Update 11-04: Sunday, September 25, 2011.
"Calm Review of the Seattle Situation," by John Downie [Oct. 6, 1907] A factional salvo fired by a supporter of the Socialist Party of Washington's Left Wing majority against a pamphlet published by an adherent of the party's dissident Right Wing. After recounting his own biography as a former member of the Slobodin-Hillquit Springfield Social Democratic Party and founding member of the Socialist Party of Washington in 1900, Downie lays into assertions published by Ira Wolfe of Seattle's 9th Ward Branch. Downie insists that the radical Pike Street Branch had never asked for or received a single cent of party funds for support of Hermon Titus's radical weekly, The Socialist. He further declares Wolfe's claim that Socialist supporters ignored the party's financial needs to be a falsehood, and similarly rejects claims that the Pike Street Branch had itself started The Socialist and that that paper rejected out-of-hand all content departing from Left Wing orthodoxy. Downie instead blames the Right Wing for a campaign of calumny against Hermon Titus which effectively disrupted the party's effectiveness.
"Walter Thomas Mills -- His Record," by Thomas J. Morgan [Nov. 2, 1907] One of the most bitterly divided state organizations of the Socialist Party of America was that of Washington state, which was more or less continuously controlled by Left Wing elements throughout the decades of the 1900s and 1910s, over bitter opposition. One of the key leaders of the Right Wing during the party's first decade was Walter Thomas Mills, regarded by his radical opponents as both an extreme factionalist and a socialist huckster. In 1907 Left Winger E.B. Ault wrote to veteran Socialist Tommy Morgan of Chicago seeking an enumerated list of Mills's transgressions. Morgan responded with this letter, published in Hermon Titus's radical Seattle weekly, The Socialist. Mills is characterized as a "minister, an evangelist, temperance lecturer, etc." who had been involved in various socialist schools and colonization schemes in Illinois and Southwestern Michigan which resulted in financial losses to those persuaded to invest in them. Morgan recites a litany of complaints: Milis's "immoral conduct" in New York state caused him to be removed from work there; the thick book which he sold at lectures as his own work was largely ghostwritten; additional essentially bogus colony and school schemes had been launched in Kansas and Colorado. Morgan intimates that it is in this light that his new socialist business enterprise, the Seattle Saturday Evening Tribune, should be viewed. "The ability of Mills to continue in his peculiar work in the party is due to the silence of those whom he has bitten and fooled, and while he is under expulsion from your organization, comrades ignorant of his record are ready to welcome him here because of his ability to talk," Morgan declares.
"Able Talent in Array of Lyceum Course Speakers: Forceful Organizers and Entertainers Sure to Please All," by L.E. Katterfeld [Jan. 4, 1911] One of the leading leaders of the Communist Labor Party and its successor, the United Communist Party, was Ludwig E. "Dutch" Katterfeld, a veteran Socialist Party functionary. This article from the Chicago Daily Socialist documents Katterfeld's work in 1911 as head of the SPA's short-lived speakers' bureau, the Lyceum Bureau. Katterfeld explains the new program and details the list of touring speakers, who together presented a "lyceum course" on behalf of the Socialist Party. Katterfeld presents brief biographies of C.B. Hoffman, editor of the Chicago Daily Socialist as well as Oscar Ameringer and George Kirkpatrick, filling in for the jailed Fred Warren of The Appeal to Reason. "The opposition used to claim that the Socialist movement would never gain a foothold here, but the tremendous gains of the Socialist Party during the past year have put that claim to sleep forever," Katterfeld declares.
"Join the Party" (Editorial in the Columbus Socialist) [April 29, 1911] Perhaps the moment of greatest optimism in the history of the Socialist Party is documented in this front page editorial from The Socialist, published in Columbus, Ohio. Congressman Victor Berger was installed in office and the groundswell of popular support for the Socialist cause was palpable. Paid membership in the SPA had topped 78,000, it was reported, with National Executive Secretary Mahlon Barnes predicting 100,000 dues-payers by the start of the next year. There were more dues-paying members of the Socialist Party of America than the Socialist Party of France, a country in which twice the vote was garnered. The future was looking like roses, with at least a million votes predicted in the 1912 Presidential campaign and half a dozen Socialist Congressmen envisioned. Notable is the absolutely total commitment to the electoral road to Socialism, in which "capture" of the state through the ballot box was not only plausible but virtually preordained by history. "Never before has the future looked as bright for the Socialist Party in the United States as it does today," the editorialist declares. "There does not seem to be anything too big for it to accomplish during the next few years."
"Negro Resolution: Passed by the Ohio State Convention of the Socialist Party of Ohio, April 27-30, 1911." The early Socialist Party of America is frequently viewed as ambivalent to the question of race, at best, including as it did among its ranks at least a few virulent racists. This 1911 resolution of the Socialist Party of Ohio indicates that the SPA was not totally blind to the fact that American blacks represented a particularly exploited stratum of the American working classes which should be incorporated into the party ranks. The resolution is brief and to the point, declaring "It is the sense of this convention that we invite the negro to join the Socialist Party, which would give him an equal opportunity to receive the full social product of his labor, and urge that competent speakers be engaged by the State Executive Committee to organize the negro voters of Ohio into the Socialist Party. It is perhaps worthy of mention in the context of this site that CLP founding members Tom Clifford and Lawrence Zitt and CPA founding member C.E. Ruthenberg were among the delegates to the 1911 Socialist Party of Ohio conclave.
"Comrade Bloor at Nelsonville," by W.W. Green [events of June 21-22, 1911] An excellent little snippet of Socialist social history here -- an account of two speeches by firebrand orator "Mother" Ella Reeve Bloor. Her June 21, 1911 speech in Nelsonville, Ohio drew a counterdemonstration in the other end of the town square, featuring a sermon by a preacher. Bloor seems to have won the contest handily: "When the preacher had finished his sermon he only had six listeners, while as many hundreds as you could count on the fingers of both hands gathered compactly around the little lady and held their breath while she gave them the message of Peace on earth, good will toward man." Then next day Bloor and Green went underground at Mine 204 to speak to several hundred coalminers assembled in a large cavern. "The miners cheered lustily as she drove and clinched nails in the coffin of Capitalism. She showed them how they had voted themselves into a darkness worse than the gloom that surrounded them -- that their unions were no more a remedy than their bank lamps were to dispel the blackness of the mine. They had voted themselves in -- they must vote their way out," Green declares.
"Debs on the Socialist Movement," by Elias Tobenkin [July 29, 1911] Extensive interview with copious direct quotations of Socialist Party leader Gene Debs, on the road in Newark, New Jersey, presumably lifted by the Columbus, Ohio Socialist from the New York Call. Debs sharply criticizes sectarian squabbling when he declares, "There is nothing so hurtful to the Socialist Party as squabbles over little, insignificant things. The uninitiated, who is not familiar with the Socialist mind, may easily become discouraged at seeing these squabbles and mistake them for vital disagreements, and then turn away from the Socialist movement, using the old argument that the Socialists do no agree among themselves." He objects to "coddling" the craft unionism of the AF of L, when he proclaims it "a mistake to fondle trade unionism in the hope of swinging it toward radicalism at some later time. We must consistently advocated industrial unionism, revolutionary unionism." Debs also proclaims the propaganda work of Victor Berger in Congress to be of "immense value" to the Socialist Party and the socialist movement and proclaims Pennsylvania as the strongest state for the Socialist movement.
"The Rising Tide of Socialism," by Carl D. Thompson [Aug. 8, 1911] This is a snapshot of the electorally-oriented Socialist Party at its most self-satisfied. Carl D. Thompson, head of the SPA's Literature Department, reviews the growth of the socialist movement in America and around the world -- using the dubious benchmark of electoral results to happily pronounce the Socialist movement worthy of "inspiration and wonder." After providing vote tallies from 17 countries, Thompson exclaims, "Look at those figures! See them march upward. At that rate of increase it is not hard to see what the future has in store." The greatest historical importance of this article, however, deals with Thompson's provision of a year-by-year membership count for the Socialist Party. Instead of starting his membership series in 1903 -- as the Socialist Party officially did every time without exception until they started suppressing their membership figures altogether in 1923 -- Thompson provides figures for average monthly dues actually paid dating back to the start of the SPA in the summer of 1901. Thanks to this article by Thompson we know now that in 1901 the Socialist Party had an average monthly paid membership of 4,320, while in 1902 it had a membership of 9,949. In assessing the state of the party press, Thompson counts 2 English Socialist daily newspapers, 6 non-English dailies, 33 English weeklies, and 22 non-English weeklies.
"Mob Wrecks Socialist Newspaper: Editor Ordered to Leave Town, but He Decides to Stick." [event of Aug. 24, 1911] Short article from the Columbus, Ohio Socialist documenting an act of mob violence committed by anti-Socialists in Garden City, Kansas. While the proprietor of the town's Socialist newspaper, The Interlocutor, was engaged conducting a public meeting addressed by prominent Midwestern pamphleteer W.F. Ries the right wing mob stormed the newspaper office, destroying the press and scattering lead type through the streets. Editor Ashford was threatened with death, given 24 hours to leave town. The editor refused to flee.
"The Socialist Labor Party and the Socialist Party: The Fundamental Differences Between the Two Organizations," by Mary Rantz [Sept. 25 1911] While the American radical movement in the decade of the 1910s was dominated by the electorally-oriented Socialist Party of America, that organization never had a monopoly on the political field. The rival Socialist Labor Party maintained a radical critique. This open letter by a Socialist Labor Party activist from pages of the group's weekly press emphasizes the ideological and tactical differences between the two principle organizations of the American socialist movement. The roots of the divergence came 12 years earlier, Rantz notes, when "the Socialist Labor Party of America, after years of valuable experience, came to the correct conclusion that the only hope for a peaceful solution to the Labor Problem in America was the industrial organization of the workers on the economic field to supplement and give power to the revolutionary ballot of the workers." This provoked the division of the movement by a "renegade element" men "who had interests, material and otherwise, in the American Federation of Labor." Rantz notes the divergent views of the organizations towards the efficacy of the ballot: "The Socialist Party claims that the ballot and politics alone are sufficient to usher in the Socialist Commonwealth, and then it proceeds towards this goal 'a step at a time,' these 'steps' being issues which drain the energy, time, and money of the workers, without containing one benefit for them. The Socialist Labor Party states the correct position, THAT THE BALLOT ALONE is AN EMPTY, FUTILE thing, and can have no effect but the absolute demoralization of the working class, unless it has behind it the REVOLUTIONARY ORGANIZATION of the workers in the ECONOMIC FIELD."
"Stand by Soviet Russia: Proclamation of the United Communist Party of America." [circa Aug. 1, 1920] Annotated machine-readable pdf of a rare leaflet of the newly-launched United Communist Party of America. The leaflet argues that the World War was a result of the struggle of capitalist governments for markets and profits and had never really ended, with attention turned Eastward following the German collapse. "Ever since the workers of Russia overthrew the capitalists and landowners who robbed and exploited them, the capitalist governments of the world have been scheming to destroy the Soviet Government the workers established," the leaflet declares. Poland had attacked Soviet Ukraine under "orders from London, Paris, and Washington" but had been halted, according to the UCP document. Now the combined forces and funds of Britain, France, and the United States were being put back of the Polish effort. American workers are implored to follow the example of the workers of England, Italy, Germany, Austria, Czecho-Slovakia. "Refuse to manufacture munitions! Refuse to transport them! Refuse to do anything that will help the Allied Imperialists to make war on Soviet Russia!" the leaflet demands.
"Summary of District Organizer Reports of the United Communist Party." [August 8, 1920] Internal document relating district-by-district membership status and organizational structure of the fledgling United Communist Party of America. Worthy of mention is the fact that the UCP -- unlike the rival (old) CPA -- had districts west of Chicago (St. Louis, Denver, San Francisco, Portland). Unfortunately no report on membership for the all-important New York district appears, but one can roughly extrapolate a paid membership in the ballpark of 6,000 from the numbers showing. Similarly, one can conclude from the cash receipt and expenditure figures showing that the party's financial situation was not strong.
"Statement of the CEC of the United Communist Party Regarding the Charges Against Louis C. Fraina." [Aug. 15, 1920] The very first plenary session of the Central Executive Committee of the United Communist Party appointed an investigating committee to examine the charge being bandied about that Louis C. Fraina of the rival Communist Party of America, one of three members of the Pan-American Bureau of the Comintern, was actually a police spy. Finnish radical Santeri Nuorteva, formerly of the Russian Soviet Government Bureau, was chief among those charging Fraina with duplicity. A former DoJ informant named Peterson made the specific charges that on September 7 and November 15 and a third date in 1919 he had seen Fraina in the department's New York offices and that he had seen canceled checks signed by Fraina in his personal file. Fraina successfully proved that he was in Chicago on September 7, the last day of the CPA's founding convention, and "during the cross-examination of Peterson by those present many dubious points as to his motives and as to the reliability of his story were developed." The investigation committee found the charges of Peterson, repeated by Nuorteva, to be without merit and exonerated Fraina -- a verdict here affirmed by the full CEC of the UCP.
"The Letter from the International: UCP Reply to the ECCI Letter to America of June 1920." [Aug. 15, 1920] During the Russian Civil War and the Western blockade of Soviet Russia, communication between the Communist International in Moscow and the American Communist movement in New York was slow and haphazard. A June 1920 letter from ECCI only found print in the United Communist Party's Press in the middle of August. This document reprints the official reply of the governing Central Executive Committee to ECCI's categorical demand that the UCP and its rival, the Communist Party of America, immediately unite. The UCP affirms its willingness to unite, but then goes on to launch into an extensive criticism of the program of the "Federation group of the Communist Party" with respect to mass action, industrial unionism, shop organizations, and legal and illegal work. With respect to the American Federation of Labor, it is actually the UCP which stakes out for itself the far left position, with the CEC noting that the UCP program advises party members to "seize every opportunity to voice their hostility to this organization (the AF of L), not to reform it, but to destroy it." The CEC proclaims that on this and all other important points of difference with the CPA that the Comintern supports the UCP policy and challenges its rivals to publish the Comintern's letter in its party press.
"United Communist Party Membership Bulletin #2." [c. Sept. 1, 1920] The United Communist Party was an underground organization that took its secrecy seriously. Membership bulletins were hand-delivered via district organizers and subdistrict organizers down to group leaders, one copy to each group with instructions to destroy the mimeographed document after it had been read at the group meeting. The fact that this "secret" bulletin of the UCP was preserved from oblivion in the files of the Justice Department's Bureau of Investigation demonstrates that this practice was largely ineffective, due no doubt to the penetration of the organization by informants. What was it that the UCP was so intent on shielding from view of the authorities? In this issue we have a good deal about party fundraising, including the UCP's "$50,000 Organizational Fund," built upon a $5 per member quota. The election of CLP member John Reed to the Executive Committee of the Communist International by the 2nd World Congress is noted with pride. The CI's open letter to the IWW has been produced in leaflet form for free distribution, it is announced. Recent decisions of a meeting of the CEC are related.
"United Communist Party Membership Bulletin #3." [c. Sept. 15, 1920] This third confidential membership bulletin of the United Communist Party includes district-by-district reports for the party's 9 territorial subdivisions. It is noteworthy that significant organizing efforts in the Russian language were being conducted in half of these districts -- it is not only facile but factually incorrect to assume that the rival CPA was a "Federation party" while the UCP was native-born, as both organizations included massive non-English speaking immigrant contingents. Spending exceeded revenue for the UCP by more than $6200 in August 1920, the bulletin notes, prompting another call for support of the "$50,000 Organizational Fund."
"Leaflet of the American Defense Society." [circa October 1920] Propaganda leaflet of the nationalist American Defense Society, which declares: "The Radicals have not yet declared open warfare. Government officials state that their information is that the revolution has been planned to follow the Presidential Election. The winter will be the decisive time for the success or defeat of the Reds." The leaflet notes that the ADS had been distributing hundreds of thousands of pamphlets, placing portraits of nationalist icon Theodore Roosevelt in thousands of school classrooms, and aiding in the "investigation of the methods of radicals" by reporting "seditious words and actions" to Federal officials. "Citizens Committees of Defense" were being formed around the country by the ADS and funds for the organization were solicited.
"Fundraising Circular of the American Defense Society, Robert Appleton, Treasurer, November 3, 1920." Fighting radicalism was a costly endeavor, treasurer Robert Appleton of the nationalist American Defense Society intimates. "Seditious propaganda, intended to accomplish the destruction of America, is being carried on here by Communists. Even our public school children are employed to distribute it," the ADS warns in this fundraising form letter sent to a Nashville, Tennessee Company. "Bill Haywood, head of the IWW, appears to have no difficulty in getting funds for his propaganda! Haywood’s followers put up money because he is teaching them how to get what they want without working for it," Appleton asserts. Appleton kindly offers to act as the recipient's "agent in the battle against Communism and Red Radicalism" in exchange for a check for "$50, or as much more as you can afford."
"United Communist Party Membership Bulletin #4." [c. Nov. 1, 1920] This semi-monthly confidential bulletin read to members of the United Communist Party at underground group meetings details the actions of the organization's governing Central Executive Committee at its recent meeting. Further refining our understanding of the social composition of the UCP, the CEC determines to issue the bulletin in Russian, Croatian, and Polish, in addition to English. Additional organizing effort was being paid to German, Hungarian, and Italian speakers, this bulletin indicates. The rival CPA, by way of contrast, included important Russian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Yiddish Federation groups. The CEC declared that correspondence between party members in different groups would be prohibited and that all communications must take place through regular party channels. Further constraint of inner party democracy was established by a CEC ruling that complaints from lower levels could not proceed without being approved by the next higher level of organization -- thus complaints by groups against district organizers could be stopped from reaching the CEC by action of the intermediate sections or sub-district organizations (dominated by appointees of the district organizers in question).
"United Communist Party Membership Bulletin #5." [c. Nov. 20, 1920] A valuable official membership count of the United Communist Party appears in this fifth bulletin to the group's underground membership. Whereas the rival CPA was exclusively a Northeastern organization, strength of the UCP was clustered in the Midwest, with both the Chicago and Cleveland districts topping New York both in terms of total members and primary party organizations ("groups"). Bot organizations seem to have been inflating membership counts in anticipation of merger. A more sanguine average count of 3448 for the UCP for the months of July, August, and September 1920 is offered, which is stacked against an estimated paid membership of 2431 for the rival CPA in the same period. In short, about a year of anti-radical repression and the disruption and disillusionment caused by unceasing factional warfare had sliced Communist and Left Socialist party allegiance from about 60,000 SPA duespayers at the time of the 1919 split to less than one-tenth of that number. November actions of the UCP's governing Central Executive Committee during its November sessions is also summarized in this bulletin.
"Speeches to the 4th World Congress of the Comintern on the Negro Question," by Otto Huiswoud and Claude MacKay [Nov. 25, 1922] The 4th World Congress of the Comintern of 1922 marked the first time a plenary session of that organization dealt with the so-called "Negro Problem." The report of the CI's Negro Commission and its proposed resolution was delivered in a speech by American Communist Party delegate Otto Huiswoud, to which was added additional commentary by fraternal delegate Claude McKay of the African Blood Brotherhood. Huiswoud observes that at the present time there were some 450 black newspapers and magazines in the United States, headed by the weekly Chicago Defender (circulation 250,000) and the monthly The Crisis (600,000). Huiswoud likens the situation in the American South faced by 9 or 10 million of the country's 12 million black citizens to Dante's Inferno: "almost a country by itself," marked by racism and racist violence. The labor situation in the country as a whole was hampered by the refusal of the established unions to organize or in many cases even to accept black workers, Huiswoud indicated. Huiswoud and the Negro Commission proposed the establishment of a full-time Negro Bureau of the Executive Committee of the Communist International. Work among American blacks conducted by blacks themselves was requested. Reiterating Huiswoud's position, radical poet Claude McKay emphasized the ultra-violent political environment in the South, which would require use of illegal organization there by the Communist movement. McKay also indicates that racism was a problem among white Communist Party members themselves, which he calls "the greatest difficulty that the Communists of America have got to overcome — the fact that they have got to emancipate themselves from the ideas they entertained towards the Negroes before they can be able to reach the Negroes with any kind of radical propaganda."