Early American Marxism: Document Download Page by Year: 1931

Early American Marxism

Document Download Page for the Year




“Revive Bridgman Case, Try to Jail Communist Workers.” (Daily Worker) [March 26, 1931] In March of 1931, the all-but-forgotten 1922 Bridgman raid was suddenly vaulted back into the news, the long-delayed case apparently seen by the American state security apparatus as a means of decapitating the troublesome Communist Party USA. Some 27 indicted “conspirators” remained in jeopardy for their purported crime—accused of having met with their fellows at a summer camp on the shores of Lake Michigan as part of a convention of the underground Communist Party of America. Those imperiled by possible 10 year prison terms for this alleged violation of the Michigan Criminal Syndicalism law included William Z. Foster, Earl Browder, Max Bedacht, William F. Dunne, Ella Reeves Bloor, Robert Minor, and Rose Pastor Stokes. To make matters worse for the indicted Communists, the judge in the case reversed the ruling he made in 1923 and combined the cases of the entire group, making it easy for a single mass political trial to be conducted. The CP’s legal aid arm, the International Labor Defense, called upon American workers to “immediately rally in militant fashion to save these leaders from a long term in prison.... Organize defense meetings, mass demonstrations, and fight for the immediate freeing of our militant membership.”


“After 8 Years, the Michigan Cases Come to Life Again Through Ham Fish’s Attacks: Capitalists Insist on Trial of Foster, Browder, Bedacht, Minor, Weinstone, and Others.” (Daily Worker) [March 31, 1931] This article provides additional information about the miraculously revitalized case revolving around the 1922 raid of the Communist Party of America’s convention at Bridgman, Michigan. The decision to reopen the case is said to be related to the assumption of office by a new Michigan Attorney General on Jan. 1, 1933, an individual characterized as “evidently eager to share the national laurels for red-baiting with Hamilton Fish.” Hearings before Judge White in Berrien Co. were said to have been unsuccessful, the prosecution being “ably and energetically” assisted by the judge in hearings held March 26. As a result, the cases of the 27 indicted party members were combined into a single trial. “The Assistant Attorney General sat through the proceedings without opening his mouth. The judge pleaded his case. The motion of the prosecution wasn’t even read. The judge granted it without hearing it. It was directed against the accused and that was sufficient ground for granting it. All the rights Judge White condescended to grant to the accused was that, if they didn’t like this ruling, they can go to the Supreme Court and try to have it reversed,” the article states. A trial date of June 1, 1931 was set.



“This Post-War Generation and Our Time: Will It Be Able to Find a Way Out?”; by Anna P. Krasna [April 30, 1931] A little heard perspective: the views of a Depression-era Socialist rather than a Communist; of a woman, not a man; of a Slovene-American, not an Anglo-American. Anna P. Krasna, a writer, appeals to the youth of America to wake up and begin to take an active interest in politics, as a new war was in the wind. The post-war generation had been bred upon illusions of individual success and was learning that the brutal reality of the economic system was different, Krasna stated. “We are hoping that the youth, seeing the future holds nothing but misery in store for them, or perhaps a chance to die a heroic death for the international speculators and exploiters, shall demand the right to live as comfortably as the modern technical improvements permit”—this to be achieved through participation in “the groups of those who believe in equality for all.”.



“Two Weeks by Train: The Diary of a Canadian Visitor to Soviet Russia and the Soviet Ukraine,” by Phil Malkin [May 3-18, 1931] This 20 page journal represents a modest contribution to the vast literature of English-language visitor’s memoirs on Russia and the Soviet Union (see Nerhood’s bibliography: To Russia and Return.) Phil Malkin was a Canadian who traveled through Russia and the Ukraine for 2 weeks in May of 1931, spending time in Leningrad, Moscow, Kiev, and Odessa. An anti-Communist and a non-speaker of Russian who traveled with a series of interpreter-guides, Malkin compiled this travel diary for the American Consul General at Vienna, who preserved the document. Malkin notes the “spiteful envy”of average ill-clothed Russian women towards one sveltely dressed guide in Moscow. He cites prices and currency exchange figures throughout his account which clearly indicate a substantial level of repressed inflation, expressing itself as catastrophically high prices paid by visitors who converting to local currency at the official rate and then attempting to make purchases in regular shops. Malkin notes that Russia “imports no food”and that fresh fruit was unavailable, as was chocolate and writing paper; queues were pervasive. Restricted Torgsin shops existed to exchange limited goods to foreigners (and the party elite) for hard currency at something approximating world market rates—a fraction of the equivalent rate in local currency in regular shops. Malkin contrasts a happier and more upbeat Ukraine with the bleakness of Moscow and Leningrad. Malkin observes that “Living conditions are as bad as the world believes them to be. Crowded tenements. Food is scarce, but there is no famine and no danger of it, for the scarcity is voluntary and artificially caused by the desire to create credits abroad for machinery.”He also indicates that the Soviet government is “skillfully tending every effort to bring up the new generation on the tenets of communism.”


“The First Convention of the International Workers’ Order, Inc.” by R. Saltzman [May 30, 1931] One of the Communist Party’s most successful affiliated “mass organizations” was the International Workers’ Order, formed by the separation of Left Wing branches from the Workmen’s Circle, a Jewish fraternal and benefit society with a Socialist orientation. This pre-convention report by IWO head R. Saltzman gives a brief outline of the IWO’s origins and activity during its first 11 months between its effective launch on July 1, 1930 and the end of May 1931. Saltzman notes that some 225 branches of the IWO in 31 states had been organized, with 12,000 members—slightly short of the target of 15,000 set for the year. Over $22,700 in sick benefits had been paid out by the organization during this period, with $51,600 remaining in reserve. In addition to sick benefits, the IWO had taken over the formation of childrens’ schools from the Non-Partisan Workers’ Childrens’ Schools organization, leading to the establishment of 80 schools giving “a working class revolutionary education” to some 6,000 children. Further, the IWO had “actively taken part in the mass struggles,” including endorsement of a national health insurance bill, participation in May Day rallies, and participation in the election campaign “lead by the Communist Party.” “The first convention of the International Workers’ Order will accept the general correct line, in the light of constructive self-criticism, abolish the drawbacks in our work, reveal the weak points, and strengthen our position for a united Class Order in the fraternal movement in this country,” Saltzman declares.




The Menace of Communism,”; by Hamilton Fish, Jr. [July 1931] Lengthy article by the Chairman and namesake of the first U.S. House of Representatives “Special Committee to Investigate Communist Activities in the United States” (1930-31). Fish unintentionally provides an interesting study of anti-Communist ideology in the early 1930s. Fish vastly, and with clear ulterior motive, overestimates the number of Communists in America at “5 or 600,000” well disciplined adherents who “take their orders from Moscow and are proud of it.” (Number apparently generated by taking total circulation of the Communist daily press and multiplying). But this group—nearly half as large as the total number of Communists in the larger USSR asserted by Fish—are not to be feared of “having a revolution in the United States at this time” since in the event of such an uprising “the regular army and the National Guard and the American Legion, using a Russian word, could ’liquidate’ all the Communists in the United States in a few weeks’ time.” (Note especially the envisioned role of the American Legion.) Communists are said by Fish to be defined by their acceptance of 6 fundamental principles: (1) the abolition of all forms of religious belief; (2) the abolition of all forms of private property and inheritance; (3) the promotion of the bitterest kind of class hatred; (4) the promotion through the Communist International of strikes, riots, sabotage, and industrial unrest; (5) the promotion of class or civil war in order to obtain their final objective; being (6) “the establishment of a Soviet form of government, the dictatorship of the proletariat, with headquarters in Moscow.” (Note especially the position of primacy attributed to the question of religion). Fish states that “The Communist Party is not an American party; it is a section of the Communist International, taking its orders from Moscow” and that its access to the ballot should be arbitrarily denied since its candidates “could not take the oath of office and allegiance to our government.” He states that his committee found that “70 percent of the Communist in the United States were aliens, that 20 percent were naturalized citizens, and that only 10 percent were American-born citizens, whether they were white or black” and he rails that “We have tolerated their insults too long, and if they will not cease this propaganda or go home of their own accord, I can assure you that the next session of Congress will enact legislation to see that all alien Communists are deported to their native lands.” (The method by which deportations were to be made to one particular country whom the United States did not diplomatically recognize is not mentioned.) Racial fear is another fundamental aspect of Fish’s anti-Communist ideology, noting “Whenever there is a Communist meeting, the white and the colored people assemble together and dance together. The Communists mean just what they say, so their propaganda has some little appeal. Colored men and women are going to Moscow all the time to be trained in the revolutionary schools.” Fish states that he had “personally seen order after order from Moscow to the Communists in this country, demanding that an intense campaign be conducted among the Negroes, both North and South, in order to turn them against the government,” attributing the lack of success to the churchgoing nature of American blacks. “The Communists cannot understand why the Negroes have not succumbed to their propaganda of social equality, or intermarriage and racial equality, and so on.” Fish’s view of the American left wing movement is almost comically undifferentiated, lumping together “Communists and Socialists and pink intellectuals” and the American Civil Liberties Union, and stating that “the Communists and the Socialists are joining hands”—an altogether unique view of political reality during the Third Period.



“Stalin’s Speeches on the American Communist Party,”; by I. Stalin. Full text of a pamphlet published by the CPUSA early in 1931, containing three of Stalin’s speeches on the American factional situation, delivered before the Presidium of the Executive Committee of the Communist International. Stalin is harshly critical of the lack of discipline and unprincipled factionalism of both of the Lovestone majority faction and the Foster-Bittelman minority faction. CPUSA Executive Secretary Jay Lovestone drew particularly heavy fire, with Stalin noting that “In factional scandalmongering, in factional intrigue, Comrade Lovestone is indisputably an adroit and talented factional wirepuller. No one can deny him that. But factional leadership must not be confused with Party leadership. A Party leader is one thing, a factional leader is something quite different. Not every factional leader has the gift of being a Party leader. I doubt very much that at this stage Comrade Lovestone can be a Party leader.” As part of Stalin’s proposed solution, Lovestone and Bittelman were to be held in Moscow and reassigned to Comintern work elsewhere—a decision which precipitated the split of Lovestone and his closest circle. Includes an unsigned preface emphasizing Stalin’s correctness and dismissing allegations made by the Left Opposition movement that publication of the document marked a first step towards Foster’s removal from the ranks of party leaders.