Update 11-10: Sunday, November 6, 2011.

“'The Record of the Past is the Promise of the Future,'” by C.E. Ruthenberg [June 29, 1912]  C.E. Ruthenberg is remembered as one of the key leaders of the first decade of American Communism. Before that, however, Ruthenberg was a prominent leader in the Socialist Party of Ohio, standing as that organization's gubernatorial candidate in 1912. This is an artifact of that 1912 campaign, a piece from the weekly newspaper of Local Cleveland, SPA. Ruthenberg sounds very much the conventional Third Party candidate, pronouncing that "so long as the Republican or Democratic Party is in control all the powers of government will be used to continue the exploitation and industrial slavery which capitalism means for the working class.... Both are incompetent to help the workers in their struggle against the developing industrial plutocracy which is rapidly being brought into existence as the result of the concentration of industry." Ruthenberg declares that the "only hope" of the workers is in their own power; "that if they would emancipate themselves from the wage-slavery and serfdom of capitalism, they must organize on the basis of their own interests. They must organize in a party -- in the Socialist Party -- which represents their interests, which is controlled by them and whose candidates are subject to their directions."

"Capitalism’s Fetters on Production," by C.E. Ruthenberg [July 27, 1912]  Document of the 1912 Ohio gubernatorial campaign of Cleveland Socialist Party leader C.E. Ruthenberg. In this article from the Cleveland Socialist, Ruthenberg expounds upon Marxist theory for the party faithful, asserting that given the current technological levels of industrial production, capitalist economic relations are "hampering and limiting our productive powers" as "capitalism does not dare use to their fullest extent the productive forces of our present age." Ruthenberg further maintains that the "robbery of the workers" of a part of the product of their labor results in periodic economic crisis forcing the complete shutdown of production due to underconsumption, causing "the anomaly of millions of people suffering, not because we cannot produce the things they need, but because we have produced too much." Socialism alone offered millennial possibilities in Ruthenberg's view: "Once we establish collective ownership of our industries we will throw off the clogs and checks of our productive powers and will be able to produce more than enough not only to supply every human being food, clothing, and homes to live in, but the opportunity for education and culture which can make life worth living."

"The National Committee Meeting," by Tom Clifford [events of May 11-16, 1913]  Account of the 1913 annual meeting of the Socialist Party's National Committee -- a national gathering of elected delegates roughly equivalent in function to the quadrennial National Conventions of the organization. Clifford, a future member of the Communist Labor Party, depicts that gathering as one which was "anything but harmonious," as "lines were clearly drawn between the revolutionists and conservatives." The Left Wing managed to have an investigating committee appointed to examine alleged "inefficiency and maladministration" by the centrist-dominated National Office, which found the accusations of ineptitude unfounded. Effort was also made to expose electoral shenanigans between party leader Morris Hillquit and 1912 national campaign manager Mahlon Barnes in holding up the party referendum aimed at removing Barnes from that post. A motion to eliminate the recently-adopted party constitutional amendment providing from expulsion of opponents of electoral politics was defeated by a vote of 46 to 16.

"Let Us Build," by Eugene V. Debs [Aug. 9, 1913]  The Socialist Party's great mediator, Gene Debs, attempts to patch up the factional war between radicals and moderates in this 1913 article from the SPA's official bulletin. "We have heard and still hear a great deal about 'the Reds' and 'the Yellows' in the Socialist Party," Debs remarks. "I know a good many of both, and so far as I am able to discern, they are very much alike. The actual difference between them, were it fire, would hardly be enough to light a cigarette." Debs calls for an end to internecine factional warfare so that fire can be directed upon the actual enemy, declaring "If we mean to destroy capitalism we must develop the power of our class, and we can only do that through the class-conscious unity and the energetic and harmonious cooperation of our forces." Despite this sentiment, Debs voices an opinion clearly in harmony with the Center-Right alliance in control of the party apparatus rather than the syndicalist Left Wing when he proclaims "The Socialist Party, it should be remembered, is a political party, and there is room enough in it for everyone who subscribes to its principles and upholds them in good faith, but there is no room in it for those who either openly sneer at political action or who avow it falsely to mask their treachery while they carry on their work of disruption."

"Shortcomings of Party Fractions in Language Work." [June 1930] Official published statement on the activities of the non-English members of the Communist Party, USA. Even at this late date somewhat more than half of the party's membership seems to have been participants in one of the CPUSA's 16 "Language Bureaus." The largest of these remained the Finnish, accounting for a reported 1800 members -- more than double the membership of the next largest Language Bureau, the Yiddish-language Jewish Bureau. This article in The Party Builder is critical of the members of the various Language Bureaus for joining small auxiliary organizations already controlled by the Party rather than by attempting to expand the party's power through participation in larger organizations controlled by "the class enemy." The leadership of the language groups are singled out for criticism for their "looseness," unable in some cases to provide exact numbers of party members participating in outside language groups. A frequent failure of the language group members to participate in general party campaigns is also noted. The "main decisive work" of these members is in the regular party units, readers are reminded.

"Right Danger and Radicalization," by Alfred Wagenknecht [June 21, 1930]  Formerly the Executive Secretary of the Communist Labor Party and United Communist Party and the head of the Friends of Soviet Russia, by 1930 Alfred Wagenknecht had been largely shunted aside from a position of top leadership in the Communist Party. This article from the Daily Worker is written from the perspective of a rank-and-filer and discusses the party's all-out propaganda campaign among its members against the so-called "Right Danger" in Wagenknecht's own party group. Wagenknecht seems positively inclined to the CPUSA's left turn: "The Party suffers from indigestion because Party members are not at factory gates," he declares. Wagenknecht advocates for greater direct contact with the working class: "We must drill comrades in how to do factory-gate work. We must teach them to make slogan speeches. We must insist that they talk to the workers and get contacts. We must develop revolutionary imagination, spirit; form experienced shock troops for the larger factories; concentrate adequate comrades until results are obtained; study the factory and the workers so as to circumvent obstacles and difficulties with the police and bosses; know exactly when the workers go to work, come from work, have their lunch period; find out all about working conditions in the factory, number of departments, how to get leaflets and Daily Workers inside the shop."

"The Socialist Party City Convention: Groups in the SP -- Perspectives of the Left Movement -- The Line of the Communists," by Will Herberg [events of Dec. 27-28, 1930] This is an assessment of the December 1930 New York City Convention of the Socialist Party of America written by one of the leaders of Jay Lovestone and Benjamin Gitlow's Communist Party USA (Majority Group). Herberg sees three primary factions in the New York SP organization: an "extreme right" group headed by Norman Thomas comprised "largely of bourgeois liberals"; a dominant group of "old timers," headed by Morris Hillquit, placing primary emphasis on the "labor bureaucracy" and attempting to win "respectability" for the Socialist Party among the AF of L unions; and a growing "leftward tendency," including some radical unionists and a large segment of the SP's youth section. Herberg sees the differentiation in the SP as reflective of similar trends in the social democratic and trade union movement around the world, with a revitalized left wing emerging. Herberg asserts that "The leftward movement in the Socialist Party is still extremely immature, heterogeneous in its composition, and utterly amorphous in its political outlook. It is not yet the end — it is only the beginning. Realignments of forces within the left wing and between the left wing and the SP as a whole are inevitable as the movement gains in maturity." Herberg sees a move towards Communism and a split of the Socialist Party as a likely outcome.


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