Update 13-13: Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013.
"Formation of the Proletarian Party of America, 1913-1923: Part 1: John Keracher's Proletarian University and the Establishment of the Communist Party of America," by Tim Davenport [May 2011] Setting the table for the first republication of Proletarian Bulletin this month is a short article on the establishment of the Proletarian Party of America written by me in the summer of 2010 following a visit to work the PPA papers at the University of Michigan. This was originally published in May 2011 and will eventually be expanded and polished. Linked here for convenience.
Proletarian Bulletin [January 1933] Graphic pdf. Extremely rare internal bulletin of the Proletarian Party of America. Includes a brief report on the NEC meeting of Dec. 31 1932 to Jan. 3, 1933, held in Detroit. The PPA ran candidates in the Nov. 1932 Michigan elections, it was reported, receiving about 300 votes each. Membership is said to be slightly up from the previous year, but income down since "so many unemployed comrades are on Exempt Stamps" -- a new "Penny-A-Day Fund" is announced to continue the previous "Campaign and Expansion Fund" forward as a new "Expansion Fund." A money-making opportunity is announced in which members are called upon to sell 6 subscriptions to the party's official organ, Proletarian News, for 50 cents each, turning in $2 of the $3 to the National Office. Physical production cost of the paper is revealed as 2 cents per issue for the current size, quality, and print run. New Charles H. Kerr & Co. reprints are announced for The Communist Manifesto, Mary Marcy's Shop Talks on Economics, and Paul Lafargue's The Right to Be Lazy. A convention is called for May 27, 1933 in Detroit. Although delegate travel funds are not guaranteed, a convention fund is announced for delegates traveling from the Atlantic or Pacific Coasts. In conjunction with this, an internal discussion period is announced for Feb. 1 to May 1 in which "any sort of change can be advocated at the Local meetings, or through writing to the Party Bulletin," although discipline remains in force for public events. The party's finances are revealed to be very short, with a treasury balance of negative $50 as of Jan. 1, 1933. "Weekly taxation" of Locals per the constitution is reemphasized: "If you can't send dollars, send times, but send something. Even postal stamps are better than promises."
Proletarian Bulletin [May 1933] Graphic pdf. Extremely rare internal bulletin of the Proletarian Party of America. As the NEC had postponed the forthcoming national convention from May 27 until Labor Day, pre-convention internal discussion was correspondingly extended to Aug. 1. In this connection, veteran party member Charlie O'Brien, now living in Los Angeles, bemoans the general lack of theoretical expertise in the party, pointing to a "mental poverty" of the current 15 member NEC and its Executive Committee, with only one member, Com. Bielskas, having contributed anything of substance to the pre-convention discussion and the rest seemingly having "nothing to offer" and seeking "to learn something from the members." O'Brien advocates election of a new National Secretary and the election of party leader John Keracher instead as NEC member and party organizer. John Davis of Local Flint adds an article on "The Press and the Party," in which he argues against changing the official organ, Proletarian News, to a lighter and more topical publication by reducing its theoretical content. Davis declares the paper's deficiencies in size, content, and frequency reflect general weaknesses of the PPA, not weaknesses of the leadership. Another O'Brien article follows, "Our Party Leadership," in which it is asserted that party leaders should be informed, experienced, consistent, theoretically able, and energetic. Since few have this full set of characteristics in a very small organization like the Proletarian Party, O'Brien advocates the reduction in size of the NEC from 15 to 7 members. A final article by William Heinhuis of Local Elkhart on "Immediate Demands" advises that the PPA stay its impossibilist course, declaring that "'Immediate demands,' when they have for their aim reforms, have no place in a revolutionary party," but instead represent a real danger by watering down the membership of the party. The Proletarian Party, as currently structured, could not even handle a large upsurge in membership, let alone function effectively in a revolutionary situation, Heinhuis asserts.
Proletarian Bulletin [June 1933] Graphic pdf. Extremely rare internal bulletin of the Proletarian Party of America. Financial reports show seven separate funds, the sum of which grew by less than $350 from late April 1933 through the first week of June. Active party locals (11) included: Chicago, IL; Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, and Jackson, MI; San Francisco and Los Angeles, CA; Rochester and Buffalo, NY; Boston, MA; and Elkhart, IN. Small locals (8) also existed in: New York City; Niles, Benton Harbor, and Mecosta County, MI; Hanover, CT; Danville, PA(?); as well as Milwaukee and Mishawaka, WI. Pre-convention discussion continues, with Leo Sherwood of Buffalo listing party shortcomings; R.J. Landgraf of Detroit calling for a training camp for prospective party members; C.M. O'Brien of Los Angeles on "The Negro Problem"; Isidor Tishler of Rochester on the party press; Stanley Novak of Detroit with a list of policy suggestions for the coming convention; three criticisms of other members' articles by Charlie O'Brien; Al Renner of Detroit (soon to be suspended from the party for 6 months in a faction fight) on the need for more specialization and more frequent physical meetings of the NEC; and a short piece by Mary Wright challenging the previous convention's endorsement of the Comintern, advancing the argument that "if the CP of A is rotten, then the CI is no more sound, for the errors we find in the CP of A are carried out under the guidance of the CP."
Proletarian Bulletin [July 1933] Graphic pdf. Extremely rare internal bulletin of the Proletarian Party of America. Financial reports show the seven separate party funds increasing by about $390 during the last three weeks of June 1933 and the first week of July. Pre-convention discussion continues with an opening piece by Morris Prizant of San Francisco on the need to overcome individualism and isolationism in the party and to expand the party's work among the "10 million native born Americans of the negro races." Carl Babbit of Flint, echoes O'Brien's May allegation of the "theoretical poverty" of the Detroit PP organization and defending the traditional refusal of the Proletarian Party to espouse ameliorative reform under capitalism. "The workers in their struggles to improve their conditions under Capitalism can never raise themselves above the level of bourgeois ideology and bourgeois politics," Babbit insists. A major factional split with the Detroit local is foreshadowed in Babbit's article. Babbit adds a second piece responding at length to a previous article by Detroit factional leader Wass. Anthony Bielskas of Grand Rapids offers opinions on the unemployment question, noting the growth and revolutionary potential of organizations of the unemloyed. F. Miller of San Francisco offers views on party discipline. Stanley Novak of Detroit defends the idea that the Proletarian Party has historically favored partial demands for such things as freedom of speech, press, and assembly, if not the reform of capitalism. He notes the Bolshevik use of the slogan "Bread, Peace, and Land" as an effective use of partial demands by a revolutionary organization and argues that similar, carefully chosen partial demands should be advanced by the Proletarian Party.
Proletarian Bulletin [August 1933] Graphic pdf. Extremely rare internal bulletin of the Proletarian Party of America. With the convention scheduled for Labor Day, no financial reports are presented; instead there is final pre-convention discussion. Stanley Novak of Detroit (an adherent of the reform faction) takes on views expressed in print by party regular C.M. O'Brien of Los Angeles, taking the latter to task for a lack of constructive suggestions in his criticism. Novak is also critical of National Secretary John Keracher, accusing him of failing to subjugate his actions to the direction of the National Executive Committee. There is "too great centralization of the Party's work in too few hands," Novak states. Anthony Bielskas of Grand Rapids repeats O'Brien's refrain that the NEC is "a weak one," calling out Novak by name and declaring that the party rank-and-file "should know who to keep as leaders and who to get rid of." John Durbin of Detroit takes a shot at O'Brien for his accusation that the sitting NEC is exemplified by "mental poverty," noting that O'Brien himself has contributed nothing of substance to the party press. Durbin also takes aim at Carl Babbit of Flint, declaring that he has make "plenty of noise" in criticizing Local Detroit, while being "strangely silent" with constuctive suggestions. M.A. Larson of Detroit paints O'Brien as a conservative defender of an undynamic and aging party. He further attempts to gain factional advantage with analysis of economic trends during the depression designed to undercut O'Brien as a theoretician. Party regular Carl Babbit of Flint publishes a lengthy piece on the "Detroit Merry-Go-Round," criticizing the Detroit-based NEC members for failing to express their ideas for party reform in the Proletarian Bulletin and revealing the central factional dispute as a disagreement between National Secretary Keracher and the Detroit-based NEC members. "Because the National Secretary dares to have opinions and ideas opposed to theirs and has the courage to stand on his own feet, they recommend that the office of National Secretary as constituted at present be abolished," Babbit writes, adding ominously: "I think that in the coming Convention these 'babes in the woods' will find out that the other locals in the party will have something to say about how the Party should be run..." Fred West and George Snider of San Francisco offer views on party official organ Proletarian News. They also criticize the policy views of regulars Novak and O'Brien. O'Brien and Novak return fire against their own critics. Jack Gardner of Boston opines on immediate demands. Anthony Bielskas of Grand Rapids offers views on the routing of party speakers.