Update 11-06: Sunday, October 7, 2011.

"Platform of the Social Democratic Workingmen’s Party of North America." [1876] Platform of one of the earliest international socialist organizations in the United States, the Social Democratic Workingmen's Party of North America (established in 1874) -- later one of the constituents of the Workingmen's Party of the United States, which became the Socialist Labor Party. The organization declares the primacy of politics over trade unionism, stating the need of "obtaining possession of political power as the prerequisite for the solution of the labor question." A united organization of all workingmen is sought and "strict subordination of the individual under the laws framed for the general benefit." A 13 point minimum program is included, featuring demands for the franchise for those 20 or older, establishment of a unicameral legislature, ratification of all legislation by the people, and the abolition of monopolies and indirect taxation, among other things.

"Constitution for the Social Labor Party: Adopted at Pittsburgh, April 1876." In April 1876 the Social Democratic Workingmen's Party of North America changed its name to the Social Labor Party. Three months later, it would join at a "Union Congress" as one of the constituent organizations back of the new Workingmen's Party of the United States -- which would in turn change its name to the Socialistic Labor Party at the end of 1877. This is the constitution of that constituent pre-SLP organization. The primary party unit of the Social Labor Party was the "Branch" of 10 or more party members in one place, governed by a "National Executive Committee" of 7 members residing in a single headquarters city, whose actions were in turn checked by a "Board of Supervision" of 9. Annual National Conventions were to the supreme authority of the organization. All of these organizational forms are traceable into the Socialist Labor Party and from there to the Socialist Party of America.

"The Tour of the Red Special," by Charles Lapworth [Dec. 1908] Large graphic pdf file, 9.2 megs. This is a copiously illustrated participant's memoir of Eugene V. Debs' memorable 1908 Presidential campaign, during which a special train was chartered and toured coast-to-coast in support of the Socialist Party of America's electoral program and ticket. Lapworth indicates that SPA Executive Secretary J. Mahlon Barnes was the individual who conceived of the special Socialist campaign train and A.M. Simons the one who devised the moniker "Red Special." The debs train traveled from Chicago to the Pacific coast, back to the Midwest and then along the East Coast, drawing enthusiastic crowds wherever it went. Riding the train along with Debs and a bevy of Socialist Party worthies was a brass band which entertained crowds at campaign stops. Anecdotes about various campaign stops make this a significant primary source material for historians of 20th Century American socialism.

"On Killing Us Dead: Unsigned Editorial in Communist Labor, March 25, 1920." Still reeling from J. Edgar Hoover's coordinated anti-communist police raids of January 2, 1920 (the so-called "Palmer Raids"), the Communist Labor Party trumpets the fact of its survival with this snide editorial advising the adoption of the full fledged Tsarist model for repression of political dissent. Expanded espionage, censorship, and legal repression is mockingly advocated, as is an attack on libraries and public education, and an expansion of the ranks of the army and the role of the secret police apparatus held up as a model worthy for emulation. "Never mind the growing wrath of the 'underdogs,' the editorialist declares. "Don’t look too far into the future or weigh the result of drastic Russianization, per pre-Soviet days, of the United States. Never mind the consequences. Don’t take your lessons from recent occurrences in Russia."

"Debs Does Not Know: Unsigned Editorial in Communist Labor, March 25, 1920." In March 1920 came news from Atlanta Federal Penitentiary that imprisoned radical leader Gene Debs had agreed to stand as the Presidential nominee of the Socialist Party for the fifth time. This was most unwelcome information to the rival Communist Labor Party, including among its ranks many longtime allies of Debs in the left wing of the SPA. This article blames Debs' decision to run as a Socialist upon imperfect information. Cut off from the radical press by prison bars, only direct contact could impart information about the rapidly evolving world radical movement. With the likes of New York Call journalist and Debs biographer David Karsner the ones imparting such information, Debs' resulting loyalty to the moribund SPA was entirely predictable, the writer of this article intimates. At the same time, an initial effort is made to undercut Debs' iconic position in the American radical movement. "Will Debs eventually be found with the American Scheidemanns, who appeal to the workers in time of personal distress, in times when these Scheidemanns are attacked by the more reactionary bourgeoisie?" the writer asks. "Will Debs eventually be found with the Schneidemanns who subdue the workers with shot and shell when the Scheidemanns are in the saddle?"

"Casualties: Unsigned News Report in Communist Labor, March 25, 1920." Across America the forces of law and order put a full court press on the nascent American communist movement in late 1919 and early 1920. This repressive effort was not limited to non-citizens, as this unsigned article from the official organ of the Communist Labor Party demonstrates. Among those included in this blotter of "casualties in the class war" were native born radicals Ruby McSlarrow Herman, acting State Secretary of the Communist Labor Party of Washington, Anita Whitney of California, attorney Marguerite Prevey of Ohio, and Dr. O.J. Brown of Chicago. Others mentioned in this report include Ludwig Lore of the New York Volkszeitung, N. Juel Christensen of the Scandinavian Socialist Federation, Dr. Karl Sandburg of Chicago, Max Bedacht and Jack Carney of the CLP's National Executive Committee, Harry Petzold of New Jersey, Julius Soos and Jack Campbell of North Carolina, and a certain Comrade Oster from Oregon. Virtually all of these were jailed under state laws for “criminal anarchy,” “criminal syndicalism,” or “conspiracy.”

"Letter to the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of America in New York from the National Executive Committee of the Communist Labor Party in New York, March 28, 1920." In the last days before the April split of the Ruthenberg faction, unity negotiations between the CPA and the CLP were edging towards agreement on agenda with regards to the bitterly divisive question of the role of federations as well as delegate composition. From a previous position seeking direct 1-to-1 parity among delegates and treating CPA-style autonomy of language federations as unacceptable on a per se basis, the CLP had shifted to a position of willingness to discuss the federation question as an open one at a forthcoming unity question, and agreeing to accept its place as the minority faction among delegates. A 35 delegate convention split 15 (CLP) to 20 (CPA) was formally proposed here by the NEC of the CLP. This split was widened still further in face-to-face negotiations to 12 (CLP) to 23 (CPA). The three member negotiating committees were to return to their respective executive committees for decision on this revised delegate allocation.

"Letter to the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of America in New York from Alfred Wagenknecht,  Executive Secretary of the Communist Labor Party of America in New York, March 31, 1920." Having capitulated on the big issue of the relationship of the language federations to the central organization of the new party and the question of organizational parity at a forthcoming joint unity convention, the National Executive Committee of the Communist Labor Party squabbles over one last delegate, refusing the CPA's proposed split of 12 (CLP) to 23 (CPA) in favor of a "final" decision of 13 (CLP) to 22 (CPA). The Joint Convention Committee is authorized to proceed with arrangements for a unity convention only if the CPA caves in on this point, CLP Executive Secretary Alfred Wagenknecht notes.

"Letter to National Executive Committee of the Communist Labor Party of America in New York from C.E. Ruthenberg, Executive Secretary of the Communist Party of America in New York, April 7, 1920." As the Communist Party of America was quietly sliding towards a factional split within two weeks, the sectarian bidding war between the CPA and the rival CLP over the apportionment of delegates to a Joint Unity Convention continued. In response to the CLP's "final" decision that it wanted 13 of 35 delegates (37%), the CPA responded with this ultimatum, declaring 35 an insufficient total number for the convention and offering the CLP 18 delegates of a total of 50 (36%). "Our committee is under instructions to hold this proposal open for five days for your acceptance and in the absence of such acceptance to withdraw from all further negotiations," Executive Secretary Ruthenberg declares. A proposed Joint Call for the convention written by the CPA was included with the correspondence.

"Joint Call for the Communist Convention." [composed by the CPA, transmitted to the CLP on April 7, 1920] In addition to a five day ultimatum regarding the size and composition of the delegations to a forthcoming Joint Unity Convention to unite the rival Communist Party of America with the rival Communist Labor Party, the CPA included the following language for a joint call. The primacy of the CPA's doctrine was made clear, with the Manifesto and Program of the CPA designated as the basis for work by the convention on a revised Manifesto and Program. Delegate elections were to be secret and of similar method between the groups, under the nominal supervision of the 6 member Joint Convention Committee. The Joint Convention Committee was also to supervise convention arrangements, subject to control of the CEC of the CPA and the NEC of the CLP.

"Letter to the Central Executive Committee and Joint Convention Committee of the Communist Party of America in New York from Alfred Wagenknecht, Executive  Secretary of the Communist Labor Party in New York, April 9, 1920." CLP Executive Secretary Alfred Wagenknecht takes umbrage at the five day ultimatum regarding  a forthcoming Joint Unity Convention delivered to him by the rival Communist Party of America. "You presume to dictate a new representation for the convention to us," Wagenknecht complains. "You presume to dictate to use the form and wording of the joint call." The ultimatum therefore "seems to breathe, not a spirit of unity but a passion for dictatorial control." Wagenknecht complains that the entire NEC and Convention Committee is outside of New York and that no physical meeting would be possible within the arbitrary five day deadline, adding that the CPA had taken 9 days to answer the CLP's most recent proposal. Includes a detailed analysis of the faction fight within the CEC of the rival CPA following the receipt of this communication.

"No Unity with Anti-Revolutionary Party: Declaration of the NEC of the CLP, Adopted May 1, 1920." With this published statement the governing National Executive Committee of the Communist Labor Party rejects in no uncertain terms any prospect of electoral cooperation with the Socialist Party of America in its 1920 Presidential campaign on behalf of imprisoned radical publicist Eugene V. Debs. The differences between the two organizations are proclaimed as "fundamental" by the CLP and the SPA's strategy of "capture of the capitalist state" is dismissed as "essentially counter-revolutionary." The CLP instead insists upon "the destruction of the capitalist state, the setting up of a proletarian dictatorship as an instrument of the proletarian revolution." The CLP asserts that "Debs can not create revolutionary prestige for the Socialist Party by accepting that party’s nomination for President, but he loses his revolutionary prestige by allying himself with an essentially anti-revolutionary party" and instructs those remaining personally loyal to him to resign from the CLP "in justice to our party and to themselves." Invocation of disciplinary measures is threatened should CLP members electorally support Socialist candidates.

"Call for a Unity Conference between the Communist Labor Party and the Communist Party." [circa May 7, 1920] While another version of this convention call has been up on this website for six years, this new file includes a bit of marginalia from the CLP press indicating that it went into unity negotiations with the Ruthenberg minority of the CPA with open eyes, met "several times" preliminary to the release of the convention call, and together with the Ruthenberg group agreed "not to negotiate with the 'majority' group of the CEC of the CPA," from which Ruthenberg had split. It is perhaps worthy of note that the joint meeting between the CLP and the CPA splinter was now framed as a unity "conference" rather than a "convention."

"The Winds of Reaction: News of the Socialist Party Convention." [events of May 8-14, 1920] With its own organization shattered by police repression -- thousands of members driven off, meetings forced underground, dues payments and publication subscriptions disrupted, leaders and non-citizen members arrested, multiple thousands of dollars in bail and legal fees added to organizational expenses -- the Communist Labor Party makes itself feel better for a moment here by laughing at the misfortune of others. This account by an unnamed editorialist assesses the recently completed convention of the rival Socialist Party of America. A mass meeting held May 9 at Madison Square Garden drew less than 5,000 people to the 12,000 seat building, it is noted, despite featuring SPA leader Morris HIllquit's first public appearance in two years. The party moved still further to the right at the gathering in opposing a "centrist" minority faction at the convention headed by Louis Engdahl and Bill Kruse. The notion of a dictatorship of the proletariat was denounced and affiliation with the 3rd International rejected by the convention majority, it is noted, and a faith in "bourgeois democracy" affirmed. "The workers’ state must destroy the capitalist state to grant the workers rights," the writer states instead. The nomination of the imprisoned Gene Debs by the Socialists for President is seen as an empty gesture, with the "typical right wing Socialist and reactionary" Seymour Stedman, nominee for Vice President, the actual party leader that would be on the campaign trail as the face of the party. The left wing Engdahl-Kruse faction is repeatedly mocked as an exercise in ineffectual centrism and the conservatism of the new governing National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party emphasized.

"Party Discipline: Unsigned editorial in Communist Labor." [May 15, 1920] A heavily idealized discussion of the notion of party discipline in the Communist movement. The editorialist declares party discipline to be "indispensable," in that it enables "the application of concentrated action." However, the editorialist asserts, such discipline between the decision-making executive bodies and the rank and file receiving "the orders of the executive bodies" must necessarily be a voluntary obedience based upon the confidence of the membership in the leadership. "A leadership that can interpret the needs of the revolutionary class struggle will never find itself out of harmony with the membership, and therefore, will seldom or never have need to command obedience. A leadership, however, misunderstanding and misinterpreting those needs will always find itself out of harmony with the rank and file and will not be able to command obedience to its orders, even not in the name of the sacredness of communist discipline," it is maintained. Thus, indiscipline is necessarily a reflection of a lack of confidence of the membership in the leadership. No other potential causal factors are introduced into the simplistic discussion here.

"British Espionage in the United States: An Internal Memorandum of the United States Dept. of Justice, February 15, 1921," by M.J. Davis This is a declassified secret document written for the Bureau of Investigation's permanent files by Special Agent M.J. Davis which details the close cooperation between British intelligence in the United States and the Bureau of Investigation. According to Davis the anti-radical  activities of the Department of Justice in New York City were conducted by just two people throughout 1918 and into 1919 -- Special Agent Raymond Finch working with the then-stenographer M.J. Davis. "Up to the first of October 1919, not one under-cover man was in our employ at NY in the now famous Bolshevik circles," Davis astonishingly declares. The British government, on the other hand, seem to have maintained a network of undercover informants, with the result that the British government knew more about American radicalism than the American Justice Department did. As a result, a period of close cooperation ensued, with the Americans making available their archive of the contemporary radical press and the British supplying intelligence reports, all with nodding acceptance from a series of Superintendents in Washington, DC. This regular connection seems to have been severed in the summer of 1919, when Finch left the employ of the Bureau of Investigation to go to work for British Intelligence and the New York Lusk Committee, resulting in the public identification of Robert Nathan as head of British Intelligence in American. Davis notes that the Bureau of Investigation would not hesitate to make use of the information of British Intelligence in the future should special need arise.


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