Early American Marxism: Document Download Page by Year: 1925
Early American Marxism
Document Download Page for the Year1925
“The American Labor Party,” by Eugene V. Debs. [Jan. 1925] A 2nd National Convention of the Conference for Progressive Political Actions (CPPA) was scheduled to closely follow the completion of the 1924 LaFollette/Wheeler Presidential campaign. Chief on the agenda for the group was the establishment of a new political party, intended to be built upon the alliances around the country developed during the course of the fall of 1924. The Socialist Party sought the formation of a British-style Labor Party, federating component organizations and envisioning itself as playing the role of the Independent Labour Party in the UK. This article by Eugene Debs in the official organ of the Socialist Party of America gives voice to this desire. Debs states that despite the “blind stupidity of the workers and the covert machinations of their enemies to thwart or misdirect them,” a Labor Party was inevitable in America. The staunch backing and support of the unions was mandatory for the success of such a venture, Debs declared, stating that while the leadership of the unions remained “almost to a man opposed to a Labor Party,” hope lay in the hands of the rank and file, who might successfully be aroused to the task. Debs did not think it likely that such an organization would be constructed by the forthcoming gathering of the CPPA, but he hoped for the best and professed patience and an ability to wait.
“Speech to the Conference for Progressive Political Action, Feb. 21, 1925,” by Eugene V. Debs. The National Chairman of the Socialist Party of America was the featured speaker at a “mass meeting” held at the Lexington Hotel in Chicago in conjunction with the Second Convention of the CPPA. This is the full text of his speech, from the official stenographic report of the convention. Debs argues that political parties can be either capitalist or socialist, but not both, and that any attempt to merge the “irrepressible” antagonistic interests of the capitalist class and the working class in a new party will be met with failure. Political parties by definition can not be non-partisan, Debs indicates, and the term “progressive” has been so “prostituted” that even J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller might be reasonably expected to consider themselves progressives. Only a true Labor Party dealing with the fundamental issue of whether the national as a whole should own and control its own industries has any prospects for long-term success, in Debs’ view.
“ Statement of Party Policy by the Socialist Party in National Convention, Chicago, Illinois—Feb. 24, 1925.” The 1925 “Special Convention” of the Socialist Party was scheduled and held in Chicago immediately after the close of the 2nd Convention of the Convention for Progressive Political Action. This statement was issued by the SPA’s convention to announce to the party membership that the CPPA Convention had failed to establish a Labor Party on the British model, and that with the departure of the railway unions and failure of the CPPA to establish a Labor Party, there was “no conceivable good either to the Conference or to the Socialists” for any continued affiliation. The Socialist Party consequently was severing its relations with that organization.
“As to the Labor Defense Council,” by Eugene V. Debs [March 1925] Although initially organized by the Communist Party as a broad-based non-party legal defense organization to aid the victims of the August 1922 raid on the party’s convention at Bridgman, Michigan, by 1925 the Legal Defense Council had begun to take a more partisan cast. Lips began to wag about the presence of Socialist Party National Chairman Eugene V. Debs on the LDC’s letterhead—to the effect that Debs was, in deeds if not in words, sympathetic to the Communist cause. This prompted a reply by Debs in the official organ of the Socialist Party to discount any such speculation. “was organized to provide defense for Communists prosecuted under so-called criminal syndicalism and other laws because of their activities in the labor movement, the purpose of the defense being the preservation of the right of free speech, free assemblage, and other civil rights in the United States. I gladly accorded to this body the use of my name in raising funds and consented to be named as Vice President in its list of officers. I did this not so much for Foster, Ruthenberg, Minor, and others as individuals, but to back then up in the defense of their civil rights. That fight is also my fight,” Debs declares. He bitterly notes that while the Communist Party “refused to lift a finger to help me out of prison,” he nevertheless stood ready to defend the civil rights of Communists. Debs forcefully states that the “surreptitious” reports of his support of the Communists as against the Socialists are “on a par with some other falsehoods published in Communist organs to which my attention has been called.” After this statement of his true allegiance, Debs insists that “if hereafter any Communist whispers it into your ear that I am with the Communists in anything except their right to free speech and other civil rights, just answer by turning your back upon him and leaving the vulgar falsifier to himself.”
“The Chicago Conventions,” by Bertha Hale White. [March 1925] Assessement of the Chicago conventions of the Conference for Progressive Political Action (Feb. 21-22, 1925) and the Socialist Party of America (Feb. 23-24, 1925) by the National Executive Secretary of the SPA. White provided valuable detail about the parliamentary maneuvering at the CPPA gathering—a meeting split between the trade unionists seeking no party, socialists and radical unionists seeking a British Labor Party-style organization allowing participation by independent constituent organizations such as the Socialist Party, and liberals in favor of a Progressive Party constructed around a traditional individual memberships. White states that participants at the Socialist convention expressed “relief and satisfaction” knowing that the period of uncertainty was over effective with the unanimous decision of the SPA to withdraw from the CPPA.
“ Lenin and Trotsky: A Comment on Max Eastman’s Book Since Lenin Died,” by N. Krupskaya. [September 1925] This article by the widow of V.I. Ul’ianov (Lenin) was written for publication in the American Communist press in response to the 1925 publication of Since Lenin Died, by Max Eastman. Krupskaya is harsh in her criticism of Eastman, characterizing his book as a “collection of petty gossip” and noting that Eastman “invents various fictions” by falsely characterizing Lenin’s letters to the XIII Party Congress as a “testament” and further alleging these documents were “concealed.” Krupskaya also alleges her personal correspondence with Trotsky was misrepresented in Eastman’s book, that Trotsky from Krupskaya’s correspondence “could not draw...the conclusion that Lenin regarded him as his successor, or regarded him as understanding his views better than anybody else,” as Eastman alleged. Rather, Krupskaya says that Lenin merely “considered Trotsky a talented worker faithful in the interests of the revolution and to the working class” —among others. Krupskaya also notes that she had stood in opposition to Trotsky in the current struggle in the Russian Communist Party and written against his Lessons of October in the pages of Pravda.
“ Speech at the 5th Plenum of the Enlarged Executive Committe of the Communist International: Second Session, March 25, 1925,” by Grigorii Zinoviev. The head of the Communist International states his perspective on the evolving international situation, attempting to stake out a middle position between the erroneous views of the “prophets of collapse” and “the worshippers of stabilization.” The new ideological buzzword “Leninism” is front and center in Zinoviev’s presentation, defined by him as “Marxism of the present.” At issue was the “tempo and route of march of the proletarian revolution.” Capitalism had achieved a short respite, Zinoviev states, with currencies around the world stabilized and credit restored—with the finance-capital of the United States of America back of the restoration. While Central Europe was unstable, Zinoviev cites contradictions between the emerging United States and declining England as “the most important factor in the world political situation.” Differences included matters of world hegemony; the issue of economic relations with Canada, Mexico, and Australia; the oil question; armaments; and the matter of debt. As a result “The comrades building upon the rapprochement of England and America [meaning Karl Radek, among others] are dangerously close to a revisionism of Leninism in the question of imperialism,” Zinoviev says. Zinoviev also touches briefly on the rather ill-defined issue of “Bolshevization” and the critique leveled against ECCI for installing new party leaderships, about which he states: “No one wants to remove the old leaders in order to flatter the young ones. The young leaders must learn from their own mistakes, and must Bolshevize themselves. We require an amalgam of both generations...”.
8220;On Boshevization and a Labor Party: Speech to the 5th Plenum of the Enlarged Executive Committee of the Communist International, Moscow—March 30, 1925,” by James P. Cannon Speech by Workers Party of America delegate to the 5th Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI (March 21-April 6, 1925) during the period of discussion about the political situation in the various countries and the next tasks of the Comintern in the restructuring of the constitent communist parties upon a basis of workplace party nuclei (so-called “Bolshevization”). With regard to Bolshevization, Cannon cites the lack of a tradition of revolutionary mass action by the working class, weak trade union organizations and the associated neglect of party work in the unions, and a fragmented party organization of just 20,000 —of whom only 2,000 were enrolled in English-speaking organizations. “The Language Federation form of organization is absolutely incompatible with a Bolshevist organization,” Cannon emphatically states, adding that “We must have a centralized form of organization or we will never have a Bolshevist Party.” With respect to establishment of a Labor Party in America, Cannon states that “the organized American workers are not yet class-conscious enough to develop a labor party on a mass basis.” The situation was entirely different in the United States than in Great Britain, Cannon argued, citing the strength of the British union movement and long historical standing of the British Labour Party. In contrast, all attempts to create a Labor Party in America in the preceeding two years had been “disastrous failures.” “It would be premature to form a labor party now, and even dangerous, for we would quickly become isolated from [the] growing mass labor movement,” Cannon declares.
The Workers Party vs. The Socialist Labor Party, by Joseph Brandon. Article from the Aug. 1, 1925, Weekly People that was reproduced as a five cent pamphlet. In this work Brandon contrasts the “ridiculous” principles and tactics of the Workers Party of America with the “100 percent perfect, all down the line” position of the SLP. Divergences noted by Brandon include the blind advocacy of the WPA to a Soviet-style “transition program” to socialism via the “dictatorship of the proletariat” (regarded as ahistorical and unnecessary in developed capitalist society); a refusal of the WPA to endorse new revolutionary industrial unions in favor of exclusive use of the tactic of “boring from within” existing unions (regarded as an impossible tactic that in practice meant little more than kowtowing to established labor leaders); and the WPA’s celebration of general labor political success abroad from its partners in the “united front” (gains characterized as reformist and anti-revolutionary by Brandon). Finally, the Workers Party’s advocacy of violence is depicted as playing right into the hands of the capitalist class, a policy advocated only by one who is “either a lunatic or a police spy.”.
“ Lenin and Trotsky: A Comment on Max Eastman’s Book Since Lenin Died,” by N. Krupskaya. This article by the widow of V.I. Ul’ianov (Lenin) was written for publication in the American Communist press in response to the 1925 publication of Since Lenin Died, by Max Eastman. Krupskaya is harsh in her criticism of Eastman, characterizing his book as a “collection of petty gossip” and noting that Eastman “invents various fictions” by falsely characterizing Lenin’s letters to the XIII Party Congress as a “testament” and further alleging these documents were “concealed.” Krupskaya also alleges her personal correspondence with Trotsky was misrepresented in Eastman’s book, that Trotsky from Krupskaya’s correspondence “could not draw...the conclusion that Lenin regarded him as his successor, or regarded him as understanding his views better than anybody else,” as Eastman alleged. Rather, Krupskaya says that Lenin merely “considered Trotsky a talented worker faithful in the interests of the revolution and to the working class”—among others. Krupskaya also notes that she had stood in opposition to Trotsky in the current struggle in the Russian Communist Party and written against his Lessons of October in the pages of Pravda.
8220;From Propaganda Society to Communist Party: Pages from Party History, 1919-1925” by C.E. Ruthenberg. This 1925 article by the Executive Secretary of the Workers (Communist) Party reviews the history of the American Communist Party from its origins. This material first appeared in the pages of the party’s theoretical magazine, The Workers Monthly, in October of 1925 under the title “From the Third Through the Fourth Convention of the Workers (Communist) Party of America” and was subsequently issued as a pamphlet by the same name.
The Party’s Work,” by Verne L. Reynolds. Text of a pamphlet written by the Socialist Labor Party’s 1924 Vice Presidential candidate, published and distributed for free to the entire party membership in 1925 as a pocket guidebook to organization. Extensive discussion of how to promote speakers, to generate publication subscriptions and new party members, to delegate work within party sections, and to develop the speaking abilities of party members. Particular attention is paid to the handling of new party members—building party discipline and keeping expectations for organizational growth reasonable without dampening the enthusiasm of the new convert.