Update 13-05: Sunday, June 23, 2013.

"Spokane Fight for Free Speech Settled." [March 6, 1910]  Documentation of a little known chapter in the political career of syndicalist-turned-communist William Z. Foster. In November 1909 an intense "free speech" struggle broke out in the Eastern Washington city of Spokane between partisans of the Industrial Workers of the World and city and county authorities. At root was the refusal of the city to allow public speaking on the street by union agitators, or the sale of the IWW's new Spokane weekly, The Industrial Worker. Dozens of arrests followed, complete with court cases and counter-suits alleging police violence. This article details the final settlement of the Spokane Free Speech Fight by a negotiating committee of four, including Bill Foster. IWW demands were essentially met and prisoners freed under terms of the agreement, in exchange for a largely ceremonial surrender of an IWW National Organizer, who was fighting extradition from Idaho in the neighboring city of Coeur d'Alene.

"Red Flag Waves at Portland," by J.B. Shea and Ed Gilbert [events of May 1, 1910]  Short participant's account of the 1910 May Day festivities at Portland, Oregon written for the western regional newspaper of the Industrial Workers of the World. Some 3,000 members and friends of the radical movement are said to have marched in a procession through the streets of Portland lasting almost an hour, with the march and rally which followed held under the joint auspices of the IWW, the Socialist Party of Oregon, the Finnish Socialist Federation, and the Portland Latvian Club. Approximately 5,000 had assembled in a downtown park for speeches and singing, which included the unfurling of a red flag. Following the assembly a free dance had been held at the Finnish Socialist Hall, complete with refreshments, capping a successful day of festivities. The writers declare such activities to be "not only affairs of passing notice, but are absolutely necessary to the life of the workers."

"Workers and Racial Hate," by David Burgess [May 19, 1910]   Pioneer Washington Socialist and IWW supporter David Burgess expounds upon racial prejudice in general, and Asian exclusion in particular, in this letter to the Editor of the western regional newspaper of the Industrial Workers of the World. Burgess notes the similarity between the "alluring but deceptive" claim of the inferiority of Chinese and Japanese workers and the calculated use of racial prejudice by Southern capitalists to subdue black workers "insulting" enough to demand "more of their product." In extreme circumstances, so-called "race war" -- actually "a war of extermination, directed against the more rebellious negroes" -- is employed to crush this resistance, Burgess indicates, followed by the calculated use of the Christian message of social peace to subjugate again the disrupted black working class. Working alongside people of other nationalities and races builds "understanding of our mutual interests," Burgess notes. "I assume that it is the duty of the working class to teach the solidarity of the interests of the working class, regardless of the race that some section of the class happens to belong to," he declares.

"Our Bourbon Socialism," by Bruce Rogers [July 30, 1910]  Although sometimes dismissed in the popular imagination as anti-political trade unionists, in fact the Industrial Workers of the World was the organizational home of a significant number of revolutionary socialists, such as the author of this piece, Bruce Rogers. Rogers is harshly critical of Milwaukee Socialist Party leader Victor Berger and his associates, for undercutting the righteous radicalism of party Presidential candidate Gene Debs with promises of compensation for nationalized industry and their "placid" commitment to "reforms only." Reforms, in Rogers' view, "invariably result from economic pressures on the bourgeoisie and so far as the proletariat is considered, their sole effect is to render tolerable if not beautiful the capitalist or wages system." Instead, Rogers states, "revolution comes about because of the economic experience of the working class, and has for its accomplishment the abolition of the wages system and the entire overthrow of capitalism." "The essential difference between a reformer and a revolutionist is that one of them means it," Rogers declares.

"Special News from France," by William Z. Foster [Dec. 8, 1910]  Late in 1909 Left wing Washington Socialist William Z. Foster was dispatched to Spokane to report on an Industrial Workers of the World free speech fight there as a socialist newspaper correspondent. While there he was arrested on the street and served jail time, emerging as a committed member of the IWW. In the fall of 1910 Foster made his way for France to attempt to learn lessons from the ultra-radical, direct action-oriented labor movement there, sending back weekly reports from the scene for the Spokane IWW weekly, the Industrial Worker. This is a representative report by Foster from the pages of that paper. Foster notes that a recent conventional strike of the building trades had failed, but that returning workers had their employers in a tizzy over an organized sabotage campaign involving labor and materials. "The French workers are coming to realize (and to act accordingly) that the way to fight the boss is to put a crimp in his pocketbook, regardless of the means employed," Foster declares, adding "They are learning the valuable lesson that capitalist property is not sacred, but that it is simply stolen goods." Foster asserts that "the capitalist has no more right to retain his capital than the burglar now has to retain his swag, and also the capitalists right to life itself is just as sacred as that of the burglar caught in the act." Once this lesson is absorbed by the working class, "the capitalist system will melt like wax," Foster says.

"The Socialist and Syndicalist Movements in France," by William Z. Foster [Jan. 24, 1911]  Former Socialist turned hardline Syndicalist William Z. Foster takes on a fundamental premise of American socialist ideology in this lengthy article from the IWW press -- the notion that the workers' movement advances through joint party-political and trade union-economic activity. Citing French experience, Foster challenges the idea that political action and direct action are complementary, arguing instead that the intellectual-dominated political movement collaborates with capitalism to expand its own influence at the  expense of the working class economic movement. Political socialism and economic syndicalism are held by Foster to be competing and adversarial tendencies. Politicians of every stripe, including Socialist politicians, are said by Foster to manipulate organized workers under the pretext of helping them. Foster asserts that Syndicalists actually see their movement as self-sufficient, solving their problems successfully by "direct action tactics alone." Rather than attempting to "penetrate" the government to pass ameliorative legislation, as the Socialists would have it, Syndicalist direct action coerces the state into the passage of laws, in Foster's view. Foster calls upon the IWW as an organization to maintain a policy of "strict official neutrality towards all political parties" and for its members to "vigorously combat the political action theory, be it advocated by the SP or any other 'party.'"

"The Socialist Party and the Militant Program," by James Oneal [April 9, 1932]  After nearly two years of agitation at local and state meetings of the Socialist Party of New York a younger generation of Socialist Party activists emerged as a formal faction in the spring of 1932, issuing their program as a short pamphlet. This is an initial response to that document by New Leader editor and top leader of the Old Guard Jim Oneal. Always the ideological pugilist, Oneal immediately attacks the Militants as an eclectic group of new party members, "neither Left, nor Right, nor Center." These are united by a desire to refuse compromise under any circumstances, in Oneal's telling, as well as to suppress all critical debate about the nature of the Soviet Union. Oneal quotes Lenin and Engels in making his case against what he perceives to be an inconsistent band of neophytes. He cites his own intellectual path from utopian colonizer to impossibilist to party regular as evidence that years of study and experience are necessary before Socialist intellectual development is complete.

"That 'Reactionary' International," by Morris Hillquit [May 7, 1932]  The letter to the editor of The New Leader by Morris Hillquit hints at the personal and generational components of the factional battle between young insurgent "Militants" and the veteran "Old Guard" of the Socialist Party of America. Hillquit takes umbrage at the claims of Boston Militant Alfred Baker Lewis that every weakness and compromise of foreign socialist parties found ready apologists in America, "headed intellectually" by Morris Hillquit. Making use of his mastery of understatement and irony, Hillquit explains the American Socialist delegation's decision to support a less than fully satisfactory disarmament resolution jointly adopted by the Labor and Socialist International and the International Federation of Trade Unions. Hillquit reveals not only that he was the author an American position statement that Baker had accused him of ignoring, but an extensive excerpt of the 1931 LSI Congress stenogram is reproduced in which Hillquit explicitly specified the American delegation's dissatisfaction with the final resolution's timidity. Baker's histrionics are demolished, but the intellectual tension between the two emerging factions is readily apparent.

"Keynote Speech to the 1932 Socialist Party Convention," by Morris Hillquit [May 21, 1932Socialist Party National Chairman Morris Hillquit lights up a room full of delegates and guests in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with this keynote address to the assembly. President Hoover is derided as "ludicrously incompetent" to deal with the economic meltdown, with his platitudes and financial stunt targeted to the financial community rather than suffering unemployed workers. The alternative of Franklin Roosevelt is seen as bringing to the table only a small injection of "innocuous liberalism." In reality, Hillquit declares, "we are witnessing today is nothing less than the complete bankruptcy of capitalism," with both the old parties having proved themselves unequal to the magnitude of the catastrophe. Hillquit calls for an end to high tariffs and the cancellation of uncollectable war debts as small steps towards "a radically remodeled, new, sane and equitable social order."

"Hillquit Again National Chairman: Dramatic Session Ends in His Re-election," by James Oneal [event of May 23, 1932]  One perplexing aspect of the eventful 1932 Socialist Party convention was the pitting of the staid Mayor of Wisconsin, Dan Hoan, against New York party icon Morris Hillquit as the candidate of the New York-based Militant faction's insurgency. This article by staunch Hillquit supporter Jim Oneal provides some illumination: the two candidates had personal friends in both camps, Oneal indicates, with the race for the figurehead National Chairman position largely symbolic of the programmatic division within party ranks. Hoan, seemingly a half-hearted supporter of the effort to unseat Hillquit, did not even take the rostrum during the convention debate. Hillquit seems to intimate a deeper division that personal vendetta, however, calling his Militant-and-Milwaukee opponents an "unholy alliance working against why I and my friends stand for." For his party, Hillquit declared himself a Marxist and an international socialist, mocking one supporter of Hoan as an unsophisticated neophyte.

"The Socialist Party Convention Day-by Day," by Edward Levinson [events of May 21-24, 1932Detailed first-hand journalistic account of the 1932 National Convention of the Socialist Party of America, held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Although this convention marked the first national appearance of the so-called Militant faction, the gathering seems to have been a lively but ultimately amicable affair, marked by the reelection of Morris Hillquit as National Chairman in a contest against the combined forces of the young Militants and the Milwaukee party organization. A hotly debated resolution of the Soviet Union supported by the Militants narrowly passed, as did a resolution calling for the end of liquor prohibition. Norman Thomas was nominated for President and James Maurer for Vice-President amidst convention delegate tomfoolery for a national radio audience. Includes extracts of speeches by Louis Waldman, Morris Hillquit, and Norman Thomas, as well as a complete listing of the new 11 member NEC and the 5 elected alternates.


The URL of this page is http://www.marxisthistory.org/subject/usa/eam/13-05.html