It seemed, therefore, that if the trouble had been taken on the part of the community, or some local organization, other than the radical elements, to provide such an afternoon, that the audience might have been as receptive to more healthy doctrines than those promulgated at these meetings.”
“Is the ‘Left Wing’ Right? A Letter to the Editor of The New York Call, March 4, 1919,” by Cameron King. The 1919 faction fight within the Socialist Party in general, and the Socialist Party of Greater New York in particular, was wound up in matters of personality, position, and power. This is a rare serious critique of the ideology of the opposite camp by one of the leaders of the New York Socialist Party establishment. King is critical of the contention in the Left Wing manifesto that the Socialist Party should eliminate reform planks from its platform limit itself to agitation for a complete revolutionary overturn of capitalism. He argues that the transition to Socialism will almost certainly be a long and protracted process, with initial victories in cities and several industrial states prior to the achievement of control of Congress and the Presidency by the Socialist Party. In the interval, the Socialist Party must actively improve the lot of the working class, or face defeat at the polls amidst charges of betrayal. Further, King cites a recent pamphlet by Lenin to validate his assertion that there is a roll for the political action of the central state in the administration and control of industry and distribution even after the revolutionary turnover of state power. The “Left Wing” doctrine on political action is inadequate and must be rejected because it does not recognize this essential policy of the pre-revolutionary socialist movement and the post-revolutionary state, King argues.
“Manifesto of the Workers’, Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Farmers’ Council of Buffalo and Erie County.” [adopted March 4, 1919] On March 4, 1919, a short-lived Soviet called the “Workers’, Soldiers’, Sailors’, and Farmer’s Council” was established in Buffalo, New York, producing this manifesto on behalf of 35,000 unemployed workers of the area. A set of “immediate demands” are put forward, including institution of the 4-hour workday; the abolition of the collection of rent, taxes, and interest from unemployed workers; and the provision of office space and meeting halls for use of the Soviet. These were presented as transitional to “the ultimate aim”—“the only solution to prevent a nationwide revolution is to make provision for plans to socialize all industries of America.” A nationwide call was to be issued to all workers to organize on the same plan as the Buffalo Soviet. A total of 38,000 copies of this document were produced and distributed.
“Letter to Eugene V. Debs in Terre Haute from Ludwig Lore in New York City, March 5, 1919.” Letter from Ludwig Lore, first among equals on the editorial board of The Class Struggle, to his new, albeit nominal, co-editor Gene Debs. Lores asks whether Debs might be able to contribute and article “on some American topic” for the forthcoming issue. “I suggest an American subject because I sometimes fear that The Class Struggle is rather in danger of treating too exclusively with the revolutions of Russia and Germany, without sufficient application to conditions at home,” Lore says. Lore offers his opinion on the burgeoning Left Wing movement in the Socialist Party: “You know, of course, that ‘Left Wing’ organizations are springing up everywhere in the party. Although I am in full agreement, as you know, with the fundamental principles that prompt these organizations, I personally feel that at this time they constitute a grave danger, not only to the party, but tot he very cause for which they are being created. So far as I have been able to discover, the membership of our party is radically inclined and will support the revolutionary position. But the propagation by organizations such as these within the party must inevitably, I feel, bring about a split in the movement. A split that will, moreover, not strengthen, but weaken revolutionary socialism in America by driving the rank and file into the arms of Right Wing leaders as a protest against the methods of the more radical minority.” The Socialist Publication Society was to hold a meeting in a few days to determine its formal position towards the Left Wing movement. Later, when the feared split of the Socialist Party became a reality, Lore turned over The Class Struggle to the fledgling Communist Labor Party, which retained him on the Editorial Board for what proved to be one final issue.
“The Growth of the Left Wing,” by Maximilian Cohen [March 8, 1919] A fascinating brief recounting of the history of the Left Wing Section of Local New York by the organized faction’s Secretary, Max Cohen, who was present at the creation. Cohen notes that there had long been a Left-Right division in the Socialist Party of New York, dating back to the days before the world war. The betrayal of International Socialism by the Social Democratic parties of the Second International on the one hand, and the victory of the Bolshevik Revolution on the other, had energized and accelerated the pre-existing division. The support of the New York Socialist Aldermen for the Liberty Loan spurred the struggle between the Left and Right in the New York SPA, and trench lines were dug over efforts of the Left to discipline or formally criticize Conrgressman London for his war position. When a joint meeting of New York City Committees called to address the Aldermanic situation was sabotaged by Julius Gerber, as chairman of the meeting, a walkout ensured. “These delegates and comrades crowded in the corridor and forced Comrade [George] Goebel to give them a meeting room, a thing which he at first refused to do. There the Left Wing Section had its birth as an organization,” Cohen states. A 14 member committee was elected to draft a temporary manifesto and program. An all-day convention was called for Feb. 15, 1919, and it was on that day that the Left Wing Section was formally launched, with the Manifesto and Program revised for publication, organizational rules adopted, officers elected, and The Revolutionary Age certified as the official organ of the group.
“Left Wing Are Distruptionists,” by Joseph Gollomb. [March 12, 1919] Text of a long letter to the Editor of The New York Call, in which SPA member Joseph Gollomb attacts the ideology and tactics of the Left Wing Section and its leaders in the struggle for control of the party apparatus in New York City. Gollomb charges that the so-called “Left Wing Section” is an internal enemy of the Socialist Party, “the spirit and purpose of old Michael Bakunin.” These “anarchists, IWWs, and SLPs” have flocked into the SPA “not out of conversion, but with blackjacks behind their backs. They have organized a body within the party, with delegates from different branches, Central Committees, Executive Committees, State Committees, a National Committee, constitution, and membership cards, part for part with the organization of the party proper, with mandates on their members to be carried out at the meetings of the party.” Gollomb cites concrete examples of Left Wing tactics at SP branch meetings, with specific charges directed at Nicholas Hourwich and Jim Larkin. Gollomb advises immediate action to stop the seizure of the party by an organized minority.
“A Left Wing—And Why: A Statement of Cause and Effect,” by N.S. Reichenthal [March 12, 1919] A lengthy and intelligent letter to the editor of the New York Call seeking a measured and open-minded approach to the emerging Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party. Reichenthal states that he is neither with the Left Wing and the “state within a state” in the Socialist Party nor a blind, epithet-spewing “loyalist.” To these latter, “all those who are crudely attempting to change or modify party policy and tactics are rank disrupters, anarchists, or syndicalists” to be purged—a mentality which Reichenthal believes is akin to the anti-liberal patriotic frenzy of the war years or the sectarian Socialist Labor Party regime in the factional war of 1899-1900: “Therefore, comrades, let’s stop talking nonsense and imitating DeLeon and our own dear Security League. Let’s discuss principles and tactics, not personalities and hare-brained metaphysics.” Reichenthal states that the platform of the Socialist Party from 1900 to the one adopted in 1917 became steadily more “practical,” to the point where “all reference to internationalism, to the party itself being the ‘Left Wing’ of the international proletariat striving to overthrow the capitalist state, is entirely eliminated.” Combined with opportunistic local platforms and less-than-stellar performance in office by elected Socialist officials has been “disappointing and very disheartening, and seem to justify the conclusions arrived at by some that mere parliamentary action as encouraged and practiced by the Socialist Party is a snare and a delusion.” On the trade union front “we became mere apologists for Gompers’ unionism, and our policy compelled us to keep silent or defend many rotten deeds on the part of certain unions and their officials,” resulting in the factional war of 1912-13 and the departure of thousands of supporters of the IWW and revolutionary industrial unionism. The Left Wing Section emerged as a direct response—cause and effect—to these factors. Reichenthal states that he has changed his own mind on these things since “we live in the midst of the revolution. Only action, revolutionary action, counts” and “the Russian Bolsheviki have demonstrated what a resolute, though ‘ignorant,’ proletariat and peasantry can do.” Reichenthal calls for an honest discussion of the merits of the argument of the Left Wing Section rather than mechanically resorting to “parliamentary tricks” or “reorganization” to stifle dissent in the manner of Daniel DeLeon.
“Jobless Face Shotguns in Hands of Police: Meeting of Unemployed in Niagara Square is Ruthlessly Suppressed: Soldiers’, Sailors’, Workers’ and Farmers’ Council Denied Right of Assemblage—Many Thousands of Hungry Toilers Throng Streets Converging on McKinley Monument.” [events of March 6-10, 1919] The confrontation between the civic authorities of Buffalo, New York and the short-lived Buffalo Soviet proved to be a one-sided affair, as is documented in this article from The New Age, weekly organ of Local Buffalo, Socialist Party. A demonstration was called by the Workers’ Council for March 10, 1919, to be held at the McKinley Monument in Niagara Square, downtown. The gathering was announced in advance in a letter to Mayor George S. Buck (reproduced here), and a request for facilities for a meeting of the demonstrators was made; Local Buffalo, Socialist Party was called into action to facilitate the demonstration on behalf of the Soviet’s organizing committee. However, no such accommodation was made and the meeting of the Buffalo Soviet was banned by the city council and Mayor Buck, and a cordon of shotgun-bearing policemen were dispatched to prevent the planned meeting. Although thousands of workers milled in the streets surrounding the plaza in response to the distribution of 38,000 leaflets announcing the meeting (an unlikely estimate of 40,000 is reported here), police prevented a concentration at the plaza with little trouble or opposition.
“After the War—What?” by C.E. Ruthenberg [serialized Dec. 1918-March 1919] Serialized over a 3 month period, this article represents the longest single work written by Cleveland Left Wing Socialist leader C.E. Ruthenberg—rightfully remembered by history as a skilled organizational administrator rather than a theoretician. Written originally for the Ohio Socialist (complete runs of which have not survived), this work was preserved en toto as a reprint in the Buffalo, NY New Age. Ruthenberg argues that “the halo of capitalism has been smashed by the war” and the de facto socialist organization of key industries by government due to wartime expedience had shattered the myth of the economic structure’s permanence and unchangeability. A widespread demand had emerged for a fundamental retooling of American economic society in the immediate postwar period—a program of the working class opposed by a capitalist class which sought a restoration of the economy to the status quo ante bellum. Ruthenberg outlines at length the instability, inefficiency, and injustice of the old capitalist form of organization and contrasts the efficiency of wartime collectivism, to which Ruthenberg proposes the addition of democratic social control. Ruthenberg declares that the government’s action during the war with regard to the transportation and communications industries had demonstrated the correctness of the Left Wing Socialist declaration that “When we get ready to take over the industries, we’ll just take them”—this was exactly what the government had done during wartime, according to Ruthenberg, albeit temporarily. Whether the former owners of industry were compensated with Liberty bonds to be taxed out of existence in 10 years or industry to be expropriated without compensation was a matter of little import to Ruthenberg. He asserts: “Industry must no longer be conducted as a private business for profit, but must become a coordinated, collective process for the purpose of supplying human needs and comforts. Such a transformation can only be accomplished by taking the ownership of the national resources and means of production and distribution out of the hands of the present owners and vesting the ownership in the people collectively.” Ruthenberg soft-pedals his belief in the ultimate necessity of revolution as opposed to parliamentarism to achieve the fundamental reorganization of the economy, only noting in his final installment that “the idea that Socialism would be established through a series of legislative acts extending possibly over a decade or two, has been shown to be an illusion. Socialism will not be legislated into existence but will be established by a mass movement of the workers in the industries. The legislative acts will merely give the accomplished fact the stamp of approval as the will of the majority. The struggle of the working class will henceforth be a political struggle for control of the state because it must gain control of the government before it can hope to establish democracy in industry.”
“’Parliamentarism’ and ‘Political Action,’” by Jay Lovestone and William Weinstone. [March 17, 1919] Former City College of New York Young People’s Socialist League leaders Jay Lovestone and William Weinstone co-authored this lengthy letter to the New York Call in response to New York Socialist leader Cameron King’s critique of the Left Wing Manifesto published earlier in those pages. Lovestone and Weinstone conceive of the radical movement as being divided between “moderates” and “socialists.” The pair conclude that “the moderate contends that the industries can be socialized by means of the present bourgeois state... Our conception of socialist political control is, to quote Marx, ‘a transition period, in which the state cannot be anything else but a dictatorship of the proletariat.’ We hold with the Communist Manifesto that ‘the proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of this state—i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class.’... It is not by attempting to solve the insolvable, capitalism’s contradictions, but by ‘teaching, propagating, and agitating exclusively for the overthrow of capitalism and the necessity of instituting of the proletarian dictatorship’ that socialism can be attained!”.
“’Wants a Conference,” by J. Codkind [March 18, 1919] Letter to the Editor of The New Yok Call in reply to the long March 12 letter of Joseph Gollomb. Codkind, a Left Wing member of New York City’s 17th Assembly District Branch states that Gollomb is a purveyor of inaccuracies, indicating that attendance at business meetings of the the 17th AD Branch had increased rather than decreased over 1918 and that no business had been conducted by the Left Wing in the wee hours. Codkind states: “Undoubtedly, there have been unfair tactics employed. In my opinion, this is much more prevalent among the Right Wingers than the Lefts, but both sides are equally guilty. Why people on both sides - undoubtedly honest and sincere in their convictions - should descent to the use of these methods is more than I can understand... Let us stop calling each other names. Let us act like real men, and not like kids. Let us face the absolute fact - that both sides are honest and sincere. Let us try to calm ourselves; and let both sides elect or select about five delegates to hold a conference through which our differences may be settled without a party split.” Codkind suggests that the delegates to such a conference might be chosen by the factional caucuses of the Central Committee of Local New York.
Letter to Morris Hillquit in Upstate New York from Adolph Germer in Chicago, March 22, 1919.” Historians of American Communism running the gamut from Theodore Draper to William Z. Foster have depicted Morris Hillquit as the master puppeteer behind the expulsions, suspensions, and split of the Socialist Party in 1919. As this letter from SPA National Executive Secretary Adolph Germer indicates, Hillquit was actually out of the loop during the critical months of 1919—at a sanitarium at Saranac Lake, New York, recovering from a bout of tuberculosis. Rather than the far-seeing General calling all the shots, Hillquit was resting and recuperating, receiving periodic updates of information by mail. In this letter, Germer notes that since the imprisoned Eugene Debs was $1400 in debt, the Socialist Party would be retaining him on the payroll at the rate of $50 a week, with periodic articles promised and some small chance of eventual repayment. Germer also expresses surprise at Kate O’Hare’s decision to accept nomination for International Secretary and run against Hillquit in the 1919 SPA election, a reversal of her expressed opinion of a fortnight earlier. Germer also updated Hillquit on the plans of the Left Wing section, noting that based on information received from New York party leader Julius Gerber, “they are making a well organized campaign to capture the district. What is true of District 1 is true of every other district. The impossiblists are determined to capture the party. If they cannot do it by capturing the National Executive Committee, they intend to do it in convention. As usual, they have no sense of responsibility and are of the opinion that the all important thing is to ‘propagate,’ regardless of consequences.”.
“Letter to S.J. Rutgers in Moscow from unknown New York correspondent ‘F.’ with note from Ludwig Martens in New York, March 21 & 24, 1919.” This is a fascinating handwritten archival document rescued from illegibility, written by an adherent of the Left Wing Section with a name initial” F.” (not Fraina) to Seybold Rutgers, in Moscow for the founding of the Communist International.” F.” notes that the Socialist Propaganda League had been terminated, replaced by an organized Left Wing Section, which would be transmitting credentials to Rutgers to serve as its delegate to the founding convention. ” F.” notes that he had asked the” International Relations Committee of the Left Wing Section” for a brief outline history, which is included here in full. This history notes that the Manifesto of the Left Wing had its roots in a February 15, 1919, convention in New York City. A postscript is added by Ludwig Martens noting” Since my appointment with all my heart and soul I am in the work. Doubtless we shall have results very soon.” Martens adds that” We need all information in regard to your needs in machinery, supplies, etc. I think we will have the best chances in the world to create here a great organization which will be of greatest use for economical development of Russia.”
“Proposal Ambiguous and Incomplete,” by Algernon Lee. [March 29, 1919] Letter to the Editor of the New York Call by Lee, a founding member of the Socialist Party of America and leading figure of the New York constructive socialist faction. Lee takes issue with a proposal made by 13 members of the New York Left Wing for a reasoned settlement of party differences rather than proceeding down the path of mudslinging and factional trench warfare. Lee accuses the 13 of having advanced a “creed” and a “statement of ready-made conclusions,” of being “ambiguous and incomplete” in their demand to eliminate all social reform planks from the party platform, and of sidestepping the fundamental questions of whether America would face a revolutionary crisis in the near future and whether a majority of the populus would support the program of a revolutionized Socialist Party in the crisis. If the crisis were instead to be fought between a revolutionary minority and a reactionary minority, Lee states that there was no consideration of which side was apt to win, and based upon that likelihood, whether the revolutionary crisis was to be sought or avoided by the party.
“An Evening’s Experience,” by Max Schonberg. [March 31, 1919] An interesting and rather illuminating first-hand report of hardball tactics employed at a March meeting of the 3rd-5th-10th AD Branch of Local New York, with “Big Jim” Larkin in the chair. Schonberg is sharply critical of Larkin’s “shameful tirade of cheap, personal abuse” directed towards Joseph Gollomb, who had the floor representing a contrary position for 10 or 15 minutes. Larkin is also criticized for failing to follow correct rules of parliamentary procedure and for speaking against a motion made by 15 or so regular members against the Left Wing leadership of the branch, during the course of which “he began a vicious attack of bitter invective and vituperation upon each of the individuals whose names were appended to it.” Later, Larkin is said to have rushed down from the platform with the intent of beating up Gollumb.
“Party Tactics,” by Morris Zucker. [March 31, 1919] Letter to the Editor of the New York Call from Zucker, a prominent member of the Left Wing Section. Zucker is encouraged at what he sees as “almost unanimous acclaim” of the Left Wing Manifesto by the rank and file of the Socialist Party. He sees, however, a “Centrist element” which adheres to the Left Wing program but who “are opposed to the tactics of the Left Wing within the party as likely to cause a split in the organization.” Loyalty to principle must take precedence over loyalty to the SP organization, Zucker contends, and a split on programmatic lines appears inevitable: “if, after making every honest and honorable effort, the Socialist Party does not, in substance, accept the program of the Left Wing, then it becomes the solemn duty of the Left Wing to organize a new party upon the basis of its principles and program. The party is merely an instrument for the accomplishment of a certain end, and not an end in itself.” Zucker challenges the Right and Center factions to call a general party meeting of the various locals of Greater New York to debate the question, “Resolved: That the Socialist Party shall endorse and adopt the manifesto of the Left Wing as an expression of its principles and policies.”.
“Resolution Passed by the 3rd Congress of the Ukrainian Federation of the Socialist Party of America: New York, NY—April 1919.” This unanimous resolution of the April 1919 convention of the Ukrainian Federation of the Socialist Party proclaims that the Federation has “denounced in the past, we denounce now, and shall continue to denounce in the future, all groups and all parties which defend the old and corrupt social order.”Expressing pride in the Bolshevik revolution, the Federation insists “we unreservedly adhere to the Ukrainian (and international) Communist-Bolshevik Party. We shall continue to support it as the sole representative of revolutionary aspirations, as the only party competent to free the workers of all lands and all races from the heavy yoke of capitalism, as the only party which, upon the ruins of existing society, will be able to upbuild the new order, the resplendent and just order of Communism... We hold ourselves ready to fight in person as soon as we shall have overcome the obstacles put in our way by our powerful enemies.
All hail to the universal revolution!”
“Letter to the Left Wing Section of Greater New York from Amy Colyer, Assistant Secretary pro tempore of Local Boston, Socialist Party regarding The Revolutionary Age, April 1, 1919.” Esoteric letter from a responsible authority of Local Boston, Socialist Party—publishers of the main organ of the Left Wing Section, The Revolutionary Age —to the Left Wing Section of New York, which sought the move of the publication to that more important center. Colyer relates the results of a resolution passed the previous evening by Local Boston which stated “Local Boston intends to keep The Revolutionary Age in Boston, until a National Convention of Left Wing organizations shall be held. Organizations taking part in said convention should agree with the tactics of Bolshevik Russia and the Left Wing Manifesto as published in the March 22  issue of The Revolutionary Age. Delegates in said Convention should have voting power in proportion to membership represented. Local Boston intends to turn over the paper to the executive body elected by such Convention.” (The publication was in fact moved to New York City after the June Conference of the Left Wing, where it was merged with John Reed and Ben Gitlow’s New York Communist, effective with the issue of July 5, 1919.)
“Toledo CrowdCompels Release of Socialist Speakers: Audience Aroused Because Denied Freedomof Speech Disarm Policeman and Marches on Police Station.” [events of March 30, 1919] News report of a little-known event of the turbulentyear 1919 — a near-riot in Toledo, Ohio, caused when the mayor arbitrarilydecided to deny Eugene Debs uses of a city auditorium which had been rented outto a local union and transferred to the use of the Socialist Party. Even thoughDebs was ill in Akron and unable to make the trip, the facility was locked up bythe city administration. A great mass of people, unable to attend an indoorrally at which state organizer Charles Baker was to speak, moved to a city parknearby — where they were met by virtually the entire Toledo policedepartment, who began arresting one person after another as they mounted theMcKinley Monument and began to speak. The crowd swelled to as many as 10,000people and grew more and more restive as the Socialists decided to take a standfor free speech by sending an endless list of speakers to the front, thusfilling the jail and force the issues. Over 70 people were arrested and policecontrol of the vast throng was slipping. To avert a riot, the cityadministration negotiated with Socialist leaders, who insisted upon the releaseof all those arrested in exchange for their work to pacify the mob. The mayormade this concession and the mood of the crowd was turned from anger tojubilation at the free speech victory won.
“EnemyOutside, Not Inside: A Letter to the Editor of the New York Call, April 7,1919,” by William M. Feigenbaum Socialist Party journalistWilliam Feigenbaum writes to editor of the New York SP daily announcing that hehad now taken a position in the “Left Wing” controversy that wassweeping the party—in support of the “Regular” faction.Feigenbaum sarcastically remarks of the “Left Wing” that“most of them are such veterans in the movement, with such a record offully six months each...that they must of necessity know all about us. Theyknow that we are hidebound, reactionary, bourgeois, and no good generally. Howdo they know it? From our actions? Our thoughts? Our records? No. There is abetter test. We are old-fashioned enough to care for the party that has meantso much to us. That is inexcusable to them. We have the illusive fetish of‘unity’ and they (or many of them) in their superior way, will haveus understand that there is something better than unity. And that is, jammingdown an artificial ‘program’ at all costs—even at the cost ofwrecking the movement, if they can accomplish it in no other way.”Feigenbaum asserts that the Socialist Party will stand upon the principles ofclass struggle and anti-militarism, but sees the Left Wing as comprised ofnewcomers who do not know the temper of the Socialist Party and who are intenton provoking a needless split. “Is this difference of opinion asufficient basis for the wild accusations and countercharges that we aretreated with today? I think not. And the vast majority of the comrades thinknot. The enemy is outside. Not inside,” Feigenbaum states.
“Sidelightson Toledo Free Speech Fight,” by Thomas Devine [events ofMarch 30, 1919] Valuable participant’s memoir of the March 30, 1919 DebsRally Gone Awry in Toledo, Ohio. City Councilman Devine provides a colorfuldescription of the events of the afternoon and evening, which was apparentlytriggered when the police interpreted a ban on Debs’ use of a cityauditorium as a ban on the constitutional right of Toledo Socialists toassemble and speak. When a Socialist soldier named Frank Serafin was roughlyarrested by the police, the mood of the crowd turned hostile. Devine andSecretary of Local Toledo, Socialist Party, Frank Toohey were the twoindividuals with whom the city negotiated at the 11th hour to avert the riotwhich they nearly created. Devine characterizes the crowd as both orderly anddisciplined and blames the trouble on Mayor Schreiber’s poor decision toban the Socialists as well as the local police for their unconstitutionalbehavior and excessive tactics. The jubilee in the streets with the freedsoldier Frank Serafin hoisted aloft as a hero of liberty is characterized byDevine as the end to “a perfect day.” A letter from the mayor tothe Toledo Safety Director is appended in which Schreiber in which he statesthat “The order issued from the executive department closed Memorial Hallto Eugene V. Debs, but that was the full extent of the order” and thatpolice had overstepped their authority by attempting to ban the further outdoormeeting of the Socialists, noting the “right of free speech is afundamental right, clearly guaranteed by the constitution of the United States,and one to be jealously guarded. It prevails everywhere, both in public and inprivate places.”
“A Reply to Algernon Lee: Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by Moses Oppenheimer [April 3, 1919] Veteran Socialist Moses Oppenheimer responds to Algernon Lee’s critique of the “Basis for Discussion” Letter to the New York Call, of which Oppenheimer was a signatory. He declares that “under the opportunistleadership of men like Hillquit, Berger, Ghent, and Robert Hunter, the strugglefor [ameliorative] reforms has gradually overshadowed and supplanted the demandfor the abolition of wage slavery. More and more it has resulted in pettytactics for vote catching. Berger’s Old Age Pension bill was a glaringexhibit of opportunist incapacity.” Oppenheimer argues that the worshipof the ballot by the SP “opportunists” ignores the fact that halfof the working class in America is disfranchised through lack of citizenship.“This lame policy of the opportunists follows logically from their desireto be considered safe and sane and respectable,” Oppenheimer declares,adding “The old roar of opportunism led us nowhere, except to barrenfailure.... The time for picayune politics is irrevocably gone.”
“Socialist Party Tactics and Policies: A Speech at Hunt’s PointPalace, Bronx, NY -- April 4, 1919,” by Louis Waldman NewYork Assemblyman Louis Waldman, a staunch adherent of the SP Regular faction,shared a platform in the Bronx with Left Winger Benjamin Gitlow at a meetingcalled to moot the factional controversy in the party. A stenographer waspresent to preserve these speeches -- Waldman’s later being reprinted amonth later in the factional newspaper the New York Socialist, edited by DavidBerenberg. Waldman presents a well-ordered summary of the Party Regulars’view of the controversy. Waldman denies he is a “Right Winger,”adding “To my knowledge there is no such thing. I am aware of the factthat there is a group who organized and call themselves the ‘LeftWing.’ There is the Socialist Party and this so-called ‘LeftWing.’” He ironically asks of his factional opponents: “Yousay the Socialist Party did not captivate the imagination of the workersbecause it was not revolutionary enough. Very well; what was the remedy? If weare weak because we have not been revolutionary enough, why is it that the SLP,claiming to be the 100% revolutionary article, has not only failed to captivatethe imagination of the working class, but has gone down to ruin?” Waldmanadds only 3 million of 18 million industrial wage-workers are unionized and asks“if the only reason the some 15 million workers are not organized isbecause the AF of L is not revolutionary, what about the Industrial Workers ofthe World? Why has it not crystallized this industrial revolutionary movement?The IWW had since 1905 to do it. Heaven knows they were not short onrevolutionary phrases, if that is what the American working class wants.”Waldman states that there is no revolution in sight and that only by fightingfor immediate demands to correct the most grievous deficiencies of capitalismcan the workers be won to the socialist movement. “I want to tell youcynical comrades we live in a time when we have not got the courage to facereality and our own convictions. We live in a time when we are afraid to listento the truth. We deliver revolutionary speeches in a time when we cannot trainourselves in revolutionary action.... That is what the party is sufferingfrom.” He advises that “if our platform is not revolutionaryenough, if our resolutions are not revolutionary enough, the thing to do is notto destroy the party, but to change them, as party members, within the party,and not as an outside organization foisting its will on the party.”
“Open Letter toLouis C. Fraina in Boston from Adolph Germer in Chicago,” published April 2, 1919. Testy reply of Socialist Party Executive SecretaryAdolph Germer to comments levied against him by Louis Fraina in the March 8,1919 issue of The Revolutionary Age. Germer declares that “It is athousand times easier to circulate a falsehood, and create distrust, than it isto instill confidence in the honesty and integrity of those who have beenselected, wisely or unwisely, to administer the affairs of the Socialist Party.It seems to be human nature to believe that persons in official party positionsalways have ‘ulterior motives.’ There are also persons who regardit as a greater duty to carry on an internal quarrel, regardless of theconsequences to the movement, than to enlist new converts to our cause.”He outlines his personal opposition to an Emergency National Convention of theSPA in 1919, citing factors of cost and a previously planned platform andnominating convention in 1920. Germer states that Fraina’s assertion thatGermer had administratively disqualified the referendum motion of Local QueensCounty, NY to hold a 1919 convention was erroneous. He also indicates that theSocialist Party’s effort to reach out to other organizations to generatemass pressure upon the Wilson regime to “regain victims for the wartimevictims” (a United Front action, it should be noted) was a higherpriority than holding a national convention to take a stand on internationalissues. Germer further indicates that the call for the convention is rather amatter of factional power-politics, writing “One of the champions of theconvention idea put it very bluntly the other day when he said: ‘We wantto see who is boss in the party.’ Others have expressed it moretactfully.”
“BoI Agent Account of a Mass Meeting of the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party: Minneapolis, MN,” by Frank O. Pelto [April 13, 1919] This document chronicles the debut meeting of the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party in Minneapolis on April 13, 1919. On the motion of Latvian socialist Charles Dirba (later Executive Secretary of the Communist Party of America), a committee was elected to arrange a mass meeting in honor of May Day 1919, “and if possible a demonstration.” World war veterans in the party were to be appealed to to march in uniform in the parade in an effort to preempt police repression of the march. Next on the agenda at this meeting of about 75 Twin Cities Socialists was consideration of a Left Wing Manifesto, called the “Resolution of the Left Wing of the Twin Cities” (reproduced in full here). This resolution made the following “General” demands: (1) Revolution, nor Reform; (2) Revolutionary Mass Action, not mere Parliamentarism. (3) No Compromise in or out of the Party; (4) Dictatorship of the Proletariat, not Constituent Assemblies or Coalition Government; and (5) International Working Class Solidarity and Struggle Against the Capitalist Class at All Times, not limited by any nationalistic considerations. The resolution was passed and then Dirba addressed the gathering on the subject of the difference between “the so-called Left Wing Movement and the so-called Reform Socialists.” According to Pelto, “another speaker took the floor who put a little dissension in the ranks by stating that the Left Wing Movement was drifting away from the principles upon which Socialism was built.” Dirba answered by matching Marx quotation with Marx quotation. A.L. Sugarman was then given the floor, and he characterized Dirba’s opponent as a “2-by-4 Non-Partisan Leaguer,” provoking hostile comment and leading to the meeting adjourning in a state of disorder.
“New York StateCommittee, Socialist Party Holds Annual Meeting: Walter Cook Elected StateSecretary—Locals Affiliating with Left Wing Have ChartersRevoked—Asks National Convention.” [held April 13,1919] Account of the seminal April 1919 annual meeting of the New York StateCommittee, which effectively made affiliation with the Left Wing Section aparty crime meriting expulsion. The key resolution was proposed by David P.Berenberg of Local Queens County, calling for the State Executive Committee torevoke the charter of any local affiliating with the Left Wing Section of theSocialist Party or permitting any of its affiliated branches to do likewise.Berenberg’s proposal spurred hours of heated debate, with the PartyRegular faction winning the test of strength with the Left Wingers by a vote of24-17, with 2 abstentions. The meeting also elected Walter Cook of the Bronx asState Secretary and a new State Executive Committee, consisting of TheresaMalkiel of New York; Simon Berlin, New York; Herbert Merrill, Schenectady;Nicholas Aleinikoff, New York; Esther Friedman, Bronx; James Sheehan, Albany;F.A. Ariand, Albany; Jacob Hillquit, New York; and Julius Gerber, New York. Agroup of resolutions on contemporary issues, reprinted here, were alsopassed.
“New York StateCommittee, Socialist Party Resolution on the Left Wing Section, Adopted April13, 1919.” On April 13, 1919, the State Committee of theSocialist Party of New York gathered in Albany for its annual meeting. Aresolution was proposed by David Berenberg of Local Kings County whichdenounced and effectively banned the Left Wing Section as an organization“in violation of the spirit of the constitution.” The New YorkState Executive Committee was instructed by Berenberg’s resolution to“revoke the charter of any local that affiliates with any suchorganization or that permits its sub-divisions or members to be soaffiliated.” A heated debate followed which continued until 4:30 pm, withthe final tally showing 24 in favor, 17 opposed, and 2 abstaining. This decisionpaved the way for a factional civil war in the Socialist Party of New York,which erupted immediately.
“Socialists of Buffalo as One Man Swing Over to Left: The Largest Meeting of Party Members Ever Held Endorses Program Promulgated by Left Wing of Local New York.” [event of April 13, 1919] This article from Buffalo Socialist Party weekly The New Age chronicles the move of the Buffalo party into the ranks of the fledgling Left Wing movement at a meeting held April 13, 1919. A special meeting held to consider the Left Wing program of Local New York, which was approved by a unanimous vote according to the article. The resolution sought the elimination of social reform agenda, declaring instead that “the party must teach, propagate, and agitate exclusively for the overthrown of capitalism, and the establishment of Socialism through a proletarian dictatorship.” Demands were made for a party-owned press, repudiation of the Berne international in favor of a new international incorporating the Bolshekiks of Russia and the Spartacans of Germany, and for the immediate convocation of an Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party.
“RevolutionaryRomanticists: Letter to the Editor of the New YorkCall.” by Ralph Korngold [April 14, 1919] This letterto the New York Call by well-known SPA Regular Ralph Korngold attacks“certain literary gentlemen in New York, Boston, and elsewhere” fortheir impatient desire to immediately conduct a revolution in America:“They want it right away. They are tired of voting. They are tired ofteaching the masses how to vote. They sneer at ballot box victories, laugh atballot box defeats, speak with disdain of ‘parliamentarianism’ andparliamentary methods. They find education too slow a process, so they proposeas a substitute Billy Sunday’s method—hysteria.” Korngoldlikens these individuals to “impatient children,” anxious toabandon one game for another. “The IWW was their plaything but yesterday;today it is the Soviet; tomorrow ‘mass action,’” Korngolddeclares, adding “When you point out to them that the Socialist LaborParty, which has just received Lenin’s approval, has had a more radicalprogram, and has had even less success, they brush the fact aside withcontempt. What care they for facts? Let us have the tom-toms, and hysteria, andbarricades in the streets.” At root, Korngold says, is the“anarchistic contempt of majority rule” because “they knowthey are the minority and have not the patience to await the test of discussionand time.”
Letter from AdolphGermer in Chicago to Morris Hillquit at Saranac Lake, NY, April 17,1919. A very important letter from the National ExecutiveSecretary to NEC member and leading party luminary, Morris Hillquit, thenrecuperating from tuberculosis at a sanitarium at Saranac Lake, New York.Germer acknowledges Hillquit’s critiicism of the party leadership andstates the primary difficulty is one of lack of communication with partymembers, which the SP’s Bulletin and The Eye Opener andfirst class mail stopped by Chicago postal authorities while the press of theLeft Wing Section seemingly has free access to the mails. Germer states thatmost of the party’s growth is in the language federations, particularlythe Russian, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian, while “we are not reaching theAmerican worker who, after all, is needed to achieve the revolution.”Germer notes a new form of campaigning for referendum seconds and remarks onthe first example of bloc voting for a slate of candidates, in this case 16ballots from a Russian Branch of Local Willimatic, Connecticut. He notes that amotion has been made for a meeting of the NEC May 24 and states the “veryimportant matter” of establishing “the organization to hold titleof property for the property” remains. It is clear throughout that ideasand information with regard to the 1919 faction fight are flowing from Germerin Chicago to Hillquit in New York, not vice versa, contrary to the theme ofthe secondary literature of the 1919 faction fight.
“Letter from Adolph Germer in Chicago to Morris Hillquit at Saranac Lake, NY, April 17, 1919.” A very important letter from the National Executive Secretary to NEC member and leading party luminary, Morris Hillquit, then recuperating from tuberculosis at a sanitarium at Saranac Lake, New York. Germer acknowledges Hillquit’s critiicism of the party leadership and states the primary difficulty is one of lack of communication with party members, which the SP’s Bulletin and The Eye Opener and first class mail stopped by Chicago postal authorities while the press of the Left Wing Section seemingly has free access to the mails. Germer states that most of the party’s growth is in the language federations, particularly the Russian, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian, while “we are not reaching the American worker who, after all, is needed to achieve the revolution.” Germer notes a new form of campaigning for referendum seconds and remarks on the first example of bloc voting for a slate of candidates, in this case 16 ballots from a Russian Branch of Local Willimatic, Connecticut. He notes that a motion has been made for a meeting of the NEC May 24 and states the “very important matter” of establishing “the organization to hold title of property for the property” remains. It is clear throughout that ideas and information with regard to the 1919 faction fight are flowing from Germer in Chicago to Hillquit in New York, not vice versa, contrary to the theme of the secondary literature of the 1919 faction fight.
“SocialistTactics?” by John Reed [April 19, 1919] In the debut issue ofThe New York Communist,Left Wing Socialist John Reed editorializesabout the fact that Secretary of Local New York Julius Gerber had spokenagainst the Left Wing Section by reading from an original copy of the Left WingCity Committee’s meeting minutes. While “the Left Wing is not asecret organization” and the minutes would be subsequently published,Reed notes, “the important point is that an official of the SocialistParty reads from copies of minutes that he had no title to possess, to one ofthe highest delegate bodies of our organization. It was obvious to everyonepresent that he had not come by his copy openly, yet he was allowed to proceedwithout anyone making a protest.” Reed sees as hypocritical the fact thatthe Socialist Party protests against government and private labor espionage, but“ sits open-eared and prepares to act on the information” when itsown officials practice similar espionage. “Are these the methods theRight Wing intends to use inn the future? Does the membership of the partysupport these methods?” Reed asks.
“The PartySituation in New York,” by John Reed [April 19, 1919] TheApril 13, 1919, annual session of the New York State Committee effectivelybanned the Left Wing Section in the party, instructing the State ExecutiveCommittee to revoke the charters of all locals and branches supporting the LeftWing manifesto. This article by John Reed provides other details about thefactional civil war in the Socialist Party of New York. First and foremost,Reed notes that membership access to the party was being restricted by theParty Regulars: “In the past the party has been very lax regarding theadmission of new members, practically anyone who signed an application blankbeing admitted without question. This fact has often been pointed out by manyof those members who now constitute the Left Wing, but without result. Butthose who suggested a change in the method of admitting new members had no ideaof handing the control of the growth of the party in this city over to a fewhandpicked individuals.” The filtering of Left Wingers at the time oftheir attempted entry of the party is “a direct attempt by those atpresent in control to perpetuate themselves,” Reed believes, and hecharges that hundreds of applications have been held up for factional reasons.A historically valuable first-hand account of the “inquisition” ofthe “amateur Overman Committee” to which new applicants in New Yorkwere forced to submit in the spring of 1919 is provided in full. Reed alsocharges that the Regulars engaged in other unscrupulous tactics in thefactional fight, including failure to allocate the requisite number of seats onthe City Central Committee to branches believed to be dominated by Left Wingsentiment; gerrymandering party districts to minimize Left Wing power; andbanning of mention of Left Wing meetings or advertising of the Left Wing pressfrom the dominant Socialist Party publications of New York City—TheCall and The Jewish Daily Forward.
“OneReason for an Organization Within an Organization: A circular letter tofactional allies from Julius Gerber in New York, April 19,1919.” With the decision made for factional war to theknives in the Socialist Party at New York by decision of the State ExecutiveCommittee at its seminal meeting of April 13, 1919, the Regular faction of theSocialist Party commenced to organize itself. The primary leader of thisfaction was Julius Gerber, Secretary of the Socialist Party of New York County,who sent this organizational letter to a limited number of factional allies onApril 19. In Gerber’s view, “The reason the Left Wing has grown andis making converts is because they have an organization that does nothing else.They have their organs that give their side. They act as a group while we haveneither organization, nor press (The Call should not be used forfactional purposes) and our comrades act as individuals. Result is chaos on ourside, organization, discipline, and success on their side.” Gerberindicates that “The situation in the party is rather critical at thistime, and it is almost too late now to stem the tide,” noting that“the so-called Left Wing is determined to either capture or split theparty.” Gerber believes that “A split in the party will at thistime do irreparable injury to our party and to the Cause, while the control ofthe party by these irresponsible people will make the party an outlaworganization, and break up the organization.” He calls for anorganizational meeting on the night of April 21 at the home of the Rand Schoolof Social Science, in advance of the critical meeting of the Central Committeeof Local New York. “At this meeting the die will be cast as far as LocalNew York is concerned. We ought to decide beforehand. We ought to know what weare to do,” Gerber declares.
“StateCommittee Proposition: Letter to the Editor of the New YorkCall.” by L. Basky [pub. April 23, 1919] Left WingHungarian Socialist Federation member L. Basky writes to the New YorkCall about the April 13, 1919, ruling of the New York State Committeefinding the Left Wing Section to violate “the spirit of theconstitution” and instruct its Executive Committee on that basis torevoke the charter of any local that affiliates with the Left Wing Section orwhich permits its subdivisions or members to be affiliated. Basky calls for thedecision of the 24 members of the State Committee majority to be put to areferendum vote of the Socialist Party of New York. “The Left Wing is nota counter-organization to the Socialist Party,” Basky states, but rather areflection of the sentiment “that it was high time to set the partyabreast of the revolutionary events” and “to make it a usefulinstrument in the darkest and bitterest and most critical hours of the classstruggle instead of making it what the Social Democratic Party of Germanyturned out to be—the last fortress of the dying capitalist system.”Changing the party’s course required organization and a program, Baskynotes. This program is reducible to a set of concrete propositions, he feels:“To abolish all reform planks in the Socialists’ party platform; tostrictly adhere to an uncompromising class struggle, the last phase of whichwill be the dictatorship of the proletariat; to propagate revolutionaryindustrial unionism; to have the party own all its official papers andinstitutions; to repudiate the Berne Congress and to elect delegates to aninternational congress proposed by the Communist Party of Russia.” Hecalls for an electoral test to determine whether these values reflect majorityopinion in the Socialist Party. However, “The fight is on,” Baskynotes, adding “I welcome the attack of the State Committee. We at leastknow some of those we would have to face in the critical hour. Might as wellfight it out now, whether they or the Left Wing represents the party. Let usfind out right now who is with us and who is against us.”
“An Answer to Moses Oppenheimer: Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by Israel Amter [April 25, 1919] In this letter to the New York Call, Left Winger Israel Amter takes on Centrist Moses Oppenheimer and his associates for bolting a recent meeting of Local Bronx, Socialist Party. “These comrades seem unable to grasp the first elements of democracy,” Amter declares, adding “They complain that the meeting elected Dr. [Julius] Hammer to the chair for three consecutive sittings. It would appear obvious to anybody but a Right Winger that his constant re-election was due to the confidence of the assemblage in Dr. Hammer and to the democratic notion of majority rule.” Amter complains that after three meetings of Local Bronx held to discuss tactics and the Left Wing Manifesto, Oppenheimer and his comrades were intent upon “dilly-dallying” and “preventing the assemblage from determining its own will” by sending the matter to a handpicked committee of 15 for further discussion. Amter indicates that the Left Wing Manifesto is “merely a basis upon which we can get together for revolutionary action” and adds that “no claim is made that it is a perfect document.” Amter thunders that the Left Wing “shall not rest till the Socialist Party of America not only stands for, but lives up to, the revolutionary ideas that it originally propagated. We shall not rest till all the compromisers, surrenderers, and traitors have been swept out of the party. And do not forget that there are many more of this class in the party than left it in the wake of those arch-revolutionists, Russell, Spargo, Walling & Co.”
“The Pink Terror, Part 1: The Rape of the 17th Assembly District Branch,” by John Reed [events of April 17-23, 1919] With the April 13 decision of the New York State Executive Committee behind them, the Regular faction set about purging the Socialist Party of New York of Left Wing Locals and Branches. First on the list was the 17th Assembly District Branch of Manhattan—the largest branch of Local New York, with about 400 members in good standing. Prompting action was an April 10 branch meeting which voted to recall the branches officials, have extended discussion of party principles, and elect new officers—a motion which Reed states was approved by a vote of 27 to 7 (although Reed later notes that the branch’s quorum was 46). Some of these recalled officials appeared before the Executive Committee of Local New York and requested the branch to be reorganized—Left Wing EC member Julius Codkind being “beaten up” and expelled from the meeting in the process. The 17th AD hall was padlocked by order of the Executive Committee of Local New York prior to the weekly meeting of April 17, and on the next day branch members received a letter from the Socialist Party of New York County announcing the reorganization of the 17th AD branch at a special purging meeting held that same evening. Some 150 members showed up at this meeting and were forced to turn in their party cards. Each was questioned whether they were “a member of the Left Wing.” Reed states that only 30 of those present were invited into the reorganized branch. This small group received a letter inviting them to another special meeting to reorganize the 17th AD branch, to be held April 20, with admission by presentation of the notification letter only. This meeting was guarded by 2 NYC policemen, Reed says, who made sure the banned Left Wingers were physically excluded from the meeting. Reed states that the episode concluded on April 23, when a moving van swept up to 17th AD branch headquarters and removed the furniture, also under police protection.
“The Situation in Local New York,” by David P. Berenberg [event of April 22, 1919] Participant’s account of the April 22 meeting of the Central Committee of Local New York. The first test of strength came with the election of the chairman, with Regular U. Solomon defeating Left Winger Max Cohen, 39 to 19. A protest was of the credentials of the delegates from the 17th Assembly District branch, the subject of a recall on the one hand and a branch reorganization on the other. A protracted debate of over an hour was conducted on the matter, the delegates of the 17th AD ultimately retaining their seats. Once it was clear that the majority was lost, the Left Wing proceeded to engage in dilatory tactics, says Berenberg, raising repeated points of order, challenging decisions of the chair, and demanding or fighting roll call votes in order to disrupt the meeting. “The hall was crowded with visitors—mostly young boys and girls whose membership in the party is from a month to about a year,” Berenberg states, and the Left Wing played to the crowd in an attempt to an environment in which no business could take place. “A motion was made and seconded and carried that the Central Committee adjourn subject to the call of the Executive Committee, and that the Executive Committee of Local New York be instructed to reorganize Local New York, and put it on a working basis before it calls the next meeting of the Central Committee. This motion was carried by a vote of 71 to 36, whereupon the meeting was adjourned,” Berenberg writes, adding that the pandemonium generated by Left Wing committeemen and supporters attracted the attention of the police, who subsequently cleared the room.
“Debs Goes to Prison,” by David Karsner. [May 1919]. Text of a pamphlet privately published in New York in May 1919, probably compiling material previously published in pages of The New York Call. Author David Karsner was the editor of the Call’s Sunday supplement and a biographer of Debs. He travelled to Terre Haute to make the trip with Debs to Cleveland and thenceforth to prison in Moundsville, WV. Karsner was one of four friends of Debs making the journey with the Socialist writer and orator to the prison gates—along with J. Louis Engdahl (who published a similar memoir), Alfred Wagenknecht, and Debs’ brother-in-law, Arthur Bauer. Includes a number of direct quotations of Debs and other interesting and historically valuable observations about the trip.
“Debs in Prison: The Story of Convict No. 2253, Eugene Victor Debs,” by J. Louis Engdahl. [May 1919]. First section of a pamphlet published by the National Office of the Socialist Party in May 1919, almost certainly reprinting material which first appeared in the pages of The American Socialist, which Engdahl edited. This is one of two first-hand accounts of the transfer of Eugene Debs from custody in Cleveland, Ohio, to prison in Moundsville, WV, a cloak-and-dagger operation involving a high-speed automobile chase and multiple train transfers as the authorities sought to elude Socialist protesters. Includes a number of direct quotations from Debs’ last day of freedom, including his last message, “Tell my comrades that I entered the prison doors a flaming revolutionist, my head erect, my spirit untamed, and my soul unconquered.”.
“Manifesto and Program of the Left Wing Section Socialist Party, Local Greater New York.” [pamphlet version, circa May 1919] The main programatic document of the Left Wing Section, Socialist Party, was the “Left Wing Manifesto,” authored in January or early February by Louis C. Fraina, Bertram Wolfe, and others. The text of the document evolved slightly over time, eventually taking final shape as the content of this pamphlet issued by Local Greater New York. This is the full text of the Left Wing Manifesto and Program as published in the May 1919 pamphlet.
“The Left Wing Manifesto,” by David P. Berenberg [May 1919]. David Berenberg, an instructor at the Rand School of Social Science, was one of the leaders of the anti-Left Wing movement in the Socialist Party of New York. He started a weekly newspaper in response to John Reed’s New York Communist called the New York Socialist. (Reed later returned the favor by issuing a parody issue of the New York Socialist and sneaking a stack into the Rand School bookstore for distribution!) t was in the pages of the NY Socialist that this lengthy analytical critique of the “Manifesto and Program of the Left Wing Section” was published in serial form. Berenberg’s critique was doubtlessly influential among party regulars in the hothouse that was Socialist Party politics in New York city during the spring and summer of 1919.
“Division That Weakens: Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by Charles Hardy [May 9, 1919] This letter to the editor of the New York Call is presented as a bit of a horror story, the tale of a paper member of the 3rd Assembly District Branch, Bronx, attending a meeting of his organization and being met with a $100 assessment towards new headquarters, which Hardy states he was able “through hard bargaining” to reduce to $25. Hardy states that he read the Left Wing Manifesto and found it uninspiring; for example, it endorsed industrial unionism as if that were a major step forward, even though this was “something that the Socialist Party has done long before they dreamed of it; but that is only a display of ignorance on their part, and we can readily forgive them since they are so short a time in the Socialist Party.” Local Bronx subsequently held a general membership meeting on the Left Wing Manifesto which was addressed by Ben Gitlow for the Left, Moses Oppenheimer for the Center, and Louis Waldman for the Right. “The only one who spoke on the subject properly was Waldman, for he has spoken on the issue and left out personalities. He has shown conclusively that we are being separated by a little egotistic group of men who are carried away with the enthusiasm of what is happening in Europe, overlooking the present economic conditions and the psychology of the workers in America,” Hardy says. At two further meetings of Local Bronx, “the behavior of the Left Wingers was uncouth and disgusting,” says Hardy. “They came to the meetings organized and prepared to cram into the throats of those assembled their manifesto at any price and without discussion.” Chairman of the 3 meetings was Julius Hammer, a man who “disregarded all parliamentary ruling procedures,” in Hardy’s opinion. Hardy asserts that the Left Wing’s “slogan that dooms them to fail” is: “We have organized within the party to capture the party, and if we cannot capture it, we will smash it.” Hardy declares that the forthcoming Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party “shall provide the necessary equipment for the party that will prevent a few disrupters in the future from organizing within the party, which naturally leads to a division that weakens our forces and defeats our purpose when facing our real enemies—the capitalist class.”
“The Cleveland May Day Demonstration,” by C.E. Ruthenberg [May 10, 1919]. A disturbing tale of the crude and premeditated exercise of force and violence by a coordinated circle of conspirators against a law-abiding citizenry. On May 1, 1919, the Socialist Party of Ohio sponsored a massive May Day parade, in which a goodly number of unions and thousands of individuals participated. Despite disruptions by right wing provocateurs, including one wildly brandishing a handgun, the carefully-planned assembly was completely peaceable. This calm was shattered by the premeditated action of the Cleveland police department and their conservative vigilante allies, who violently attacked the marchers, crushing them with horses and beating them with clubs. In the melee which followed, two marchers were murdered by the police and scores arrested, and the headquarters of the Socilaist Party of Ohio was vandalized under the winking eyes of the Cleveland constabulary. C.E. Ruthenberg, Secretary of Local Cuyahoga County, Socialist Party, was charged with “causing a disturbance” in connection with this violent episode of state savagery, which he ably chronicles here.
“First Authentic News of Cleveland May Day Demonstration,” by Hortense Wagenknecht [event of May 1, 1919] Valuable first-hand account of the May Day 1919 Cleveland Riot—the result of an unprovoked attack by Cleveland police and ultra-nationalist “patriots” against a peaceful procession and assembly of thousands of working class Clevelanders held under the auspices of the Socialist Party. Hortense Wagenknecht—at the time the temporary State Secretary of the Socialist Party of Cleveland—contends that the police attack was made against the assembly of supporters gathered in the Cleveland town square, rather than the more committed (and potentially more aggressive) marchers. “No more than 200 of the marchers in the parade ever entered the Square,” Wagenknecht states. Mounted police and army trucks drove straight into the crowd, swinging drawn clubs. Fist-fights erupted and gang violence was practiced by the forces of so-called “law and order” against the demonstrators. “Those who attacked the marchers in every instance we can learn of, were not the bystanders, but police, detectives, APLs, soldiers, sailors, and hoodlums, who were selected for the work beforehand. These last were in the main youths from the ages of about 14 to 25 years, and many were drunk. Soldiers stood about in groups in many sections, pointing out to these ruffians who were willing to do their bidding, any who appeared to be ‘Reds’ or who had on red ties or badges. These were torn from the persons wearing them, and if protest was made by the wearer, the soldiers rushed to the spot and a free-for-all fight ensued. Hundreds of men were without hats and collars, and showed the marks of having their ties removed by these defenders of DEMOCRACY. Streets and sidewalks were strewn with bits of red cloth, with here and there spatterings of blood.” Two were killed and hundreds hurt in the riot.
“The Socialist Task and Outlook,” by Morris Hillquit [published May 21, 1919]. One of the seminal documents of the 1919 internal political struggle in the Socialist Party of America, first published prominently on the back page of the New York Call on May 21, 1919, This, Morris Hillquit’s so-called “Clear the Decks” article, has been (wrongly) characterized by historian Theodore Draper as a directive for a party purge. Hillquit, one of the leading figures of the SPA and an individual with an enormous amount of personal influence within the organization, weighed in on the faction fight between the “Left Wing” and their opponents here, stating that a split of the SPA was inevitable owing to the establishment of the “Left Wing” as a “schizmatic and disintegrating” movement within the party. Instead of conversion of their opponents, this group refused cooperation in favor fo an effort to “capture” the party organization in a sort of “burlesque on the Russian Revolution,” Hillquit stated. As a result, it would be “better a hundred times to have two numerically small socialist organizations, each homogeneous and harmonious within itself, than to have one big party torn by dissensions and squabbles, an impotent colossus on feet of clay.” Hillquit called for the Left Wing to split “honestly, freely, and without rancor.”.
“Report to the NEC,” by Adolph Germer [May 24, 1919]. The “nationality card” is played here for the first time by the National Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party of America, Adolph Germer. In the face of the overwhelming defeat of the old and familiar faces in the 1919 elections for the SPA’s National Executive Committee, and with barely a month left in the lame duck outgoing NEC’s constitution term of office, Secretary Germer sounds the alarm, noting that over half of the party’s paid membership is affiliated with foreign language federations for the first time and declaring this “an abnormal and unhealthy condition.” Germer further cries fraud on the part of the language groups, citing a 70% rate of growth in five carefully selected Slavic and Baltic language federations between dues stamp sales in April 1919 relative to December 1918. Germer charges that the members of the five mentioned federations (Russian, Ukraianian, South Slavic, Lithuanian, and Latvian) “do not vote, but are voted by the ‘leaders’— voted en bloc, with mathematical uniformity—and all one way.” Germer states that the question of whether the Socialist Party is to become the tail of its constituent language federations “must be frankly faced and wisely solved” by the outgoing NEC.
“Indicting the Left Wing: A Speech to the NEC,” by James Oneal [circa May 27, 1919]. On May 27, 1919, the lame duck National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of America unilaterally suspended the entire memberships of seven constituent language federations, consisting of over 20,000 dues-paying rank-and-filers. This is the lengthy speech of NEC member James Oneal of New York to the gathering —which included Translator-Secretaries of the affected federations and Left Wing NEC members Alfred Wagenknecht and L.E. Katterfeld. Oneal provides a brief history of previous “Left Wing” movements within the Socialist Party (all of which came to grief, often with leading participants jumping to the other side of the barricades). Oneal also sharply criticizes the current “Left Wing” Section for a lack of patience, a dictatorial attitude and an unwillingness to adhere to the spirit of the Socialist Party, a failure to follow the constitution of the party, and a pattern of destructive behavior. Oneal cites several articles of the SPA constitution in making his case—none of which seem particularly germane to the actual factional situation existing in the party. The constitutionality of NEC action to put aside election results and to suspend entire federations is discussed not at all, it should be noted. Regardless, this is one of the most intelligent and extensive discussions of the thinking by a NEC member with regard to the insurgent Left Wing Section. The speech was taken stenographically at the meeting and reproduced in the pages of the factional weekly The New York Socialist at the behest of members of the NEC.
“Jersey Socialist Convention Names Farr for Governor; Harwood Offers Resignation: Resolution Introduced to Condemn Expulsion of Slavic Language Federations—New International of Left Wing European Parties Endorsed.” [May 30, 1919] This is a news account of the 19th Annual Convention of the Socialist Party of New Jersey, held May 30, 1919 in Newark. The convention was characterized by State Secretary Fred Harwood as a Left Wing gathering, moderated by organizational influences. Harwood resigned the post of State Secretary at the convention due to an excessive workload, and the body elected Walter Gabriel of Newark as his successor. A resolution condemning the action of the NEC of the Socialist Party for expelling the state organization of Michigan and suspending 7 language federations for having endorsed the Left Wing manifesto was deferred in view of the lack of definitive information on the situation. A resolution proposing the election of the state committee by lower party bodies rather than by at large balloting of the membership was passed and referred to the State Committee for study. Another resolution proposed “the formation of shop committees, organization by industries, and election of industrial councils to prepare for taking over the large enterprises now in capitalist hands,” according to this news report. The body seems to have walked a fine line between the factions, formally approving the principles of the Left Wing manifesto but condemning “a white card and separatist organization” within the Socialist Party.
“Clear theDecks! An Editorial in The Revolutionary Age, May 31,1919.” by Louis C. Fraina Left Wing leader Louis Frainaoffers his perspective on the party controversy and Morris Hillquit’sseminal article, “The Socialist Task and Outlook.” Fraina observesthat “Branch after branch of Local New York, affiliated with the LeftWing, has been expelled; and now the National Executive Committee, in sessionin Chicago, expels the whole Socialist Party of the state of Michigan, withthreats of other expulsions.” He states that these actions are“partly a criminal attempt to steal votes from Left Wing candidates, inorder that the moderates may be ‘elected’” as well as“a desperate attempt to ‘isolate’ the fires of revolutionarysocialism.” Fraina alleges that these actions are part of an orchestratedplot which is “formulated by that master strategist of the moderates,Morris Hillquit.” Fraina accuses Hillquit of cleverly appropriatingrevolutionary socialist language—but with an ulterior motive, for“every statement has a reservation.” Fraina calls this “asinister maneuver to mobilize indefinite revolutionary sentiment in the partyfor the moderate representatives” of the party leadership. Fraina accusesthe SP leadership of hypocrisy: “They stigmatized the Left Wing as asecessionist movement, as working to split the party; but now, realizing thatthe Left Wing is conquering the party for revolutionary socialism, for theBolshevik-Spartacan International, the moderates are adopting the policy theymalignantly ascribed to the Left Wing—split the party!” Frainastates that the Left Wing is perfectly willing for the SP Regulars to secedeand join the ranks of the Labor Party; this, however, is not the intention ofthe waning leadership, as “they wish to retain control of the party, evenif it is necessary to expel the bulk of the membership.” These individualsare characterized by Fraina as “social-gangsters and traitors tosocialism,” practitioners of the same tactics as those used by theEbert-Scheidemann pro-war socialists in Germany. “Clear the decks! Clearthem—Clean,” Fraina implores organized the Left Wing of theSocialist Party.
“Scuttling the Ship: A Statement of the Seven Suspended Language Federations, June 2, 1919.”This is the joint protest statement of the 7 affected Language Federations of the SPA (Russian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Polish, Hungarian, South Slavic, and Latvian) in response to the May 27 action of the party’s National Executive Committee to unilaterally suspend the entire memberships of these organizations. The “autocratic 7” members of the National Executive Committee who approved this action on “over 30,000 dues payers” are rebuked for failing to provide notification, time for preparation, or a trial. In addition, the NEC bloc of 7 suspended the party elections and expelled the Michigan organization of nearly 6,000 without trial, locked up the party headquarters in the hands of a private holding company outside of party control, and arbitrarily threw the Translator-Secretaries of the affected federations out of party headquarters without allowing time for them to locate new quarters. “In short, this group of seven National Committeemen, drunk with power they assumed, feeling aggrieved because these federations dared to criticize the National Executive Committee, made themselves guilty of an act which will discredit them forever in the International Socialist movement,” the joint statement charged.
“Letter to Morris Hillquit at Saranac Lake, NY, from Adolph Germer in Chicago, June 2, 1919.” **revised 2nd Edition—expands footnote, adds photo, corrects typos** Very illuminating letter from the National Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party to leading luminary Hillquit, then convalescing from tuberculosis at a sanitarium in upstate New York. Far from being the puppeteer behind the seminal June 24-30 plenum of the SPA’s governing National Executive Committee, the disabled and out-of-the-loop Hillquit is here informed of the results after the fact. Germer sees Russian Federation Translator-Secretary Alexander Stoklitsky as the chief mover behind the Left Wing movement within the federations, with Joseph Stilson of the Lithuanian Federation his chief accomplice. “I had a private talk with the Translator-Secretary of the South Slavic Federation [George Selakovich] and I concluded from what he said that he regretted having become involved in this controversy,” Germer notes, adding “the others, I believe, were drawn into it without fully realizing what the result would be.” Alfred Wagenknecht of Ohio is portrayed as the chief protagonist for the Left Wing among the Anglophonic element.
“Circular Letter to Michigan Locals and Branches of the Socialist Party of America from Adolph Germer, Executive Secretary. [June 3, 1919] With this letter, Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party Adolph Germer notified the primary party organizations of state of Michigan of their having been expelled from the SPA by the governing National Executive Committee on May 24 for actions measures adopted at the state party convention. “The National Office will proceed at once with the reorganization, so that you will have representation at the National Convention of the Socialist Party to be held in Chicago on August 30th,” Germer coyly notes. “At once call a special meeting of your Local or Branch...and inform us, without delay, whether you repudiate the section of the Michigan constitution above referred to and accept the present National Platform and Constitution as your guide until it is changed in the regular way,”Germer demands. “Keep in mind that whenever a movement like ours grows and is on the verge of triumph, discordant elements creep into it and play into the hands of the enemy. This has happened time and time again. We have weathered it all. There is nothing surprising or disheartening about it,”Germer notes.
“The National Executive Committee Acts,” by David P. Berenberg [June 4, 1919]. Unsigned editorial in the New York Socialist, presumably penned by editor David P. Berenberg, reporting the decision of the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party to revoke the charter of the organization of the Socialist Party of Michigan, thus effectively expelling the state from the party. This decision was made on Saturday, May 24, 1919, by a 7-3 vote, ostensibly on the grounds that the insertion of a plank in the state constitution instructing the Michigan State Committee to revoke the state charter of any local or branch “advocating reforms” put the entire state organization in violation of the national constitution of the Socialist Party. Michigan was a hotbed of the Left Wing section, and the purge of the Michigan organization was the first of a number of countermeasures taken by the NEC in response to the growing Left Wing movement in the party.
“The National Committee Meeting,” by James Oneal. [June 4, 1919] The Socialist Party’s most aggressive anti-Communist member of the NEC explains the actions of that body at its seminal May 24-30 plenary session, a riotous meeting which saw the expulsion of the entire Socialist Party of Michigan and the suspension of the party’s Russian, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, and South Slavic Language Federations—a majority of the members of the entire organization. “Filled with an emotional ecstacy over the Russian revolution,” these groups had formed a coalition intent on establishing “a dictatorship within the party,” says Oneal. Citing examples, Oneal notes that election fraud in the 1919 SPA election was rife and the NEC justified in terminating the election and taking action against the Left Wing. “What is facing the Socialist Party is an anarcho-syndicalist revival that should play into the hands of capitalist reaction and give our enemies an opportunity to outlaw any socialist movement. Where the ‘Left Wing’ has developed it has driven out many members through sheer disgust,” Oneal observes.
“Call for a National Conference of the Left Wing.” [Published June 4, 1919] This is the call for the holding of a National Conference of the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party, issued jointly by Local Boston, Socialist Party (Louis C. Fraina, Sec.); Local Cleveland, Socialist Party (C.E. Ruthenberg, Sec.); and the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party of New York City (Maximilian Cohen, Sec.). The call indicated that all locals (or minority groups of locals, should a local refuse to participate) should elect 1 delegate for every 500 members, with no group to elect more than four delegates. Acceptance of the Manifesto of the Left Wing of the Socialist Party of Greater New York was provisionally to be the acid test for participaton. The meeting was to discuss the crisis in the Socialist Party and to agree upon action thereon, to discuss ways and means to prevent the SPA from affiliating with any international organization other than the “Bolshevik-Spartacan Communist International,” to establish some sort of “national council or bureau” to receive and disseminate information. A declaration of principles was also to be drafted—although the actual meeting did not accomplish this latter task. Maximilian Cohen handled the formal correspondence related to this meeting, which was held in New York City.
“Forty Thousand Expelled by Seven,” by L.E. Katterfeld, Alfred Wagenknecht, and Louis C. Fraina [published June 7, 1919] An “official” Left Wing perspective of the May 24-30, 1919 plenum of the Socialist Party’s National Executive Committee—written by the two “minority” members of the NEC along with Left Wing leader Louis Fraina. The decisions and motivations of the “Willful Seven” are outlined, including the expulsion of the Michigan state party without trial, the arbitrary suspension of seven language federations in an effort to control the tenor and outcome of the forthcoming Emergency Convention, the locking up of party assets in a factional “holding company” not subject to party recall, and the unconstitutional abrogation of the SPA’s 1919 referendum vote for officials. The statement indicates that “the ‘moderates’ on the National Executive Committee show no realization of the problems of the International Revolution. They do not see the need of reconstructing the Party policy in accord with the experience gained by our comrades in Europe, or, at any rate, do not act toward that end.” Party members are called to stay in the party and to “build, build, build,” since the “sabotage” of the “Willful Seven” is intended to cause the Left Wing to desert the party.
“The Counterrevolution in the Party: Report of the NEC Sessions in Chicago,” by I.E. Ferguson [June 7, 1919] The definitive account of the seminal May 24-30 plenum of the Socialist Party’s National Executive Committee which expelled the Socialist Party of Michigan and suspended the entire memberships of the Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Hungarian, and South Slavic Socialist Federations. Ferguson, one of the principles of the Left Wing movement, is scathing in his review of the machinations of the outgoing NEC. Ferguson sees the NEC as an accumulation of frigtened and vindictive officeholders, spurred into frenzied and thoroughly unconstitutional action by the sudden realization that the reins of control of the party were slipping from the hands of the Right and into the hands of the Left Wing movement. The list of objectively illegal actions is impressive: Michigan expelled befor e a pending referendum confimed the action of its state convention, the Hungarian and South Slavic Federations suspended based on the signature of a single official (the Translator-Secretary of each) on a document protesting the action of the NEC. At root is a transparent effort to control the forthcoming Emergency National Convention of the Party by expelling political opponents, Ferguson indicates, the dirtiest of power politics.
“Debs on Prisons and Prisoners,” by David Karsner [event of June 7, 1919] New York Call journalist and future Debs biographer David Karsner provides an account of his 4th and final visit to the imprisoned Socialist leader at Moundsville penitentiary in West Virginia. The genial warden, Joseph Z. Terrell, accompanied Karsner to meet Debs in his room inside the prison’s two story hospital building, exchanging heartfelt pleasantries and sheepishly accepting a fistful of cigars from the generous Hoosier. Debs was wearing his own clothing, rather than prison garb and had a small shelf of neatly arranged books and a bouquet of flowers next to his writing table, while a magazine picture of Jesus Christ was tacked next to his bed. Debs seems to have transformed imprisonment into a practical test and ultimate confirmation of his socialist faith. His perspective of his fellow convicts glows in a quasi-religious light. As for the guilty among him, Debs declares to Karsner: “What sinless, spotless saint among us may pronounce them wicked and sentence them to hell? The very lowest and most degenerate of criminals is not one whit worse than I. The difference between us is against me, not him. All of my life I have been the favored one, the creature of fortune. We both did the best we could and the worst we knew how, and I am the beneficiary of society, of which he is the victim.” The zeal and passion of a religious martyr burns within Debs. “I belong in this prison,” he says. “I belong where men are made to suffer for the errors of society. I have talked about this thing and these social conditions all of my life, and now I am glad to have the opportunity to live out in practice the words I have spoken so many, many times. I belong to this stratum of society. The roots of the social system are here. They are nowhere else. These men - and I know many of them by their first names now - were workmen. For the most part they have been used and exploited. When they had nothing more to give, when they had given their all, when they strove to make the very best of a bad bargain and erred, society put them out of sight.” Debs asks Karsner to convey to his comrades that he is “all right here” and living an active and fulfilling life in service to his fellows. Includes photo of the Moundsville prison hospital in which Debs lived and worked.
“Italian Federation Endorses NEC Action: Resolution on the Expulsions and Suspensions of the Left Wing Section, June 8, 1919.” At its June 8, 1919, meeting the Executive Committee of the Italian Federation passed a resolution on the crisis in the Socialist Party, which was already marked by the suspension of the entire state organization of Michigan and the suspension of seven of the Slavic, Baltic, and Finnish federations of the party. While on the one hand the suspensions and expulsion were seen as justifiable for fairly clear violations of the party constitution, the actions of the NEC were called “too drastic and very unwise” since they were taken by a retiring NEC which was itiself called to stand down by the very same constitution. “In justice to all concerned and to show that the Socialist Party plays fair at all times and in all things it could, we believe, have found a less drastic way of disciplining these organizations and put the whole matter before the coming national convention for final solution,” the resolution stated. The resolution was mailed out to the members of the NEC and the parties concerned by John LaDuca, the Translator-Secretary of the Italian Federation.
“Letter to Adolph Germer in Chicago, from Ludwig Katterfeld in Dighton, Kansas.” [June 10, 1919] In this brief communication, Socialist Party NEC member L.E. Katterfeld requests Executive Secretary Adolph Germer—a factional foe —to poll the newly elected members of the NEC with a view to their holding an organizational meeting on July 1, 1919, the first day of their term of office under the party constitution. “I urge a meeting of the new NEC at this earliest possible date so that without loss of time we may call a halt to the party wrecking activities of the expiring committee,”Katterfeld notes in the comment section attached to his motion. Knowing full well that Germer would be unlikely to circulate this motion to a group of individuals whose election had been recently abrogated by the seated NEC, Katterfeld asks for Germer’s immediate notification if he did not poll the members of the newly elected committee.
“The Enemy Within,” by Abraham Tuvim [June 11, 1919]. The bitterness of the faction fight between the Left Wing section and the Socialist Party regulars in New York state is made clear in this article from the New York Socialist by adherent of the SP Right Abraham Tuvim. Tuvim details the actions of a June 2 meeting of the New York City Committee in repudiating the New York Call as a Socialist newspaper and deciding to move forward to the holding of a New York “City Convention” in contradiction of the instruction of the New York State Executive Committee on the matter. The meeting, which included at least two non-members of the SPA, according to Tuvim, voted 12 to 3 in favor of repudiation, leaving the question of recognition of the New York Communist as an official organ to the forthcoming City Convention. Tuvim calls the Left Wing Section a “counterrevolutionary and disruptive group” bent on “destroying our Party and its institutions” and states that “there must be no quarter” in the fight between Socialist Party loyalists and the insurgent Left Wing faction.
“Why the Foreign Language Federations Were Suspended,” by David P. Berenberg [June 11, 1919]. While accompanied by brief editorial comment in support of the decision, this article presents the full text of the landmark resolution of the Socialist Party’s National Executive Committee to suspend seven of the organization’s Language Federations for a list of specific alleged violations of the party’s constitution. Includes footnotes containing the complete text of each cited constitutional section so that the reader may better determine the merit or lack thereof of each particular charge levied by the NEC.
“Foreign Federations,” by David P. Berenberg [June 11, 1919]. Unsigned editorial in the New York Socialist, presumably penned by editor David P. Berenberg, attempting to justify the action of the Socialist Party’s National Executive Committee decision to summarily suspend the entire memberships of seven language federations from the party ultimately due to the endorsement of the Left Wing Manifesto by leading officials or sections of each. “These federations are made up of people who have had no experience whatsoever in political life at home. Being composed of a disfranchised group, and exercising no suffrage here, they naturally feel that the ballot is a useless scrap of paper, and that nothing can be accomplished by political action,” Berenberg states, adding that such individuals provided a fertile field for syndicalist and anarchist propaganda. The suspension of the seven federations was a strong measure necessary for the preservation of the party, according to Berenberg, who adds that the party would have the capacity to ratify or overturn this decision at its forthcoming Emergency National Convention.
“Immediate Demands,” by Louis Waldman [June 14, 1919]. Prominant New York Socialist Louis Waldman (later one of the “5 Expelled Assemblymen of 1920”) takes on the Left Wing’s call for the elimination of immediate demands from the platform of the Socialist Party. Waldman notes that only nine months previously, at the NY Socialist Party State Convention, such Left Wingers as Bertram Wolfe, John Reed, and Eadmonn MacAlpine had voted in favor of immediate demands as part of that state’s platform; now, despite no changes on the domestic or international front to merit such a shift, immediate demands were bitterly oppsed. Waldman asserts that the antipathy of the Left Wing to immediate demands was misplaced, and that partial victories in the struggle for the improvement of the lives of the workers—when the ultimate goal of complete emancipation through Socialism is maintained—actually served to increase the class struggle and by implication the class-consciousness of the workers. Waldman dismissed the charge that immediate demands were inherently conservative, noting that the construction of revolutionary industrial unions by the most revolutionary segment of the union movement, the IWW, made extensive use of small actions for limited demands as part of their program of organizational development.
“Stevenson’s ‘Personally Conducted’ Raid: An Editorial in the New York Call, June 15, 1919.” This editorial from the New York City Socialist Party daily declares that “responsibility for the raid on the Soviet Bureau rests squarely on the shoulders of just one man”—Archibald Stevenson. “He headed the band of private detectives and state constabulary that invaded the Soviet office. They all took orders from him directly. Every detail of the raid was under his specific direction,” the editorialist asserts. Stevenson is revealed as a zealous member of the Union League Club in New York, which had moved that group to action pushing for a broad investigation of radicalism in the state. Stevenson had been appointed chairman of a special committee of that club established for that purpose and had parlayed this position into fame through testimony before the Overman Committee of the United States Senate and a decisive place in the Lusk Committee established by the New York legislature to investigate radicalism in the state. Stevenson had gained a measure of infamy (and a rebuke from Secretary of War Newton Baker) by reading into the testimony a list of 60 names of individuals which he, in his own judgment, proclaimed to be “pro-German,” “even though he knew this act would damage them, no matter how false the allegation.” The editorialist declares that “What is needed today is not so much a public investigation of the Soviet Bureau—it has never shunned legitimate investigation—but a thoroughgoing probe of Archibald E. Stevenson and his underground activities.”
“Letter to Ludwig Katterfeld in Dighton, KS from Adolph Germer in Chicago.”[June 17, 1919] Socialist Party Executive Secretary Adolph Germer responds in no uncertain terms to Ludwig Katterfeld’s attempt to convene a meeting of the disputed “new”National Executive Committee of the SPA: “With reference to your motion to call a meeting of the new National Executive Committee on July 1st , let me say that I cannot submit this constitutionally or otherwise. Even if the election had not been attended by the worst kind of corruption and fraud, the new National Executive Committee would have no authority to make any motions until July 1st. Of course, I am not at all surprised that you would submit such a motion and when you did so, you knew that it was entirely out of order and that I had no right to send it out by wire or by mail. It is further evidence that you have no respect for the party laws - at the same time charging others with violating the constitution. Your motion is indeed suggestive but it will be well for you to know that your game with miscarry. There will be no meeting of what you may consider the ‘new’ National Executive Committee at party headquarters on July 1st”
“Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by Irvin D. Cline [June 17, 1919] This letter to the New York Socialist Party daily expresses strong indignation over the National Executive Committee’s decision to expel the Michigan state organization and to suspend 7 language federations from the party, while the New York State Executive Committee took parallel action against Locals Buffalo, Rochester, Bronx, Kings, and Queens. “Just think of it! One-half of the membership of our party thrown out or suspended because they dared think otherwise than the officialdom of the party!” Cline declares. The debate over the philosophy and tactics advocated by the Left Wing was a manifestation of an international controversy, Cline observes, and the matter “should be thrashed out by the coming National Emergency Convention and its recommendation submitted to a referendum vote of the membership.” However, the Regular faction of the party had chosen to intervene. “The rank and file has been for a long time more radical than its leaders,” Cline notes. “The Left Wing crystallized this sentiment into an organization for the purpose of making a more efficient effort to bring about a change. The rank and file began to flock towards them. The politicians in our party, those holding office and those aspiring to hold office, those employed by the party or the party-endorsed institutions, began to see their grip on the party machinery slipping and have resorted to drastic and in some cases questionable tactics far worse than those of which the Left Wing are alleged to be guilty.” Cline states that he is not one of those affiliated with the Left Wing. “I agree with them in many things. In some I disagree. But I believe that it is unjust, undemocratic, unfair, and unsocialistic for one side which controls the machinery of the party to throw out the other side before the entire matter has been thoroughly discussed and the membership of the party given an opportunity to vote.”
“’The Willful Group of Seven,’” by David P. Berenberg [June 18, 1919]. Unsigned front page commentary from the New York Socialist, presumably penned by editor David P. Berenberg. Here Berenberg responds to an article in The Communist by L.E. Katterfeld and Alfred Wagenknecht concerning the hearing of the seven federations prior to their suspension by the National Executive Committee. Berenberg contends the hearing was fair, conducted over a two day period, with Translator-Secretary Joseph Stilson of the Lithuanian Federation answering the charges seriatim on behalf of the other federations, who advised him and contributed to his arguments. Berenberg also defends the decision of the National Committee to place the Chicago headquarters of the Socialist Party in the hands of a nine member private holding company to place this asset out of reach of the Left Wing Section in any subsequent “capture” of the organization. Berenberg denies that there is any sort of “tidal wave” of the rank and file membership of the Socialist Party on behalf of the ideas of the Left Wing Section and describes an alleged model by which a Local of 1,000 members is captured by a small handful of “fanatics” through insuation and disruptionist tactics. “Socialist Party members might as well recognized that there can be no compromise with these factionalists,” Berenberg states, noting “if the Left Wing is successful it will drag the Socialist Party underground where it will disappear.”.
“Present Party Officialdom Overwhelmingly Repudiated by National Referendum. (A Tabulation of the 1919 Socialist Party Election).” [June 18, 1919] In the spring of 1919, the Socialist Party of America conducted a referendum vote to elect new officers for the organization, in accord with the constitution fo the group. The term of office of the outgoing National Executive Committee, International Delegates, and International Secretary was set to expire on June 30, 1919. The Left Wing Section organized to elect its slate to the open positions and thus shift the line of the Socialist Party from the “constructive socialist” Center-Right that had historically dominated the party’s high offices to the “revolutionary socialist” left. When the results of the election began coming in, National Executive Secretary Adolph Germer and the outgoing NEC quickly cried fraud, arbitrarily invalidated the vote, and instructed State Secretaries not to tabulate the results. A series of suspensions and expulsions of ideological opponents followed. Knowing full well that they had swept the elections, the Left Wing Section through its Cleveland organ The Ohio Socialist independently polled the various State Secretaries as to the vote in their state and published the results. While the State Secretaries of the large states of Illinois and New York refused to comply with the request of the Left Wing Section, enough states did send in thier tallies for a very telling summary to be published. This document lists the vote for International Delegates and International Secretary by individual states, showing a massive defeat for the candidates loyal to the outgoing NEC. Numbers have been retabulated by computer for publication here, correcting a substantial published undercount of the vote for Morris Hillquit for International Secretary.
“The Crisis Within the Party,” by Jack Carney [June 19, 1919] Carney, the Editor of Truth, a radical weekly from Duluth, Minnesota, believes he has isolated a problem in the Socialist Party—lawyers and intellectuals. “Seymour Stedman, John M. Work, Victor L. Berger, and a few more of the NEC seem to think that it is their special duty to lead the rank and file. Now that the rank and file are alive to their policy of opportunism, they are in danger of being ousted at the coming election of a new NEC. Therefore in order to ensure their re-election, they expel all those that are in any way opposed to their opportunistic tactics,” Carney declares. “The Social Revolution will never be achieved by simply electing a mayor in Dubbtown,” Carney asserts. “The revolution will be a success when we have the workers organized and conscious of their strength to run industry. Therefore it naturally follows that the workers must work to set themselves free. That means that there is no room in our movement for lawyers, intellectuals (?), and other unnecessary beings that capitalism has created.” The journalist Carney’s opinion on the worthiness to the movement of the intellectuals Karl Marx and Frederich Engels or the lawyer Vladimir Ul’ianov is not recorded. “If the Left Wing wins out, then there is no room for Stedman, Hillquit, Berger, and their hangers-on,” Carney declares. “Let us not be sentimental about this matter, but act like men and women and for the sake of the revolution let us act straight. The surgeon who shoves in the knife and digs down deep, soon heals the wounds.”
“Minutes of the New York State Executive Committee, SPA: New York City—June 21, 1919.” Official published record of the June meeting of the governing body of the Socialist Party of New York. The minutes make clear that the split of the Socialist Party in New York state was already an accomplished fact: the Central Committee of Local Bronx “decided to notify all branches that they must withdraw all delegates to the Central Committee who are members of the ‘Left Wing,’ and all branches affiliated with the ‘Left Wing’ section must withdraw or stand suspended.” State Secretary Cook stated that he had attended a meeting of Local Queens “at which Organizer Paul was very bitter in his denunciation against the State Executive Committee. Paul did not submit a single letter of the State Executive Committee to the party meeting.” The State Executive Committee, summarily and without charges, hearing, or trial, “empowered” State Secretary Cook “to use all efforts to reorganize Local Queens.” Similarly, minutes of Local Buffalo had been received by Cook indicating the adoption of the Left Wing manifesto, which was met by immediate passage of a resolution “that the State Secretary be instructed to proceed to reorganize Local Buffalo as soon as possible.” Cook was also instructed to reorganize Locals Utica and Rochester, the minutes note. Some 16 branches of Local Kings County had been reorganized, according to Cook, in addition to Local Bronx. National Secretary Adolph Germer had been informed of these reorganizations and asked to contact branches affiliated with non-English federations still not suspended, “particularly those of the German and Finnish, that they must affiliate with the locals recognized by the State Committee, and that they must withdraw their delegates and recognition from the ‘Left Wing’ locals, and should they fail to do so, these branches be suspended from their respective federations.”
“Speech at a Mass Meeting: Madison Square Garden—June 10, 1919,” by Dennis Batt The Lusk Committee of the New York legislature was immediately active in building a case against radical political and labor organizations with a nexus in that state. Surveillance was conducted at public meetings—including stenographic reports of speeches, such as this one by Left Wing leader Dennis Batt, made at a mass meeting held at Madison Square Garden (probably held in protest of military intervention in Soviet Russia). Batt brings down the house when he exclaims: “We cannot expect, and neither do we expect, anything but a fight, and a very nasty fight from the capitalist class. We do not expect anything from them, except their iron heel, if they will give it to use, because we know...that there is only one thing that the capitalist class of this or any other country understands, there is just one argument that they can listen to—and that is power. You can appeal to them and to their sense of justice. You can argue about right and wrong, but until such time as the working class of America has generated the force to overcome the position, until such time we will have to put up with such outrages as the raid upon the Bureau of the Soviet government, as the imprisonment of Eugene Victor Debs.”
“Circular Letter to the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of America from Adolph Germer, Executive Secretary.”[June 21, 1919] This short letter from the Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party of America to the sitting members of the National Executive Committee (whose terms were constitutionally set to expire on June 30, 1919) passes along the content of a telegram from Left Wing NEC members Ludwig Katterfeld and Alfred Wagenknecht to the Socialist Party of Massachusetts charging the NEC with “flagrant procedure and violation of the party constitution”in excluding “40,000 members of our party.” The aid of the Massachusetts party is solicited. Secretary Germer adds the remark that “in all the propaganda sent out by Katterfeld, Wagenknecht, and Fraina”the claim is made that “nearly 40,000 members were expelled.”Germer states that “according to our records”the action recently taken by the NEC “involves around 27,000”
“Frameup of Radicals Laid to Lusk Probers by Resigning Aide: Official Translator Quits Post, Asserting Committee Does Not Seek Truth But Tries to Influence and Arouse Public Opinion—British Secret Service Chief Examined Papers, Is Charge.” [June 22, 1919] This article will be of interest to specialists in espionage and counter-intelligence—a news report from the Socialist Party’s New York Call reprinting the press release of Feliciu Vexler, a Romanian-born linguist who abruptly resigned his post as a translator for Lusk Committee over what he characterized the “methods of the former Tsars of Russia” being pursued by the committee in their self-proclaimed attempt to “bust up the whole Socialist and radical gang.” Vexler charges that British intelligence was working hand in glove with Archibald Stevenson, the driving force of the raid on the Russian Soviet Government Bureau. According to the news report, members of the raiding crew told Vexler frankly that “their purpose in making the raids was not to find the truth, but to ‘frame up’ a case against all radical groups in New York through the public press, and to show as plausibly as possible that a coordinated movement for the ‘overthrow of the government’ of the United States exists.” Includes Vexler’s complete press release and an account of a brief interview conducted with Vexler personally, during which Vexler stated “it appeared to me to be an attempt to ‘frame up’ certain persons for public obloquy.... Stevenson told me it was his purpose to link together all the various radical movements in an attempt to show that a widespread conspiracy existed by which it was intended to overthrow the government.”
“British Provost Marshal Aided Lusk Probers with Documents: Nathan, Who Took Leading Part in Raid, Just a ‘Junior’ Officer: Head of Organization Says He Furnished Record of Martens but Didn’t ‘Butt In.’” [June 25, 1919] This article from the New York Call follows up on linguist Feliciu Vexler’s charge that British intelligence was working with Archibald Stevenson and the Lusk Committee in their raid on the Russian Soviet Government Bureau and their attempt to link various liberal and radical persons and institutions in a grand conspiracy plot. The Call reporter went to the office of the British consulate attempting to find a certain “Nathan” on the staff, purported to be the head of British intelligence in America. The reporter ironically interviewed Norman Thwaites, who was ironically William Wiseman’s chief intelligence officer in the US. Despite two other employees playing dumb to the reporter, Thwaites obligingly acknowledged that there was a “junior” of unspecified duties on his staff by the name of Nathan—actually his top assistant specializing in gathering data on nationalist and radical movements and individuals, Robert Nathan. Thwaites told the reporter he “wasn’t sure of Nathan’s initials, but thought they were J.R.”—and stated that Nathan had “taken some records concerning L.C.A.K. Martens to the raiders” following the seizure of documents from the RSGB. Thwaites is quoted as saying “this office had nothing whatever to do with the Lusk Committee” and that “this office would not think of butting into such an affair as this. Even if we had been invited to participate—though, since this is not our business, I don’t see why we should have been—I should have absolutely refused to take part.”
“Robert Minor Misrepresented: Letter to the Editor of The New Republic,” by Robert Minor [June 14, 1919] Radical cartoonist and journalist Robert Minor attempts to use the pages of the liberal weekly The New Republic to clear the air about an interview which he conducted with Lenin that was appearing in the press so as to undermine Western peace efforts. The actual interview had been conducted on Dec. 8, 1918, Minor notes, and Lenin’s comment that the Entente nations and America “not building a League of Nations, but a league of imperialists to strangle the nations” had been related to the situation at that particular moment. Upon leaving Russia, Minor had freelanced the article to the Berlin correspondent of an American newspaper, which had held the article until after a tenuous offer for a peace conference had been advanced to the various parties at war in Russia. “When the Lenin interview appeared in print, it had been changed so as to appear to have been given at a much later date and to be Lenin’s answer to the Prinkipo invitation,” Minor notes, “I am certain that [Lenin] would not have made such a comment upon an invitation to parley. His answer, when it came, was an acceptance, as you know.” Minor states that his attempts to clarify the situation in the press had been until then unsuccessful, and he asked the editor of The New Republic for his assistance in setting the matter right. Includes a short footnote on the background of the stillborn call for a Russian peace conference at Prinkipo.
“Minutes of the National Left Wing Conference: New York City,” by Fannie Horowitz [events of June 21-24, 1919] These rather skeletal minutes only hint at the great controversy that gripped the June National Conference of the Left Wing in New York City, but still managed to provide a rough outline of the factional conflict. Division first took place over the question as to whether the various language federations would be allowed their own voting delegates, in addition to those federationists already elected through regular channels. The federation delegates were seated with voice and vote, yet remained in the minority at the Conference. A “National Council of the Left Wing” was elected, none of the 9 members elected being a Federationist. This body replaced an “Emergency National Council” elected earlier that same day, which had included no fewer than 2 Federation representatives. The evening of the second day the main bone of contention became clear— the tactical question of whether the organized Left Wing Section should continue its fight to enforce its victory in the abrogated 1919 party elections by fighting out the matter at the forthcoming Emergency National Convention of the party (reporter in support of this idea being would-be Executive Secretary Alfred Wagenknecht); or whether the Left Wing should immediately declare itself “the Communist Party of America” and endorse the already existing Michigan call for a September 1, 1919, founding convention to formalize the organization (reporter being Nick Hourwich). A resolution proclaiming the establishment of the Communist Party of America was hastily drawn up by C.E. Ruthenberg and Hourwich. After lengthy discussion, this resolution was defeated and the the tactic of continuing the fight within the Socialist Party thus endorsed. Contrary to popular belief, the Federationists and Michiganders did not immediately bolt the conference over the issue, however; nor, truth be told, did they technically bolt the convention at all. Participation continued briefly, with Michigan partisan Dennis Batt resigned from the Manifesto Committee on the afternoon of the third day. Only at a later session that night did the Federationists Hourwich and Alex Stoklitsky resign their committee posts and was an announcement read indicating that 31 Federationist delegates had “decided to withhold their activities from the Conference until such time as they see fit to resume them.” The Federationists remained present throughout— perhaps in an effort to ensure their travel expenses would be covered, perhaps in hopes that the tactical decision causing the split would be reconsidered. It was only at the end of the session held the 4th day that Latvian Federationist John Anderson [Kristap Beika] resigned from the Organization Committee. At the conclusion of the Conference, a formal split was looming rather than an accomplished fact.
“Letter to Marion Sproule, State Secretary of the Socialist Party of Massachusetts from Adolph Germer, Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party of America.”[June 25, 1919] In this letter to the State Secretary of the Socialist Party of Massachusetts, SP Executive Secretary Adolph Germer passes along news of the expulsion of the Massachusetts Party by the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party in a vote of 8 to 1. “I am sure the revocation of the charter was not unexpected in view of the action taken by your recent State Convention, which constitutes a repudiation of the Socialist Party platform and a violation of the sections above cited,” Germer tells the Left Wing State Secretary, Ms. Sproule. “The revocation of the charter cancels the election of delegates to the Special National Convention to be held in Chicago, August 30th, 1919,”Germer notes as a casual aside. The voiding of a large Left Wing delegate slate was, of course, the entire reason for the NEC’s rush to draconian action, Germer’s crocodile tears about regretting the necessity of the action notwithstanding.
“Duncan Brands Hanson as Liar and Impostor: Strikebreaking Mayor Stripped of Patriotic Veneer by Seattle Union Leader.” [event of June 25, 1919] This is a New York Call report of a public speech by Seattle trade unionist James Duncan, who takes aim at the city’s self-promoting king of the red baiters, former Mayor Ole Hanson. Hanson is called a “liar” for pretending to have broken the Seattle general strike of 1919, which was called off by the unions themselves. Duncan lets fly in front of a delighted standing room only crowd in New York City: “Ole Hanson is a liar. Ole Hanson is an imposter parading as a patriot. Ole Hanson had nothing to do with the calling off of the strike. If he says so, he is imposing himself upon the good nature of the people. Ole Hanson is the biggest four-flushing politician. He’s about as big a liar as ever came down the pike.” Duncan also sticks up for Bolshevik Russia in his speech, saying: “America and Russia have something in common. They were both born out of revolution. We can look each other in the eye. American workers should wish the Russian workers well and should aid them as well as they know how... We don’t say that we want Bolshevism in America, but if the workers want Bolshevism in Russia, it’s their right, and their privilege. And we should say: ‘Hands off and give them a chance.’”
“Another Victory for Uncompromising Socialism: New National Executive Committee of Left Wing Socialists.” [June 25, 1919] The results of the SPA vote for National Executive Members in the party’s five electoral districts (arbitrarily voided by the outgoing NEC) were also independently gathered, tabulated, and published by the Left Wing Section in their weekly publication The Ohio Socialist. These results showed a strong Left Wing majority in the candidates who should have been elected: “These tabulations show that Fraina, Hourwich, and Lindgren were elected upon the new National Executive Committee from the First District; Ruthenberg, Prevey, and Harwood from the Second District; Keracher, Batt, and Lloyd from the Third District; Nagle, Millis, and Hogan from the Fourth District; Katterfeld, Wicks, and Herman from the Fifth District.” Of these, only the 3rd district candidates plus Harwood in the Second District and Herman in the Fifth, were Left Wing Candidates. Had the election not been invalidated, this evidence demonstrates fairly conclusively that the Left Wing Section would have “captured” the party via the democratic will of the membership in the Spring 1919 election.
“‘Report of the National Left Wing Conference (Extracts — Part 1): New York — June 21-25, 1919,’” The unity of the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party was shattered by the coup of the outgoing NEC of the Socialist Party in the late spring and summer of 1919, suspending and expellling tens of thousands of party members. These members thrown outside the organization were less inclined to remain steadfast to a strategy of winning over the organization through normal internal processes of party decision-making, instead seeking immediate establishment of a new Communist Party. This material, published in the August 2, 1919 issue of the organ of the Left Wing Section, The Revolutionary Age, provides a range of perspectives on the situation facing the left wing from the time of relative unity of purpose. Includes the speeches of Louis C. Fraina, Dennis Batt (Michigan Party), I.E. Ferguson (Sec. of National Left Wing Council), John Ballam (Massachusetts Party), Alexander Stoklitsky (Russian Federation), and Harry Hiltzik (Jewish Left Wing Federation). Most interesting of the group are the perspectives of Ballam and Ferguson, who at this time were still staunch advocates of conducting the fight within the SPA. These two later became founding members of the Communist Party of America.
“Imprisoned Member Protests NEC Action: Herman Characterizes Expulsion of Michigan State Organization and Suspension of Language Federations as Undemocratic, Unparliamentary, and Unsocialistic,” by Emil Herman [June 26, 1919] Alfred Wagenknecht and Ludwig Katterfeld were not the only members of the Socialist Party’s 15 member National Executive Committee who objected to the NEC’s draconian action taken in June of 1919 suspending 7 of the SPA’s language federations and expelling the Michigan state organization. This letter from imprisoned NEC member Emil Herman of Washington reveals that Herman shared the misgivings of the two Communist Labor Party founders. Herman expressly records his “no” vote against these actions and writes: “The NEC has at all its meetings seen fit to consider as ‘present’ all its members who are by action of the government prevented from personally attending. As an expression of sentiment and comradely sympathy I, as one so detained, appreciate this graceful tribute very sincerely. But when, as appears from the minutes of the recent NEC meeting, this imaginary ‘presence’ is made use of in an attempt to constitute a quorum when no quorum exists, in order to make wholesale expulsions from the party and to deprive the membership of expression through the referendum, I am constrained to protest, and this most vigorously, such an undemocratic, unparliamentary, and unsocialistic procedure. Surely as Socialists we cannot afford to stoop to the use of such petty, political trickery, nor should we wish to do so.”
“Letter to the New York Call ... including Full Text of Letter to NY State Secretary Walter Cook, dated June 12, 1919,” by Nicholas Aleinikoff [June 27, 1919] Perhaps the most vocal supporter of the besieged Left Wing section of the Socialist Party sitting on the New York State Executive Committee was Nicholas Aleinikoff. Aleinikoff was sharply critical of the perceived unconstitutional behavior of the SEC and State Secretary Walter Cook in their draconian reorganizations of locals endorsing the Left Wing manifesto. On June 12, Aleinikoff addressed a letter to Cook formally objecting to the decisions taken by the SEC at its May 21 meeting against Locals Kings, Queens, and Bronx. Aleinikoff states that these actions were “taken in clear violation of the provisions of the state constitution” as “there was no evidence before the committee that any of the locals above mentioned had willfully adopted and adhered to a constitution or platform in violation of the national or state constitutions of the Socialist Party.” Cook did not transmit Aleinkoff’s objections to the full state committee however, basing his action upon a constitutional provision banning appeals by SEC members to the full State Committee (a decision formally approved by the SEC at its June 21 session). The actions of the SEC and Cook are said to have been based upon vagaries of matters having merely “come to their attention” rather than upon formal investigation, preference and defense of charges, and decision based upon these hearings. Aleinikoff appeals to The Call to publish his communication as the only means possible for him to communicate with the rest of the New York State Committee, given the obstruction of State Secretary Cook.
“Answers Aleinikoff: Letter to the Editor of the New York Call,” by Walter M. Cook [June 28, 1919] New York Socialist Party State Secretary Walter Cook is quick to answer the charges of State Executive Committee member Nicholas Aleinikoff that the SEC had engaged in unconstitutional practices in its May 21 move against Locals Kings, Queens, and Bronx. “Comrade Aleinikoff claims the SEC did not have “evidence” before it when taking action. A sub-committee was appointed to secure that evidence and no one ever before denied that these locals have not adopted the Left Wing manifesto as their official platform and affiliated themselves with that organization,” writes Cook. “Certainly the body which has the power to issue a charter has also the power to revoke same for good and sufficient reasons,” Cook adds. “Had Comrade Aleinikoff (and others of a similar mind) lived up to the duties of the office he held in the Socialist Party, and had studied the state and national constitutions, as faithfully to defend them against the avowed purpose of the party’s internal enemies to “split” off from what a few individuals styled the Right, as he is now doing in playing for time with them, he would hardly have left the Socialist Party as he has done,” Cook concludes.
“Testing the Water,” a cartoon by Art Young [July 1919]. ***PDF GRAPHIC FILE (460 k.) This cartoon by Art Young appeared in the July 1919 issue of Max Eastman’s monthly,The Liberator. Untitled in the original, the drawing features a geriatric “U.S. Socialist Party” sitting beneath the tree of “petit-bourgeois respectability” dipping his toe in the “Communist International” pond.
“The Left Wing and the Truth,” by Adolph Germer [July 2, 1919]. The National Executive Secretary makes a spirited defense of the decision of the party’s governing National Executive Committee to expel the state organization of Michigan for violation of the constitution of the Socialist Party. Germer quotes the newly revised constitution of Michigan and its mandate that “any member, local, or branch of a local, advocating legislative reforms or supporting organizations formed for the purpose of advocating such reforms, shall be expelled from the Socialist Party” and notes the patent contradiction of this clause with the national constitution of the SPA. Germer notes that neither of the two Left Wing partisans on the NEC --- Alfred Wagenknecht and Ludwig Katterfeld—disputed the fundamental validity of this charge and details how the Michigan State Secretary, John Keracher, rushed to the May 1919 meeting of the NEC in Chicago and then refused to answer questions that might have put the position of Michigan in a more favorable light. Germer further quotes correspondence from a Detroit Jewish branch suspended by the Michigan Executive Committee to confirm the reality of the Michigan position in actual practice.
“Left Wingers Capture the Ohio Socialist Convention: Resolve to Rule or Wreck National Party—’Communist Party’ to Be Formed,” by Joseph W. Sharts [events of June 27-29, 1919] On June 27-28, 1919, the Socialist Party of Ohio held its state convention in Cincinnati. The gathering was attended by about 55 delegates—the big majority of which were supporters of the Left Wing movement in the Socialist Party. This news account by SP Regular Joseph Sharts notes that the convention, after 3 hours of debate, voted 47-7 in favor of a pre-prepared state program presented by C.E. Ruthenberg of Cleveland which “declared unequivocally for the ‘Left Wing,’ viz. for limiting political action, relegating it to a mere auxiliary and subordinate position under industrial action, cutting out all agitation for immediate palliative measures, such as municipal ownership, and insisting upon the abolition of the entire capitalist system through the dictatorship of the proletariat.” The day following the convention was held the Ohio state picnic of the Socialist Party, which was addressed by Ruthenberg, Charles Baker, Margaret Prevey, and John Keracher of Detroit.
“The National Left Wing Conference,” by Louis C. Fraina. [Published July 5, 1919] Originally an unsigned report from the pages of The Revolutionay Age, attributed to Fraina based upon his editorship and content. This article details the First (and only) National Conference of the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party, held in New York City from June 21-24, 1919. The session was attended over 90 delegates hailing from about 20 different states. The opening address was given by Fraina, who said that “the proletarian revolution in action has modified the old tactical concepts of Socialism; and the inspiration of the Bolshevik conquests, joining with the original minority Socialism in the Socialist Party, has produced the Left Wing.” Includes a discussion of major issues at the Conference, first and foremost the question of whether to proceed immediately to the formation of a Communist Party or to continue the struggle for control of the Socialist Party’s Emergency National Convention in the face of mounting expulsions, reorganizations, and suspensions. Interesting mention of a dismissed alternative in which the Central Committees of the Language Federations would have each been entitled to a seat on the governing National Council of the Left Wing. Defeated on the question of immediate formation of a party and a federative National Council, 31 delegates of the Federations and Michigan caucused and declined further participation from the third day, thus moving towards a factionalized movement in September.
“Minor Ordered Released by US Army Officer: All Charges Against Him Understood to Have Been Dropped—May Return to Paris.” (New York Call) [July 7, 1919] After over a month in detention to answer charges leveled by the British that he had spread radical propaganda among British and American troops, this article announces journalist Robert Minor’s release by army officials “after word had been passed from officialdom believed close to the Peace Commission.... Lincoln Steffens, who assisted in the report handed the American peace commission on Russia, learned of Minor’s arrest and sought the aid of Colonel House, the President’s confidential adviser, to secure Minor’s liberty.... The father of Robert Minor, Judge Minor of Texas, also appealed to the government, and after a month’s confinement the journalist was finally set at liberty.” The account states that “no official announcement has been made concerning Minor’s release, but it is understood that all charges against him have been dropped and that he will immediately return to Paris.”
“Minnesota Socialists Expel Van Lear for War Stand: State Referendum by 1,500 to 800 Also Reads His Local Out of the Party.” (New York Call) [July 8, 1919] This news report details the expulsion from the Socialist Party of former Minneapolis mayoral candidate Thomas Van Lear by referendum vote of the Socialist Party of Minnesota by a margin of approximately 1,500 to 800. The charges for the expulsion of Van Lear were his pro-war activities and his repudiation of the majority report of the St. Louis Convention and for having joined the American Alliance for Labor and Democracy, the article notes. State Secretary Charles Dirba (later a top leader of the Communist Party of America) is said to have declared the vote to be both a repudiation of Van Lear’s policies and an approval of the policies of those he termed “the educators.”
“Minutes of theMeeting of the New York State Executive Committee, Socialist Party of America,Sunday, July 13, 1919.” In the summer of 1919, the StateExecutive Committee of the Socialist Party of New York conducted a series ofcharter revocations of many of the state’s local and county organizationswhich supported the program of the Left Wing Section or refused to terminateparticipation of members of locals affiliated with suspended languagefederations. These revocations were followed by immediate“reorganizations” of locals hostile to the Left Wing Section andloyal to the SPA’s Old Guard. These minutes of the July 13 meeting of theSEC in Albany detail the repressive measures taken against to following groups:Local Kings County, Local Queens County, Local Utica, Local Syracuse, LocalRochester. In a related matter, tension ran hot over an editorial run by LudwigLore in the New Yorker Volkszeitung represented as urging Socialists in Kingsand Queens Counties not to recognize the actions of the State ExecutiveCommittee in reorganizing those organizations, but rather to remain loyal tothe deposed organizations. An interest esoteric tidbit: a proposal to hold anemergency New York State Convention—presumably a tactic that would havebenefited the Left Wing Section—failed on a tie 12 to 12 vote of theState Executive Committee, with future member of the Communist Party AlexanderTrachtenberg voting in the negative. In his vote, which effectively defeatedthe proposal, Trachtenberg joined such Old Guard stalwarts as Julius Gerber,Bertha Mailly, Benjamin Orr, Barney Berlin, Morris Hillquit, and Louis Waldman.Had Trachtenberg voted the other way, the crushing polices of the New York SECwould have been fought out and decided on the convention floor.
“‘LeftWing’ Convention is as Secret as Paris Conference: Next Move of FactionWill be Attempt to Capture Socialist Party’s Emergency Convention inAugust, says James Oneal,” by James Oneal [July 15, 1919]The Socialist Party regulars kept a close eye on the development of the LeftWing Section throughout the summer of 1919. This report on the Left WingNational Conference held in New York City from June 21-24, 1919 pays closeattention to internal divisions within the “Left Wing” camp. Theanglophonic element of the Left wing Section “were up against the sameproposition” previously faced by the Socialist Party, in Oneal’sview—an attempt by the foreign language federations to achieve doublerepresentation on the governing Left Wing National Council and to thus controlthe organization. Oneal notes that the Left Wing had altered its program at thegathering, but had no specific details about the changes rendered. As early asthis date, six weeks before the Emergency National Convention of the SPA, Onealoffers political analysis that is eerily prescient: “...[U]unless theSocialist Party is willing to submit to the dictatorship of the ‘LeftWing,’ the latter is prepared to organize its motley elements intoanother political party. The split, in other words, is here and the‘lefts’ have made doubly sure of it. It is just as well that theyhave, as one year of a Communist Party that talks of the ‘conquest of thebourgeois state by the revolutionary mass action of the proletariat’cannot live in this country as a political organization of the working class.It will be driven underground. It cannot remain on the ballot in any state assoon as this program becomes generally known. It must become a secretsociety.” Oneal adds that the heterogeneous Left Wing was held togetheronly by “common hatred of the Socialist Party.” As soon as theEmergency Convention was concluded, “they will be thrown upon their ownresources and they can be relied upon to tear each other to pieces,”Oneal predicted.
“Ruthenberg is Jailed Under New Ohio Law: Socialist Locked Up on Charge of “Criminal Syndicalism”—Called War “Mass Murder.” (New York Call) [July 18, 1919] In the evening of July 18, Cleveland Socialist leader C.E. Ruthenberg was addressing a local crowd, making his first speech of the 1919 mayoral campaign. About 30 minutes into his speech he was interrupted by a squad of policemen headed by Chief of Police Smith, who placed Ruthenberg under arrest for allegedly violating the new Ohio Criminal Syndicalism Law. Six others were also held “for investigation by Federal authorities” as a result of the operation, which was aided by the Right Wing “Loyal American League.” At issue was Ruthenberg’s statement that World War I had been a period of “mass murder.” “If it is possible for the government to take over the steamships and railroads, telephone and telegraph lines and other public utilities in time of war in order to make mass murder more efficient, why is it not possible for these same industries to be publicly controlled for the common good of all in times of peace?” candidate Ruthenberg had asked. A further reminder that American civil liberties were not granted on a platter by forefathers in powdered wigs and defended by uniformed soldiers of the standing army abroad, but rather were fought and won over time by frequently unpopular (and sometimes despised) political radicals who had to courage to hold forth unpopular truths in the face of massive pressure by the armed state and its conservative vigilante allies, a vengeful judiciary, and an apathetic citizenry.
“Socialist Party of St. Louis Makes Appeal for Unity in Organization: Party War Record Does Not Justify ‘Wing’ Row, is Plea.” [July 19, 1919] A lengthy and thoughtful summary of the case against the factional war launched by the Socialist Party’s insurgent Left Wing made by Local St. Louis, an organization comprised of SPA Regulars. “While the world war was on we never heard of a Left Wing nor of a Right Wing,” the statement declares, as during the days of discouragement of 1914-16, the Socialist Party “remained true to the Red Banner of Internationalism,” while after American entry into the conflict in 1917 the party went further and issued a “revolutionary declaration” against the conflict. The SPA had suffered for its principled anti-militarist stand: papers had been suppressed, the National Office had been raided, and leaders and rank and filers alike had been hauled before the courts by the Woodrow Wilson regime. There was simply no claim to be made against the party for failure to stand true to its values during the war, the St. Louis appeal notes. Furthermore, the party had loyally supported the Russian Revolution from its earliest phase in March 1917 until the present day. “Mass meetings were held, demonstrations in behalf of Soviet Russia were arranged, our Socialist press gave all possible support to counteract the sinister work of the American capitalist press,” Local St. Louis notes. The party’s position had been taken actively to the American people. “The capitalist class failed to break up our Socialist Party by attacking it from the outside and by vicious persecution. Attempts will now be made to try the destructive work from the inside. There are many ways of procedure, which are best known to the secret agents and agents provocateurs. It is unfortunate that at this most critical time, when the Socialist Party ought to show a united and solid front to resist the offensive of destruction launched by our common enemy, our organization should be checked and hindered in its work by a so-called Left Wing movement, and that a ‘White Card’ underground organization should be formed in the party. We can see neither rhyme nor reason in such a sideshow movement,” Local St. Louis declares.
“Long Livethe Soviet Republic!” An Editorial in The MilwaukeeLeader—July 19, 1919. The Socialist Party daily The Milwaukee Leaderand its founder and editor, Victor L. Berger, have been regarded as hailing fromthe SPA’s Right Wing, generally by those who have never seen the paper orread Berger. In reality, Berger and Hillquit composed a SPACenter—anti-militarist in sentiment, analytically Marxist,internationalist in perspective (the true SPA Right Wing departed en masse inthe aftermath of the St. Louis Emergency Convention of 1917). Although notwritten by Berger, who was in the midst of legal proceedings for purportedviolation of the so-called Espionage Act, this editorial in Berger’spaper emphasizes once again that whatever the ideological and personaldifferences were between the dissident Left Wing Section and the establishmentSPA Center, political perspective on the nature of the Bolshevik Revolution andthe role of American Socialists with regard to that revolution was emphaticallyNOT part of the equation. In 1919, all factions of the Socialist Party ofAmerica were in solid support of Lenin and Trotsky and their cause. Thiseditorial accuses President Wilson of practicing “the opposite of what hepreaches” by rendering aid to the interventionists in Soviet Russia.“It is because Soviet Russia is a Socialist nation.... Should theSocialist government of Russia be allowed to succeed and become permanent, itsgood example to the workers of the other countries would be such that theseworkers would establish Socialism in their countries, too. Therefore, theSoviet government of Russia must be destroyed...”
“Call fora National Convention for the Purpose of Organizing a Communist Party inAmerica.” [July 19, 1919] This is the text of the extensive“Federations-Michigan Convention Call” for the formation of anAmerican Communist Party. The call states that “the National ExecutiveCommittee of the Socialist Party of America has evidenced by its expulsion ofnearly half of the membership that they will not hesitate at wrecking theorganization in order to maintain their control.” These suspensions andexpulsions had made it “manifestly impossible to longer delay the callingof a convention to organize a new party,” notes the call, butunfortunately “the majority of the delegates to the Left Wing Conferencein New York meekly neglected to sever their connections with the reactionaryNational Executive Committee,” instead continuing to “mark time asCentrists in the wake of the Right.” No other course was possible thanthe immediate formation of a Communist Party in Chicago at a convention tobegin Sept. 1, 1919. A set of organizational principles and an organizationalprogram are provided. The call specifies that convention representation is tobe on the basis of one delegate for each organization, and one additionaldelegate for every 500 members or major fraction thereof.
“On theParty Horizon,” by Alexander Stoklitsky [July 19, 1919]Translator-Secretary of the Russian Federation Alexander Stoklitsky takes aimat the “Centrists” who continue to follow the strategy of“capturing the Socialist Party for revolutionary socialism.”Stoklitsky mocks: “Every bridge leading to the old, rotten structure ofopportunism must be destroyed.... The capture of the old party for‘revolutionary socialism’ is but a declaration of war uponwindmills by the Don Quixotes of the Center.” Stoklitsky asks, “Whycapture the old party? Is the name of the Socialist Party so dear to the workingclass? No. The name of the Socialist Party is no longer dear to the proletariat.Years of reformatory and treacherous activity have covered it with mud andslime.” Further, the SPA’s structure and apparatus is unsuited forthe revolutionary movement and its literature “only fit to bedestroyed.” Stoklitsky declares that “BECAUSE THE SPLIT IN THEPARTY IS AN ACTUAL FACT IT BECOMES OUR SACRED DUTY TO CONSTRUCT A COMMUNISTPARTY.” Stoklitsky offers an analysis that would be dominant in the CPAover the next three years, declaring the American Socialist movement had, inparallel of the Socialist movement of Europe, split into three tendencies:Right, Center, and Left. However, Stoklitsky equates the dominant SPA PartyRegular tendency of Hillquit and Berger (anti-militarist, Marxist opponents ofthe national regime) with the pro-war, government Majority Socialists ofGermany, calling them “Right.” Similarly, the revolutionarysocialists continuing their effort to win control of the Socialist Party inhopes of converting it to a revolutionary socialist are rather speciouslyequated with the Independent Socialists in Germany as “wishy-washyCentrists” who are pursuing a “pitiful” strategy. “Downwith the Socialist Party! Down with the wavering Center! Long live the militantCommunist Party of America!” Stoklitsky declares.
“Adolph theTruth Seeker,” by John Keracher [July 19, 1919] In contrastto the barrage of ultra-Left hostility vented by Alexander Stoklitsky in thesame issue of the official organ of the faction of the Federation-Michiganalliance, Michigan leader John Keracher is surprisingly temperate in hiscriticism of SPA Executive Secretary Adolph Germer and his cohorts. Germer issaid to be a man of honest opinions and sincere convictions—albeit onewilling to engage in a campaign of half-truths and distortions to bolster hiscause. The central fact of the crisis in the Socialist Party in the Summer of1919 was this, Keracher believes: “the membership has voted the old gangout of office, and they prefer to split the party rather than give up theircontrol!” Everything else is a pretext to justify this naked grab forpower, Keracher believes. The issue behind the suspension of the JewishBranches of Local Detroit had been misrepresented in the SP party press byGermer, Keracher indicates. The SPA’s NEC had taken draconian actionaagainst Michigan with factional purpose; queries made by Michigan StateSecretary Keracher had been answered dishonestly. The Emergency Convention inMichigan which had followed the NEC’s revocation of the Michigan charterhad been legally called, contrary to the assertions of Germer. In the finalanalysis, all of the NEC’s arguments are nothing more than“quibbling,” in Keracher’s estimation: “This split,which they deliberately precipitated, was inevitable due to the developmentgoing on within the party. What difference does it make if the division takesthe form of expulsion or withdrawal? Those who desire to participate in realsocialist propaganda will send delegates to Chicago on September 1st  toorganize the Communist Party of America.”
“Long Livethe Soviet Republic!” An Editorial in The MilwaukeeLeader—July 19, 1919. The Socialist Party daily The Milwaukee Leaderand its founder and editor, Victor L. Berger, have been regarded as hailing fromthe SPA’s Right Wing, generally by those who have never seen the paper orread Berger. In reality, Berger and Hillquit composed a SPACenter—anti-militarist in sentiment, analytically Marxist,internationalist in perspective (the true SPA Right Wing departed en masse inthe aftermath of the St. Louis Emergency Convention of 1917). Although notwritten by Berger, who was in the midst of legal proceedings for purportedviolation of the so-called Espionage Act, this editorial in Berger’spaper emphasizes once again that whatever the ideological and personaldifferences were between the dissident Left Wing Section and the establishmentSPA Center, political perspective on the nature of the Bolshevik Revolution andthe role of American Socialists with regard to that revolution was emphaticallyNOT part of the equation. In 1919, all factions of the Socialist Party ofAmerica were in solid support of Lenin and Trotsky and their cause. Thiseditorial accuses President Wilson of practicing “the opposite of what hepreaches” by rendering aid to the interventionists in Soviet Russia.“It is because Soviet Russia is a Socialist nation.... Should theSocialist government of Russia be allowed to succeed and become permanent, itsgood example to the workers of the other countries would be such that theseworkers would establish Socialism in their countries, too. Therefore, theSoviet government of Russia must be destroyed...”
“LocalCleveland’s Referendum,” by James Oneal [July 22, 1919]Immediately after the Socialist Party’s NEC abrogated the 1919 election,expelled Michigan, and suspended the entire memberships of 7 of theparty’s language federations, the Left Wing Section sprang into action,with Local Cleveland, Ohio putting forward a party referendum aimed atoverturning the NEC’s actions within 24 hours. This article by NEC memberand arch-anti-Left Winger James Oneal challenges the competence of thosesupporting such an effort, asking, “have any of these members seen theevidence upon which alone the suspensions were made? Have they seen the mass ofevidence regarding election frauds? Not at all. Here are questions that involvethe violation of the party constitution and party principles. A general vote ofthe members cannot decide whether the evidence was sufficient to warrant ouractions.” Oneal calls for the matter to be decided not via referendum butat the forthcoming Emergency National Convention (a gathering that clearly wouldbe stacked in favor of the party administration, not accidentally). Onealcharacterizes the Left Wing Section as a rival political organization, bannedby party statute, rather than as an organized faction within the SP. Hemockingly refers to the Left Wing Section a “self-constituted‘dictatorship of the proletariat’” and encourages locals tothrow their request for seconds to their referendum “into thewastebasket.”
“Legislation Against Anarchy,” by Zechariah Chafee, Jr. [July 23, 1919] Zechariah Chafee, Jr., an Assistant Professor at Harvard Law School and member of the Rhode Island bar, reviews the current spate of anti-radical legislation that was sweeping the country, concentrating his attention on the Overman bill pending in the United States Senate. Chafee argues that existing normal law already sufficiently covers the crimes of assassination, destruction of property, and incitement to revolution and he asks whether “in the haste and excitement of the moment our legislators may not be going much too far.” “As far as state prosecutions are concerned, there has been very little need of specific legislation against anarchy and criminal syndicalism. Actual violence against the government, life, and property is punishable everywhere. Those who plan or counsel such violence are liable even if they do not actively participate,” Chafee declares. Furthermore, “no Congressional legislation is needed to make criminal any scheme to overthrow the United States government by bombs or any other means,” Chafee indicates. The article is lengthy and includes numerous citations of law, including a footnote detailing specific measures covering the entire gamut of related crimes for four key locales: New York, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Washington state. Chafee makes a civil libertarian argument that the current campaign to enact criminal syndicalism, criminal anarchism, and red flag legislation only has the effect of making opinion and thought illegal and violating the constitutional rights of press, assembly, and association rather than protecting society against actual criminal deeds. In contrast to this anti-libertarian trend, Chafee states that “normal criminal law is willing to run risks for the sake of open discussion, believing that truth will prevail over falsehood if both are given a fair field, and that argument and counter-argument are the best method which man has devised for ascertaining the right course of action for individuals or a nation. It holds that error is its own cure in the end, and the worse the error, the sooner it will be rejected.” Chafee concludes with a very detailed critique of the excesses of the Overman bill currently being touted in the Senate.
“People Ready for Socialism; Party Starting Work—Germer.” [July 24, 1919]. As the faction fight heated up in the summer of 1919, National Executive Secretary Adolph Germer travelled from Chicago to New York City for consultations with leaders of his faction. This article contains the content of an interview which Germer granted to the New York Socialist Party daily, the New York Call. Germer held a “rosy” view of the SP’s immediate future: “The situation as it existed last winter was wonderfully promising. If we had been able to remain united, nothing would have been too much to hope for. The time is ripe, and rotten ripe, for our propaganda. But the internal discussions and wranglings have sterilized our efforts to a very large extent.” Germer added that “There are thousands of old-time Comrades who had relapsed into inactivity, and who are only awaiting some stirring event to recall them to life. The time has come now. When the party gets rid of its internal disorders, when the decks are cleared, when we point our craft at the goal, we will be ready for work, and they will come back to us.” Germer exuded confidence as to the future result of the forthcoming Emergency Convention of the party: “The national convention that will meet on August 30 will take a strong stand, a resolute stand. Then, all those who do not care to remain with us can go their way. We will go our way, as we have always gone.”.
“The National Left Wing,” by Isaac E. Ferguson [published July 25, 1919] An open letter from the Secretary of the National Council of the Left Wing Section, established by the June 1919 National Conference of the Left Wing held in New York. Ferguson announces that the National Council is to conduct “the work of publicity and preparation on a national scale” for the August 30 Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party, to be held in Chicago. “The Left Wing triumph in the party elections makes emphatically clear what the membership wants.... It must not be annulled by the brazen dictation of a repudiated National Executive Committee which insists upon ruling the party in spite of the ending of its term on July 1st.” The dual strategy of the National Council that was to lead to the division of the Communist movement into two rival parties is already in evidence; Ferguson states “The Left Wing must control the regular party Emergency Convention, with the delegates instructed by the membership to undo the manipulations of the old NEC to join the party unreservedly with the Communist International, and to adopt a program of revolutionary socialism for all party activities. Or, if three-fourths of the party shall be expelled or suspended by August 30th, as appears now to be a definite possibility, or if the Emergency Convention shall be sidetracked by the rump NEC, the Left Wing delegates from all over the country must be brought together to organize an American Party of Communism.” Ferguson pleads for donations to the National Council and notes that 25¢ Special Propaganda Stamps are for sale.
“One Lie Nailed,” by Ludwig E. Katterfeld [July 26, 1919] Left Wing Section partisan Ludwig Katterfeld goes on the offensive in response to a charge by NEC member James Oneal that the outgoing National Executive Committee was not repudiated by the referendum of 1919—the results of which were suppressed by the self-same outgoing NEC. Katterfeld asserts that in reality, the 20,764 votes independently tabulated by The Ohio Socialist from 26 reporting states represented nearly “TWICE AS MANY” votes as the same states produced in the previous year’s national election. Oneal is further tweaked for having received a mere 1,726 votes in those same 26 states, as compared to the tally of 16.074 racked up by the leading vote-getter in the race, John Reed. Katterfeld pulls no punches in making his charge: “In view of these facts, what becomes of Oneal’s assertions and allegations? I commend these figures to our would-be “historian” James Oneal. Was he ignorant of these facts, or did he deliberately lie in his efforts to defend the defeated and discredited party officialdom and to prejudice the membership against the Left Wing and Revolutionary Socialism?”.
“Report to the Incoming National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party on the Party Press and Publishing, Lyceum Bureau, and Party School,” by L.E. Katterfeld [July 27, 1919] There is a tendency to see the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party as intent upon seizing the Socialist Party and utterly deconstructing its form and substance. This report of Ludwig Katterfeld to the sole physical meeting of the “new” NEC elected by the abrogated party election of 1919 offers a tantalizing glimpse of what seems to have far more constrained initial objective of the faction. Rather than construction of vanguard revolutionary organization, Katterfeld posits a modest restructuring of the Socialist Party along its traditional lines. Katterfeld advocates a systematically planned party-owned press based on regional territories instead of the current “anarchistic” system of competing private newspapers. Katterfeld postulates the division of the country into geographic districts, each served by a weekly paper which was to be developed to the point of daily frequency. These territorial papers were to cooperate in the costly task of news-gathering. An extremely low-cost national propaganda paper was to be published by the party itself in addition to a periodic paper to the national membership. The SPA was also to seek negotiations with Charles H. Kerr & Co. with a view to bringing that Marxist publishing house under party auspices and was to further study the economics of owning its own physical plant (unlike Kerr & Co., which jobbed out its press work). The Party was also to once again take over the routing of national speakers, replacing the current system based upon individuals negotiating their own lecture tours. Finally, Katterfeld advocates the immediate establishment of a party-owned training school to immediately set about training hundreds of young party members as speakers and efficient local secretaries. “In the past these duties have fallen largely upon those who received special training in a capitalist environment before they become Socialists. Practiceless lawyers, pulpitless preachers, and busted businessmen have almost had a monopoly of these positions and thereby influenced our movement our of all proportion to their number. The way to overcome this condition is to train up our own young people, working men and women who were Socialists first,” Katterfeld asserts.
“The Split in the Socialist Party,” by Joseph B. Stilson [July 30, 1919] The Translator-Secretary of the Lithuanian Socialist Federation, one of the leading players in the 1919 crisis in the SPA, provides a lengthy perspective on the history of the party split. One of the definitive views of the thinking of non-Anglo members of the Left Wing Section, Stilson (arguably) dates the origin of the conflict to the 1916 Presidential candidacy of Allan Benson, a referendum-nominated SP candidate who dodged all mention of the class struggle, in marked contrast to the fire-and-brimstone rhetoric of perennial party nominee Gene Debs. Stilson saw the war as an important turning point in the radicalization of the SP rank and file, one that tipped the majority of the party against its centrist office holders. Faced with electoral defeat in the party election of 1919, the SP leadership began acting in a manner befitting of Tammany Hall, expelling and suspending its opponents without trial, backed by the flimsiest of excuses, hypocritically framed. “That these politicians knew that the Left Wing had been in existence for over two years was frankly admitted by [NEC member George] Goebel, who said that he kept on his files a copy of each manifesto, program, and paper of the Left wingers. It was evident therefore that the Left Wing was tolerated as long as it did not threaten the control of the reactionary machine... Only when the Left Wing touched the nest of the Opportunists did it become a ‘violation of the party Constitution,’” Stilson asserts.
“The National Convention,” by Ludwig Lore [Aug. 1919] With the Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party due to start at the end of the month, Ludwig Lore holds little hope for a successful victory for an insurgent Left Wing in this editorial in his theoretical quarterly, The Class Struggle. When the Left Wing first demanded an Emergency National Convention, “it still seemed possible to follow the example of our Italian and Norwegian comrades in this country” in realigning the standing Socialist Party, as the majority of the rank and file was clearly in support of the revolutionary movement in Europe and “ready to support a radical departure from the methods that have hitherto prevailed in the American Socialist Party.” However, the outgoing National Executive Committee had read the same tea leaves and taken action, expelling entire state organizations for their Left Wing views (OH, MA, MI, PA [?]), suspended entire language federations, pursued a selected purge in New York, and allowed the tiny organizations of the “reorganized” states the same massive delegate allotment to which they had been entitled based upon their pre-purge membership. Lore’s assessment is sanguine: “Under these circumstance the outcome of the convention can hardly be doubtful. Packed as it will be by representatives from ‘reorganized’ states and locals who will be little more than mouthpieces of the powers that be in the Socialist Party, we doubt whether even the strong revolutionary element that will come from the West and from some states in the East will be numerically sufficiently strong to win out over their Right Wing opponents.” “The parting of the ways has come,” Lore declares, as “the brutal violation of the party autocracy of all who differed with them has left no other choice.”
“Letter of John Reed, et al. in New York to C.E. Ruthenberg in Cleveland, August 11, 1919.” Archival letter attributed to the typewriter of John Reed attempting to bring Left Wing National Council member C.E. Ruthenberg of Cleveland up to speed as to the rapid developments of August 1919. Reed and his associates are extremely hostile to I.E. Ferguson, Secretary of the National Council, stating that Ferguson had “consistently sabotaged the position taken by the majority at the Conference, and who on several occasions stated that unless some basis for compromise with the Federations could be found, he would resign from the Council and accept the minority position.” Thereafter Ferguson and Revolutionary Age editor Louis Fraina “entered into unauthorized negotiations with the Federation politicians” leading to the “surrender” to the Federations, who had structured the method of electing delegates in a manner designed to assure effective control of the new organization. Ruthenberg had been “manipulated by the tricky attorney [Ferguson] whose object has been from the first to surrender to the Federation-Michigan minority,” Reed and his partners claimed, noting that one August 5 executive motion of Ferguson to end all physical meetings of the National Council had overridden the decision the previous day to bring out of town members of the National Council together to hash out their differences in person, while another naming a Conventon Committee of three had the effect of expelling Gitlow and Larkin from decision-making authority, resulting in complete victory for the Federations’ convention scheme.
“Left orRight?” by Ludwig Lore [August 1919] In this lead articlefrom Ludwig Lore’s theoretical quarterly, The Class Struggle, editor Lorestates that it is “hardly accurate” to refer to the currentcontroversy in the Socialist Party as a battle between “Left” and“Right,” since “the small group of bona-fide social-patriotsthat our movement harbored have either left it voluntary or beenexpelled” already. The “political sins” of the so-called“Right Wing” in the current controversy were those “ofomission rather than commission”—failing to crystallize vastanti-war sentiment in America at the time of American entry into the War into amass movement for economic and political liberation; failure to enforce partydiscipline on Congressman Meyer London on anti-war measures in Congress;failure to greet the Russian revolution with public demonstration and publicdeclaration of allegiance.” The policy of the NEC Regulars was in actualfact “the typical ‘Centrist’ position,” Lore declares.The controversy in the SP itself is international in nature, between one set ofviews represented by State Socialism and gradual growth of socialism through“democratic cooperation” with capitalism and the other by thephysical wresting of power from the capitalists by the class-conscious workingclass and the establishment of the “dictatorship of theproletariat.” “Between these two points of view there can be nocompromise. Between them the Socialist must choose—and his choice mustdetermine, once and for all, his course of action,” Lore declares.
“Why the NewParty?” by Oakley C. Johnson [Aug. 2, 1919] Elected StateSecretary of the expelled Socialist Party of Michigan emphasizes the depth ofthe split that had developed within the Left Wing movement between the Majority“Left Wing” still working to win control of the Socialist Party andthe Minority Federation-Michigan group intent on the immediate formation of adistinct Communist Party of America at the Sept. 1 convention which it hadcalled in Chicago. Johnson writes that “these would-be revolutionistsshout ‘All power to the Left Wing!’ What a miserable paraphrase ofthe Russian slogan ‘All power to the Soviets!’ The comrades noworganizing the Communist Party prefer to be something more than a mere‘wing.’ At a time such as the present, when the most momentousturning point in the world’s history is before us, we cannot dilly dallyalong as a mere faction within a party. We cannot longer handicap ourselves insuch a way, but must build up NOW an organization which shall functionefficiently as ‘the most advanced and resolute section of the workingclass parties...’” Johnson lists a series of criticisms of thetactics of the Majority: (1) capture of the SPA by the Left would bepractically impossible due to expulsions and suspensions made by the outgoingNEC; (2) even if possible, capture of the SPA was inadvisable due to theparty’s “reactionary” reputation; (3) there was no need toremain in the SPA to reach the rank and file, which had already heard the LeftWing’s message; (4) the psychological moment for action had arrived, anda delay of 2 or 3 months would “vitally affect the progress of socialismfor the next decade.” In contrast, “What is needed is arevolutionary party, small if need be, but united upon Marxian principles, thusforming a nucleus around which the working class can unite. It is impossibleefficiently to unite conflicting programs, to harmonize unharmoniousprinciples. The only party that can function in a social crisis is oneabsolutely united on principle and method.”
“Minutes of the National Council of the Left Wing Section: New York City—August 4, 1919.” The 7 member executive of the June 1919 National Conference of the Left Wing, the National Council, was initially intended to conduct its affairs by mail through use of executive motions. However, the proximity of a quorum of the group to New York City led to the convocation of several physical meetings. This document offers the minutes of the last of these physical sessions, held August 4, 1919. Three anti-Federationist New York members (Ben Gitlow, Jim Larkin, Max Cohen) dominated the proceedings, with Secretary I.E. Ferguson in a consistent minority position given the absence of his co-thinkers C.E. Ruthenberg, John Ballam, and Bert Wolfe. A motion by Larkin to publicly respond to the “untruthful statements” made by the Russian Socialist Federation against Ludwig Martens’ Soviet Russian Government Bureau was passed 3-1. Ferguson was challenged by Larkin and ex-officio member Eadmonn MacAlpine over statements he purportedly made to a gathering of the Jewish Socialist Federation, in which Ferguson seems to have depicted the August 30 Emergency National Convention as no more than a tributary leading to the actual convention, to be held Sept. 1 to establish a Communist Party. A motion by Larkin to terminate the National Council for Ferguson having thus abrogated its mission died by a 2-2 vote, Cohen joining Ferguson in favor of continuing the institution. A motion providing that Gitlow and Larkin be provided with space in The Revolutionary Age to air their factional position was approved.
“Executive Motions of the Left Wing National Council: August 5, 1919.” A day after having been raked over the coals by Jim Larkin and Ben Gitlow for his attempt to patch up the split in the Left Wing movement by supporting the Sept. 1 Communist Convention, Secretary of the Left Wing National Council Isaac Ferguson put forward three executive motions to the entire body: (1) Ending physical meetings of the National Council in New York by setting August 29 in Chicago as the date of the next gathering; (2) Constituting Ferguson, C.E. Ruthenberg, and Max Cohen a committee of 3 with the authority to assist in organization of a Sept. 1 convention to form a Communist Party; and (3) Ending all further appropriation of funds by the Left Wing National Council outside of payment of expenses already incurred until the time of the August 29 physical meeting. “The time has come for the majority of the Council to assert itself decisively against the dilatory tactics of a minority which insists on bringing within the Council meetings a rehash of every little New York squabble between the Federation politicians and those who are characterized by the Federationists as the Left Wing politicians. We must complete the convention arrangements at once,” Ferguson declares. Ferguson is particularly bitter about the insistence of National Council members Larkin and Gitlow and their associate John Reed to “intrude controversy about the Martens office into the work of the National Left Wing Council.” While acknowledging that a statement made by the Russian Socialist Federation against the Martens bureau is “scandalous,” Ferguson asks whether the National Council must “abandon ourselves to the sport of Larkin in hunting down the lies of the Russian Federation.” Ferguson declares: “ If there is anything in this Martens issue, and this I think has been grotesquely exaggerated, it certainly is no legitimate affair of the National Council. Let anyone search the record of the Left Wing Conference to show how it comes within our mandate, and he will find absolutely nothing.”
“Minutes of Executive Motions of the Left Wing National Council: August 5-12, 1919.” Text of the various motions of the Left Wing National Council made by mail during the first half of August and the results of the balloting on the same. The minority faction consisting of Ben Gitlow and Jim Larkin declined to vote on any measure, indicative of a termination of their activity with the National Council—a position reflected by Larkin’s Aug. 4 motion to declare the work of the National Council terminated due to Secretary Ferguson’s support of a Sept. 1 Communist Convention. Ferguson’s 3 propositions made Aug. 5—including naming a convention committee to help arrange the Sept. 1 Convention—were unanimously approved by the 5 other members of the National Council. An Aug. 9 motion by Max Cohen to accept the resignations of Gitlow, John Reed, and Eadmonn MacAlpine from The Revolutionary Age was approved by a majority of 4 (Ruthenberg not voting), and an Aug. 12 motion by Cohen to remove Reed and Gitlow from their positions in charge of the Left Wing National Conference’s labor paper, The Voice of Labor, was approved by an identical vote.
“Circular Letter ‘To All Members of the Socialist Party’ from Executive Secretary Adolph Germer, Aug. 8, 1919.” Reply of National Secretary Germer to the provisional National Executive Committee who were denied their seats on the NEC when the outgoing NEC abrogated the 1919 party elections. Self-proclaimed “Executive Secretary pro tem” Alfred Wagenknecht and his cohorts are charged with being “professional schemers” engaged in a “frame-up to wreck the party by trying to force action in an irregular way before the Special National Convention.” As for Wagenknecht, he is said to have had “a professional training in stirring up party controversies. His reputation dates back to his scholarship under the famous Dr. [Hermon] Titus of Seattle, and there is nothing new or surprising in the part played by him now.” Wagenknecht & Co. are charged with sabotaging the party by calling for a withholding of dues payments and convention assessments from the current National Office. Germer declares: “The convention will clear the decks. The membership will then learn who it is that is wrecking the party. Don’t let professional troublemakers and political schemers capture you with appealing phrases that they hypocritically use... Never was there such an opportunity to carry on our revolutionary propaganda. The country is seething with unrest. Dissatisfaction with the present economic order is prevalent everywhere. Our opportunity in this crisis is thrown to the winds by political intriguers, who put their personal ambitions above the party’s interest. Any one, or any group, that will split us into “wings” or factions, when hundreds of our comrades are in prison, hundreds more on the way, commits little short of treason to the Socialist Party and to the case of working class internationalism, and merit our scorn and contempt. They serve no one but the capitalists.”
“The Conference of Russian Branches of the American Socialist Party in Chicago: Organization, Representation, and Activities,” by Jacob Spolansky [events of March 24 to Aug. 9, 1919] This Bureau of Investigation intelligence report by Special Agent Jacob Spolansky reviews the history of the awkwardly named creation of Alexander Stoklitsky, the “Conference of the Russian Branches of the American Socialist Party in Chicago who share the Program of the Communist Party” The Chicago Conference of Russian Branches was dominated by the Russian language branches, which contributed 36 of the 49 delegates, joined by 9 Latvian, 3 Ukrainian, and 1 Lithuanian delegate. The Chicago Conference of Russian Branches elected delegates to the Chicago Communist Propaganda League, which Spolansky states will join with various English comrades and “pave their way for a Communist Party of America.” A constitution for the Chicago Conference of Russian Branches was adopted at a meeting held April 16, 1919. Elected Secretary of the organization was the Russian Federationist Berezhovsky. The meeting of May 21 elected 4 delegates to the June National Conference of the Left Wing (Alexander Stoklitsky, Joseph Stilson, Dr. Kopnagel, and William Bross Lloyd). Spolansky states that at the June 5 meeting “various committees to cover various propaganda lines were elected and instructions were given to those committees to pave the way for a Communist Party in America.” “The following several meetings were organization meetings of the now existing Communist Party of America,” writes Spolansky in this report, several weeks before the “founding convention” of the CPA on September 1. Spolansky provides a list of 24 Russian branches from around the country “who have adopted the program of the Communist Party.”
“Minutes and Executive Motions of the Left Wing National Council, August 4-12, 1919.” The Left Wing National Council was the executive committee established by the National Conference of the Left Wing held in New York, June 21-24, 1919. Originally a 9 member board, by August the Council had evolved into a 7 member group, headed by Secretary Isaac E. Ferguson and including John Ballam, Max Cohen, Benjamin Gitlow, Jim Larkin, C.E. Ruthenberg, and Bert Wolfe. The National Council was deeply split over tactics to be followed with respect to the Socialist Party, with Ferguson and a majority of the Council persuing accomodation with the suspended Language Federations of the Socialist Party, and a minority consisting of Gitlow and Larkin and their friends on the staff of the Revolutionary Age, Jack Reed and Eadmonn MacAlpine. With the August 30 Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party approaching and plans proceeding for a September 1 foundation of a Communist Party based upon a convention call electing delegates in a manner virtually guaranteed to ensure the dominance of the Russian Language Federation over the new organization, the division on the National Council assumed the nature of trench warfare. This document provides the minutes of the last physical meeting of the National Council (Aug. 4), and the executive motions which followed—a path which ensured a split between those pursuing “capture” of the Socialist Party and those seeking formation of a wholly new Communist organization.
“National Council and NEC: An Open Letter to A. Wagenknecht in Cleveland from Louis C. Fraina in Boston, Aug. 13, 1919.” An open letter published in the pages of The Revolutionary Age by its editor, Louis C. Fraina, addressed to the insurgent Temporary National Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party, Alfred Wagenknecht. Fraina resigns his place as a member of the newly elected (unofficial) National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party and is harshly critical of the failure of Wagenknecht and his compatriots to alter their strategy of fighting for control of the Aug. 30 Emergency National Convention of the SPA. Fraina charges that original plan implied that “the new NEC would assume complete control of the Convention”—a gathering “other than the convention of the old NEC.” Instead, “your decision, as Temporary Secretary of the new NEC, to old ‘our’ convention in the same hall as [SPA Executive Secretary] Germer’s breaks the plan completely. Any Left Wing delegates who now go to the Emergency Convention are going to the convention of Germer & Co., packed by the moderates in order to secure control for counterrevolutionary socialism.” With the Socialist Party of Ohio expelled from the SPA by the outgoing NEC, Wagenknecht would not even have access to the convention floor, Fraina stated. The solution was for the NEC to resign and endorse the call for a Sept. 1 convention to establish a Communist Party of America, in Fraina’s view.
“Letter of John Reed and Ben Gitlow in New York to the Labor Committee of the Left Wing National Conference, August 13, 1919.” Letter written by Reed with Gitlow sent out to the other 7 members of the Labor Committee established by the June 1919 National Conference of the Left Wing. Reed outlines the factional politics in the National Council of the Left Wing, pitting Secretary Isaac Ferguson, Revolutionary Age editor Louis Fraina, and their allies on the Council (John Ballam, Max Cohen, and Bertram Wolfe) against the National Council minority of Gitlow and Jim Larkin, along with their allies Reed and Eadmonn MacAlpine. At root is a battle over the strategy to be followed—continued struggle within the Socialist Party for control of the August Emergency National Convention vs. the immediate formation of a Communist Party in accordance with a Joint Call which virtually guaranteed dominance of the Russian Federations due to the method of delegate selection prescribed. Reed and Gitlow feel the minority of the National Council had been unjustly excluded from participation and the labor publication approved by the National Conference, The Voice of Labor, had been abandoned. “We believe that if anything comes out of Chicago, it will be a Party or organization formed at the National Emergency Convention, or from the delegates to that Convention; and not to the Communist Party crazy-quilt gathering,” Reed and Gitlow state.
“Letter from James P. Cannon in Kansas City, MO to John Reed and Ben Gitlow in New York, August 16, 1919.” The reply of National Conference of the Left Wing Section Labor Committee member Jim Cannon to the letter of John Reed and Ben Gitlow of August 13 to the committee. Cannon offers his “complete endorsement” of the decision of Reed and Gitlow to begin producing The Voice of Labor despite the efforts of the majority of the National Council to halt the launch of the publication, calling the first issue of the publication “the biggest thing, in my opinion, that has come out of the national conference.” Cannon states that the stands of Reed, Gitlow, and Larkin “in the whole controversy with the Federations...are so much in accord with my own opinion—and with that of the great majority of the membership, without a doubt—as to entitle you to the gratitude of those who look upon the socialist movement as an instrument for revolutionary propaganda to the working masses and not as a football of power-seeking bosses and fixers.” Cannon writes that the decision of the majority of the National Council to endorse immediate formation of a Communist Party of America according to the terms of the Federation-Michigan alliance will be repudiated since it surrenders control of the Left Wing to “those who cannot lead an American movement anywhere but into the ditch.”.
“Letter from Stankowitz in Pittsburgh to John Reed and Ben Gitlow in New York, August 19, 1919.” The reply of National Conference of the Left Wing Section Labor Committee member Stankowitz, an immigrant industrial worker from Pittsburgh, to the letter of John Reed and Ben Gitlow of August 13 to the committee. Stankowitz, expressing himself as well as he is able in broken English, takes a middle position between the Federations wanting immediate formation of a Communist Party and the position of Reed, Gitlow, and Larkin. “Comrades that are trying to unite [the] minority and the majority of the Left Wing may be wrong, because we instructed them to issue a call to the Emergency National Convention [of the Socialist Party], and then form the Communist Party on the floor of the Convention if it was captured, etc., but they may be right, because the more one studies this fight within the Party, the more he learns that we never will have a [chance] to capture it for everything is on the side of [the] ‘Centrists’ and ‘Rights.’” On the other hand, “I don’t blame you comrades for taking the stand you took, for you are trying to satisfy the will of [the] delegates that expressed their will to fight in [the] Party.” Stankowitz is a great supporter of Reed and Gitlow’s The Voice of Labor, calling it the “best labor paper that has ever been put before the working class in America” and noting that he had almost sold his initial order of 500 copies. “Whatever happens, our future propaganda should be in factories, mines, mills, etc., and if the Communist Party does not unite with radical Industrial Unions, she will be a failure,” Stankowitz concludes.
“Letter from L.E. Katterfeld in Dighton, KS, to John Reed in New York City, Aug. 19, 1919.” An important letter detailing the thinking of the future Communist Labor Party element of the Left Wing Section heading into the August Emergency National Convention of the SPA. Katterfeld tells Reed that while the Left Wing National Council now felt the fight to win control of the Socialist Party was “futile,” the struggle should be continued nonetheless. “Even if we were sure to lose there we should make an honest effort because that is the ONLY way that we can demonstrate to the great mass of the membership of the Party who ARE revolutionary that they can not realize their aspirations within the Socialist Party. If we split off before then there will be tens of thousands that should be with us but that will not follow us out,” Katterfeld argues. Reed is to make sure that all elected New York Left Wingers attend the convention to challenge the right of the New York regulars’ machine (the “Gerberites”) to represent the “reorganized” locals. Katterfeld pegs the odds of success of seating every elected New York Left Wing delegate at 10-to-1, and that the Left still has a “very good chance to win” at Chicago.
“Circular Letter from Alfred Wagenknecht in Cleveland to ‘All National Convention Delegates,’ August 19, 1919.” With the Emergency National Convention fast approaching, National Executive Sectretary pro tem Alfred Wagenknecht sent this circular letter to elected delegates in an attempt to organize the Left Wing Section for action against the Center-Right alliance loyal to National Executive Secretary Adolph Germer and the outgoing NEC of the party. For this purpose offices were rented at Machinists’ Hall in Chicago —site of the August 30 convention—and a caucus meeting was called for August 29, 1919, at 8 pm. This meeting was organized “so that all delegates that denounce the acts of the former National Executive Committee and who are in sympathy with the principles for which nearly half the party membership was suspended and expelled, may discuss the necessary steps to take” at the Emergency Convention, Wagenknecht indicated.
“Excerpt of a Letter from Victor L. Berger in Milwaukee to Morris Hillquit at Saranac Lake, NY, August 20, 1919.” Two of the biggest bogeymen lurking in the CP’s mythology of the 1919 Socialist Party split were Morris Hillquit and Victor L. Berger, held to be the grand chessmasters who manipulated lesser players. This perspective is not in accord with objective reality. This is a valuable glimpse behind the scenes, correspondence from Wisconsin publisher and party leader Berger to the ailing HIllquit, recovering from tuberculosis at a sanitarium in upstate New York, written a mere 10 days before the start of the decisive Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party. Berger blames the moderate wing of the party for the current discord: “We have always played too much with the revolutionary phrase. In this game of would-be radical phrases, the one who can play the game the hardest will naturally win. And the emptier the barrel the louder the sound. I am sick and tired of the business. If there is to be a revolution some day, I and my crowd will surely be there. But that continuous threat of a ‘revolution’ reminds me of a man who is continuously brandishing a revolver which is not loaded.” Berger notes the difference between the young communist Marx and the mature socialist and remarks to Hillquit that “those who believe in communism, not in socialism, should be kind enough to start an organization of their own, which, by the way, the consistent fellows among them have already done.” Berger wishes the Russian Bolsheviki well but does not believe that their experience is tranferable to America. He believes neither in dictatorship, the Bolshevik concept of an Internationall, nor the Berne International—“cowed by the war patriots and completely dominated by English Laborites,” whom he characterizes as “weak sisters” and “dull.” As for the SPA Emergency Convention: “What the outcome of our convention in Chicago will be, I don’t know and don’t care —because Wisconsin is in a good position to go it alone for awhile, and to for a new center for crystallization.”.
“FormerNational Executive Committee Thinks It Rules by Divine Right: Sits Like a KingUpon the Throne and Calmly Votes to Expel Ohio,” by Elmer T.Allison [Aug. 20, 1919] Opinion piece from the pages of the Ohio Socialistattributed to co-editor Elmer Allison on the pending expulsion of the SocialistParty of Ohio from the Socialist Party of America. The Ohio party was chargedwith three transgressions, Allison notes, including recognizing suspendedlanguage federations as part of the organization, failing to send fundscollected from sale of special convention assessment stamps directly to theNational Office, and deciding in convention to affiliate with the Left WingSection. “All of the above alleged “crimes” are acts of therecent state convention of the Ohio party. These acts have not yet beenratified by the state membership, and will not become acts of the state partyuntil so ratified. Balloting upon these acts does not close until the last ofAugust,” Allison notes. Nevertheless, the outgoing NEC, who according tothe SPA Constitution Article 3, Section 3, had their term terminate effectiveJuly 1, 1919, was rushing to expel the Socialist Party of Ohio ahead of theforthcoming Emergency National Convention. Regardless, the state’s 16delegates would be sent to Chicago to “pick up the pieces” of theparty shattered by the suspension and expulsion happy former NEC, Allisonnotes.
“Open Letter‘To All Party Members’ from Alfred Wagenknecht, Socialist PartyExecutive Secretary pro tempore.” [pub. Aug. 20, 1919] TheExecutive Secretary of the dissident Left Wing Section claiming victory in the1919 SP election published this communique “to all party members”in the pages of the friendly Socialist press. Wagenknecht points out theconstitutional July 1, 1919, date of termination for the outgoing NEC andreemphasizes that State Secretaries should not transmit special conventionassessment funds to the outgoing NEC and its Executive Secretary, AdolphGermer, but should rather send these monies with the delegates themselves tothe convention. For example, Wagenknecht notes, the outgoing NEC was even thenin the midst of expelling the state organization of Ohio from the SocialistParty, adding that “had Ohio sent the proceeds from the sale ofconvention assessment stamps to Adolph Germer, it would have lost this money,for it would never have been paid to the Ohio delegates to defray their fare tothe convention.” Furthermore, the Left Wing had no denial to make withregards to the allegation that it made use of bloc voting, emphasizing thatsuch tactics were not fraudulent and additionally had been the very mechanismby which Adolph Germer had been elected as Executive Secretary in the previouselection. Germer “did not protest at that time because he won by it. Heprotests now because he and his fellow moderates lost by it,” Wagenknechtstates. Wagenknecht charges that the call of the outgoing NEC to “wait forthe convention” to decide the party controversy is brazenly hypocritical,noting that although the Left Wing is supposed to wait, “in themeantime...the former National Executive Committee plus Germer, DO NOT WAITuntil the national convention before carrying out their plans. They‘expel’ right and left in an effort to make the national convention‘sure’ for them.”
“Communiqueto the NEC of the Socialist Party of America Announcing the Result of CommitteeMotion No. 56 from Executive Secretary Adolph Germer, Aug. 20,1919.” Executive Secretary of the outgoing NEC Adolph Germerannounces the result of NEC member Fred Krafft’s August 13 motion to expelthe Socialist Party of Ohio from the Socialist Party of America (thisimmediately ahead of the August 30 Emergency National Convention of the SPA).The motion passed by a tally of 8 to 1, with committeeman Wagenknecht refusingto vote and 5 others not submitting ballots. Those voting for the Krafft motionincluded Victor Berger, Dan Hogan, Morris Hillquit, Krafft, James Oneal, AbrahamShiplacoff, Seymour Stedman, and John Work. Includes the verbatim explanationsmade by Berger, Hillquit, Krafft, Oneal, Stedman, and Wagenknecht appended atthe time of the submission of their ballots.
“Letter toSamuel Hankin in Chicago from Benjamin Gitlow in New York, Aug. 20,1919” Letter from National Left Wing Council memberBenjamin Gitlow to the head of the Left Wing Section of Local Cook County (IL),Socialist Party Samuel Hankin. Gitlow relays the information that “themajority of the National Left Wing Council—Ferguson, Wolfe, Cohen,Ballam, and Ruthenberg—have capitulated to the [Federationist-Michigan]Minority Group who bolted and afterwards sabotaged the National Left WingMovement.” Gitlow depicts this decision as a crass financial maneuver:“They imagined that their capitulation would bring immediately atremendous sum of money to them from the Federations for the support of theiractivities and The Revolutionary Age. So they made me resign at once, not evengiving me an opportunity to clear up matters and put themselves in control as aManaging Committee of the paper.” This ploy failed, however, and fundingwas not forthcoming; therefore, The Revolutionary Age had been terminated. Thefinancial situation of the Left Wing was dire and the split in the movement hadraised Gitlow’s hackles: “There are no funds at present. There are alarge number of debts. It is really outrageous to think what a small group ofcompromisers can, in a period of two months, do to a sentiment that was fastcrystallizing throughout the country into a solid, unified, revolutionarymovement.” Gitlow saw the future founders of the Communist Party ofAmerica as “weak and opposite in principle.” “They are onlyconcerned about perpetuating their little, petty political advantages,”he declares.
“A Message from Convict No. 9653,” by Joseph W. Sharts [Aug. 21, 1919] In August 1920, State Secretary of the Socialist Party of Ohio, Alfred Wagenknecht, dispatched Marguerite Prevey of Akron and Joseph Sharts of Dayton to Atlanta Federal Penitentiary to obtain imprisoned Socialist leader Gene Debs’ signature on legal documents seeking his release on a writ of habeas corpus on the basis of his punitive transfer from Moundsville (WV) Federal Penitentiary to Atlanta. At his first meeting with the committee (including Debs’ Atlanta lawyer) he hesitated, asking for time to think about the proposal. The next day, Debs again balked, asking for 30 more days to further consider the matter. With regards to the Left/Right factional war in the Socialist Party, Sharts quotes Debs as saying that “he had implicit faith in the intelligence of the rank and file of the movement and their ability to come to a common understanding without any compromise of revolutionary principles; and that their present differences can be reconciled.” Debs finds fault with the position of both sides in the factional war, with Sharts indicating that Debs felt that “One side in the present controversy has overemphasized industrial action at the expense of political action. But the other side has overemphasized political action to the exclusion of industrial action and has temporized too much with craft unionism.” The principle of state autonomy was supported by Debs as a possible means of determining whether each state adopted or failed to adopt a program including “immediate demands.”
“Report onthe Minnesota Organization to the National Executive Committee of the SocialistParty of America from Adolph Germer, Executive Secretary, Aug. 22,1919.” Executive Secretary of the outgoing NEC of theSocialist Party relates his recent trip to Minneapolis at the behest of theRegulars on the State Executive Board of the Socialist Party of Minnesota.Germer states that on the evening of August 17 a “membershipmeeting” was held, at which “a number of the ‘LeftWingers’ were present and indulged in their usual tirade andmisstatements, but the vast majority of the meeting was with us.” Thenext evening, the State Executive Committee met and State Secretary CharlesDirba announced the result of a number of recently concluded party referenda inthe state, including one which recalled the entire State Executive Board inquestion. The recalled committee refused to recognize the legality of thisvote, however, citing the fact that Dirba allowed members of languagefederations suspended by the National Executive Committee of the SPA to vote.The recalled SEB and Germer thereupon bolted to meet in another office, atwhich they declared the position of State Secretary vacant and named S.Friedman as temporary State Secretary of Minnesota.
“The Martens Affair: Report of CEC Representative Gurin to the 5th Regular Convention of the Federation of Russian Branches, Communist Party of America: Detroit, MI—Aug. 22, 1919.” The published historiographical literature indicates there was bad blood between the Russian Socialist Federation headed by Translator-Secretary Alexander Stoklitsky and Secretary Oscar Tyverovsky and the Soviet Russian Government Bureau in New York headed by Ludwig Martens. Little background has been provided, a crude grasp to expropriate Soviet funds has been intimated. This report by Russian Federation CEC member Gurin to the 5th Convention of the RF presents the full tale of the battle between the Russian Federation and the Martens Bureau for the first time. Rather than a grab for cash, the antagonism between Martens and the RF is depicted as the by-product of a struggle to submit the one-man managed RSGB to workers’ control, the members of the RF seen as expatriate but fully vested members of the Russian working class abroad. Free of any external supervision and inspection, Martens had made a series of “errors,” Gurin states. Particularly galling was the fact that for every staff position at the RSGB, “Martens has appointed either a Right Wing Socialist or an impartial person. You will find there an anti-Bolshevist Nuorteva, Lomonosov, and Mensheviki—old man [Isaac] Hourwich [father of Novyi Mir editor Nicholas, incidentally], who sheds tears at the thought of the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly, and the well known [Morris] Hillquit.” Gurin continues by noting “We are not against the inviting of bourgeois experts to these jobs. But at the very moment when any blind man could see that any day there might be a break in the Socialist Party, filling vacancies in the local Soviet mission by Right Wing Socialists would mean that the sympathy of the Soviet Bureau was with the Right Wing Socialists in their struggle with the Left. Just think! The representatives of Revolutionary Socialism in the US supports the Right Socialists in their struggle with the Revolutionary Socialists!” After a stream of orators spoke on the question, almost universally expressing condemnation of Martens for failing to submit to workers’ control of the activities of his bureau, Martens had been given the last word in the debate, not subject to ordinary time limit. “Comrade Martens in his reply continued to state that he could not fulfill the demands of control over his activity... His opinion was that he as a representative of Soviet Russia had a right to present any demands to the Federation and the Federation must execute them.” Martens asked the RF to renounce its demands for supervisory control over the activities of the RSGB. In the reply to debate, reporting CEC member Gurin unleashed a withering barrage at Martens: Martens had thrown representatives of the RF out of his office, had threatened to have his opponents blacklisted in Soviet Russia, had broken his promises, and had refused to submit to the reasonable authority of the Russian revolutionary socialist movement in America. A resolution was moved declaring that “all the activities of Comrade Martens as a local representative of the Russian worker-peasant government, as well as the activity of the Bureau and its clerks, must be under the complete control of the local Bolshevik (Communist) organizations.” This resolution was approved in a massive landslide by the RF, 127 in favor, 8 opposed, and 15 abstaining.
“The LeftWing Answers,” by I.E. Ferguson [Aug. 22, 1919] NationalLeft Wing Section leader I.E. Ferguson takes on 7 commonly leveled chargesagainst adherents of the Left Wing. He states that the Left Wing does not seekto destroy Socialist Party unity—rather that the organization has longexisted on the basis of a “false unity.” Rather the Left Wing seeksto build unity on a new set of principles. Thus, the Left Wing does not, ascharged, play into the hands of the capitalists, but rather threatens thecapitalists by building a united and focused revolutionary organization. Withregard to the purported affection for revolutionary phrases, Ferguson repliesthat there is nothing wrong with this, that the phrase sometimes leads toaction: “It is when the revolutionary phrases seize the mind of themasses and become translated into revolutionary action that the proletariatwins its triumphs.” The charge that American workers are not ready forrevolution is dismissed as a salve for the “nervous fears of the timidand cautious.” The important thing, Ferguson declares, is that Americaneeds a revolution and that objective conditions for this social revolutionwere ripening. The charge that the Left Wing advocated the use of violence isdismissed as a false argument; violence in the labor movement was the producteither of “ capitalistic provocation or by individual act unrelated tothe organization propaganda or tactics.” The allegation that the LeftWing had no constructive program was parried with the assertion that the“catalog of occupational and administrative reforms” of thereformist Socialists was “constructive of nothing, unless it be a moreefficient Capitalism, a better-ordered slavery of the wage-worker.” Onthe other hand, “The Left Wing declares that the first constructive stepis the establishment of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Only after thisstep can there be proletarian democracy and socialization of industry,”according to Ferguson. Finally, to the charge that the Left Wing was anemotional response to the Russian Revolution, Ferguson answers that while“there is a large element of emotionalism” in the response to theRussian Revolution, “such emotionalism is the very life of our movement.It must be tempered and tested. But without it we would not be a movement offlesh and blood, but a sectarian creed of abstract dogma.”
“The Left Wing Unites,” by Louis C. Fraina [Aug. 23, 1919] In this unsigned editorial from Revolutionary Age, Louis Fraina makes known the decision of a big majority of the Left Wing National Council to join the “Federation of Russian Federations” in calling a Sept. 1, 1919 convention to establish a Communist Party of America. In joining in the issuance of the call for the new party, Fraina states that the “split of the real Communist elements of the Left Wing” was effectively liquidated. “The agreement on a joint call for a convention to organize a Communist Party on September 1 unites the Communist elements in the Left Wing, gives each the opportunity of casting off their non-Communist adherents, and uniting all the Communists irresistibly for the conquest of power in the new party,” Fraina asserts. This move towards immediate unity was made necessary by the failure of the Left Wing-dominated “new NEC” of the Socialist Party to issue a call for convention under their own auspices; thus, those Socialists coming to Chicago on August 30 would be attending a convention which had been called and effectively packed by the outgoing NEC, with certain defeat in the offing. Only 2 bitter anti-Federationists on the National Council (Jim Larkin and Ben Gitlow) out of the total of 7 remained committed to the old tactic of attempting to win at the Socialist Party Convention and refused to join in issuing the call. “Some of the problems in dispute are still unsolved, but they will be solved at the Communist Party Convention,” Fraina notes, adding that “It is indisputable that the old party is not in accord with revolutionary Socialism. Deprived of the stimulus of the Left Wing agitation in the party, it must more and more rely upon counterrevolutionary moderates, more and more become a Labor Party in fact if not in name.” Fraina declares that “the controversy within the Left Wing must now end; the few comrades on both sides who are disgruntled with the decision to unite are acting against the Communist Party.”
“Call for a Convention for the Purpose of Establishing the Communist Party of America,” signed by I.E. Ferguson and Dennis Batt. [Aug. 23, 1919] The National Council of the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party of America, established in the summer of 1919 as a central organization for the organized Left Wing movement in the SPA, found itself deeply divided over tactics. One group—predominantly anglophonic and tending to be individuals not yet suspended or expelled from the party by Executive Secretary Adolph Germer and the outgoing NEC—sought to stay in the SPA through the Chicago Convention, attempting to win control of the party or winning as many party members to the cause as possible if the effort should prove a losing proposition. The other group—consisting in large measure of the members of the 7 suspended Language Federations and the suspended state party of Michigan—sought an immediate break with the SPA and formation of a new Communist Party. Ultimately, those favoring immediate action won the day on the Left Wing National Council, and this convention call for the formation of the Communist Party of America was issued and published in the press. The rapid pace of events is emphasized by the fact that this call, which outlined an organizational perspective and defined the basis for participation in the Founding Convention of the CPA, was published in the Revolutionary Age barely a week before the start of the Chicago convention.
“The Communist Party of America,” by Nicholas I. Hourwich [Gurvich], Aug. 26, 1919. This is the report delivered to the Federation of Russian Branches in August 1919 at its 5th Convention in Detroit. The son of a long-time Socialist Labor Party member, Isaac Hourwich, Nicholas Hourwich was formerly on the 3 member Editorial Board of the Russian Federation’s newspaper, Novyi Mir, and was named responsible Editor by the 5th Convention. He was active in the Left Wing Movement and a founder and leading figure in the Communist Party of America from 1919.
“Minutes of the Left Wing Section of the 1919 Convention of the Socialist Party of America.” [Aug. 29-31, 1919]. The 1919 Chicago Convention of the SPA pitted two organized factions against one another, the group of “Regulars” around National Executive Secretary Adolph Germer and the outgoing NEC and the “Left Wing” faction around newly elected National Execuitve Secretary Alfred Wagenknecht and the incoming NEC—a group whose legitimacy was biitterly challenged by their outgoing counterparts, who refused to recognize the results of the 1919 election and who launched a series of suspensions of “Left Wing” Federations and states in an effort to rid the party of what they perceived as an alien influence. These are the meeting minutes of the Left Wing section from the time of their first organized caucus in Chicago on Aug. 29 until the issuance of a convention call for establishment of a new Communist Party (specifically, the Communist Labor Party) on August 31.
“Ohio State Organization Expelled from Party.” (NY Call) [Aug. 25, 1919] Short news tidbit buried on page 7 of the New York Call making note of the seemingly trivial detail that the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party, slated to leave office on June 30, 1919, had expelled the entire Socialist Party of Ohio “for repeated and flagrant violations of the state and national platforms and constitutions of the party.” This action conveniently took place about 1 week before the gathering of the SPA’s Emergency National Convention in Chicago. “Under the guidance of a small, compact, and well-oiled political machine, headed by two individuals named Ruthenberg and Wagenknecht, the party has been repeatedly sabotaged and its work crippled. The violations have become so intolerable that, upon request of a large number of loyal Socialists of the Buckeye state, the charter of the state organization has been revoked and the Socialists who are loyal to the organization are reorganizing upon the basis of the Socialist platform and constitution,” the unsigned article notes.
Bylaws of the Federation of Russian Branches of the Communist Party of America [August 1919]. This is the complete text of the constitution approved by the Federation in August 1919 at its 5th Convention in Detroit. This document sheds light upon the organizational structure of the Russian Federation, one of the most important institutions in the Communist Party of America.
“Preparations for the National Convention to Organize the Communist Party of America,” by Louis Loebl [events of Aug. 27, 1919] This Bureau of Investigation report was written by Louis Loebl, a Special Agent who worked undercover in St. Louis, attending various meetings under the guise of a radical. Loebl went to Communist Party headquarters on Blue Island Avenue in Chicago with a view to meeting I.E. Ferguson, who he had heard speak in St. Louis the week previous. Ferguson was not there at CPA headquarters, but Loebl was able to talk at length with Michiganders Dennis Batt and Oakley Johnson, learning that they expected between 280 and 300 delegates to be in attendance at the founding convention, scheduled to open on Sept. 1. Loebl spotted Hungarian communist J. Frankel in another room at headquarters, whom he had played a part in arresting in 1914, and had felt himself compelled to leave the premises rather than risk having his cover blown.
“The Socialist Party Convention: An Editorial in the New York Call,” by James Oneal [Aug. 27, 1919] Editorial from the New York Call by one of the primary leaders of the SPA’s Regular faction in the 1919 factional war. “It is certain that the convention will simply be a formal recognition of a schism within the organization which has been developed by skilled propagandists,” Oneal confidently predicts. “Just as at the beginning of the war a hysterical type developed and separated from the movement, so the end of the war brings with it a similar type determined on the same course,” Oneal declares, emphasizing that this dissident Left Wing is “by no means harmonious” and is rent with internal divisions of its own. “A temporary truce has been formed upon the basis of organizing a party of their own without any further activity within the Socialist Party. This will again throw them together, and in the absence of the one tie that held the groups together, a common antagonism to the Socialist Party, it is fairly certain that they will not maintain unity for any long period. The reason for this is the multiplicity of views they must try to reconcile, and these views diverge so much that permanent reconciliation is practically hopeless,” Oneal presciently asserts. Oneal foresees the party “adjusting itself” with respect to program and policies, due to changing conditions “in keeping with a militant, fighting organization of the working class.”
“New Jersey Delegates to the Convention.” [Aug. 29, 1919] Short list of the candidates for delegate to the Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party of America hailing from the state of New Jersey, including the vote count for each. A delegation (with the exception of Krafft) committed to radical reorientation of the party but opposing the tactics of the organized Left Wing Section was the result of the vote, the veracity of which was never challenged by the Regular faction (although leading vote-getter Fred Harwood was challenged at the convention for having sat with the “new” NEC at its sole physical gathering, July 26-27, 1919). Elected as delegates were: Valentine Bausch, Stephen Bircher, Fred Harwood, Frank Hubschmidt, Frederick Krafft, Henry Petzold, Patrick L. Quinlan, Rose Weiss, and Louis F. Wolff. A number of these ultimately bolted the SPA convention to the founding convention of the Communist Labor Party, while Fred Harwood, after being seated late in the SPA’s proceedings, threw up his hands and went home in disgust, quitting the radical movement.
“Party Delegates Ready to Meet Big Problems at National Convention,” by Herman Michelson [Aug. 29, 1919] Initial coverage of the forthcoming Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party of America by the correspondent of the New York Call. Michelson covers the report of Executive Secretary Adolph Germer to the outgoing National Executive Committee in Chicago on the eve of the convention. Starting 1919 with a paid membership of over 109,500, the Socialist Party had lost nearly 70,000 members through suspensions, expulsions, and disorganization accompanying the factional war. Germer portrayed the catastrophic decline in the most neutral light possible, stating that the reduced figure “cannot be taken as a legitimate showing, due to the internal controversy.” Michelson likewise gave the Regular faction every benefit of the doubt, noting that while “the membership has been cut down almost two-thirds; the National Office is practically without funds; the forces of reaction are ever welding their ranks closer in their united assault on the party,” nevertheless “the spirit manifest here tonight, on the eve of the convention, is one of energy, enthusiasm, and hopeful, vigorous work to rebuild a still greater party in 1920 than the one which polled nearly 1 million votes in 1912.” Michelson contributes the information that the Regular faction had commenced the convention’s work in advance of the opening of the actual gathering, observing that “in a dozen rooms at headquarters committees are at work preparing resolutions, reports, platforms, and a manifesto of the party’s position” and adding that “all this will speed up the work of the convention tremendously.”
“Socialists Open Convention After ‘Lefts’ Are Ousted: Police and Department of Justice Take Notes as Party’s Proceedings are Opened in Chicago—Important Committee is Selected,” by Herman Michelson [Aug. 30, 1919] Coverage of the first day of activity at the Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party of America by the correspondent of the New York Call. After witnessing a single day of activity on the convention floor, electing a chairman of the day, listening to opening remarks from Seymour Stedman and Executive Secretary Adolph Germer, and naming a Credentials Committee, reporter Michelson seems ready to declare victory and go home. He optimistically declares: “Very little remains of the Left Wing as a rival or even a disrupting force in the party. It is practically certain there will be no Left Wing convention. The convention will adopt a stand, expressed in a manifesto that is expected to satisfy all those in the Left Wing who are contending for what they believe to be revolutionary principles. The others probably will be gathered back into the folds of the various “progressive” wings of the old parties, from which they emerged to play a brief role as ultra-revolutionists.” Michelson relates the tale of “clearing the hall” in advance of the convention’s opening as follows: “John Reed, prominent in the councils of the Left, tried to brush past Julius Gerber of New York, who was aiding in the seating arrangements. Gerber demanded that Reed get an admission card, and they got into a brief tussle, in which several other Left Wingers thought they would aid Reed. This was the only disorder that occurred, despite the lurid stories sent out by the press associations. Gerber, seeing that an attempt was being made to rush the convention, determined to clear the hall. A squad of policemen had been detailed to the convention by headquarters, and he asked them to get everybody out, which they did, without difficulty or violence.”
“’Left Wing’ Attempt to Capture Convention Hall Proves Failure.” (NY Call) [Aug. 30, 1919] This unsigned account of the first day of the convention of the Socialist Party of America (possibly contributed by Call editorial page editor James Oneal) offers an alternative account of the legendary “clearing the hall” incident. Rather than threatened fisticuffs between Reed and Gerber at the door, this rather less colorful version has the convention hall successfully infiltrated by “John Reed and a picked company of free-lances.” The article states that “some 50 men and women occupied Machinists’ Hall auditorium, disporting themselves in the delegates’ seats without benefit of credentials. When, half an hour later, Adolph Germer, National Secretary of the Socialist Party, and his staff arrived to open the convention, they were confronted with the choice of either surrendering the hall to the Lefts or of insisting on their right to the auditorium.” The onus of having to call in the armed forces of reaction to clear the hall is shifted from Executive Secretary Germer in this version of events, which maintains that “Germer felt that the problem rested with the management of the hall, and the management, recognizing the Socialist Party as entitled to what they had contracted for, asked the intruders to get out. The Lefts refused, whereupon the management obliged the Lefts by letting them pose as they planned and called in two corpulent policemen. With smiles of triumph wreathing their faces, the Lefts then went into caucus to capitalize their martyrdom.” Text of a printed statement from the Left Wing subsequently distributed to convention delegates is included. The article baits a number of the Left Wing leaders for their fashion sense and social origins, including as targets of ridicule “John Reed, always picturesque in his Norfolk-cut suit and hatless; Rose Pastor Stokes, in neat tailor-made blue; Maximilian Cohen, crisp and cool in his Palm Beach suit of light tan; Louis C. Fraina, with his neatly trimmed Van Dyke beard; Max Eastman, sunburned and debonair in blue serge—these are the leaders in this offshoot of the ‘revolutionary proletariat’ as against the ‘bourgeois’ Socialist Party.”
“Statement on the Situation of the Socialist Party in Philadelphia,” by Charles Sehl [July 20, 1919] Brief account of the Left-Right factional war which took place in the Socialist Party of Pennsylvania by a SPA Regular active in reorganized Local Philadelphia. Spurred by advice personally delivered by NEC Regulars James Oneal and George Goebel, a July 13 informal conference on the party situation had been followed by an immediate secret “executive session” of the State Executive Committee. The Pennsylvania SEC had determined to follow the path taken by the SEC of New York State, ordering State Secretary Birch Wilson to travel to Philadelphia and to arbitrarily revoke the charter of Local Philadelphia, the majority of which had endorsed the Left Wing manifesto. Local Philadelphia had refused to recognized the authority of the State Secretary in this matter, and Wilson had immediately moved to reorganize a rump of 300 “loyal” members of the party as a new Local Philadelphia. Those joining Wilson’s new (truly white card) local had to sign the following loyalty oath, not provided for in the state party’s constitution: “I, the undersigned, declare that while a member of the Socialist Party I shall be guided by the National and State Platforms of the Socialist Party. I do not belong to any organization within or without the party which has a platform or constitution in violation of the National constitution or the State constitution of the Socialist Party. I am not and have not been a member of the so-called Left Wing.” The reorganization of the organization was approved by a rushed telegram vote of a non-quorum of the State Executive Committee. Thus was New York’s Tammany-style power politics made “legal” in Pennsylvania. The Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party was less than 6 weeks away.
“Introductory Remarks to the 1919 Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party of America: Chicago, IL—August 30, 1919,” by Adolph Germer The 1919 Emergency National Convention was a landmark in the history of American radicalism—the event at which the split of the Socialist Party of America into “Socialist” and “Communist” organizations was finalized. The convention proved to be a one-sided battle, with the Regular faction in control of the National Executive Committee and key State Executive Committees and able by means of wholesale suspensions and expulsions to dominate the delegate roster and to further perpetuate itself by means of delegate challenges and tight control of the body’s Credentials Committee. Here, for the first time, are the remarks made by Executive Secretary Adolph Germer, field general of the Regular faction, at the opening of the convention. “Tremendous changes in thought” had taken place in the 5 years since the outbreak of World War I, Germer states—changes which had augmented the preexisting factional divisions of the party. The situation had made the convocation of a gathering to set party policy and program in the new world situation and to thus “unite the working classes of this country, that we might follow the splendid example set by our comrades in Russia,” Germer states. Germer hastily adds that this is not to say that Russian tactics are to be emulated in the greatly different American political and economic conditions—“our methods will have to be somewhat different in accomplishing our goal,” Germer indicates. Germer declares that disagreement over tactics is only part of the ongoing factional controversy in the SPA, adding that this situation is not discouraging to him: “I always believed that this factional division leads to healthy methods, provided it is not carried to the extent where the organization is torn into parts and shreds, and leaves us an easy prey to our common enemy.” Unfortunately, Germer continues, “personal slanders and conspiracies against individuals that have been engaged in for no other reason than to break down the confidence of the membership” in the party’s elected leadership. These Left Wing critics offer “no specific statements, but general gossip, rumor, suggestion, innuendo,” says Germer, adding that he welcomes an open investigation by the convention of the activities of its National Executive Committee in the previous months.
“ Keynote Address to the Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party of America: Chicago, IL -- August 30, 1919,” by Seymour Stedman The first order of business of the seminal 1919 Emergency National Convention was the election of a chairman of the day, a post handily won by Regular Seymour Stedman over Left Winger Joseph Coldwell of Rhode Island, by a vote of 88-37. Upon his election, Stedman delivered the traditional keynote address to the gathering. Stedman recounts the history of the previous 5 years, in which the workers of Europe, “many of them drilled in economics by Marx and Engels.” went to war against one another. The Socialist Party of America stood out by way of contrast, Stedman indicates, adopting the St. Louis Resolution against the war and standing true to its principles despite the “attacks of the mob on the streets, or rage from the [judicial] bench.” Rather than be erased by the initial repression, despite losses of numerous locals in small town America, the membership of the Socialist Party soon began to grow. “This served to provoke more desperate measures against us,” says Stedman. “Our National Office was raided again and again. Small papers of the workers were suppressed; foreign language papers were suppressed. The privilege of the mails was denied to our leading dailies. Our members were arrested, jailed, convicted and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. The liberties which we were supposed to enjoy were throttled, and constitutional guarantees we found to be merely academic declarations.” Stedman’s tone is measured, mentioning the Left Wing insurgency almost as an aside, accusing this group of “misjudging entirely the psychology” of the American working class movement. This group “commenced an agitation in the party; not solely to bring before our national convention their propositions, but to declare that they alone held the secret of success and to impose it upon the party; and upon refusal of the membership to accept their proposition to launch a new political party. With many of them this has been carried our in the formation of the Communist Party.” The split of the SPA is thus judged by Stedman to be an accomplished fact from the opening gavel of the 1919 convention.
“ Debate on Seating the Minnesota Delegation at the Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party of America: Chicago, IL -- August 31, 1919.” From the opening gavel there was little, if any, drama about the outcome of the 1919 Emergency National Convention. The so-called “Right Wing” Regulars had maneuvered themselves into a position of clear control in the face of a Left Wing split over strategy towards to the convention. Despite its preordained outcome, there was drama and a defining movement at the Socialist Party convention, however, -- the extensive debate over the Credentials Committee’s recommendation as to the seating of the Minnesota delegation. It was during this debate that the various philosophies and ethical orientations within the Regular wing of the party became clear, as the loyalists attempted to navigate a split without losing the party’s democratic soul. Basing their case upon affidavits from 4 Minnesota locals that they had not received ballots for the election for convention delegates from State Secretary Charles Dirba and the acknowledgement that members of suspended language federations had participated in the vote, there were some who favored the adoption of the Credentials Committee report, setting aside the Minnesota election of a Left Wing delegation and instead seating the alternative slate hastily named in an extra-constitutional manner by the Regular State Executive Committee of Minnesota. Others loyal to the Regular faction stood strongly for the principle of rank and file democracy, defending the slate elected by the membership of the state in spite of the delegation’s ideological coloration, the alleged and acknowledged electoral irregularities, and the decision of the Minnesota Left Wing delegation not to accept seats in any event (their spokesman Jack Carney having told Jacob Panken’s Credentials Committee to “go to hell.”) The Left Wing perspective was advanced by delegates from Illinois and New Jersey. Behind the debate lay the question of whether the Socialist Party’s National Executive Committee had the ethical authority and legal right to arbitrarily suspend 7 language federations of the party in the first place. The stenographic report reveals a certain complexity and diversity of thought among adherents of the Regular faction which has been little appreciated in the literature. Includes an Art Young pen-and-ink caricature of the leading lights of the dominant New York delegation and a photo of iconoclastic Duluth editor Jack Carney.
“Minnesota Group Seated But Denied Vote by Convention: Socialist Emergency Gathering in Chicago Sustains Action of National Executive Committee—Telegrams of Greetings Sent to Debs, Mrs. O’Hare, and Hillquit: Big Vote Cast Favors Referendums B and D: Evidences of Widespread Frauds in Balloting are Charged in Investigation of Practices of Suspended Sections of Party—Bloc Voting Said to Be Prevalent,” by Herman Michelson [Aug. 31, 1919] The highlight of the 2nd day of the Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party of America was the protracted debate on the seating of the Minnesota delegation, a controversy which brought into play most of the big issues about the authority of the National Executive Committee to impose its will upon state organizations. This report by the correspondent of the New York Call saw the result of the debate, seating with voice but no vote a substitute delegation appointed by a contested State Executive Committee over a delegation elected by party referendum of Minnesota Socialists as decisive. Reporter Michelson declares that this action effectively “puts the stamp of approval by the convention on the action of the National Executive Committee in expelling [sic.] the 7 foreign language federations from the Socialist Party.” The tepid response which met Rhode Island Left Winger Joseph Coldwell’s 2 pm declaration of a delegate bolt over the convention majority’s decision to conduct business before all credentials challenges were resolved is the object of much mirth on the part of Michelson, who proclaims it “a very mild affair” prematurely conducted over a “perfectly trivial excuse.” The unanimous report of the committee investigating the 1919 party referendums was read by Otto Branstetter, Michelson notes, alleging “serious frauds in balloting” but making no concrete recommendations.
“What’ll Folks at Home Think of this ‘85-45’ in Convention Wrangle?” by Eugene Wood [Aug. 31, 1919] Valuable first-hand account of the proceedings of the pivotal Credentials Committee (Committee on Contests) of the Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party, headed by Judge Jacob Panken of New York. Wood contrasts the quite and understated style of the committee with the frequently boisterous pontification indulged in by the various spokesmen of challenged delegations—“’thrillers’ who swing their arms and talk about ‘class-conscious revolutionary movements’ and use a Madison Square Garden voice to carry four feet.” The hearings were held in public in one of the rooms of the old Illinois club, attended by often cheering spectators. Wood notes that “These who cheer and handclap and rejoice when the smashing and shattering of the Socialist Party is proposed will form part of the membership of the Communist Party, if it doesn’t split into too many divisions. It is calculated that there are at least 6 divisions already in sight. It is believed that this is not so much a split as a fringe, or a broom, or some other word expressive of a complete frazzle.” Wood sees the impending split as an inevitability: “The moment the decision of the Committee on Contests is announced and it doesn’t suit them, they blow the whistle and pull ‘em all out, and go down to Blue Island Avenue or wherever the ‘Communist’ convention is to meet, and start in, and we shall have to teach ourselves to call ‘em ‘Mister.’ ‘What’s the use, if you’re 85 [delegates] and we’re 45?’ they ask. And that seems to end it with them. The only thing to consider is the folks at home, who have been Socialists when it cut deep to be a Socialist. The question is, what’ll they think about it all?”
“Report to the National Convention of the Socialist Party of America by the Special 1919 Election Investigating Committee: Chicago, IL—Aug. 31, 1919.” The May 24-30 meeting of the NEC which expelled the Socialist Party of Michigan and suspended 7 language federations from the Socialist Party of America also appointed a 4 member special committee to study the question of election fraud in the 1919 party election which it terminated, the committee to report back to the Emergency National Convention scheduled 3 months hence. This is the report of the committee to the assembled delegates in Chicago. While the report confirms the claim of the Left Wing that it had won a big majority of the 15 seats on the SPA’s governing National Executive Committee “on the face of the returns,” as well as sweeping the 4 International Delegate positions and voting to affiliate with the Communist International by a margin of more than 6-to-1, the special committee cites a litany of electoral irregularities said to have been systematically perpetrated by several of the suspended federations. This report was approved unanimously by the convention and used as a rationale for a complete restructuring of the party constitution and the election of a new 7 member “temporary” NEC by the convention itself. The margin in the resolution on international affiliation was so wide as to remove any question of the validity of its passage, and was declared adopted. This document includes explanatory footnotes by Tim Davenport which argue against several of the assertions made by the special investigating committee.
“Platform and Program of the Communist Labor Party of America.” [Adopted Sept. 1919]. This is the programmatic document adopted by the Founding Convention of the Communist Labor Party of America (CLP)—the group which emerged when the 1919 Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party of America was successfully controlled by an “old guard” headed by National Executive Secretary Adolph Germer. The CLP founders consisted of three basic groups: credentialed delegates who bolted the SPA Emergency Convention, delegates denied access to the SPA Convention by the SPA’s Credentials Committee, and delegates who had mandate to attend the SPA Convention. This “Platform and Program” remained in effect for the CLP for the duration of its short life, from adoption in early September 1919 until merger with the Ruthenberg/Ferguson group of the CPA to form the United Communist Party of America in May 1920.
**Dues Stamp and Organizational Stamp of the Communist Labor Party.** [pdf graphics file, circa Sept. 1919] Specimens of a dues stamp and special revenue stamp sold to founding members of the Communist Labor Party in 1919, from a scrapbook preserved by CLP founding member W.E. Reynolds, now in the collection of Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas.
“Convention Impressions,” by William Bross Lloyd. [Written Sept. 1919]. An account of the preliminary political jousting and formation of the Communist Labor Party by a founding member of that organization. William Bross Lloyd, a millionaire, was one of the financial angels of the American radical movement during the last years of the 1910s. In this article, published in The Class Struggle, he harshly criticizes the Left Wing National Council of Ruthenberg, Ferguson, & Co. for having exceeded its authority when it collaborated with the Language Federations and Socialist Party of Michigan in calling for immediate formation of a Communist Party of America. Lloyd is particularly blunt with regards to the “Russian Federations,” which he characterizes as “a machine just as pernicious as the old SP National Executive Committee. That is the situation which is the fundamental cause of disunion today.” If there is unity between the CLP and the CPA, Lloyd states, “it will come because self-seeking politicians and their power of control have been eliminated.”.
“Socialist Convention Held at Chicago,” by Joseph W. Sharts [Sept. 1, 1919] Valuable first-hand account of the pivotal 1919 Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party beginning in Chicago on Aug. 30, 1919. Sharts, a SP Regular lacking the pugnacious attitude common during the summer of 1919, tells the tale of dominance of the convention by an effectively-run machine. “Along the left-hand side of the room ran a railing, and out beyond this railing were the seats for the spectators. Here the “Lefts” were packed, pressed, crammed, suffocating; while inside, although the big hall was full, there was comfortable elbow-room,” Sharts writes. The pivotal test of strength came in the election of the contest committee, which was headed by Right Winger Jacob Panken of New York. As the contest committee slowly and methodically conducted its inquisition of challenged delegates and acrimony erupted on the floor of the convention upstairs, “an ominous sound” began to be heard from the billiard room downstairs—”the singing of songs, sharp outbursts of applause. The Left Wingers have started their rival convention without waiting the action of the old organization on the contests.” A press deadline unfortunately limits Sharts’ account to the early stages of the convention.
“Report of the National Executive Committee to the Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party of America: Chicago, IL—Sept. 1, 1919,” by James Oneal Text of the report of the NEC to the Emergency National Convention, justifying the committee’s action in abrogating the party’s 1919 electoral referendums and launching a series of suspensions and expulsions which led to the loss of approximately 70,000 of the party’s roughly 110,000 paid members between the first of the year and the date of the convention. NEC member Oneal, one of the leaders of the Regular faction in the intra-party conflict, recounts the days since the St. Louis Emergency National Convention of 1917, marked by the “desertion and betrayal” of the party by its “small Right Wing” and the launching of mass government repression in an attempt to crush the SPA and eradicate its press. A new period began with the collapse of the Central Alliance and the end of the war, in Oneal’s estimation. In this period “a systematic campaign of falsehood” was waged against the Socialist Party and its leadership by a faction within the party, which falsely claimed that the party was allied with the Berne conference of pro-war Socialist Parties and insulted its officials as “Noskes” and “Scheidemanns” looking to drown the revolutionary workers in blood. “In no single instance has this faction attempted to buttress these attacks with any official declarations of the party,” Oneal declares, noting the party’s consistent support for the revolutionary movement in Germany and Russia. Oneal characterizes the Left Wing as “disrupters” who conducted “organized and systematic treachery” for the purpose of “capturing the party.” They had shunted aside party veterans, sabotaged the party’s efforts to hold an amnesty convention on behalf of its political prisoners, and made use of “vicious and corrupt practices in the recent referendum elections,” Oneal charges. “We have no apologies to make to the Left Wing or any of its wings. The National Executive Committee has tried to make the best of the most trying situation the party has ever faced. It welcomes honest criticism and differences of opinion. But for those who have wrought ruin in their confessed attempts to ‘rupture the party,’ it voices the opinion of the honest members in saying that such conduct is a gross violation of Socialist ethics, Socialist solidarity, and Socialist principles.”
“Convention Voids Referendum C by Unanimous Vote: Delegated Decide to Choose Temporary National Executive Committee as Soon as Party’s Constitution is Rewritten by Convention: New Balloting Will Be Instituted for Officials: California Delegation Fails in Its Attempt to Bolt Gathering—Seated Envoys Who Participated in ‘Communist Convention’ Will be Permanently Excluded Today by Herman Michelson” [Sept. 1, 1919] Front page account of the 3rd day of the Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party by the correspondent of the New York Call. Michelson reports on the convention’s unanimous vote to set aside the results of the 1919 party referendum for National Executive Committee on the grounds of electoral irregularities. Michelson notes that “State Secretaries from as far apart as Kansas and Massachusetts told of branches voting twice the number of their members; of voting en bloc in which ballots were marked and signed by the same person throughout; of refusal to allow the investigating committee to see the actual ballots; of ballots being destroyed on the plea there was not room to store them; and other procedure claimed to be highly irregular.” He adds that “when the unanimous roar of approval invalidated the referendum, the convention launched into an ovation, presumably for itself and its own good judgment in ordering a new deal.” Later in the day, after this decisive action had been taken, the decision was made to overrule the recommendation of the Panken Credentials Committee and to seat the elected Left Wing delegation from California. This group declined to accept their seats, however, sending James Dolsen as its spokesman. “We will not take our seats,” Dolsen declared, “unless all duly elected delegates are seated, until the packed delegates from several reorganized states be reduced, nor until the convention ceases to act under the guardianship of the Chicago Police Department.” An appeal was made for delegates to abandon the Socialist Party convention for that of the Communist Labor Party downstairs in the same building; this earnest request met with no response, Michelson states.
“America: The Foundation of a Communist Party,” by “Y.”[Sept. 1, 1919] This article from the Petrograd magazine The Communist International speaks of the formation of a Communist Party of America as an accomplished fact—in an issue with the same publication date as the opening of the founding convention of the Communist Party of America! The author, signing only with the initial “Y.", declares that the SPA, “led by the notorious traitors to Socialism, Algernon Lee and Maurice Hillquit, has long been ripe for a split.”The issuance of the Left Wing Manifesto is heralded and quoted extensively in this article. The June 1919 National Conference of the Left Wing Section, held in New York, is mentioned, although “Y.”remarks that “unfortunately we have no information as to the decision adopted concerning adhesion to the Third International. All we know is that the question was on the agenda. Nor have we any information as to the numerical strength of the party. It is quite possible that the party has not yet assumed the character of an organization of the masses.”Despite the grossly deficient state of communication, “Y.”depicts the prospects of the revolutionary movement in America in glowing colors, noting that “in the epoch of universal history upon which we have now entered, every great movement of the toiling masses and the oppressed invariably assumes a Communist form and inevitably culminates in a struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat. At this juncture, America may be described as an erupting volcano. Strikes follow one another ceaselessly. In many of the states there have been armed revolts among the negroes, who demand equal rights. More than 100,000 fully armed Afro-Americans took part in what amounted to actual battles in the streets of Chicago. The revolt was led by colored ex-soldiers back from the front... We are confident that our American comrades will unite into a single stream the scattered torrents of the mass movement, that they will free it from foreign bodies, and will break the lava crust which has formed upon the surface. Then, from the rumbling volcano of the capitalist order there will escape a brilliant and mighty jet of flame which will consume all the obstacles in its path, and will crystallize, as it cools, to form a new society of labor.”
“Chicago Police Invade Hall of Communists: Red Decorations Torn Down—Lawyer Beaten Unconscious—New Party Formed.” (NY Call) [Sept. 1, 1919] Unsigned news report from the pages of the Socialist Party’s New York Call detailing the first day of the founding convention of the Communist Party of America, held at the home of the Russian Federation in Chicago and attended by about 100 delegates. The facility was stormed by Chicago police, who tore down red buntings and are said to have beaten unconscious and jailed lawyer L.M. Montgomery when he tried to remonstrate with the bluecoats. A 10 piece orchestra added atmosphere and a 20 minute keynote address was delivered by Louis Fraina, who is said to have stated that all controversies between the Communists and the Socialist Party were at an end—meaning, in the reporter’s estimation, “that thereafter the Socialist Party was to be ‘common enemy with the rest of the bourgeoisie.’” Attention is called to “the methodical way in which the Russian Federation voted without a single exception for a prearranged slate proved to be interesting, inasmuch as it foreshadowed clearly one of the rocks on which the Communist Party is headed for a split.” A further deep fissure is observed between the Michigan federation and others participating in the Communist convention, the Michiganders being “exclusively for political action, whereas the others minimize it. On the other hand, the Michigan group minimizes industrial organization as a means to revolution and does not believe in mass action at all, whereas mass action and industrial organization are considered the trump card by their present partners.”
“Statement Subscribed to the Delegates of the Emergency Convention by the Delegates of the State of California.” [September 1, 1919] A document from the CLP/UCP archive seized by the New York Bomb Squad and the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation in April 1921. This statement was apparently read or distributed to the 1919 Emergency National Committee by the California delegation, a Left Wing body denied the seats to which they were elected by the machine of outgoing National Executive Secretary Adolph Germer. Despite being elected by overwhelming majorities of uncontested locals in their states, and despite not being opposed in person by an opposition delegation, the California delegation was ejected from the convention floor by the Chicago Police and forced to stand for hours in an anteroom where they could not hear the proceedings for which they had travelled 2,000 miles to attend. All the while, ” packed delegations from other states occupied the convention floor,” the statement declared. The Contest Committee stalled a decision on the California delegation for two days, thus preventing them from participation, eventually coming in on the third day of the gathering with a recommendation to deny the delegation their seats. This was overturned by action from the floor by delegates who were held to have woke up to the “despotic procedure steamrollered by the officialdom of the convention.” The California delegation demanded that all contested delegations be seated, that the representation of the packed delegations from “reorganization states” be scaled down to the number of votes to which they were entitled based on actual paid membership, and the removal of the Chicago Police was demanded. The delegation—which included Max Bedacht, James Dolsen, and John C. Taylor—ultimately refused their seats and bolted the SPA convention to help establish the Communist Labor Party.
“Communist Labor Party Convention: Day 2,” by L. Loebl [Sept. 1, 1919] This report was written by Louis Loebl, an undercover Bureau of Investigation based in St. Louis who attended the founding convention of the Communist Labor Party as a guest. Loebl passes on to his superiors a complete list of delegates successfully passing muster of the Credentials Committee, including 16 from the state of Ohio (including C.E. Ruthenberg, who departed) and 10 from New York. Loebl notes that the gathering was in limbo awaiting the return of its 5 member unity committee, appointed to seek merger with the Communist Party on the basis of organizational parity. As the committee did not return until after noon, the morning was spent composing a “Bolshevik War Cry,” an “Official Convention Yell,” and singing various songs. The afternoon was spent hearing the report of the unity committee, delivered by Jasper Bauer of California, as well as the individual reports of committee members. “Every one of them were of the belief that the members of the Communist Party were absolutely hostile to them and that the Russian delegates are controlling the situation, who are against any kind of a unity of those two parties,” Loebl reports. Consequently, late in the afternoon “it was finally decided to organize definitely and to go on with the order of business regardless of the Communist Convention.” Loebl predicts that no amalgamation of the two parties would be possible so long as the bitterly anti-federationist John Reed and Ben Gitlow remained in the leadership of the CLP.
“Communist Party Convention: Day 1,” by James O. Peyronnin [Sept. 1, 1919] In addition to having a “confidential informant” as a delegate on the floor of the founding convention of the Communist Party of America (N. Nagorowe, Gary, IN), the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation had one of its Special Agents sitting at the press table, taking notes in shorthand, and other agents mingling in the guest area. The BoI’s “journalist” was James O. Peyronnin, who contributed daily reports of the activity of the convention to his superiors. This is Peyronnin’s account of the opening day of the CPA convention. Peyronnin notes that prior to the opening, officers of the Chicago Police Department removed red decorations from the convention floor, presumably to bring it into compliance with a state or local “red flag law”—political speech not enjoying any substantive constitutional protection in this period. A local attorney acting on behalf of the CPA was summarily arrested when he remonstrated over the removal of the red signs, streamers, and bunting. The convention was opened by Michigander Dennis Batt, representing the organizing committee. Louis Fraina was elected Temporary Chairman and delivered a keynote address. The all-important Credentials Committee was elected, 7 members from a field of 18. The committee was chaired by Lithuanian Federation leader Joseph Stilson and additionally included Elbaum (Polish Fed.), Olkin (Russian), Kopnagel (Russian), Lunin (Jewish), Forsinger (Latvian), and Baltrusaitis (Lithuanian)—a clean sweep for the Federationist faction. Peyronnin estimated that 150 delegates and approximately 300 visitors were gathered for the first day’s session. The Credentials Committee reported out, a process which took 90 minutes and generated a neat list of convention delegates for Peyronnin and his superiors—list included here. Following the report of the Credentials Committee, the convention formally opened, with the Michigan faction’s Al Renner topping the Left Wing National Caucus faction’s I.E. Ferguson in balloting for Chairman of the Day. The Left Wing National Caucus’ John Ballam was elected Vice Chairman. Rules and an order of business were passed. A motion by Ferguson to establish and elect a committee of 5 to conduct unity negotiations with the Communist Labor Party group was defeated and initial dissatisfaction with Russian Federation Control began to brew, with Missouri delegate Henry Tichenor bolting for the CLP gathering and challenged Californian Irene Smith gavelled down by Chairman Renner “and interfered with by the delegates at her table.”
“Communist Party Convention: Day 1,” by August H. Loula [Sept. 1, 1919] August Loula was a Special Agent of the Bureau of Investigation who attended the first day of the founding convention of the Communist Party of America as a “visitor,” using an IWW card to gain admission. Loula reassures his superiors that “Our Confidential Informant No. 121 [N. Nagorowe], who has been directed by Division Superintendent Edward J. Brennan to attend this convention, has been elected as a delegate and is taking an active part in the proceedings, and any secret sessions of the heads of the Communist movement or any other secret procedure that may be contemplated by the radicals outside of the convention hall are concerned, will be taken care of by him.” Loula passes on the exact vote totals of the 7 leading candidates for election to the Credentials Committee, with the Polish Federation’s Daniel Elbaum leading the way with 89 votes, followed by Lithuanian Federationist Joseph Stilson with 87. The keynote speech of Louis C. Fraina is quoted at great length. “The beginning of this movement has its roots many years back and has but now reached the stage where it can proceed as the dominant one. Our work here is to formulate the position and structure of an organization that will be the weapon by which the working class will train and organize itself for a conquest of political power. The party is here. The movement is here. It is for you to shape its structure. The Communist Party of America is a fact,” Fraina declared. With regard to the Left Wingers who were to emerge as the Communist Labor Party, Fraina stated: “Events of the last few days in this city have amply established the truth of our contention that it was futile to participate in the Socialist Party Convention. The Communists who are still of the opinion that they should participate have since been forced by the contemptible acts of the rules of the Socialist Party to leave that convention. There is no question but what these Communistic elements will eventually be lined up with us. There is also the possibility that a third movement will be organized.” Fraina added: “The American proletariat, I am confident, does not lack the intelligence and courage to follow the path lighted by the Moscow International to a conquest of political power.”
“Communist Party Convention: Day 2,” by Jacob Spolansky [Sept. 2, 1919] Report of the proceedings at the the 2nd day of the founding convention of the Communist Party of America by Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Jacob Spolansky. Spolansky sees the convention as being “ruled” by a Russian Federation clique including Alex Stoklitsky, Nick Hourwich, Oscar Tyverovsky, George Ashkenuzi, and Alex Bittelman. Always with a flair for the melodramatic, Spolansky reports that “the convention elected an Emergency Committee of 19. Before the election of this committee took place, Alex Stoklitsky and several other Russian radicals appealed personally to every delegate not to inquire as to the purpose of this committee. Employee ascertained that the real purpose of this committee is the creation of a RED GUARD.” While Michigan leader Dennis Batt played a key role in organizing the convention, Spolansky states that he actually “has no influence whatever and the delegates don’t pay any attention to his suggestions or motions which he makes.” On the other hand, “Stoklitsky is the czar and Stoklitsky is the man who gives instructions to all the delegates how to vote. They all look upon him and as soon as he raises his hand everybody follows him.” Spolansky also makes known that the Military Intelligence Division had placed one of its own as a delegate at the rival Communist Labor Party convention: “An undercover representative of the Military Intelligence [who] is attending the Communist Labor Party convention as a delegate informed Employee that Ludwig E. Martens has advanced a considerable sum of money for the organization and propaganda work of the new Communist Labor Party.”
“Convention May Name Debs Today for Presidency: Nomination Will Be Submitted to Referendum of Party Membership Upon His Acceptance of Candidacy, Resolution Proposes. Choice of Running Mate Will Probably Be Put Off: Drastic Revisions Sure to Be Made in Constitution—Special Bureau to Deal with Relations to Economic Organizations Regarded Certain of Creation,” by Herman Michelson [Sept. 2, 1919] The New York Call’s staff correspondent from the Chicago Emergency National Convention reports on the activities of that gathering’s 4th day. Full rosters of the various committees were named and the day was dominated by committee work. Text of a cable to Ludwig Martens of the Soviet Russian Government Bureau is included, expressing the best regards of the Socialist convention and wishes for success in the establishment of friendly relations between the peoples of the United States and Soviet Russia. Michelson is preoccupied on the question of whether the Emergency Convention would nominate Gene Debs as its Presidential standard-bearer for the 5th time (it ultimately did not; instead Debs was nominated by the 1920 Convention). A complete list of delegates “present and taking part” in the SPA convention (that is, excluding delegates who were challenged and rejected, those refusing to assume their seats, those bolting, and those who missed roll call) is included, listing 128 names of regular and fraternal delegates to the convention for which 200 delegates were originally authorized.
“Resignations Split Ranks of Communists: Fraina and Ruthenberg Among Those Who Quit—Another Party is Formed.” (NY Call) [Sept. 2, 1919] This report from the hostile New York Call notes with barely concealed glee the bitter acrimony which met the founding convention of the Communist Party of America in the second day of its founding convention. The report notes that “the Communist Party, composed of the Michigan crowd, the Russian Federation, and the former Left Wing National Council, nearly split in two when, at a concerted signal, there resigned from the important Emergency Committee of the convention Louis C. Fraina, C.E. Ruthenberg, I.E. Ferguson, Maximilian Cohen, D. Elbaum, and A. Selakovich and, from other offices, former Organizer A. Paul of Queens and Fannie Horowitz. The issue was over sending a committee of conciliation to the ‘Lefts’ who had meanwhile formed the Communist Labor Party. Afraid of losing their numerical and actual domination of the convention and of the Communist Party, the Russians had throttled the proposition to increase the English-speaking element. But the scantily veiled threat of the ‘Lefts’ in their midst had a partial effect.” The Federation group ultimately consented to naming a 5 member unity committee composed of Russian Federationists N.I. Hourwich, Alexander Stoklitsky, Polish Federationist Daniel Elbaum, and English speakers I.E. Ferguson, and C.E. Ruthenberg. “On one thing the Russians and their opponents agreed. Nobody would be permitted to join the Communist Party Convention without first passing the Credentials Committee, which consists of 7 Russians out of 7 committeemen. Also tacitly, it is agreed that under no circumstances would they admit John Reed, Ludwig Lore, Benjamin Gitlow, A. Wagenknecht, L.E. Katterfeld, L.B. Boudin, and the others who had insisted on disobeying the Russian-Michigan mandate for a Communist Party several weeks ago,” the unsigned news report avers.
“The Chicago Convention: An Editorial in the New York Call, Sept. 3, 1919.” This editorial in the New York Call from the time of the Socialist Party’s Emergency National Convention provides numeric detail illustrating the magnitude of the “regrettable” party split: “The report of Secretary Germer, showing that of the 200 delegates allotted to the convention, 136 were entitled to seats without a contest, indicates the extent of the schism in the party. But even this figure does not tell the whole story. About 103 of these uncontested delegates are said to be ‘Regular.’ That is, they stand for the Socialist Party organization, but among them are a considerable number who are uncertain of their course and reserve judgment on matters in controversy. Some have positive convictions that the expulsions of several state organizations and suspension of language federations were not justified, and it will require strong evidence to convince them.” The remaining 33 uncontested delegates were “strongly sympathetic to the so-called Left Wing,” the editorial continues, adding that “some of them may be won over if the evidence is strong enough to justify the expulsions.” The preposterous claim is made by the editorialist that “every delegate entitled to a seat, no matter what his views are, was seated” at the convention.
“Convention Urges US to Recognize Republic of Erin...: Formation of Socialist Press Syndicate Favored: Question of Naming Debs for Presidency Put Over Until Today—Resolutions Adopted Demand Berger Be Seated in Congress and Denounce Recent Race Riots,” by Herman Michelson [Sept. 3, 1919] The New York Call’s day-by-day account of the Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party in Chicago continues in this coverage of Day 5. Reporter Michelson emphasizes the recommendation of the convention’s Press Committee that a nationwide Socialist press syndicate be established for the collective gathering of news on behalf of the daily press affiliated with the SPA—standing at 10 papers and slated to rise to a dozen in the coming year. If there had been such an organization of the Socialist press, the present crisis in the party would have been averted, Press Committee chairman Eugene Woods claimed. Michelson also reports the findings of a special committee headed by Left Wing sympathizer Rose Weiss of New Jersey which was given the task of investigating whether the delegations of the “reorganized” states of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan were packed by the party officialdom. “The committee found that 4 states were entitled to a representation of 69 and only 61 delegates seated on the floor of the convention,” Michelson reports. The news account includes full text of the Press Committee Report as well as resolutions adopted in favor of Irish national liberation, condemning race rioting, and demanding the seated of elected Congressman Victor L. Berger by the House of Representatives, which had denied him his seat on political grounds.
“Supplementary Report of the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of America to the Emergency National Convention: Chicago, IL—September 4, 1919.” The Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party demanded of the outgoing National Executive Committee a supplemental report justifying its actions of expulsions and suspensions which took place at its May 24-30, 1919 meeting in Chicago. This is the second of the two reports of the NEC, signed by 8 of the 15 members of the committee, written in the unapologetic and combative language of NEC member James Oneal, who delivered the report to the gathering. “The federations attempted to usurp power that belongs only to the general membership and conventions and such power as is delegated to the National Executive Committee between conventions. Either the National Executive Committee had to accept the offending federations as a self-constituted supreme court with power to veto our decisions, or else suspend the federations,” the report asserts. The report declares that the charges made that the federations had no opportunity to defend themselves to be false and adds that Michigan State Secretary John Keracher had declined an invitation of the NEC to reopen the matter of the Michigan expulsion in order to present contradictory evidence. The expelled state of Massachusetts had at its convention sent representative voting delegates to the National Conference of the Left Wing in June, a banned “party within the party,” and the expelled state of Ohio had been “the worst offender of all” through its call through its State Secretary, Alfred Wagenknecht, to withhold funds from the national organization. “For the National Executive Committee to acquiesce in all these actions would have been for its members to surrender the party organization and the convention to those responsible for them. We had to act as the National Executive Committee or vacate,” the report declares. The NEC’s abrogation of the 1919 party election had already been justified by the convention’s accepting of the report of the special investigating committee that “gross frauds” had been committed and the charge that the Emergency Convention had been “packed” was without merit, the report adds.
“Party Manifesto Demands Amnesty and End of Blockade Against Russia Be Instituted by US Immediately: Document Reaffirming Solidarity with Revolutionary Workers of World Adopted Unanimously by National Socialist Convention at Chicago...: National Executive Committee Rebuked by Gathering for Expelling Language Federations and State Organizations Without Appealing to Their Members,” by Herman Michelson [Sept. 4, 1919] During the 6th Day of the Socialist Party of America’s Emergency National Convention in Chicago, the delegates unanimously adopted a manifesto of the party which New York Call reporter Herman Michelson characterizes as “the most revolutionary the party has ever drawn up, and one certain to bring back into the organization thousands of members temporarily outside of it, either because their local organizations were expelled or by reason of what Lenin has called ‘the intoxication of the revolutionary phrase.’” Upon adoption of the document, “the convention broke into an ovation that lasted for several minutes, winding up with three cheers for the Socialist Party,” Michelson notes. An extremely controversial supplemental report of the National Executive Committee was also delivered and debated, detailing the NEC’s aggressive policy of suspensions and expulsions which stripped upwards of 70,000 members from the SPA’s ranks in a few short months. The convention approved the report by a vote of 53 to 8, concurring that “the administration of discipline was necessary and justified, but feels that had the National Executive Committee made a sufficient effort to acquaint the membership of the suspended and expelled organizations with the facts and endeavored to have them repudiate their officials that many of the members now outside the party might have remained in.” The view of William Henry of Indiana is cited as being typical of that of convention delegates: “"There is little doubt that the National Executive Committee was absolutely right in its action. But that action was very bad tactics.”
“Dove of Peace Badly Treated by Communists: Two Factions Throw Charges of Treason at Each Other; Folks at Home Worried.” (NY Call) [Sept. 4, 1919] This unsigned account from the pages of the Socialist Party daily the New York Call revisits the ongoing soap opera in the Communist movement to unite. The Communist Labor Party sought unification on the basis of organizational equality with the (larger) Communist Party of America, the report notes; meanwhile, “each convention declares that the other consists of inharmonious elements damned by both as centrist.” The news account states that “when the CLP statement, full of counter-accusations, was read at the Communist Party convention yesterday morning there was considerable laughter. But the matter was taken up for caucus and careful consideration, for both sides realize that negotiations have reached a critical phase.” Standing in the way of easy unity were matters of personality (active dislike of some leading members of each organization with their counterparts), the “strenuous objection to the domination of the Russian Federations” by the CLP, and organizational rules adopted by the CPA which would exclude from membership CLP leading light William Bross Lloyd and others deriving the whole of their income from rent, profit or interest. CPA convention committee members are listed, as is the New York delegation to the Communist Party’s convention. The claimed representation of 14,900 New York members of the CPA is said to have been characterized as “grossly inflated” by both the Socialist Party and the rival CLP.
“Party Repudiates Berne Parley, Calls for New Conclave: Convention Goes on Record As Favoring Eugene Debs For Presidential Candidate in 1920 and Ends Its Sessions...: National Executive Officials Instructed to Appoint Committee of 7 to Draw Up Statement of Principles and Working Platform...” by Herman Michelson [Sept. 5, 1919] The final day of the Socialist Party Emergency National Convention is reviewed by the New York Call’s reporter on the scene, Herman Michelson. During its 7th day, the convention delegates unanimously declared themselves in favor of Gene Debs as the party’s Presidential standard-bearer in the coming 1920 campaign, but left the matter of formal nomination to a convention to be convened for that purpose in the coming year (the revised party constitution calling for annual conventions in lieu of the previous quadrennial gatherings). The issue of international affiliation was debated and a majority resolution adopted for referral to the party membership which called for SPA affiliation to a “reconstructed Socialist International” in which “only such organizations and parties should be given representation which declare their strict adherence by word and deed to the principle of the class struggle.” The majority resolution added that “to such an international must be invited the Communist parties of Russia and Germany and those Socialist parties in all countries which subscribe to the principle of the class struggle. No party which participates in a movement coalition with parties of the bourgeoisie shall be invited.” This majority resolution was ultimately defeated by vote of the party membership in favor of an even more radical minority resolution authored by Illinois delegates Louis Engdahl and Bill Kruse, calling for affiliation of the SPA to the Third International. A 7 member “provisional National Executive Committee, which is to function until the next national convention in 1920, or until a permanent committee is elected” was named by the convention, consisting of William Brandt, William Henry, John Hagel, Edmund Melms, James Oneal, George Roewer Jr., and Oliver Wilson. Substantial changes in the party constitution were made and referred to the membership for ratification by referendum, including a provision that the new Executive Secretary of the Party was to be named by the NEC rather than directly elected by the party membership, as had previously been the case.
“Minutes of the Founding Convention of the Communist Labor Party of America, Aug. 31 - Sept. 5, 1919.” After fighting for control of the 1919 Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party of America in Chicago and losing in their bid, the organized Left Wing Section of the SPA retired downstairs and held a convention of their own— a gathering which established the Communist Labor Party of America (CLP). The body elected organizational officers and wrote and adopted a platform and program.This document collects the minutes of every session of the CLP convention held over the six day period.
“Resolution of Local Essex Co., NJ, Voting Confidence in Harwood’s Integrity: Meeting of Sept. 6, 1919.” In the evening of Sept. 6, 1919, Local Essex County, New Jersey held a special meeting to hear the report of Fred Harwood, delegate to the Emergency National Convention whose election had been challenged by the convention’s Credentials Committee. Harwood—one of the 15 who had been elected to the National Executive Committee in the abrogated party election of 1919—had been subject to a barrage of criticism for having sat at the one meeting of the “new” NEC, chaired by “Executive Secretary pro tem” Alfred Wagenknecht in July. Harwood had been denied the right to answer this criticism from the floor of the convention and had left the gathering and returned to New Jersey in protest, despite his election eventually being upheld by the convention. At the meeting “Harwood expressed his feelings regarding the treatment which he received from certain individuals influential in the councils of the convention, and stated that as a result of this treatment he was thoroughly disillusioned, and could no longer work in the same organization with them. He stated that he was publicly called a thief and a crook by a man that is recognized as one of the foremost Socialists of America [Victor Berger], a man who does not know him personally, and therefore was in no position to make such unwarranted charges, and still less able to prove them.” As a result, Harwood had tendered his resignation as secretary of Local Essex. After extended discussion, the local voted by a wide majority to refuse to accept Harwood’s resignation, and unanimously approved a resolution attesting to Harwood’s honesty, integrity, and good intentions and to protesting the actions of the individuals who “so shamelessly slandered him.”
“Constitution of the Communist Party of America: Adopted at the Founding Convention, Chicago, Sept. 1-7, 1919.” Basic document of organizational law of the old Communist Party of America. Structurally similar to the apparatus used by the Socialist Party of America—the basic unit of organization being the “branch” of at least 7 members, combined into a “City Central Committee” if more than one existed in a locale (the SP basing itself on the city-level “Local” which may or may not be subdivided into “branches”). These CPA branches and City Central Committees were to be combined into either state or (at the discretion of the CEC) industrial district organizations. In all there were two or three layers of organization between the individual member and the governing 15 member CEC. An inner circle of the CEC called the “Executive Council”—all living in the specified headquarters city of Chicago and consisting of the Executive Secretary, Editor, and 5 members of the CEC—were to handle day to day operations of the party. Also notable in this organizational structure was the fact that the Executive Secretary and Editor were to be elected annually at party conventions held in May or June and that there were to be no members-at-large.
“Circular Letter to All Locals and Branches of the Socialist Party of America from Alfred Wagenknecht, Executive Secretary of the CLP, circa Sept. 10, 1919.” This communique was sent out by Executive Secretary of the Communist Labor Party Alfred Wagenknecht immediately after the formation of the CLP to all local units of the Socialist Party, seeking their affiliation with the new organization. “The Left Wing delegates whom you sent to Chicago to attend the convention of the Socialist Party were thrown out of the convention hall by the police in command of the Socialist Party National Secretary. These Left Wing delegates, 82 in number, then organized the legal Socialist Party convention, under the direction of the new National Executive Committee which you elected and in obedience to the mandate of the National Left Wing Conference, organized the Communist Labor Party, the logical outgrowth of the fight for Left Wing principles made in the Socialist Party by the majority of its members,” Wagenknecht declares. Wagenknecht advocates the immediate call of a meeting of each local body for the sole purpose of considering the constitution, program, and platform of the CLP and for decision on the question of affiliation. “Take your stand with us in a united revolutionary movement. Out all ties that bind you to that kind of socialism which has made Scheidemann and Kerensky infamous.... The old Socialist Party is dead. The new party is virile with the spirit of those who know no compromise,” Wagenknecht implores.
“Strength of the Two Left Wing Parties.” (Communist Labor Party News) [circa Sept. 15, 1919] This short article pronounces the Communist Labor Party’s view of the membership status of the CPA and CLP at the time of their formation. The article correctly notes that” only an estimate of the strength of each can be given at this time for the exact membership can not be ascertained until both organizations have functioned for some months and then only upon the basis of dues stamp sales.” The CPA is said to consist largely of members from the language federations:” Russian, 6,500; Ukrainian, 3,500; South Slavic, 3,000; Lithuanian, 6,000; Lettish [Latvian] 1,500; Hungarian, 2,400; Polish, 2,000,” plus” a few thousand English-speaking members” for a total estimated membership of the Communist Party of” about 28,000.” This estimate is reasonable. The count of its own CLP organizational ranks is highly inflated however, based upon Anglophonic state memberships plus” the greater portion of the German Federation membership, with a Left Wing of” about 5,000, plus” the Italian Federation, 1,000; and the Scandinavian Federation, 3,000.” Thus,” the membership of the Communist Labor Party equals, if it does not exceed, that of the Communist Party,” the article writer optimistically (and wrongly) declares.
“The Communist Party,” by Jack Carney [Sept. 19, 1919] This article by Duluth, Minnesota Left Wing iconoclast Jack Carney, a member of the National Executive Committee of the Communist Labor Party, takes aim at his rival Charles Dirba and the Communist Party of America. Carney had in the previous week asserted that “The majority of the English-speaking membership” which the CPA had was “drawing away from it” and State Secretary Dirba had taken exception, asserting that “common decency and honesty demands that you retract this misstatement.” Carney sticks to his guns, writing “If you want to judge the membership of any party, just judge them by their actions, not their TALK. There has been more work done in the city of Duluth than in both of the Twin Cities. We have sold more literature than the State Office, which has the whole membership to serve. The Scandinavian Local has practically kept the State Office above water. This has been made possible because within the Socialist Party of Duluth there has been unity of purpose and unity of action. We have not engaged in talk so much as action. True it is that we have not used many revolutionary phrases, but we have gone to the place where the worker was reached and that was on the job.” Carney seeks unity of Communist forces: “There is no Communist Party that has a right to say that WE are the only party. The times call for more tolerance and they call for the exercising of our common sense in these matters. We must come together. If you are prepared to stay in your own little party, then you are lost to all sense of a conscious realization of the task that is set before you.”
“Historical Review of the Split in the Socialist Party and the Organization of the Communist Party and Communist Labor Party. [Sept. 1919] An official review of the split in the Socialist Party and division of the Communist movement in two new organizations from the perspective of the Communist Labor Party. Authorship is unknown, but the document appeared in the CLP’s official organ, Communist Labor Party News, and was reprinted in the CLP-affiliated press. Onus for the division is placed squarely on the shoulders of the Communist Party of America, which broke ranks with the will of the Left Wing National Conference and then “refused to elect a committee on unity to confer with the committee elected by the Left Wing delegate convention”—changing this decision only when faced by a bolt of about 40 delegates from their own convention. The CPA, said to be “controlled” by “the Russian Federation” and run by means of “dictatorial methods” then refused to unite with the CLP on the basis of equality, but instead sought control of the new organization by uniting on the basis of declared memberships. The claim of the CPA to represent 55,000 members is contested by this article; instead the CPA included only 24,900 Federationists and “two or three thousand English-speaking members” while the Communist Labor Party represented the Socialist Parties of 23 states as well as the German, Scandinavian, and Italian Federations— 30,800 in all.
“Call for a Mass Membership Convention For the Purpose of Organizing Local Cook County of the Communist Labor Party of America.” [Sept. 1919] . A rare leaflet held in the Comintern Archive, a call by the provisional Cook County, Illinois, CLP organization for a “Mass Membership Convention” to establish “Local Cook County, Communist Labor Party of America.” All those pledging allegiance to the program of the CLP and submitting an application for membership were to be entitled to participate at the organizational convention, to be held Sunday, Sept. 28, 1919. Includes the organizational principles and program of the CLP, an illuminating view of the ideology of the party’s early participants. Published over the signatures of the Cook. Co. Organization Committee: G.A. Engelken, Arthur Procter, J. Meisinger, Sam Hankin (Sec.), and John Nelson.
“First Convention of the Communist Party of America: Day 2,” by James O. Peyronnin [Sept. 2, 1919] The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation had no fewer than 8, and perhaps a dozen or more, of its agents, operatives, and confidential informers in Chicago in Aug.-Sept. 1919 for the conventions of the Socialist Party, Communist Labor Party, and Communist Party of America. One of the most important was James O. Peyronnin, who apparently sat undercover as a “journalist” at the press table of the CPA Convention, and who wrote lengthy reports of each day’s sessions and gathered relevant documents for BoI Headquarters in Washington, DC. These and other reports have been preserved on freely available and unexpurgated microfilm by the National Archives and Records Administration and are an exciting new historical source. The 2nd day of the CPA convention sees the acrimonious departure for the CLP convention of delegate Henry Tichenor of St. Louis, who likens the Russian Federations’ machine control of the CPA gathering to the domination of the SPA conclave by the Regulars’ machine: “"I have certainly had the steamroller run over me recently—once by the Berger regime in Milwaukee, and once right at this convention. It will be utterly useless for me to work with the element that is in control and therefore I ask the Credentials Committee to kindly return me my credentials.” Chairman of the Credentials Committee Joseph Stilson announces that 128 delegates are seated (so far), representing a membership of 58,000 (the latter number certainly inflated). A surprising mass resignation takes place by the Left Wing National Caucus Faction, with a dozen or more delegates and two convention technical secretaries resigning their posts over a failure to negotiate with the Communist Labor Party’s unity committee. Michigander Dennis Batt defiantly declares “I think myself the Convention will progress better without them.” Following a 3 hour recess to resolve the crisis, the convention reconvenes and reconsiders its previous action, appointing its own 5 member unity committee, which included Federation chiefs Stoklitsky, Hourwich, and Elbaum in addition to Ruthenberg and Ferguson of the Left Wing National Caucus faction. Chicago police arrest Dennis Batt from the floor of the convention on an outstanding warrant for alleged violation of the Illinois State Sedition Act. A Manifesto and Program Committee is elected by the convention with Nicholas Hourwich the top vote-getter and other committees of the convention are elected as well.
“Report on CLP Mass Meeting, West Side Auditorium, Chicago,” by P.P. Mindak [Sept. 2, 1919] On the evening of Sept. 2, 1919, the fledgling Communist Labor Party held its first public meeting in Chicago. Undercover Bureau of Investigation Agent Peter P. Mindak was in attendance to make a report on the proceedings. The session was addressed by three CLP leaders—Ella Reeve Bloor, Jack Carney, and Jack Reed. Mindak is most enthusiastic about the ability of Irish emigré and CLP NEC member Carney, calling him “a very eloquent speaker” who made use of “a very poetic and dramatic style” to review the history of the contemporary radical movement. “He spoke of the proposed formation of the Communist Labor Party, which he stated was in wholehearted sympathy with the Russian Soviet, and urged agitation amongst the workers and the formation of shop committees throughout all the shops and factories. He urged the workers to prepare themselves for the opportunity when a proletarian dictatorship could be established in this country,” Mindak states. “There appeared to be a lack of enthusiasm which is usually seen at gatherings of this kind,” according to Mindak, who adds that “many of those present came for the purpose of hearing Jack Carney, who is a very eloquent orator.” Literature for the IWW and Soviet buttons were available for sale at the meeting, Mindak adds.
“Communist Party of America Convention: Day 3,” by Jacob Spolansky [Sept. 3, 1919] While he is the best-known of the Bureau of Investigation’s undercover operatives by virtue of his melodramatic 1951 memoir, The Communist Trail in America, Jacob Spolansky was by no means the most important (or the most accurate) of the bevy of agents put into the field at the 1919 Chicago radical conventions. Spolansky provided to BoI headquarters in Washington this detailed account of Day 3 of the Founding Convention of the CPA. Spolansky notes the report of Press Committee chairman C.E. Ruthenberg, which called for the establishment of a party owned English language daily called The Daily Communist, a monthly theoretical journal called The Communist Review, and the establishment of a $100,00 fund for the publication of free leaflets and other literature. The name of the theoretical journal was changed to The Communist International and the (wildly optimistic) dollar “limit” on the literature fund were removed by vote of the convention. The convention spent a good deal of time and energy arguing the question of whether non-proletarian elements should be allowed in the party, ultimately approving the essence of Nick Hourwich’s motion “ that no man who earns a living through rent, interest, or exploiting his brother worker can be admitted into the ranks of the Communist Party. That no Federal, County, City, or Civil Service employee can be admitted into the ranks of the Communist Party” (as Spolansky summarized the motion). Another small bolt was made by Morris Zucker and Edward Lindgren of Local Kings Co., Left Wing, who purportedly received instructions by telegram from their local instructing them to leave the CPA Convention. Zucker stated he and Lindgren were leaving “because the convention was controlled by Russian elements and that other representatives have no show whatever; that caucus is being held every half an hour and the Russians have a well organized machine which has full control of this convention” and because Zucker “did not see any difference between this convention and the Emergency Socialist Convention and he was afraid that a few leaders were trying to dominate the Communist Party of America for their own selfish purposes.” The departure was met in silence, Spolansky indicates. Negotiations between the 5 member unity committees of the CPA and CLP continued without any show of progress, Spolansky states, and documents exchanged between the committees were reviewed by the convention.
“First Convention of the Communist Party of America: Day 4,” by James O. Peyronnin [Sept. 4, 1919] Undercover Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Peyronnin recounts the affairs of the 4th day of the 7 day Founding Convention of the CPA. Extensive and heated debate took place over a constitutional provision to require the splitting of locals over 500 members into smaller branches (ultimately stricken) and requiring all language branches to join their appropriate Federation (ultimately approved). The report of the Education Committee, calling for a 3 member National Educational Committee, the establishment of “Schools of Communism” for general theoretical education and the training of party members as speakers and organizers, and the establishment of a National Lecture Bureau for the routing of speakers. The entire content and tone of this report is very much in the vein of the old Socialist Party of America, it should be noted. The inability of the Manifesto and Program Committee to report to the convention drew the pique of convention chairman Al Renner (Michigan faction), who pointed out that there were delegates needing to depart shortly. The convention shut down for the day shortly after noon due to the inability of any committees to submit their reports to the body. Presumably committee work was conducted in the afternoon hours.
“Polish Communist Meeting, Walsh’s Hall, Chicago,” by P.P. Mindak [Sept. 4, 1919] In contrast to the tepid mass meeting of the CLP held the evening of Sept. 2, Bureau of Investigation undercover agent Peter Mindak indicates that the mass meeting of Polish CPA members and supporters held 2 nights later was a rousing and enthusiastic affair, attended by 700 or 800. The keynote speaker was Daniel Elbaum, editor of Glos Robotniczy [The Voice of the Workers] of Detroit, with Translator-Secretary of the Polish Federation Joseph Kowalski chairman of the meeting. Elbaum “explained to the gathering the purpose and program of the Communist Party and that this party represented the revolutionary element of the Socialist Party. His speech had a very powerful effect on the audience, as at the conclusion the applause lasted for several minutes,” Mindak reports. In his remarks, Kowalski is said to have taken aim at the American Federation of Labor, ridiculed as an organization which had outlived its usefulness. “The meeting was one of the most enthusiastic Polish Communist gatherings which Employee has so far attended and shows that the leaders of the Polish Communist movement have been and still are very active in spreading the Communist Party and organizing,” Mindak notes.
“First Convention of the Communist Party of America: Day 6,” by James O. Peyronnin [Sept. 6, 1919] In this Bureau of Investigation report, Special Agent James Peyronnin notes that the morning of the 6th day of the Founding Convention of the CPA was occupied with paragraph-by-paragraph consideration of the proposed program of the organization—based upon the draft prepared by Louis Fraina and the Left Wing National Council faction rather than the alternative prepared by the Socialist Party of Michigan. While 2 days earlier chairman of the convention Al Renner (Michigan) had been eager to push the pace of the gathering, now he strongly objected to a proposal to move to electing of officers of the CPA. Peyronnin notes that Renner “stated that there are certain delegates who are struggling for time in which to put something over; that the reports of the committees should by all means be acted upon before the election of officers.” Peyronnin adds that the proposal to move to elections by Left Wing National Council faction member Isaac Ferguson, “who seemed now to be in unity with the Russian Revolutionary Organization to control the convention", was carried, and the process of nominations and elections moved forward. Four International Delegates (and 4 alternates) were elected, as was a 15 member CEC (with 5 alternates). Michigan faction members declined all nominations, notably Renner for Executive Secretary (Ruthenberg elected) and Batt for National Editor (Fraina elected). In the night session of the convention, Dennis Batt took the floor and excoriated the “100% Bolsheviks” of the Russian Federations for the “junk which you threw on the table for the delegates to pass on” (i.e. the Fraina version of the party program). “Batt in his discourse was very incitive and expressed himself with much force,” Peyronnin notes. The complete Michigan program was read into the record. Batt was forcefully answered by Alex Bittelman on behalf of the majority, comparing the two programs “practically paragraph for paragraph.” “In course of his inflammatory remarks, Batt vacated the hall for the balance of the night,” Peyronnin reports.
“Communist Party Mass Meeting: Douglas Park Auditorium, Chicago,” by Louis Loebl [Sept. 6, 1919] Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Louis Loebl briefly reports to his superiors in Washington on the mass meeting of the CPA held in Chicago the evening of September 6. “From all appearances, it was a Russian Affair pure and simple, the English speakers, Ferguson and Ruthenberg addressing the audience for conventionality’s sake, rather than with a view to convey their messages to the English speaking audience. It is a fair estimate to state that 99% of the crowd were Russian, Lithuanian, and Polish,” Loebl states. In addition to the two English speakers, Alexander Stoklitsky addressed the gathering in Russian, A. Forsinger in Latvian, and Boleslaw Gebert in Polish.
“First Convention of the Communist Party of America: Day 7,” by James O. Peyronnin [Sept. 7, 1919] Bureau of Investigation Special Agent James Peyronnin reports on the 7th and final day of the Founding Convention of the CPA. The report of the Resolutions Committee was presented by S.A. Kopnagel and was approved by the convention without discussion. P. Sparer reported for the Committee on the Young Peoples Communist League, the proposed youth organization of the CPA (never launched). George Ashkenuzi and Bert Wolfe resigned from the Central Executive Committee to make way for Harry Wicks (breaking factional discipline with his Michigan comrades) and Charles Dirba. The finance committee reported that a total of 137 delegates had been seated at the convention, with nearly $5900 collected thus far on registration fees and all but $100 of the amount spent on delegate train fares and building rent. Translator-Secretary of the Lithuanian Federation Joseph Stilson indicated that the new organization would be receiving approximately $10,000 from the various Federations as the portion of dues withheld from the Socialist Party’s National Office during the faction fight of 1919. At the conclusion, C.E. Ruthenberg seems to have addressed the convention at length as the new Executive Secretary of the CPA, deprecating the efforts of the rival Communist Labor Party, whose list of 90 delegates was seriously padded, including 7 who “did not represent anyone to speak of"; 10 from New York, a state in which Ruthenberg states that he did not think there were more than “a couple of hundred” in support of the CLP; and 11 from Illinois, were “not more than a few hundred at the very best represent them.” Ruthenberg declares “The only sound organizations they have behind the delegates who were in that convention were Washington, California, and Oregon. And we have delegates here on the floor representing those states.” Special Agent Peyronnin states in conclusion that “on account of the antagonism and friction existing between certain groups of the Convention, the ultra-radicals, who are the real ‘Bolshevists’ in the United States, did not deviate to any extent from the actual business of the convention, but these radicals, with especial reference to the group representing the Russian Revolutionary Organization from New York, should be kept under surveillance in their activities in behalf of the Communist Party, and which organization with the other foreign element of the Convention practically controlled the Convention from its inception to end.”
“In Re: Communist Party Convention,” by N. Nagorowe [events of Sept. 1-7, 1919] In its first great anti-Communist intelligence coup, the Department of Justice successfully placed one of its “Confidential Employees” on the floor as a delegate at the Founding Convention of the Communist Party of America. This is individual was neither Louis C. Fraina nor Harry M. Wicks (about whom there have been hushed whispers and furtive glances over the years; neither of whom were on the BoI payroll by any indication), but was rather the Russian delegate elected by Branch 2, Gary, Indiana, N. Nagorowe. This extensive report by Bureau of Investigation employee Nagorowe is an extraordinarily important historical document, containing a first person account of the closed door caucus activities of the Russian Federations faction. According to Nagorowe, the various language federations were driven by the action of the Russian Federation, disciplined and united fresh from their Federation Convention in Detroit held just the previous week. The chief of the faction is said to have been Translator-Secretary Alexander Stoklitsky, a man of few words at the caucus meetings. Stoklitsky’s verbose and doggedly persistent front men are said to have been Novyi Mir editor Nick Hourwich and top Jewish Federationist Harry Hiltzik. Also playing a key roll was CEC member and Latvian Federation chief John Schwartz, characterized as “a resolute rough leader of the mob.” The Left Wing National Council faction is interestingly characterized as the “Fraina group” by Nagorowe. Nagorowe is particularly important for his description of the 3 way dance between the Federations with the “Fraina group” and the “Michigans”—in which the Michigan draft program seems to have been abruptly and faithlessly dropped in favor of the Fraina-drafted program as the working basis for the CPA program by the top leadership of the Federation. Stoklitsky and Hourwich failed “even to give any intimation of it to their own caucus members” this drastic change had been made, Nagorowe notes. The entire situation was masterfully handled Stoklitsky & Co., Nagorowe indicates, with open split with either the Left Wing National Caucus or the Michigan faction avoided and merger with the Anglophonic “Centrists” of the Communist Labor Party skillfully managed and ultimately avoided.
“Circular Letter to All Russian Branches of the Communist Party of America from Alexander Stoklitsky in Chicago, Sept. 8, 1919.” Immediately after the conclusion of the Founding Convention of the CPA, Translator-Secretary of the Russian Federation Alexander Stoklitsky dispatched the following circular letter to the various branches of the Russian Communist Federation detailing the activities of the convention. Stoklitsky uses a low count for the number of delegates credentialed (128; actual number seems to have been 137, according to the Finance Committee’s report late in the convention). He announces the publications launched by the convention—the weekly organ (The Communist) and the monthly theoretical magazine (The Communist International) and details the names of those elected as International Delegates and members of the organization’s CEC. Stoklitsky declares that “the work of the construction of the Communist Party of America has been crowned with success. The old, rotten Socialist Party has cracked at all its seams. All thinking elements have joined the fighting Communist Party of America.” He adds that “a difficult task lies before our party. Surrounded on all sides by enemies, it will be obliged to fight on many fronts simultaneously”—including particularly “the Germers and the Bergers,” brothers of the German Social Democratic “traitors” and “social-patriots,” who “are ready to do all in their power in order to crush the real Revolutionary movement.”
“Russia—The World’s Greatest Labor Case: A Speech in San Francisco,” by Robert Minor [Sept. 14, 1919] Texas born, California dwelling cartoonist and journalist Robert Minor was one of the first-hand American observers of the Russian Revolution. For the better part of a year he lived in Moscow, interviewing Lenin, contributing a cartoon to Pravda, and attempting to fulfill his journalistic obligations in spite of suppression of his various cables to America. Once home, Minor toured and spoke extensively on behalf of the Russian Socialist Republic. This is the text of Minor’s second speech in America, made in San Francisco late in the summer of 1919. Minor charges that Soviet Russia is the victim of the greatest of labor frame-ups, a “conspiracy to falsify the facts” on the part of governments and their diplomats working hand in glove with the bourgeois press. Soviet violence was exaggerated and depicted in the lurid accounts, while the greater violence of the anti-Communists went largely unreported. Minor tells his audience to “dismiss from your minds the lies that have been told on the score of the ‘red terror.’ Perhaps 4,500 or 5,000 people were killed under the ‘red terror.’ For that reason Russia is to be excluded from all consideration, they say. Look on the other side of the fight. Not less than 76,000 were killed by the ‘white terror’ and you never heard of it.” Minor makes the provocative claim far from American being threatened by the virus of Bolshevism, to the contrary it was American that was radicalizing Soviet Russia. Minor asserts that he “ran across these American-Russians everywhere, and every one of them who has been here got his political education and has no illusions, knows all the potentialities of this country.” It was these American-Russians who were “the most radical of all.” The St. Louis stockbroker-turned-diplomat David Francis was dismissed by Russians as an “old stuff shirt,” Minor declares, while the “one American representative in Russia who understood and saw” was YMCA man Raymond Robbins, “a capitalist of the kind that can understand a few things and see ahead.”
“Old Local Queens [NY] Votes to Leave Socialist Movement: Report of Meeting of Sept. 14, 1919.” This news report from the New York Call details the exodus of Local Queens from the Socialist Party as the result of a decision made at the membership meeting of September 14, 1919. The session received the report of Maurice L. Paul, a delegate to the founding convention of the Communist Party of America, who declared asserted the decision of Local Queens to send him to the CPA gathering was the correct one. “The Socialist Party Convention was packed. For example, New York was represented by 36 delegates, whereas 36 delegates is out of all proportion to the true representation. The Communist Convention and the bolters’ convention, or Kangaroos [the CLP], was made up of such comrades who fluctuated one way or another and knew not where to go.” After hearing Paul’s report, Edward Lindgren reported on behalf of the Communist Labor Party, who claimed the CLP delegates were attempting to fulfill their mandates to attend the Socialist Party’s Emergency Convention; as opposed to the CPA, which Lindgren stated was dominated by the federations and thus “could never amount to much in this country as a revolutionary party.” Jay Lovestone also spoke on behalf of the CPA. “His remarks were mostly personalities, and of all the speakers of the evening he seemed most bitter,” the account notes. After extensive debate on a series of amendments, Local Queens voted 39-8 to join the Communist Party of America.
“Circular to All Branches of the Russian Federation of the Communist Party of America from Oscar Tyverovsky, Secretary.” [circa Sept. 15, 1919] In this communique from the first days after the split of the Socialist Party of America into 3 competing organizations, Secretary of the Russian Federation Oscar Tyverovsky offers the Communist Party of America’s perspective of the dispute. Tyverovsky is harshly critical of the Communist Labor Party element for not joining with the Communist Party of America after the outcome of the Socialist Party convention became clear on its first day, Aug. 30, 1919. These delegates disregarded the fact that the CPA organizing committee had agreed to accept those delegates who would be willing to submit to the requirements governing the delegates of the Communist Convention, i.e., to pass the Mandate Commission.” Instead, they formed their own dual communist political organization, the CLP—a group which Tyverovsky characterizes as “a party of leaders without [the masses].” Tyverovsky notes that these “so-called communists” had admitted to their organization branches of the Russian Federation which recently been expelled by the Russian Federation “because of their Menshevik tactics and disorganizing activities.” Instead of making known the real differences in the orientation of these two wings of the Russian Federation, Tyverovsky states that the CLP was instead exaggerating an artificial issue, the question of control over the Russian Soviet Government Bureau of Ludwig Martens (which the CLP supported and worked with and the CPA sought to subordinate to its own party control). The CLP also made use of their “backbiting, lying paper, Pravda” to slander the Russian Federation, Tyverovsky charges, adding that “we must stand fast at our post, not allowing the evil-doers to disrupt our ranks.”
“National Secretary Germer’s Letter of Resignation: Retiring Party Official Gives Reason for Quitting Post at This Time—Is Under 20 Years’ Prison Sentence,” by Adolph Germer [Sept. 18, 1919] With the exception of factional leader James Oneal, the members of the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party stood down after the Emergency National Convention which began August 30, 1919, and a new NEC was elected to govern the organization. National Secretary Adolph Germer was not far behind them, submitting this letter of resignation to the newly named “Temporary NEC” little more than 2 weeks after the convention closed. “Much has been made of the claim that the old National Executive Committee precipitated the controversy within the party in order to keep itself in power,” Germer declares, noting that “the report of the special committee that investigated the election frauds fully vindicated the course of the old National Executive Committee. Those who questioned the motives of the National Executive Committee in holding up the election for party officials, suspending the 7 foreign language federations, and expelling Michigan and Massachusetts were proven malicious slanderers and professional disrupters.” The decision by the outgoing NEC to terminate the 1919 election of party officials was “unanimously endorsed by the recent national convention, which included a large number of the Left Wing delegates.” Germer announces that “I assume my full share of the responsibility” for the halting of the election, suspensions, and expulsions, and that he would follow the example of the outgoing NEC by standing down as Executive Secretary, effective Oct. 11, 1919, “or sooner if the NEC can make arrangements to have a successor take over the affairs of the National Office.”
“’Bulletin No. 1’ to Local Units of the SPA and SLP from C.E. Ruthenberg, Exec. Sec. of the CPA in Chicago.” [Sept. 18, 1919] Immediately after formally organizing itself at its founding convention, Sept. 1-7, 1919, the Communist Party of America attempted to win adherents en masse to the CPA banner. This typeset flyer was sent to various branches of the Socialist Party of America and Socialist Labor Party, attempting to win the allegiance of entire branches and locals previously affiliated with these organizations. Noting the move for organization of a third party by the bolting delegates from the SPA convention, Executive Secretary Ruthenberg states: “It is still possible to attain unity between all the workers who are ready to support Communist principles. If every branch which stands for those principles endorses and becomes part of the Communist Party, which already has 50,000 members, no second organization can come into existence.”
“’Death for Me or Release for All,’ Says Debs: ‘I Trust in My Comrades,’” by Joseph W. Sharts [event of Sept. 20, 1919] News account of a follow-up visit to imprisoned Socialist leader Gene Debs at Atlanta Federal Penitentiary by Dayton, Ohio Socialist Joseph Sharts. Sharts’ visit was to receive the final word from Debs about whether to proceed with a habeas corpus appeal on his behalf—a procedure put on a 30 day delay by Debs at an August 21 meeting with Sharts and Marguerite Prevey. Debs declines to allow action taken for him as an individual by his comrades: “”I have studied this matter for 30 days. Every instinct in me is against my making an individual fight for liberty while my comrades rot in jail! Woodrow Wilson and his political crowd sent me here from Moundsville [WV] to kill or break me. I shall stay until I die or he is forced to release us all. My faith is in the rank and file of my comrades.” With regard to the split in the ranks of the Socialist Party, Sharts quotes Debs directly: “’The rank and file of the Socialist movement have no quarrel with each other,’ he declared. ‘It is the leaders always, and those who want to be leaders, who keep up factional differences and stir up new ones.’”
“’Not Goodbye, Just Change,’ Says [Alex] Georgian.” (NY Call) [event of Sept. 21, 1919] On Sept. 21, 1919, a meeting was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota to honor Russian-American Socialist activist Alex Georgian, who was slated to be transported to Ellis Island, New York for eventual deportation. Georgian was greeted with an ovation by his comrades before telling them: “Deportation is not a new thing. It has existed since the exploitation of man was introduced into society. It was so in Russia, and it is so in England, France, and all over. Deportation is a social crime by the master class to subjugate workers. I am not the first, and I will not be the last. Deportation will exist as long as the capitalist class.... Because of the prosecution and oppression visited upon the workers of Russia, Russia is in the vanguard of progress. The same thing is coming here, and they can’t crush it. This is not a farewell, just a changing of place. I have always been in the struggle, and am going to talk whether they send me to China, Germany, or Hell.” A footnote by Tim Davenport notes that Georgian was ultimately freed on a writ of habeas corpus and remained undeported throughout the early 1920s—eventually playing a major role as a member of the dissident Ruthenberg faction of the Communist Party of America and serving as a delegate to the 1922 Bridgman convention under the pseudonym “Kasbeck.”
“Impressions of the Convention,” by James Oneal [events of Aug. 30-Sept. 5, 1919] This article by leader of the Socialist Party’s Regular faction, James Oneal, provides a review of the party’s life in the months leading up to the August 30, 1919, Emergency National Convention. Oneal charges the Left Wing with a breach of faith for abandoning the Socialist Party when it was under external attack by the US government, despite its maintenance of a consistent and principled anti-militarist perspective during the world war. While Oneal allows that “many of those who had in the meantime attached themselves to the insurgent forces were thoroughly sincere in their belief that the Socialist Party had in some way betrayed the historic aims of the Socialist movement,” he charges that the Left Wing had never provided evidence of any sort documenting the validity of their position. Outside of a few lapses of individual members from the party and its cause, the Left Wing’s criticism had amounted to nothing more than “highly emotionalized attacks which at times bordered on hysteria,” Oneal charges. “The insurgent group displayed the same sort of mental distress and irrational conduct that the deserters who left the party shortly after the entrance of the United States into the war. Both constituted an irrational reaction to the great events transpiring in Europe. Thousands of party members who were not swept off their feet undoubtedly felt the impress of the European upheaval and at certain moments were inclined to permit their emotions to sway their reason.” Oneal claims that the outcome of the Emergency National Convention was not determined until its third day, when at last “normal judgments began to return and became more and more stable.” The chief cause of this change was the “sobering effect” of certain delegates “demanding admission and then refusing to take their seats when given them”—“something that had never been witnessed in a Socialist convention before.” The unanimous vote accepting the controversial report of the special investigating committee on the 1919 party referendums is characterized as another pivotal moment in the history of the convention: “When the negative vote was called for there was silence for a moment. Then the convention burst into a roar of applause,” Oneal recalls. “No convention in the party’s history was ever characterized by so many dramatic moments and so much tense feeling and uncertainty, for the first few days of this one,” Oneal declares.
“Application for Membership in the Communist International on Behalf of the Communist Labor Party of America,” by Alfred Wagenknecht [September 21, 1919] Succinct application for Comintern membership by the Executive Secretary of the Communist Labor Party of America, acting in accord with a resolution passed unanimously at the founding convention of the party, which closed Sept. 5, 1919. The resolution states: “We hereby declare ourselves one in principle and actions with all the parties and organizations already affiliated with the Third International formed at Moscow, and send them our heartiest greetings. We pledge ourselves to work upon the lines and according to the program determined upon by the first Congress of the Third International...” by way of contrast, the Communist Party of America applied for Comintern membership on Nov. 24, 1919, and the Socialist Party of America applied for Comintern membership on March 12, 1920.
“Morris Hillquit Returns After 14 Months’ Recuperation; Looks Fine.” (NY Call) [event of Sept. 22, 1919] While certainly not of the same world-historical importance as the meeting of the returning Lenin at the Finland Station by the Bolshevik faithful, there is a certain faint echo of the event depicted in this news report from the New York Call detailing the meeting of Socialist Party leader Morris Hillquit at Grand Central Station in New York after his 14 months’ illness and recuperation in upstate New York. At 7:45 am, “about 40 of [Hillquit’s] close friends and party officials, together with committees from some of the branches, greeted him with enthusiasm. The cheering was so great that an impromptu meeting gathered around the Socialists, from which Hillquit laughingly escaped with his companions.” In attendance were such heavy-hitters of the Socialist Party as Executive Secretary Adolph Germer, Secretary of Local Greater New York Julius Gerber, NEC member George Goebel, and representatives of various party units and institutions. “Flowers were sent by many of the branches, and someone laughed and wondered where the rice was,” the reporter notes. “When asked his opinion upon the League of Nations, the steel strike, the Left Wing, the chances of the Reds copping the world’s pennant, and of the Shantung settlement, Hillquit said: ‘Let’s all have breakfast.’ The announcement was greeted with cheers.” The party thereupon adjourned to the Grand Central Station restaurant for bacon and eggs.
“We Are All Socialists: Split Need Not Weaken the Movement—Let Us Waste No More Time In Quarreling, but Throw Our Whole Strength Into the Fight on Capitalism,” by Morris Hillquit [Sept. 22, 1919] This article in the New York Call marked Socialist Party leader Morris Hillquit’s return to active party life after a 14 months’ illness and recuperation at a sanitarium in upstate New York. Hillquit weighs in publicly on the 1919 party split for the first time, taking a benign position on the bitter factional struggle, which Hillquit characterizes as “unfortunate but unavoidable.” The division of the party had been “an accomplished and irrevocable fact many months ago” and the various Chicago conventions had done “nothing more than recognize the fact,” Hillquit notes. The departure of the Left Wing from the ranks of the Socialist Party did not mean that their loss to the Socialist movement, however, nor need it necessarily mean a weakening of that movement. “Our newly baptized “Communists” have not ceased to be Socialists even though in a moment of destructive enthusiasm they have chosen to discard the name that stands for so much in the history of the modern world. They are wrong in their estimate of American conditions, their theoretical conclusions, and practical methods, but they have not deserted to the enemy. The bulk of their following is still good Socialist material, and when the hour of the real Socialist fight strikes this country, we may find them again in our ranks,” Hillquit declares. Hillquit urges against an preoccupation with factional infighting: “The quarrels of political stepbrothers are always more violent than those of political strangers. It is to be hoped that the Socialist Party at least will effectively resist the temptation, for nothing could be more ruinous to the Socialist movement than frittering away its energies and resources on internecine strife,” Hillquit cautions. Hillquit upbraids those who have taken the party’s dirty laundry to the capitalist press: “Our quarrel is a family quarrel and has no room in the columns of the capitalist papers, where it can only give joy and comfort to the common enemy.”
“The Foreign Language Federations in the Socialist Party: What Should the Relation Be Between Non-English Speaking Groups and the American Workers?” by Andrew Pranspill [Sept. 23, 1919] A thoughtful and provocative reassessment of the role and function of language federations in the Socialist Party of American in the aftermath of the great split of 1919. Pranspill, formerly the Secretary of the SPA’s tiny Estonian Federation and now secretary of Local Astoria, New York, argues that each of the federations are actually nothing more than a dreaded “organization within an organization,” in which the participant members have their own set of nationally-determined concerns and further reflect the general concerns of the foreign worker in America, rather than the issues which concern the American working class as a whole. For perhaps the first time in the Socialist Press, the real cause of growth of the Russian, Ukrainian, and other language federations in late 1918 and early 1919 is correctly identified: “They have joined the Socialist Party because they want to go back to their old country. ‘The workers in Russia have overpowered the capitalists and all the exploiters, and in the struggle they have not spared their lives.... What will you say on your return when the Russian comrades ask you “What good did you do in America?"’ These are the arguments one almost invariably hears at the Russian propaganda meetings. The reason they so eagerly flock to the Socialist Party is their desire to go back to Russia.” The publications of these foreign language groups are dominated by news of the old country, while the news of the American movement is given short shrift. No matter how radical the positions it takes, the American party will never be radical enough for such foreign workers, Pranspill declares, since the federationists held the anglophonic membership in even greater contempt than English speaking workers hold for their foreign brethren on the basis of national chauvinism. “Why should then the federations pay dues to the party for merely supervising their work? They need no supervision. To do that is an insult to them. This state of affairs naturally breeds discord and dissatisfaction. The Socialist Party in America should stand on its own feet. It should not have any foreign federations inside of itself.... It is a condition detrimental to both the party and to the federations. The best thing to do is to leave them alone. Let them have their platform if they wish, and let them do whatever they please. No matter how revolutionary the foreign federations may be, no matter how perfect their organization, the American workers will not be led by the foreign federation. The Socialist Party must represent the workers in America, not some homesick immigrants. It must speak to the American workers in the terms of their grievances,” Pranspill declares.
Letter of I.E. Ferguson in Chicago to A.M. Rovin in Detroit, September 23, 1919. A historically important and illuminating document from the Comintern archives. This lengthy letter from National Left Wing Council Secretary and CPA founding member I.E. Ferguson answers a hostile interlocutor and defends the decision to move to an immediate September 1 launch of the Communist Party of America. Ferguson charges that the Communist Labor Party resulted from “the trickery of about a dozen reckless men who were in the strategic position to mislead about 30 delegates who really belonged in the Communist Party Convention but were purposely kept away by misinformation.” As for the remaining members of the CLP founding convention, Ferguson calls them “drifters of one kind or another, men and women incapable of decision, and at the moment representing no membership and no set of principles.” Aside from the question of programmatic differences between the CPA and the CLP, the issue of so-called “autonomous federations” is discussed, with Ferguson defending the CPA’s federation model as “realistic, yet uncompromising so far as the principle of party centralization is concerned.”.
“Report of the National Convention at Chicago.” by John C. Taylor [Sept. 26, 1919] First-hand account of the 1919 Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party and the founding Convention of the Communist Labor Party from California SP State Secretary John C. Taylor, not included in volume 1 of Draper. Taylor provides the best account of Adolph Germer's use of the Chicago police to “clear the hall” of those delegates not carrying a white card issued by Germer. Taylor charges bad faith on the part of the Germer clique in the distribution of such cards, these not being mentioned the day prior to the convention during conversation with Germer and his associates. Removed by a plainclothesman and “fully a dozen” uniformed officers already standing by, Taylor and his comrades were excluded from the hall from 10 am until after 1 pm, at which time they were only permitted to stand in an adjacent room in the heat. Taylor detaiils the machinations of the credentials committee, which operated in slow motion until the Germer clique was certain of the stability of their majority. Taylor remarks on that several votes were decided by a tally of 88 to 33 the first day, giving an indication of the relative strength of the two factions among uncontested delegates, and details the walkout of the Left Wing delegates when the convention moved to conduct business before the resolution of all delegate contests. Taylor's account of the founding convention of the CLP downstairs is unfortunately less valuable, emphasizing the songs sung by the delegates but providing little additional substantive detail.
“National Yipsel Head Under Charges.” (NY Call) [Sept. 27, 1919] Brief news snippet from the pages of the New York Call announcing that charges had been brought against Oliver Carlson, head of the Socialist Party’s youth section, by William Kruse, former head of the Young People’s Socialist League ("Yipsel"). “The charges are that he has not occupied his office, although regularly drawing his wages; that he has had his official mail directed to his home, and that he refused to occupy his seat at the national convention, but attended the convention of a party formed as a rival to the Socialist Party instead,” the article states. Kruse had been placed in interim charge of the YPSL organization. The article ironically notes that Bill Kruse had himself recently been “the leader of the “Left Wing” element in the national convention, but that he refused to bolt the party.”
“The Communist Party Convention,” by I.E. Ferguson [Sept. 27, 1919]. Ferguson, a prominent member of the Left Wing National Council, founding member of the Communist Party of America, and editor of that party’s official organ provides a lengthy and detailed account of the founding of the CPA, published in the pages of The Communist for the benefit of CPA members. Ferguson’s account makes clear that the gathering was anything but monolithic— he emphasizes the division of the organization between three groups: the Michigan faction, the Language Federationists headed by Alexander Stoklitsky, and the Left Wing National Council group. Ferguson emphasizes that the latter favored a softer line with regards to the participation of bolting delegates from the Socialist Party Emergency National Convention and serious unity discussions with the emerging Communist Labor Party group—a position which was defeated by the convention in a test of strength. Includes a very useful list of elected officials of the CPA using “real” names.
“Large Section of Old Local [Cuyahoga County, OH] Back in Party (NY Call) [event of Sept. 28, 1919] Brief news account from the Socialist Party’s New York daily detailing the visit of party NEC member William Brandt to a large Sept. 28, 1919, gathering of Local Cuyahoga County, Ohio—the massive local organization from which both Communist Party Executive Secretary C.E. Ruthenberg and Communist Labor Party Executive Secretary Alfred Wagenknecht hailed. Brandt had been denied the right to address the gathering on behalf of the Socialist Party, which limited presentations to the two rival Communist organizations. CLP NEC members Wagenknecht and Alexander Bilan spoke on behalf of the Communist Labor Party and Ruthenberg had spoken on behalf of the CPA. Debate followed, after which the gathering voted overwhelmingly for the affiliation of Local Cuyahoga County to the Communist Party—the CLP astoundingly mustering only 3 votes of support. The vote for affiliation prompted an immediate bolt of a small number of loyalists to the Socialist Party, who proceeded to reorganize as Local Cuyahoga County, Socialist Party, with former Cleveland City Council member John G. Willert as Secretary. NEC member Brandt assured the rest of the SPA’s NEC that “the English membership was with the party, as was the membership of the Jewish and Finnish branches,” according to the news report. “Brandt estimates that while 25 percent of the membership is inclined toward the Communist Party, at least 25 percent is loyal to the Socialist Party, with 50 percent indifferent. He feels that the better part of this 50 percent can be brought into the Socialist Party,” the report optimistically continues.
“The Three Parties,” by L.E. Katterfeld [October 1919]. An official CLP history of the division of the American marxist movement into “three parties”—the Socialist Party, the Communist Party of America, and the Communist Labor Party of America. Katterfeld portrays the division of the movement into reformist and revolutionary camps as a fundamental opposition of viewpoints with the split being reproduced around the world. As for the split of the American revolutionary section, Katterfeld states that the germ was planted by the partial suspension and expulsion of the Left Wing Section by the NEC of the Socialist Party. A Conference was held in Chicago where it was agreed to continue the fight within the SPA, but “within two weeks the Michigan-Russian Federation coalition violated this joint agreement and began boosting for a separate party.” The matter came up again at the National Left Wing Conference in New York, where the majority again agreed to carry on the fight “until the natural climax in convention.” A third meeting, that of the new NEC of the Socialist Party, held in Chicago on July 26 reaffirmed this decision. Although both Louis Fraina and C.E. Ruthenberg were at this last meeting and supported the decision, “within a week they flopped” and endorsed the call for an immediate convention regardless of the outcome of the internal Socialist Party fight. “Then the Revolutionary Age turned a somersault and began to play its financial masters’ tune by abusing as ‘centrists’ all those that did not join it in its flop.” This was the cause of the split between CLP and CPA, a division which Katterfeld stated was not based upon any “fundamental difference of principle.” The CLP stood ready “at any time, anywhere to meet on a equal basis of Comradeship” with the CPA to forge unity, Katterfeld noted.
“The Chicago Conventions,” by Max Eastman; Drawings by Art Young. [Oct. 1919]. [Large file—1 megabyte] At the end of August and first of September, there were three monumental conventions of the American left simultaneously taking place at Chicago: the 1919 Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party of America, the Founding Convention of the Communist Labor Party, and the Founding Convention of the Communist Party of America. No more than a small handful of people attended sessions of all three bodies and only one chronicled them with a journalist’s touch and a historian’s eye. This lengthy analysis of the three gatherings by Max Eastman is a seminal pieces of reportage— absolutely indispensable for historians of the Debsian SPA and the early American Communist movement. First published in the pages of The Liberator in its October 1919 issue, this a the revised version of the article, adding many of the original sketches and pen-and-ink drawings by Art Young. Those with slow internet may alternatively download the text-only version.
“Communist Party Convention,” (A Michigander Perspective) [events of Aug. 30-Sept. 7, 1919] There are numerous primary accounts of the founding conventions of American Communism. The greatest number deal with the high-profile split at the Socialist Party convention, which lead to the formation of the Communist Labor Party. A lesser number deal with the establishment of the Communist Party of America at the convention of its own, called for Sept. 1, 1919 in Chicago. Of these few, the only one written from the perspective of an adherent of the ideologically-distinctive Socialist Party of Michigan seems to be this one— published in The Proletarian, the official organ of the Michigan party and the Proletarian University of America. The unnamed author of this report emphasizes that there were 3 fairly compact caucuses at the CPA convention: “The largest group of the convention was the Russian caucus group, made up of the Russian-speaking elements, including Poles, Lithuanians, Letts [Latvians], Ukrainians, and others.” Second was “the Fraina-Ferguson caucus,” consisting primarily of anglophonic elements associated with the National Council of the Left Wing. The third group, “generally referred to as the Michigan group,” was composed of “delegates from Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Grand Lodge, Jackson, Detroit, Buffalo [NY], Rochester [NY], Cleveland, Rockford, Ill., and Chicago,” the author indicates. This latter group, consisting of approximately 20 delegates to the convention, remained united in support of a minority program and platform written in accord with the distinct teachings of the Michigan organization, which rejected any notion of mass action by a conscious minority, instead arguing for the necessity of minority support for any revolutionary action.
“Fifty-Seven Questions Answered,” by the National Office, CLP. [Oct. 1919]. Frequently Asked Questions of the National Office regarding affiliations of individuals and full SP Locals and Branches to the newly organized Communist Labor Party— published in order to minimize the amount of costly individual correspondence that needed to be conducted on these matters. Affiliations of SP Locals and Branches were to be automatic upon majority vote; Socialist Party dues stamps were no longer to be valid after Nov. 1, 1919; uniform dues for individuals and couples was to be 50 cents per month (with allocation of this amount specified); new members were to pay a $1 initiation fee; and the Communist Labor Party News was to serve as a temporary membership bulletin until a regular publication could be launched.
“Report of the Missouri Delegates on the National Emergency Convention to the Membership.” [events of Aug. 30-Sept. 5, 1919] Brief report by W.M. Brandt, G.A. Hoehn, Caleb Lipscomb, Jacob Kassner, Missouri delegates to the Socialist Party’s Emergency National Convention to the members of the Socialist Party of Missouri. “We find that the action of the National Executive Committee in holding up the referendum on the election of a new National Executive Committee last May was not only fully justified, but extremely proper. It saved the party from total destruction. We examined the returns and heard the report of the special committee elected to investigate the charge of fraud, which report was adopted by unanimous vote of the delegates, and find beyond doubt that the most shameful frauds were perpetrated, mostly by some of the foreign language federations, and largely under the direction of American citizens,” the report declares. The report also cites financial improprieties on the part of the suspended language federations, but optimistically asserts “aside from the financial condition of the party, we feel that it is in better condition than ever before.”
“Otto Branstetter Named Secretary of Socialist Party: Edmund Melms Sees Huge Increase Coming in Party Membership.” (Milwaukee Leader) [Oct. 1, 1919] Following Adolph Germer’s mid-September resignation as Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party, the party’s governing 7 member “temporary” National Executive Committee quickly moved to fill the vacancy. Their choice was was long-time Oklahoma party functionary Otto Branstetter. The decision was announced to the SP daily, the Milwaukee Leader, by NEC member Edmund Melms, returning home from the NEC’s quarterly gathering in Chicago. “Encouraging reports were received from Ohio, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Indiana, and California, an from indications it will be only a short time when the Socialist Party of the United States will witness a new growth and a tremendous increase in membership, as the result of overcoming the recent troubles forced upon it,” Melms optimistically told the paper. Melms proclaims the Communist Labor Party to be a stillborn organization: “The so-called Communist Labor Party is dead. One of the strongest states that it claimed was Ohio, and that state is hopelessly lost to it. Some of the strongest industrial cities have repudiated it. In Cleveland, in the city and country convention just held, the Left Wingers [CLP] were able only to muster the votes of 3 delegates seated in the convention.” Plans for aggressive expansion of the SP’s membership ranks are noted by Melms.
“Be a Socialist—Join the Party,” by Otto Branstetter [Oct. 6, 1919] This article by new Socialist Party Executive Secretary Otto Branstetter provides an excellent example of the relatively simple agitational literature which that organization issued in copious quantities. It also provides a window upon the dominant SPA ideology in the months following the September 1919 party split. Branstetter draws parallels the Socialist Party to several broad membership social and fraternal organizations—the Methodist church, the Masons, the trade union local. The notion of the SP as a “vanguard party” is entirely lacking in this construct; rather, joining of the Socialist Party (and paying its dues) is seen as a matter of civic duty for those sharing the socialist vision. Branstetter declares: “I know of but two reasons why a man who calls himself a Socialist does not join the organization. The first is that, while he believes in the principles of Socialism, he does not realize the need of the party organization. In this case he has missed the essence of Socialism—cooperation, organization, concerted effort, and united action on the part of the working class for their own advancement and their own emancipation... If, on the other hand, he realizes the need of organization ... and then he refuses to get into that organization which he knows to be necessary—he is unfaithful to his principles, to the party and to his class, and is unworthy of being called a ‘comrade’ or a ‘Socialist.’” Branstetter states epigrammatically that “It is well to agitate, it is good to educate, but it is absolutely necessary to organize.” The activity of the broad Socialist Party in the electoral sphere is seen as the mechanism for the victory of the Socialist system, the SP “a political movement that will become a power for the benefit of the working class in your city and in the nation.”
“Letter to Fred Walchli in Bellaire, Ohio, from L.E. Katterfeld in Cleveland, Ohio, October 12, 1919. Reply by CLP Organization Director Ludwig Katterfeld to an Oct. 6 letter from Walchli condemning the alleged statement of Tom Clifford that “We want to make the Communist Labor Party 100% American.” Katterfeld states that he was next to Clifford at the meeting in question and that what Clifford actually said is that “We want to build an American Communist Party.” Katterfeld points out that far from being nativist, all five members of the CLP National Executive Committee were foreign-born. Statements of CLP election strategy and the reason for no formal endorsement of the IWW in the CLP platform are included. Katterfeld also indicates that it was as yet impossible to determine the numerical strength of the two Communist Parties, as “not until the individual member affiliates with a Party by paying his dues can you claim him as a member,” He states that 20,000 CLP dues stamps had been distributed to date.
“Pittsburgh—Is It Revolution?” by Charles Merz [Oct. 8, 1919] The great steel strike of 1919 was accompanied by a shrill media frenzy claiming the conflict was the first shot in a revolutionary upsurge aimed at overthrowing the American system of government, led by an subterranean syndicalist, William Z. Foster, and making use of ignorant and blindly compliant foreign-born workers. This article, written by New Republic editor Charles Merz from Pittsburgh, challenges the popular misconception of the steel strike. “No observer looking with his own eyes would, on the day this is written, have found much in Pittsburgh and the towns of the iron valley to assure him that a social revolution was in progress,” Merz declares. Neither overturning the government in Washington nor taking over the operation of the steel mills was at issue, in Merz’s view, but rather the strike was for “for the right of collective bargaining, the 8-hour day, one day’s rest in seven, abolition of the 24 hour shift.” Far from seeking to destroy the federal government, the steel strikers sought government aid in achieving their reasonable objectives, which were in full accord with the expressed views of the Wilson administration during the recent world war. That the strike consisted largely of foreign-born workers was a situation of the steel companies’ own making, Merz observes, reminding his readers that the companies had practiced a conscious policy of hiring cheap immigrant labor as a means of keeping steel workers from collective action across their various national lines. It was not the unions but the owners and their agents who were the cause of disorder and violence, with peaceful union meetings disrupted and banned and force used against striking workers by the company-dominated constabulary and governmental officialdom. “ To what pass has democracy come if the right to assemble honorably for the free discussion of important questions can be classed as disorderly conduct?” Merz asks.
“Mounted Police Trample Men, Women, and Children in Assault on Russian Parade: Many Wounded By Cops’ Clubs; 2 Children Are Reported Dead... 8 Paraders Arrested: Nightsticks, Poles, Stirrups, Straps Used in Attack—Men Dragged from Hallways and Beaten.” (NY Call) [event of Oct. 8, 1919] A forgotten incident of anti-radical police brutality recalled: On October 8, 1919, an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 Russian-Americans gathered in New York City to conduct a peaceful protest march in protest of the undeclared act of war against the Soviet Russian Republic represented by the blockade of the nation. A squad of mounted policemen, swinging clubs ferociously, rode into the crowd, followed by more than 100 foot policemen and plainclothes detectives, headed by Chief Inspector John Daly and Detective Sergeant James J. Gegan of the NYC “Bomb Squad.” “Cries for help arose, abut there was no help. The very men sworn to uphold the law and protect life were violating the one and seeking to destroy the other. Men threw themselves in front of women and were beaten down; women tried to shield their children and were trampled on; the children fled, screaming, among the flying hooves and rhythmically pounding clubs, seeking in vain for an escape,” this eyewitness journalist account from the New York Call indicates. Protesters were trapped in alleyways by mounted policemen and beaten mercilessly without provocation. The police arrested 8 in conjunction with the “riot” which resulted from the police attack.
“Police Batter Down Paraders With Clubs: Brutality of Mounted Cops Exceeds That of Men in Trenches, Says Woman Writer, Eyewitness of Charge on Men, Women, and Children,” by Louise Bryant [event of Oct. 8, 1919] Prominent Left Wing journalist Louise Bryant (wife of CLP founder and fellow journalist John Reed) was a witness to the brutal attack by New York City police on the Oct. 8 anti-blockade protest. She calls the action by the police against some 2,000 to 2,500 unarmed and peaceful protesters “the most disgraceful scene of my life,” more callous and brutal than anything she had seen in war or revolution. Bryant recalls “The mounted police galloped along the sidewalks. There was nowhere for that big crowd to hide. Many ran down the steps of the [Hotel] Brevoort leading to the cafe, others ran up the front steps leading to the lobby, some hid behind the little iron fence, but there was not room enough for all. From everywhere policemen on foot came running, striking out with their heavy clubs right and left, and plainclothesmen appeared. The latter armed themselves quickly with stout poles from the fallen banners. And they also began beating the people.” She recounts the brutal technique used by the purported guardians of order: “They would pull a man from behind the iron fence or from the edge of the sidewalk and begin to club him. He would try to protect himself, but would soon find it no use. A whole mob of plainclothesmen and police would attack him; then he would run, and as he ran he would receive blow after blow.” In a memorable word picture, Bryant recounts pulling a Russian woman to safety: “She was absolutely beside herself and kept saying in Russian: ‘Like Cossacks! They ran over us like Cossacks!’ We dragged her behind the iron fence. A fat woman leaned down from the balcony and looked at us with a cold smile on her face. She held in her hand the biggest gold-mesh bag I ever saw. ‘She isn’t hurt,’ she said, ‘she’s only bluffing...’ Then she glanced up the street and watched with interest another poor Russian being beaten. I never saw such a cruel expression, not even at a bull fight.” Bryant then was then confronted by a NYC policeman: “Then a detective came up to me and told me to go home. He said, with his crafty animal eyes close to mine, ‘I’d like to put you where you belong.’ And a middle-aged gentleman with a cane and his chin quivering from excitement came up and asked me if I was born in America. He wanted to arrest me, but the policeman shook his head. ‘No, she’s an American,’ the policeman explained. That was not the full explanation. I had on good clothes.” Bryant characterizes the October 8 violence as “a riot started by the police and kept up by the police.”
“Six Victims of Cops’ Brutality Get Six Months in Workhouse: ‘Why Don’t They Go Back to Where They Came From?’ Magistrate Sweetser Asks...” (NY Call) [event of Oct. 11, 1919] In the aftermath of the October 8, 1919, orgy of unprovoked and unilateral police brutality in New York City at the “Hands Off Russia” march of some 2,500 Russian-Americans, justice was swiftly meted out—not against the outrageous excesses of Detective Sergeant James J. Gegan and his associates in beating and crushing the unarmed protesters, but rather against 7 innocent demonstrators arrested in the police’s dragnet. Sentences of 6 months in the county workhouse were pronounced upon 6 of the demonstrators by ultra-nationalist magistrate Howard P. Sweetser. “These foreigners assail the institutions of the country and especially the constitution, but when they get pinched they hide behind it and ask for protection,” Sweetser belligerently declared at the sentencing. “”The constitution is for Americans, not for foreign Russians,” Sweetser asserted. The 6 were tried en mass, 4 arrested for carrying literature and banners to the Washington Square site of the demonstration (without ever making it to the scene, apparently); 2 were IWW activists carrying leaflets and the Wobbly paper New Solidarity. A 7th defendant, an American citizen, escaped with a $10 fine when it was admitted in court that the defendant was “courteous and submitted to being taken into custody,” belying charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Evidence as to the real nature of the police-riot was given in the course of the trial by a major in the Army’s chemical warfare section and the personal secretary to the 3rd Assistant Secretary of the War Department, the latter of whom implicated Detective Sergeant James J. Gegan as one of the most brutal figures in the vicious suppression of the demonstration.
“Young Reds Break with Yellow SP,” by Maximilian Cohen [events of Oct. 12-13, 1919] On Oct. 12 and 13, 1919, a closely watched convention of the Young People’s Socialist League of New York was held. The gathering was attended by representatives of the 3 main radical parties: Alexander L. Trachtenberg for the Socialist Party of America, Fannie Jacobs for the Communist Labor Party, and Harry M. Winitsky (convention Day 1) and Bert Wolfe (Day 2) for the Communist Party of America. In addition, Bertha Mailly and David Berenberg were in attendance on behalf of the Socialist Party-linked Rand School of Social Science. The primary order of business for the gathering was to determine the organizational affiliation of the New York YPSL in the aftermath of the 1919 split of the SPA. The New York convention anticipated the eventual action of the national YPSL organization, ultimately deciding upon an official policy of “neutrality” and severing relations with the parent Socialist Party. A new State Board of Control was elected, including 4 supporters of the CPA, 1 supporter of the CLP, and 2 supporters of the SPA. All references to the Socialist Party were deleted from the organization’s constitution. The New York YPSL convention also adopted a resolution repudiating the Berne International and declaring itself “an integral part of the International Communist movement.”
“Will Go Over Enright’s Head; Major Swears to Cops’ Acts... Evidence Piles Up: Object of Fight is to Get Mayor on Record as Opposed to Government by Police Clubs.” (NY Call) [Oct. 13, 1919] Defeated in court by a blindly partisan conservative magistrate, attorney Charles Recht prepared to take the matter of police brutality in the Oct. 8 “Hands Off Russia” demonstration over the head of unsympathetic Police Commissioner Richard Enright to the mayor of New York. As part of this effort sworn affidavits were taken from various witnesses of police misconduct during the affair. This news report from the New York Call reproduces the text of one such affidavit concerning police brutality, the testimony of Maj. Richard C. Tolman of the Ordinance Dept. of the US Army, who was eating lunch at a Washington Square tearoom at the time of the police-riot. Tolman states that “the crowd seemed to me unusually orderly and very patient” until the arrival of foot policemen, who roughly jostled the crowd, led to the procession starting up Fifth Avenue in a “disorderly fashion.” “Suddenly about 12 or 15 mounted police rode down from Washington Square into the head of the column, beating the crowd on the head unmercifully with their nightsticks,” Tolman states. “The crowd tried to disperse, but the foot policemen and mounted policemen were so placed as to make this extremely difficult. The plainclothesmen and foot policemen stationed themselves on the sidewalk and the horsemen drove the crowd into them. The foot policemen beat people in the crowd over the head and, in particular, Sergeant Gegan took a long staff from one of the banners carried by the paraders and beat the men up unmercifully.” Tolman attests that he “saw no case of retaliation by members of the crowd upon the police, for in every case they were running away as rapidly as possible.”
“Dr. Ackerman Also Swears to Cops’ Brutality at Russ Parade: Secretary to Third Assistant Secretary of War Makes Affidavit to Be Handed Hylan... Head of ‘Bomb Squad’ Was Most Active Among Uniformed Assailants is Charge.” (NY Call) [Oct. 14, 1919] Text of an affidavit by Dr. Phyllis Ackerman, personal secretary to a prominent War Department official, gathered by attorney Charles Recht as part of his effort to prevent future incidents of police violence against individuals attempting to assert their constitutional right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of their grievances. Ackerman declares in her sworn testimony that “Members of the crowd themselves insisted in keeping the roadway clear for traffic. There was perfect order, good nature, no jostling, no noise, no protests of any kind at the long delay.” The crowd remained peaceful despite 4 or 5 officers throwing themselves “with all their force against the crowd,” Ackerman states. “Suddenly there was a clatter of hooves and about a dozen mounted policemen crashed down the avenue from the direction of Washington Square and galloped at full speed into the crowd, swinging long clubs. They drove them against the iron fence and into the areaways of the houses, beating violently on all sides of them.”The mounted police meanwhile rode up and down the sidewalk to catch chance passers and when these refugees attempted to come out, as the police had commanded them, the police, both mounted and men on foot, stood on either side of the sidewalk and beat them. Conspicuous among these police was the heavy-set, gray-haired man whom I have since had identified as Sergeant Gegan. He had picked up a long pole, which had broken off one of the banners, and was beating so violently at everyone who came past that he was gasping, red in the face, and perspiring. At every opportunity he rained brutal blows on every man or woman who came within reach.” Ackerman notes that “It was conspicuous that anyone in working clothes, or who seemed to be a member of the working class, was beaten, shoved, told to move on, and followed up; whereas I, who deliberately pushed my way in with all my might among 3 policemen, was deliberately left alone, the policemen stepping aside. A tenement woman spoke of the policemen as brutes. Five of them pursued her with swinging clubs, but failed to hit her. I stood in front of 6 policemen and said the same thing with greater force, but they merely looked abashed and did not know what to say. The point I wish to emphasize is that the only disorder there was provoked by the police themselves, by deliberate brutality of the most violent and unwarranted kind.”
“A Visit to Communist Party Headquarters, Chicago,” by A.H. Loula [Oct. 14, 1919]” This document chronicles a visit by Bureau of Investigation Special Agent August Loula to the national headquarters of the Communist Party of America, located at the so-called Smolny Institute on Blue Island Avenue in Chicago. Loula states that the CPA is “very actively engaged in spreading its anarchist propaganda throughout the country” and lists its leaders as Louis Fraina, Alex Stoklitsky, Nick Hourwich, Ed Ferguson, Joseph Stilson, C.E. Ruthenberg, Joseph Kowalski, and Fred Friedman. He notes in his report that his superiors had instructed Loula to “keep in constant touch with the activities of the above-named renegades” and he states that “their activities are carefully being watched.” In response to a complaint by an officer in Central Division Military Intelligence about a CPA leaflet “pamphlet reeks with sedition and anarchy,” Loula visited CPA headquarters to investigate. After some verbal jousting with Ferguson and Ruthenberg, Loula obtained some copies of the leaflet in question, “The Capitalists Challenge You, Working Man.” “I later read the pamphlet and have come to the conclusion that it does not contain matter upon which prosecution could be based by this Department,” Loula indicates.”
“CLP Officials Arrested.” (Communist Labor Party News) [event of Oct. 16, 1919] This short news article notes the arrest of a number of CLP leaders when attempting to organize the party organization in Cleveland. These included: ” L.E. Katterfeld, organization director and member of the National Executive Committee; E.T. Allison, editor; Walter Brunstrup, Cleveland CLP Secretary; Charles Baker, organizer; and A. Wagenknecht, Executive Secretary of the CLP, were arrested Thursday, October 16th  and charged with violating the criminal syndicalist law.” The article declares:” The assault upon the party by the masters’ menials will spur every CLP member to double duty for the party. Defense funds must be secured. Strength in organization must be developed. Every attack by the hysterical opposition must be met by additions to our ranks and greater determination for an early victory.”
“To the Striking Longshoremen: Proclamation Issued by the Communist Party of America, Local Greater New York.” [leaflet circa Oct. 20, 1919] Full text of one of the very first leaflets of the American Communist movement, a proclamation to striking New York longshoremen by the New York Communist Party. The leaflet attempts to draw parallels between the longshoremen’s strike and the steel strike and to identify the state with violence on behalf of the capitalist exploiters: “How then can you expect to receive a square deal from the Bosses’ Government?! The Government will place squads of soldiers on the piers, with rifles and machine guns to shoot you down. If you hold your ground they will establish martial law; they will break up your meetings; raid your homes, arrest you—just as they are doing to the steel strikers in Gary now. In other words, they will try to crush your spirit, break your solidarity with your fellow-workers, and send you back to work like a lot of beaten dogs.” Dismissing the possibility of amelioration, the leaflet declares that “The only way is to get rid of the present Bosses’ Government and establish a Workers’ Government in its place. A Workers’ Government like the Soviet Republic of Russia. The present Government is a government of the capitalists, by the capitalists, for the capitalists. You must aim for the establishment of a Workers’ Republic of workers, by the workers, for the workers.”
“Communist Labor Heads Arrested! Infamous Freeman Act Again Used to Crush Political and Industrial Activity Among Ohio Workers,” by Joseph W. Sharts [event of Oct. 16, 1919] News account from the (Regular) Socialist Party of Ohio official organ, the Miami Valley Socialist, edited by Joseph Sharts of Dayton. Sharts notes the Oct. 16 arrest of 5 prominent leaders of the Communist Labor Party in Ohio under the state’s criminal syndicalism statute, the ironically named “Freeman Act.” Those arrested included Alfred Wagenknecht, National Secretary of the new Communist Labor Party; L.E. Katterfeld, national organizer of the CLP; Elmer T. Allison, editor of The Ohio Socialist; Charles Baker, state organizer; and Walter Brunstrup, Secretary of the Cuyahoga County Committee of the CLP. Sharts characterizes the arrests as the “latest incident of the White Terror in Ohio” and declares that “everyone personally acquainted with these radical leaders knows that if they spoke at any meeting they were careful to avoid making statements that would violate the Freeman Act.” Sharts notes that the Freeman Act was also being used to battle unions on behalf of the employers, citing the recent arrest of 9 striking coal miners in Harrison County, members of the United Mine Workers Union. Sharts calls for Ohio workers to make use of the initiative process to overturn the Freeman Act via the ballot box.
“The Socialist Apostle Speaks,” by Nicholas I. Hourwich. [Oct. 25, 1919] This article in the official organ of the Communist Party of America attacks the perceived duplicity of Morris Hillquit’s second article on the factional war, “We Are All Socialists,” [Sept. 22, 1919], in the immediate aftermath of the Chicago party split. Hillquit’s chastening of his comrades for “infraction of Socialist ethics and decency” in the attack on the Left Wing is dismissed by Hourwich as paternalistic patter—the zealous attack of the Left in the bourgeois press is viewed as being uniform behavior by the “social-opportunists and the social-reformists of all lands” in their effort to prove their “ability” and “respectability” to the bourgeois public. An interesting example of the vehement antipathy held for the archetypical centrist social democrat Hillquit by many on the revolutionary left of the American movement.
“Rhode Island Party Reorganized: One Week’s Whirlwind Campaign Puts State Back Into Socialist Ranks.” (NY Call) [events of Oct. 20-25, 1919] The Socialist Party experienced a brief interlude of euphoria in the aftermath of the 1919 party split, marked by rosy vistas of rapid recovery of organizational size and energy with the departure of the organization’s dissident Left Wing. State and local organizations were rapidly reorganized for the newly purged SPA and the outlook seemed positive. This report from the pages of the New York Call details the efforts of Socialist Party organizer William Kruse to relaunch the organization in Rhode Island, a state which previously went over to the Communist Labor Party by a vote of 60 to 30 at an October 1919 state convention. Bill Kruse arrived on the scene on Oct. 20, and within a week had successfully managed to reconstruct a state organization with 9 branches (5 English, 2 Finnish, 2 Yiddish). A colorful account of an Oct. 24 YPSL meeting is included, featuring what seems to have been a spontaneous emergence of the sort of obnoxious disruptionism that would come to characterize the factional warfare of the American Left over the two subsequent decades: “After a motion to adjourn by the CLP members was defeated, about 8 of them arose and stamped noisily out of the room, yelling and singing. They went to the room above where they stamped on the floor and yelled ‘Bolshevik’ and sang ‘The Internationale’—very much out of tune... The meeting was held successfully, even after the bolters came back into the room to make more noise there.” “Even those Yipsels who were sympathetic with the CLP were disgusted at such tactics,” it is remarked.
“Left Wingers Invited to Rejoin Party.” (Walter Cook) [Oct. 29, 1919] It is simple to interpret Socialist Party of New York State Secretary Walter Cook’s appeal to Left Wingers to return to the ranks of a revitalized party as a crass bid by the now-impoverished SP for dues money, the organizational apparatus having just been safely ensconced in the hands of Oneal, Gerber, and the SP Regulars. However, Cook’s appeal may be also interpreted as a Hillquitian olive branch to those who had previously been dissatisfied with party tactics but who were at heart loyal to the SP organization—those who had been inadvertently cast aside in the suspensions of Left Wing branches and locals and their hasty reorganization (the New York Call in the same issue ran a display advertisement from the Communist Labor Party announcing its own organizational meeting, a sign of an effort towards coexistence between the feuding radical siblings). Secretary Cook (himself later a member of the Workers Party of America) notes that, unlike the practice during the run-up to the Emergency National Convention, it is not necessary for suspended members seeking readmission “to re-sign any application for membership or sign any new statement or pledge.” Cook states that “in order to retain their continuous and unaffected party membership, [suspended members] are earnestly requested to attend the meeting of the branch or local in their respective districts at their earliest convenience for the purpose of paying up such back dues as may have accumulated during the period of their inactivity and to have the branch authorize its secretary re-enroll them.... We appeal to you, therefore, comrades, to renew your activity within our ranks and assure you of a warm welcome back to your former places in the party.”
“The Communist Labor Party,” by Ludwig Lore [Nov. 1919] This editorial from the final issue of The Class Struggle announces the transference of this publication to the fledgling Communist Labor Party. Lore indicates that the split in the Socialist Party was “a foregone conclusion for months past. There was but one alternative. Either the Socialist Party must be forced to abdicate its advocacy of pure and simple politics; either it must resolve to become the exponent and the leader of the fighting vanguard of the American working class upon the economic and political field, or an organization would have to be created to take its place.” Lore acknowledges that “many sincere Communists are of the opinion that the split came too early,” but notes that “the situation exists, and has to be met as it is and not as some of us would wish it to be. The CLP is in the field and is here to stay.” Lore details the CLP’s perspective on the relationship between the working class and the organized vanguard of leaders acting in its behalf: “The CLP recognizes that the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the workers themselves and that no set of leaders can achieve it for them. But it also knows that revolutionary changes in society are not brought about by the masses, but by a determined and clear thinking minority, by the most advanced and trustworthy element in the proletariat.” He notes that only organizations standing squarely for the “dictatorship of the proletariat” like the CLP can be admitted to the Third International and further remarks on the very different perspective of the SPA and the CLP on the question of political action, in which the CLP would seek to elect its representatives not to legislate, but to educate the masses. Lore remarks only briefly upon the “saddest of all” disunion of Communist forces in America, blame for which he assigns to the refusal of the Communist Party of America to “admit those of Left Wing delegates who had no credentials for the Convention called for September 1st.” “The CLP is convinced that eventually there must and will be only one communist political organization in this country,” Lore declares.
“National Executive Committee of Communist Labor Party Meets: Establishes Communist Labor as Official Organ and Makes Class Struggle Magazine and Voice of Labor Official Publication of Party—Takes Over Publishing Business of the Socialist Publication Society.” [Meeting of Oct. 25-27, 1919] Account from the official organ of the Communist Labor Party detailing the second gathering of the party’s governing National Executive Committee. The sessions were attended by the entire NEC: National Secretary Alfred Wagenknecht and NEC committeemen Max Bedacht (San Francisco), Alexander Bilan (Cleveland), L.E. Katterfeld (Cleveland), Jack Carney (Duluth), and Edward Lindgren (Brooklyn). The group heard an organizational report by Wagenknecht, in which he stated that a total of 6,788 charter (initiation) stamps had been ordered to date, plus 14,976 monthly dues stamps and 657 dual husband/wife monthly dues stamps. State organizations were chartered in 9 states, with several others due to follow in short order and additional unorganized states to be divided into regional districts. The group addressed the ongoing unity discussions with the Communist Party of America and established an editorial board and an array of publications, including a new bi-weekly official newspaper to replace Communist Labor Party News called Communist Labor. Max Bedacht was named editor of this publication. The NEC voted to absorb the backstock of publications of the Socialist Publishing Society, including the theoretical magazine The Class Struggle, and to issue this magazine and other future publications in its own name. Ludwig Lore was named editor of The Class Struggle and Jack Carney and A. Raphailoff were elected associate editors. The session also voted to move party headquarters from Cleveland to New York, effective in November 1919.
“Your Shop.” [Communist Party of America Propaganda Leaflet No. 3, printed Nov. 1919] A very early propaganda leaflet of the old CPA, revolutionary in content, urging workers to “organize and make it your shop.” The Russian workers were the model, they “organized their power”—then, “when the crisis came they were prepared to use their mass power.” The first step was for American workers to organize shop committees, according to the leaflet. “Bring together all the enlightened workers who are ready to participate in the struggle to win control of the shop. Organize them in a Communist Party shop branch.... The work of the committee will be to unite all the workers in the shop in a shop organization” and thus begin to prepare to take control of their shop, work, lives, and happiness. Some 250,000 copies of this leaflet were produced.
“Workers, Free Yourselves!” by Floyd C. Ramp [circa November 1919] Apparently a speech delivered by early member of the Communist Labor Party Floyd Ramp upon his release from Leavenworth Penitentiary. Ramp remains unbowed and unbroken: “I lost my citizenship when I went to Leavenworth but I retained my self-respect. They have robbed me of my right to vote, and they have classed me with degenerates and other inferiors, but they will know before I am through with them that I am a citizen and that I believe enough in the welfare of my country to work unceasingly for its improvement.” Ramp defends his heartfelt patriotism with the flag-waving jingoism of the 100% Americans. “I believe I love this great country just as much as any man who was ever born within its borders. I do not think that keeps me from understanding the needs of other people and I believe I can best prove that patriotism by joining hands with the workers of the world to overthrow the system of society that has taught us to hate each other and has kept us at each others’ throats for these thousands of years and that has just left us as a credit to our bloody work—50 million victims,” Ramp emphatically declares.
“Letter to Floyd Ramp in Leavenworth Penitentiary, Leavenworth, KS, from L.E. Katterfeld in Cleveland, Ohio, Nov. 1, 1919.” Letter from the Organization Director of the newly formed Communist Labor Party to the soon-to-be-released Oregon Socialist Floyd Ramp, seeking his affiliation with the CLP. “I feel sure that you agree fundamentally with the CLP and therefore do not hesitate to ask you to cast your lot with us. The Party is steadily gathering strength and is gradually winning out over both the others. We shall move headquarters to New York within a few weeks. Have taken over the Voice of Labor and The Class Struggle magazine with the full stock of pamphlets and books of the Socialist Publication Society and we are tackling the job of educating America’s 30 million wage workers in all earnestness. Will you help with that task?” Katterfeld asks. Ramp did indeed join the CLP upon his release.
“‘The Red Evening’: Bureau of Investigation Report on the Mass Meeting Held at West Side Auditorium, Chicago,” by Jacob Spolansky [Nov. 1, 1919]” This brief report by Special Agent Jacob Spolansky details the visit of “Confidential Informant #43” to a special meeting attended by an estimated 1700 Communist Party members and Left Wing sympathizers at West Side Auditorium in Chicago. Lithuanian Communist M. Ruchilis was chairman of the proceedings, which featured a Latvian orchestra and Latvian and Lithuanian choruses. The keynote address was delivered by former Translator-Secretary of the Russian Socialist Federation, Alexander Stoklitsky. Stoklitsky acknowledged that “there will be many comrades of ours in prison, tortured, killed, but that should not stop you. There has been no freedom won without sacrifices, and tonight we are assembled here for the purpose of extending our proletarian solidarity to the working class our Russia—our brothers. We pledge our lives for the great cause of Communism. So onward, comrades, in the name of Communism, onward! In the name of the final triumph of the international proletariat—onward!”
“Boycott the Elections! Proclamation Communist Party Local Greater New York.” [Nov. 1, 1919] This proclamation of Local Greater New York, Communist Party of America, attempts to explain the incongruous situation which arose when a handful of supporters of the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party won primary election victories over adherents of the SPA’s Regular faction, thus appearing on the November ballot as Socialist candidates for election, despite their subsequent joining of the Communist Party of America—an organization which had called for a boycott of the 1919 elections. The proclamation notes that “The Left Wing Section having now become the Communist Party, these nominees tendered their resignations from the Socialist Party ticket. But, according to the election laws, such resignations could not be accepted after primary day. Therefore, some Communist Party members will appear on the Socialist Party ticket, BUT THEY DO NOT WANT YOUR VOTES!” The CPA’s national party program is cited, which asserts in no uncertain terms “participation in parliamentary campaigns, which in the general struggle of the proletariat is of secondary importance, is FOR THE PURPOSE OF REVOLUTIONARY PROPAGANDA ONLY.” (emphasis in original). A strike wave of revolutionary import was sweeping the country, the proclamation notes, with steel workers, longshoremen, building trades, milliners, and printers on strike. This was of primary importance, not the elections, the proclamation declares and the slogan of “Boycott the Election!” is advanced.
“The Demonstration of October 8 and What It Teaches Us,” by Nicholas I. Hourwich [event of Oct. 8, 1919] Leader of the Russian Federation of the Communist Party of America Nick Hourwich offers his perspective on the ill-fated Oct. 8, 1919 parade in New York of 2,500 to 3,000 Russian immigrants who gathered to attempt to bring an end to the blockade of Soviet Russia. The peaceful gathering had been ridden down by mounted policemen and the unarmed and passive demonstrators had been systematically beaten by foot officers and from horseback. Hourwich states that the “illusion of non-partisanship” of the demonstrators had been “badly shattered” by the brutal actions of the New York police. The actions of the servants of the state had proven that anyone “who goes out to fight for the lifting of the blockade from Soviet Russia must inevitably be drawn into the conflict against the entire existing economic and social-political system—against capitalism and the capitalist state.” The demonstrators, who are compared to the supplicants marching behind the banners of Father Gapon in Tsarist Russia in 1905, sorely lacked the leadership that the Communist Party could have provided, Hourwich asserts. Hourwich notes that Communist leadership would have understood the potential for state violence and carefully weighed its strength and prospects, not hesitating to delay action if conditions were not promising. Cancellation of an ill-prepared action was “better than a disorderly procession of several thousand people, lacking any elements of heroism, scattering aimlessly in the face of several scores or even hundreds of police,” Hourwich declares.
“Bylaws of Local Greater New York, Communist Party of America.” [Nov. 1, 1919] State and federal law enforcement authorities portrayed the new Communist Party of America as a violent menace to American government, at odds with the norms not only of democracy, but human society itself. These first by-laws of the “open” New York City unit of the CPA reveal an organization closer in nature to the Kiwanis Club than to a pack of bloodthirsty bombthrowing nihilists. All joking aside, these by-laws were clearly closely modeled after those of the Socialist Party’s Local Greater New York, being based upon a City Central Committee formed on the basis of 1 delegate for each branch of the party, with an additional delegate for each 50 members in good standing. Local Greater New York was to be headed by an 11 member Executive Committee elected by the City Central Committee, an Executive Secretary [Harry Winitsky, with other officers including a Recording Secretary and Treasurer. Delegates to the City Central Committee and officers of Local Greater New York were to serve for a term of 6 months and were to be subject to recall by the bodies which sent them. Duties and procedures of all officers and the conduct of meetings are spelled out in detail.
“New Jersey Party News,” by Walter Gabriel [events of Nov. 1-2, 1919] This brief news account by State Secretary of the “open” New Jersey unit of the Communist Party of America details the origins of that particular state organization, which was based just across the river from New York City. The New Jersey CPA organization was formally launched at a convention held in Newark on Nov. 1 & 2, 1919. There were 62 delegates in attendance from 41 of the state’s 53 branches, which claimed a total membership of 1,678. Walter Gabriel of Newark was elected the paid State Secretary, Louis Brandt elected State Organizer, and headquarters established in Newark. Affairs of the New Jersey state organization of the CPA were to be governed by a 15 member State Committee, meeting monthly, which would in turn name a 5 member State Executive Committee, to meet weekly. A state constitution was adopted and resolutions passed by the convention, including one resolution “pledging the State Organization to initiate the work of forming ‘factory-shop committees,’ these to function under the control of the City Central Committees and to be composed of Communist Party members only.”
“What’s the Matter with America?” by John Reed [Nov. 5, 1919] The most famous member of the Communist Labor Party of America sounds off in the party weekly The Ohio Socialist. Reed states that America had begun 1919 as “one of the most reactionary nations on earth.” Workers were sated with “war-wages,” the radical opposition had been “privately and publicly mobbed into comparative silence,” President Woodrow Wilson and AF of L boss Samuel Gompers were each riding waves of personal popularity and power. Towards the end of the year, by way of contrast, Wilson had been exposed as a phrase mongering hypocrite, Gompers and his craft union orientation had done nothing to ameliorate the lives of the workers and had come to face opposition even in his own organization, and the working class of the country was stirring—organizing and striking as a defensive measure to fight the effort of the employing class to roll back wages to pre-war levels. “But the workers...cannot wait. They must get relief: they strike. The leaders forbid. They strike anyway—they must strike. And this struggle between the masses forced to move forward, and the ‘leaders’ who want to hold them back, reveals to the workers the reactionary character of the whole Craft Union structure, and its function as a buttress of the capitalists’ system.” “So Revolutions begin —so the Revolution is rapidly approaching here in the United States,” Reed concludes.
“Proclamation on the 2nd Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution,” issued by the SPA National Executive Committee [Nov. 7, 1919] This proclamation by the governing NEC of the Socialist Party should once and for all bury any notion that the 1919 party split was over the issue of “Communism” or the Left Wing’s disharmonious “support of Soviet Russia.” Documentary evidence makes amply clear, beyond any shadow of doubt or debate, that ALL ELEMENTS OF THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF AMERICA WERE SUPPORTIVE OF THE BOLSHEVIK REVOLUTION IN THE 1917-1920 INTERVAL (and a great many through the 1922 show trial of the Socialist Revolutionary Party leaders, despite constant antagonism from Moscow and the American Communist movement). This declaration, issued by the so-called “Right Wing” NEC in honor of the 2nd Anniversary of the November Revolution, proclaims: “In all the annals of human history there never has been a more heroic struggle of the masses against such tremendous odds as that waged by the revolutionary republic of workers and peasants. From the hour of the proclamation of the Soviet republic, it has met the hostility of the world imperialists—German, Allied, and neutral alike. Our Russian comrades have decreed the abolition of the rule of capital, finance, and landed junkers in the life of Russia. They have repudiated the crimes of the imperialist statesmen and renounced the proposed annexations of the former criminal regime. Against the counterrevolution they have stood in arms, defending the Socialist fatherland, the only fatherland the workers can ever have to defend. The Soviet republic’s repudiation of the intrigues and crimes of the imperialist diplomats has provoked the hatred of the ruling classes of the world... Surrounded by a ring of bayonets, blockaded and denied the foodstuffs and raw materials essential for its economic and social life, interned from the world by the lying bourgeois press of the capitalist nations, forced to divert its energies to military defense, menaced within by the intrigues of the counterrevolutionist, maligned and slandered by the infuriated international thieves, the Socialist Soviet Republic of Russia bears aloft the banner of internationalism and serves as an inspiration for the workers of all countries.”
“Socialist Russia Against the Capitalist World,” by Morris Hillquit [Nov. 7, 1919] American Communism’s favorite whipping boy, Socialist Party leader Morris Hillquit, caricatured for decades as a loathsome Right Winger, offers the following thoughts on the occasion of the 2nd Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution: “When the Socialist workers and peasants of Russia assumed control of the government of the vast domain of the former Tsars the hapless people of the country were miserably succumbing to the cumulative weight of age-long oppression and rapacity, a monstrously voracious war, and a treacherous and incompetent bourgeois regime. The class-conscious workers of Russia determined to take the government of their country into their own hands and to make a clean sweep of all exploitation and all exploiters of human toil. The class-conscious capitalists of Europe and America were fully alive to the challenge of their rule. Thereafter it was war between Socialist Russia and the capitalist world, a war of aggression on the part of the foreign capitalist governments, a war of defense on the part of the Russian people. The world has never seen a war so desperate and persistent, so ruthless and brutal as the unconfessed, unsanctioned, and uncivilized war which the capitalist powers have been waging against Soviet Russia in the 2 years of its existence.... And the Socialist Republic of Russia lives. The 2nd Anniversary of its birth finds it strong and stable, confident and invincible, dreaded and cursed by the oppressors of all lands, acclaimed and cherished by the forward-looking workers of all nations and races. Hail, Soviet Russia! The bright proletarian hope, the symbol of the new world spirit and new world order!”
“Speech in Celebration of the 2nd Anniversary of the Russian Revolution: Hunts Point Place, New York City [excerpt],” by Benjamin Gitlow [Nov. 7, 1919] November 7, 1919, was the occasion of half a dozen or more celebratory meetings in New York City as well as in other large metropolitan areas across the country. One of the New York City meetings, in addition to being addressed in Russian by Ludwig Martens of the Russian Soviet Government Bureau and his office manager, Gregory Weinstein (a member of the CLP), heard a speech by Benjamin Gitlow—soon to be a celebrated victim of government persecution. A stenographer employed by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation transcribed the bulk of Gitlow’s speech, which was preserved in the Bureau’s archives and is reproduced here for the first time. “Two years ago today the Bolsheviki went into power in Russia, in 1917; and today in Russia the Bolsheviki are no longer in power, but the working class the world over is today in power in Russia,” Gitlow tells the assembly. Capitalists the world over were afraid of the new Bolshevik government in Russia, according to Gitlow, because “they know that the workers’ government of Russia is not a national government representing Russia alone, but that it is the government of the entire working class and that it is challenging today the entire world order of capitalism.” “ The workers the world over, despite the lies of their capitalist papers, despite the false promises of their crooked politicians, despite the sermons of their ministers, despite the wisdom of their college professors, must determine to follow the example of the Russian workers and do everything in their power to stop intervention in Russia,” Gitlow declares.
“IWW and Russian People’s House Raided: Men are Clubbed Without Mercy; 52 Held for Exile: Officials Shroud Brutal Plots in Mystery—One Talks of ‘Plot’ for ‘Revolution’ Today—Caminetti Issued Warrants—Many of the Victims Released.” [events of Nov. 7, 1919] On November 7, 1919, federal and local authorities in New York City held a celebration of the 2nd Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution of their own, launching coordinated raids against the local headquarters of the Industrial Workers of the World and the “Russian People’s House” of the anarchist Union of Russian Workers. This news account from the New York Call details the raid on the Russian People’s House (the 4th of a series of raids on that institution)—another article, not included here, told of the violent raid on IWW headquarters. The action on the Russian People’s House, directed by William J. Flynn of the US Secret Service, is called “one of the most brutal raids ever witnessed.” Backed with warrants by Commissioner of Immigration A.A. Caminetti, authorities rushed the building, systematically beating the occupants with clubs and blackjacks. Nearly 100 prisoners, many bleeding profusely, were taken away to headquarters, and 52 eventually held for deportation. Mob violence was incited by a policeman, who spotted two Call reporters and shouted from the stoop of the building to the crowd, “”If there’s a soldier among you, get after them!” One victim, former soldier Jacob Uden, who was at the Russian People’s House for classes, testified as to the behavior of the agents of so-called “law and order”: “Some detectives came in, and they pushed us up against the end of the room. I asked one why he was pushing me, and he lifted up his leg and kicked me in the stomach. Then another one hit me in the head with a club. Others were hit. Everybody was hit. There was blood. I saw it, and when they pushed us together close, like in the subway, I got some on my face.”
“Communist Party’s Soviet Celebration Plans are Cancelled: Committee in Charge Calls Off Meeting Following Hylan’s Criticism.” [Nov. 8, 1919] In the aftermath of the Oct. 8 crushing of the peaceful march of 2,500 anti-blockade protesters and the Nov. 7 violent raids on New York headquarters of the IWW and the Russian People’s House, the Communist Party of America learned of police plans to halt its scheduled public celebration of the 2nd Anniversary of the Bolsheviki Revolution at Rutgers Square and decided that discretion was the better part of valor. “The cancellation came shortly after a letter from Mayor Hylan to Police Commissioner Enright, denouncing the members of the party and calling upon the police to curb their activities, had been made public,” the terse notice on the front page of the Nov. 8 issue of the New York Call announces.
“Report of the CLP Ohio State Secretary to the Ohio State Executive Committee, November 8, 1919,” by A. Wagenknecht. A report by the head of the Ohio state organization of the CLP to its governing State Executive Committee. Wagenknecht notes that the split in the socialist movement was an international phenomenon, made more complex in the United States by the premature formation of a Communist Party by various Socialist language federations ahead of the timetable set by the majority of the Left Wing National Conference. These federations seemed intent “to perpetuate their clique control” by resisting unity between the CPA and the CLP on the basis of equality. Wagenknecht stated the membership of the CPA would eventually push the CPA leadership towards unity; failing that, the federation of largely autonomous language groups “will disintegrate because of internal differences, and the best of its comrades will join the Communist Labor Party in time.” Wagenknecht mentions in passing a sub-group of the party not previously documented in the literature, the “Army of Liberators”—a cohort who seem to have done outreach work to trade unions to build popular support and action for the release of political prisoners. He resigns his post as State Secretary with this report, noting that the CLP was to shift its headquarters from Cleveland to New York City the following week, and that as Executive Secretary of the party he would thus be moving outside of the state. Wagenknecht is upbeat about the progress and prospects of the CLP organization in the Ohio.
“CPA Party News,” by Harry Winitsky [Nov. 15,1919] Brief account of the doings of the Communist Party of Local Greater New York (CPA) by the Secretary of the local, Harry Winitsky. Winitsky notes that the general membership meeting of Local Greater New York had voted to tax all members of the party 1 day’s wages to pay for legal expenses incurred as a result of the mass raids held on Nov. 7 and 8. Typewriters and desks had been maliciously destroyed by the raiders, a mimeograph machine seized, and party records taken, Winitsky states, adding that all branch organizers and financial secretaries were instructed to bring their records to party headquarters so that account files could be recreated by the financial committee. “The raiders also got the record of how many membership cards were given to every branch and the secretary is therefore not in a position to know how much money is due to the National Office for the Organization Fund, for which every member of the Communist Party was taxed 50 cents. The organizers of all branches are hereby instructed to immediately collect the 50 cents from every member and turn it in the local office,” Winitsky adds.
“Long Live the Communist Party! 2,500 Seized in Raids,” by Maximilian Cohen [events of Nov. 7 to 11, 1919] The first mass operation directed against the fledgling American Communist movement by state and federal authorities came on the 2nd Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, a date which some seems to have been seen as the trigger date for a mass insurrection in America by some paranoid secret policemen. With its meeting times and locations published in its own open press, the Communist Party was an easy victim for the steamroller. Editor Max Cohen notes: “The authorities raided almost every headquarters in the city, smashed up offices furnished, gave everybody they found a free ride, seized records and literature, but the organization remains intact, and the Party membership unafraid or even astonished.” Cohen indicates that 2,500 were seized in the New York operation alone, with only 37 ultimately held -- including Ben Gitlow, Big Jim Larkin of the CLP, and Jay Lovestone, Louis Shapiro, and Henry C. Pearl of the CPA. Russian immigrants were a particular target of the operation, which included a brutal raid on the “Russian People’s House” of the anarchist Union of Russian Workers. Targets of the raid included also the offices of Novyi Mir, IWW Headquarters, a meeting of the Local Kings County of the Socialist Party (apparently raided in error), a YPSL package party, and branch offices of the CPA and Union of Russian Workers. In the aftermath a spate of hysterical misinformation ran in the bourgeois press, including a story in the Nov. 10 Morning World stating “there are 75,000 of the Communist Party in Greater New York alone” and remarking that a large bag of “black powder” had been “found” in the simultaneous raids in Cleveland.
“Minutes of the Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of America, Chicago—Nov. 15-17, 1919.” ** REVISED AND EXPANDED SECOND EDITION ** The plot thickens... Minutes of this second physical meeting of the Central Executive Committee housed in the Comintern Archive in Moscow are incomplete, omitting two very hot topics—discussion about bringing Ludwig Martens’ Soviet Russian Government Bureau in New York under CPA control and the expulsion of two branches for supporting the alternative program of the Michigan group, making participation in or support of the Proletarian University and the magazine The Proletarian expellable offenses. Whether the Moscow minutes were purposely shaved remains an open question. Old description: The second physical meeting of the Central Executive Committee of the old CPA reaffirmed the organization’s opposition to unity with the Communist Labor Party "on account of fundamental differences of principle." It decided to send International Secretary Louis Fraina as soon as possible to establish contacts with the European communist movement and elected Nicholas Hourwich and C.E. Ruthenberg delegates to the forthcoming 2nd Congress of the Communist International (ultimately attended by alternate Alexander Stoklitsky in lieu of Ruthenberg). Charles Dirba was elected alternate National Secretary, should Ruthenberg be absent; Ruthenberg was named alternate Editor of Party Publications, should Ferguson and Fraina both be unable to serve; Jay Lovestone and Max Cohen were appointed Associate Editors, to fill editorial vacancies in that order. Ruthenberg was instructed to draft a letter to the Scandinavian and Finnish Federations calling upon them to join the Communist Party. Fraina, Hourwich, and Fred Friedman of the German Federation were named a committee of 3 to draft a statement on unity to the CLP. Executive Secretary Ruthenberg was also unanimously authorized to purchase a printing plant for party publications.
“‘Indicted.’” by Marion E. Sproule [Nov. 15, 1919] Organized government efforts to decapitate the radical movement was an ongoing process at least from 1917 onward, clearly predating the Palmer Raids of January 1920. Massachusetts State Secretary Marion E. Sproule of the Communist Party of America here provides a first-hand account of her indictment, arrest, and jailing for an October 19, 1919 speech entitled “Americanism and Communism,” in which she says that she attempted to show that “the true spirit of Americanism, as embodied in the writings and actions of men like William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and Horace Greeley is the spirit that today finds expression in the teachings of Communism.” Her speech was misreported in the capitalist press and an indictment was obtained under the May 28, 1919 Massachusetts “Anti-Anarchy Law,” which alleged that her speech “did advocate, advise and counsel and incite the unlawful destruction of real and personal property, and the overthrow by force and violence of the Government of the Commonwealth.” Sproule tells the story of how she was arrested at home at midnight on October 30, 1919, the authorities clearly springing a classic play from the Secret Policemen’s Handbook. She was then subjected to a comically inept five hour automobile ride in the middle of the night to cover the arduous 32 mile journey from her home in Lowell to Boston, where she was arraigned the next morning and held on $2500 bond. Sproule ironically quotes Woodrow Wilson, who said: “We have forgotten the very principles of our origin if we have forgotten how to resist, how to agitate, how to pull down and build up, even to the extent of revolutionary practices, if need be, to readjust matters,” snidely noting that “It is evidently one thing for the President to say this and quite another for someone else to interpret it literally.”
“Ruthenberg Acquitted by Court Order at Cleveland: Cincinnati Socialists Raided,” by Joseph W. Sharts [events of Nov. 18, 1919] News account by Joseph Sharts of the Miami Valley Socialist (Dayton, OH) reporting on two simultaneous events—the freeing of Cleveland radical leader C.E. Ruthenberg by judicial instruction on charges of having incited the May Day 1919 Cleveland Riot that resulted in 2 deaths and hundreds of injuries and arrests when a peaceful crowd was charged by club-swinging policemen on horseback and driving motor vehicles and beatings were administered by Right Wing thugs with police encouragement. At the same time that Ruthenberg was being released from the trumped-up charges preferred against him, Socialist Party headquarters in Cincinnati were gutted by a mob of Right Wing “100% American” “patriots.” Sharts sees historical precedents for Right Wing mob action: “In all ages there have existed bands of bravados and swashbuckling bullies who have been in the pay of nobles and privileged classes and have sought to strike terror among the commons whose slowly accumulating strength has made the dominant families apprehensive,” he states, noting that Rome, Renaissance Italy, Stuart England, and the old regimes of revolutionary France and Russia had made use of mob rule in defense of the old order.
“Letter to Marguerite Browder in Kansas City, MO, from L.E. Katterfeld in Cleveland, Ohio, Nov. 16, 1919.” Letter to the sister of Earl Browder, Marguerite, from the Organization Director of the CLP, Ludwig Katterfeld. Katterfeld thanks Browder for passing along information about Floyd Ramp’s political intentions and suggests that he be drafted to write a pamphlet in conjunction with others behind bars at Leavenworth; since Ramp was soon to be released, he could “could bring much of it out [of prison] in his head.” Katterfeld indicates that “We have many good pamphlets on Russia that we took over from the Socialist Publication Society in New York. What we need now are some pamphlets written by Americans who prove out of their experience as workers right here in this country the necessity for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, and who draw their lessons and illustrations from fact with which the workers right here are familiar. Such a pamphlet it seems to me the comrades at Leavenworth could produce in short order.” Katterfeld feels there would be “tremendous appeal” for such a project and passes along a title coined by his wife—“Bars and Stripes.” No pamphlet on that topic or by that title was ever produced by the CLP, however.
“All Power to the Workers! Declaration Issued by the Communist Party, Local Greater New York.” [Nov. 22, 1919] This is the official response of the Communist Party of Local New York to the mass police operation directed against it and other left wing organizations in New York City on Nov. 7, 1919. The statement declares that ” the Communist Party cannot be broken by terrorism and violence. The Communist Party is accused of using force; but it is the forces of reaction that are using force against the Communist Party. The Communist Party is accused of fomenting terrorism; but we find that it is the reactionary forces that are using terrorism against the Communist Party. These acts of violence and terrorism come as a climax to the preparations made by the forces of ‘law and order’ -- the police and newspapers -- for a massacre of the Communist Party meeting on Rutgers Square, scheduled for November 8. The newspapers lyingly reported that the Communist Party was prepared to throw bombs, to use violence; lying reports circulated for the express purpose of creating a pretext for using force and violence against Communists and making a massacre.” The attack on the Communist Party by the bourgeoisie and its agents was driven by an ulterior motive, the declaration indicates: “The real purpose of these acts of terrorism and despotism, worthy of the most brutal traditions of Tsarism, is not only to break the Communist Party, but to terrorize the workers, to crush their strikes, and to prevent the workers adopting more radical purposes in their struggles against the master class.”
“Special Report on Radical Activities in the San Francisco District” by F.W. Kelly [Week Ending Nov. 22, 1919] Weekly Department of Justice intelligence report for the San Francisco district by Bureau of Investigation agent F.W. Kelly. Kelly details events in the ongoing Dockmen’s and Shipbuilders’ strikes, as well as repression against members of the Communist Labor Party and the IWW. With regard to the CLP, Kelly comments on the arrest in Oakland of J.E. Snyder, John Taylor, James Dolsen, and Max Bedacht, four leaders of the California organization. “These arrests the result of information from a confidential informant of this Department, to the effect that these men were plotting the organization of an inner circle for the purpose of killing three prominent citizens for every radical killed or injured by the activities of the American Legion,” reported Kelly. Details of repressive measures against the IWW are provided for five locales: Oakland, San Francisco, Eureka/Arcata, Sacramento, and Stockton. With regard to the latter, Kelly includes the text of a letter written to the District Attorney to apply pressure for fast and severe action. As a result of this pressure, “Mr. Van Vranken telephoned this Department that new indictments would be returned November 25th against all the defendants and that the bail would be materially raised and the prosecution thereafter expedited as rapidly as consistent.” More evidence of the way that the federal secret police apparatus, state law enforcement, and the legal establishment worked hand in hand in repressive activity against labor organizations and the organized left wing movement in this period.
“Application for Membership in the Communist International on Behalf of the Communist Party of America,” by Louis C. Fraina. [Nov. 11, 1919] In 1919, all four of the existing radical parties in America (CLP, CPA, PPA, SPA) made application for membership in the Third (Communist) International in Moscow. This is the document prepared by Louis C. Fraina on behalf of the Communist Party of America, outlining the history of the American movement and making that organization’s case for membership in the Comintern.
“America or Anarchy? An Appeal to Red-Blooded Americans to Strike an Effective Blow for the Protection of the Country We Love from the Red Menace Which Shows Its Ugly Head on Every Hand,” by A. Mitchell Palmer. [Nov. 14, 1919] Attorney General of the United States A. Mitchell Palmer delivered this report to Congress, later published as a pamphlet. Palmer lamented the lack of any applicable law with which to prosecute individual radicals, due to the termination of the war and with it the Espionage Act. Despite this, Palmer told Congress that under the auspices of the newly established “Radical Division” of his Justice Department “a more or less complete history of over 60,000 radically-inclined individuals has been gathered together and classified, and a foundation for action laid either under the deportation statutes or legislation to be enacted by Congress.” Undercover agents had been employed in information gathering activities, Palmer implied, and “a force of forty translators, readers, and assistants” was engaged rendering radical publications into English. Palmer counted 328 domestic and 144 imported radical newspapers and noted that the radical movement was targeting black Americans as a “particularly fertile ground for the spreading of their doctrines”—with some success.
“The Soviets and the IWW,” by I.E. Ferguson. [November 15, 1919] This article from the official organ of the Communist Party of America criticizes the Industrial Workers of the World for their inability to “transpose in their own minds” the concept of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. The IWW fails to grasp the evolving nature of the soviets, Ferguson notes, instead describing them as “a makeshift substitute for industrial unions.” This failure to accept the real-world soviets and to insist upon theoretical perfection, makes the IWW “a perverse element in the labor movement” and brings it temporarily into alliance “with the Scheidemann-Ebert-Kautsky regaime against the Communist movement, the cardinal principal of which is: All power to the Soviets.” Ferguson lambastes the IWW for failing to recognize that the real-world struggle of the proletariat for power will bring into being new forms of organization and management. The industrial union movement remains important in the class struggle, as does the industrial union form in the pre-revolutionary, pre-soviet state, Ferguson states, adding that the current IWW policy is marked by “an arrogant conceit” will ultimately “result in a miserable betrayal of all the splendid courage and sacrifice that have gone into the making of IWW history” unless the course is altered and unity based upon the Manifesto and Program of the Communist International achieved.
“Report of the Executive Secretary of the CPA: Submitted to the Central Executive Committee at Meeting of November 15, 1919,” by C.E. Ruthenberg. The Executive Secretary of the Communist Party of America briefly summarizes his activity during the first two months on the job for the governing Central Executive Committee of the CPA. Ruthenberg details direct mailings made to the locals and branches of the Socialist Party and its language federations—resulting in over five hundred CPA charters being issued to these bodies, brief accounts of the factional situation in the German, Finnish, and Scandinavian Socialist Federations, details the issuance of pamphlets and leaflets by the party, notes that subscribers to The Communist do not seem to be receiving their issues in the mail, and indicates that the party should consider acquisition of a printing plant immediately due to the production troubles ensuing from the party’s expulsion from three previous shops. Ruthenberg indicates receipts of just over $16,800 and expenditures of about $11,400 for the first 90 days of the CPA’s effective operation.
“‘Indicted.’” by Marion E. Sproule [Nov. 15, 1919] Organized government efforts to decapitate the radical movement was an ongoing process at least from 1917 onward, clearly predating the Palmer Raids of January 1920. Massachusetts State Secretary Marion E. Sproule of the Communist Party of America here provides a first-hand account of her indictment, arrest, and jailing for an October 19, 1919 speech entitled “Americanism and Communism,” in which she says that she attempted to show that “the true spirit of Americanism, as embodied in the writings and actions of men like William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and Horace Greeley is the spirit that today finds expression in the teachings of Communism.” Her speech was misreported in the capitalist press and an indictment was obtained under the May 28, 1919 Massachusetts “Anti-Anarchy Law,” which alleged that her speech “did advocate, advise and counsel and incite the unlawful destruction of real and personal property, and the overthrow by force and violence of the Government of the Commonwealth.” Sproule tells the story of how she was arrested at home at midnight on October 30, 1919, the authorities clearly springing a classic play from the Secret Policemen’s Handbook. She was then subjected to a comically inept five hour automobile ride in the middle of the night to cover the arduous 32 mile journey from her home in Lowell to Boston, where she was arraigned the next morning and held on $2500 bond. Sproule ironically quotes Woodrow Wilson, who said: “We have forgotten the very principles of our origin if we have forgotten how to resist, how to agitate, how to pull down and build up, even to the extent of revolutionary practices, if need be, to readjust matters,” snidely noting that “It is evidently one thing for the President to say this and quite another for someone else to interpret it literally.”
“The Martens Controversy in the Russian Federation of the CPA: Undercover Report of a Meeting in Chicago,” by Jacob Spolansky [events of Nov. 26-27, 1919] BoI Special Agent Spolansky passes on information generated by “Confidential Informant #3” about a meeting of the Federation of the Russian Branches of the Communist Party of America, called by the Russian Federation’s Executive Committee to discuss a resolution asserting that Ludwig C.A.K. Martens’ Russian Soviet Government Bureau “should be turned over to the Federation for their control.” Alexander Stoklitsky and Dr. Kopnagel spoke in favor of the resolution, while Jake Feldmark of the 1st Russian Branch spoke in opposition. To bolster his position, Feldmark quoted from a letter dispatched by Soviet People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs Georgii Chicherin. Spolansky continues: “Alexander Stoklitsky also introduced a resolution demanding from Feldmark that those documents should be turned over to the Executive Committee of the Federation, which Feldmark refused to do, and upon the refusal of the said Feldmark, this meeting expelled the entire 1st Branch of the Communist Party from the Federation.”
“Letter from Everett Marshall to Rose Pastor Stokes in New York, Nov. 27, 1919.” This poison pen letter from 100% American Everett Marshall to indicted radical Rose Pastor Stokes is a lovely specimen of the vicious, mean-spirited, racist ultra-nationalism from whence Cold War anti-communism sprang: “Ever since your clever but unsavory, and withal typical, personality thrust itself so obnoxiously upon our attention, I in common with many other ‘Americans in the manor born’ have watched your psychological horizon, so to speak, with the result that you have demonstrated clearly to us all the loathsome characteristics that are peculiar in your type and origin, but rarely met with in such completeness in any one individual as in yourself. The inbreeding of centuries of hate, treachery, ingratitude, rebellion, and mental and physical filth have crystallized into your distorted though clever mind and being creating—just you.... It is our sincere wish that after your prison term has been served that some means may be devised whereby you can be sent back to your nativity; if you could be clothed with the poverty, the rags, and the vermin that you brought here with you when you came it would be simple justice.... These few lines and moments that I care to spend on your behalf should impress upon you that the spirit of American is alive in the land, and that we Americans will not rest until your whole nest of vipers is exterminated, by either prison terms, or deportation, or worse.”
“To the Foreign Committee of the American Communist Party and the American Communist Labor Party. A Confidential Letter from the Executive Committee of the Communist International, circa December 1919.” One of the earliest communiques from the Communist International to the American communist movement. The letter indicates the ECCI had “received more or less exact information concerning your differences” from a “reliable and unbiased source” and that the differences between the two American communist parties were not based upon questions of program, but rather on questions of tactics and organization, particularly the place of parliamentarism and the relationship of the communists to the labor movement. The letter is particularly critical of the CPA’s position on both counts. With regards to parliamentarism, the need was for “a mass party, and not an isolated group”—“an active force and not a narrow academic group.” The CPA is also implicitly singled out for its views regarding the Soviet Embassy, “there can be no question of his responsibility to any American organization even if it is largely or even exclusively composed of citizens of the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic.” A split of the movement is ” impossible and unthinkable,” the letter indicates, and the position of the CI on vital points of difference is hoped to be a basis for merger of the two American communist organizations.
“Crime, Violence, Terrorism and YOU!” [Defense leaflet of the Communist Labor Party] [Dec. 1919] From virtually the first day of their existence, the two American Communist Parties were subjected to a withering attack by the forces of so-called “law and order,” forcing the organizations to move to the defensive to aid their imprisoned comrades. This leaflet from the Communist Labor Party is quite a curiosity, dating from the last days before the Palmer Raids of Jan. 2/3, 1920 drove the organization into the underground. Thus, Executive Secretary Alfred Wagenknecht and the Central Executive Committee and officers of the CLP sign their real names to this appeal for funds. Wagenknecht charges that it is the capitalist state which is practicing crime and violence on the radical movement, behaving in the same manner as “the thief who stole a purse and then ran down the street crying, ‘Stop Thief! Stop Thief!’” Wagenknecht declares that “It’s a great game Capitalism is playing—but it won’t work. It’s not working. For every intelligent workers knows that Capitalism is but sounding its own retreat, its own defeat.” Wagenknecht continues that “victory for Soviet Russia is our victory. The workers of England, France, Italy, Germany, America helped to win the victory. Capitalism and its agencies covered the world with LIES about the victorious Russian workers. We nailed these lies and SPREAD THE TRUTH. And because the TRUTH ABOUT RUSSIA is winning, capitalism is becoming frantic, hysterical, violent. Arrests take place. Workers’ meeting places are looted. Mob rule is encouraged. The workers’ platform and press are gagged.” Wagenknecht asks for funds to defend those who have been taken by the state.
“Report on the New York City Communist Movement,” by M.J. Davis [Dec. 4, 1919] Beginning with an order issued by J. Edgar Hoover on Nov. 18, 1919, and throughout the month of December, the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation gathered data on targets for a massive operation against non-citizen members of the Communist Party of America and the Communist Labor Party. This mass dragnet was to be conducted simultaneously through all 33 of the BoI’s district offices and was ultimately launched on Jan. 2, 1920. This massive report by Special Agent M.J. Davis on the Communist movement is the epitome of this intelligence gathering operation. Davis lists the physical addresses of 78 branches of the CPA and the CLP (not differentiating between the organizations on the list); the names and physical addresses of a dozen Communist publications in the greater New York area; compiles a list of leaflets issued by the radical organizations of the city; and provides an alphabetical listing of 178 prominent Communist activists in the New York area, placing an emphasis upon members of the Russian and Jewish Communist Federations. The quality of the biographical information is not spectacular, but the job faced by the agent was vast and his performance notable.
“Letter to Boris Reinstein in Moscow from Henry Kuhn in New York, Dec. 9, 1919.” In this letter Henry Kuhn of the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Labor Party attempts for a second time to make contact with Buffalo druggist Boris Reinstein, the SLP’s representative to Europe who was a founding delegate of the Communist International in March 1919 despite his lack of a party mandate for any such purpose. Kuhn informs Reinstein about the strikes of coal miners, steel workers, and longshoremen in the United States as well as the split of the Socialist Party into three organizations—“the old SP, a Communist Labor Party, and a Communist Party minus any qualifying adjective.” Kuhn indicates that “the two latter formations came about largely because of rival leadership; there is little else to divide them. Their present attitude is one of leaning Bummery-ward—a more or less open advocacy of physical force.” This advocacy of force had given the state a pretext to exert force of its own, Kuhn believes, writing that “we are passing since the war (and during the war) through a period of reaction such as never experienced. The scarcely-veiled physical force attitude of the SP offshoots was water on the mill of the reactionists and relentless persecution resulted.” This reaction had impacted the SLP, whose paper had lost its second class mailing privilege, many of whose members faced deportation, and whose St. Louis headquarters had been subject of a police raid. Nevertheless, the SLP was growing, particularly among its language federations, Kuhn indicates.
“Letter to Emma Goldman at Ellis Island from Ludwig C.A.K. Martens in New York, December 15, 1919.” The head of the Russian Soviet Government Bureau published this open letter to Emma Goldman in the pages of his organization’s official organ, Soviet Russia, in an effort to repudiate the “malicious hysteria” that resulted in publication of an “alleged interview with me” in the New York press on the previous day. Martens reassuring Goldman that she and other political exiles from America would be welcomed in Soviet Russia. Of particular interest is Martens’ reference to an offer made on behalf of the Soviet government to the US government to provide “free transportation to my country of all Russians in America who want to return there, or whose presence in the United States is not desired by the authorities here.”.
“Cable to Bliss Morton, BoI Special Agent in Cleveland, from Frank Burke, Assistant Director and Chief of the Bureau of Investigation in Washington, DC.” [Dec. 30, 1919] Interesting cable sent to Agent in Charge of the Cleveland office of the Bureau of Investigation, Bliss Morton, answering a query as to whether the Bureau should make use of members of the Loyal American League, an ultra-nationalist vigilante organization, in conjunction with the forthcoming mass operation against the Communist Party of America and Communist Labor Party. The official answer, issued over the name of BoI Chief Frank Burke: “Do not use members of this organization or any gratuitous assistance in making these Communist roundups. Secure cooperation of police on receipt of instructions from me to take these subjects into custody.” Anecdotal evidence indicates that Right Wing vigilantes were used in various locales—this was, however, contrary to official policy, this communication indicates.
“First Telegram to Agents in Charge of Offices of the Bureau of Investigation, from J. Edgar Hoover in the name of Frank Burke, Assistant Director and Chief.” [Dec. 31, 1919] One of the great misnomers of early 20th Century American history is the designation of the coordinated anti-Communist raids of Jan. 2/3, 1920 as the “Palmer Raids,” after Attorney General Mitchell Palmer. In reality, the tactical commander at the head of the operation was Palmer’s young special assistant, J. Edgar Hoover. This is the first of two telegrams which Hoover sent on Wednesday, Dec. 31, 1919, to the various Special Agents in Charge of the Bureau of Investigation’s 33 offices. Hoover emphasizes the desirability of taking down any aliens who were connected with the editorial boards of Communist papers in each district—with a clear intent to decapitate the organizations and to render their reorganization difficult or impossible. Agents were also to get in touch with their local Immigration Inspectors on the morning of the mass operation so that they might work hand-in-hand in the roundup of Communist aliens. “Every effort should be made by you to definitely establish fact of subject being an alien and member of Communist Party or of Communist Labor Party before arrests. Policy of bureau is to have perfect cases rather than a large number of arrests,” Hoover insists. “No seizure of personal effects or belongings not necessary for evidence should be made by you. Documentary evidence connecting subject with party or documentary evidence on party is the only evidence which should be taken,” Hoover further instructs.
“Second Telegram to Agents in Charge of Offices of the Bureau of Investigation, from J. Edgar Hoover in the name of Frank Burke, Assistant Director and Chief.” [Dec. 31, 1919] This is the text of the second long telegram sent by J. Edgar Hoover to the various Special Agents in Charge of local offices of the Bureau of Investigation, issuing further instructions on the forthcoming January 2, 1920, raids targeting non-citizen members of the Communist Party of America and Communist Labor Party. Citizens were to be exempted from the dragnet, Hoover unmistakably states: “No arrests should be made of persons not aliens and who are not members of or affiliated with Communist Party of America or Communist Labor Party. Under no conditions are American citizens to be apprehended. Where any mistake of this nature is made and a citizen is taken into custody his case is to be immediately referred to state authority for action.” The Bureau itself was to provide the bulk of the manpower for the operation: “Effort has been made to supply sufficient agents for the purpose of carrying out arrests in your district. Assistance of local police authorities should only be used where absolutely necessary and should not be requested until a few hours before arrests in order to avoid any leak.” It was to be the two Communist Parties which were targeted, not the IWW or various anarchist organizations: “No arrests should be made of any persons connected with other organizations than the Communist Party and the Communist Labor Party.” Hoover seems to have had laughably unrealistic expectations for the pace of the operation. “Arrests should all be completed and examinations concluded by Saturday morning January 3rd, 1920,” Hoover insists.
Speech of Harry Winitsky at a Public Meeting in New York City, Dec. 22, 1919. Harry Winitsky, Executive Secretary of Local Greater New York of the Communist Party of America, was free on bail at the time this speech was made, having been swept up in the Nov. 8 raids of the Lusk Committee on CPA headquarters.
“Confidential Instructions to Agents in Charge of Offices of the Bureau of Investigation from Frank Burke, Assistant Director and Chief, in Washington, DC.” [Dec. 27, 1919] This letter from the chief of the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation details the plans for various local Special Agents in Charge the forthcoming coordinated raids against the alien members of the Communist Party of America and Communist Labor Party of America. Affidavits regarding the association of leading individuals with these organizations had already been forwarded from local BoI offices to Washington; this information had been transmitted to Commissioner General of Immigration Caminetti and arrest warrants were in the process of preparation, soon to be sent to the individual offices of the BoI. “You should then place under surveillance, where practicable, the persons mentioned and at the appointed time you will be advised by me by wire when to take into custody all persons for whom warrants have been issued,” Burke instructs. The obtaining of documentary evidence proving party membership status and citizenship status is to be given the highest priority by the arresting officers, Burke indicates: “Particular efforts should be made to apprehend all of the officers of either of these two parties if they are aliens; the residences of such officers should be searched in every instance for literature, membership cards, records, and correspondence.... All literature, books, papers, and anything hanging on the walls should be gathered up; the ceilings and partitions should be sounded for hiding places.” Burke cautions that “violence towards any aliens should be scrupulously avoided” and that due to the possibility of leaks “under no conditions are you to take into your confidence the local police authorities or the state authorities prior to making the arrests.” Moreover, Burke announces that “it is not the intention nor the desire of this office that American citizens, members of the two organizations be arrested at this time” and that party members who are citizens arrested in the operation are to have their cases turned over to local authorities for potential legal action under state or local statute. Jan. 2, 1920 has been set as the tentative date for the mass operation, Burke notes, adding that arrests and examinations are to be concluded in the 12 hours from 7:00 pm Jan. 2 to 7:00 am Jan. 3. “The grounds for deportation in these cases will be based solely upon membership in the Communist Party of America or the Communist Labor Party, and for that reason it will not be necessary for you to go in detail into the particular activities of the persons apprehended,” Burke states.