Update 13-17: Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013.
"The Workers Party Convention: Chicago -- Dec. 30, 1923 to Jan. 2, 1924," by Philip Kerr Reformatted edition. First-hand account of the third national convention of the Workers Party written by an activist in the rival Proletarian Party of America. Kerr calls the WPA a "aggregation, permeated...with many contradictions and conflicting views," with an officialdom intent on casting their activities before the Comintern as a success in order to maintain their jobs. Executive Secretary C.E. Ruthenberg is depicted as the head cheerleader, offering a "glowing eulogy" of the organization's activities, proclaiming the "dying Trade Union Educational League" to be a "gigantic success." Kerr charges the WPA with "bungling tactics" in relation to the July 1923 Farmer-Labor Party convention, the chances of success of which are said to have been destroyed by the Communists' convention-packing activities. Reported memberships of both the Federated Farmer-Labor Party and the TUEL are said to have been grossly inflated by the "common opportunists and tricksters" of the WPA, Kerr charges. Kerr characterizes the dominant Foster-Cannon faction has having "strong syndicalist tendencies," while the Pepper-Ruthenberg faction are called "rank opportunists." A reduction of the size of the governing Central Executive Committee from 28 members to 13 is noted.
"Defense Audit Shows Deficit Hampers Work: Ruthenberg Appeal is Big New Task." (Daily Worker) [Jan. 23, 1924] The Labor Defense Committee (LDC) was the second legal defense of the American Communist movement, established to raise bail and defense funds and to generate public sympathy for those arrested at the ill-fated August 1922 convention of the underground CPA held amidst the sand dunes of Bridgman, Michigan. This Daily Worker article notes that after 15 months of existence the LDC's fundraising was failing to keep pace with expenses, with a deficit showing of nearly $5,000, despite more than $110,000 previously raised. The vast majority of these funds, $75,000 in all, had gone into legal fees and expenses defending the cases of William Z. Foster and C.E. Ruthenberg. The 32 "staunch fighters of the working class" in legal trouble in connection with the Bridgman Convention had been saved from prison thus far, but more funds were urgently needed for the appeal of the conviction of Executive Secretary C.E. Ruthenberg, the article notes.
"Lenin," by John Keracher [February 1924] Short eulogy by the head of the impossiblist Proletarian Party of America saluting the recently-deceased leader of the Russian Revolution, V.I. Ulianov (N. Lenin). Keracher calls Lenin "the greatest tactician of the actual living class struggle -- the man of action" and places him beside Karl Marx, "he greatest theoretician and philosopher of Proletarian Revolution." He credits Lenin for recognizing the necessity of state power to defend the revolution and a willingness to set aside "fine phrases about liberty, justice, freedom of speech, and democracy." Although Lenin's death is regarded as an "immeasurable loss to the Russian Revolution and to the international movement of the working class," nevertheless Lenin's "life and work should prove a example and source of inspiration to every true revolutionist," Keracher declares. The word "Leninism" does not enter Keracher's discourse at this juncture.
"Our Attitude Towards the Third Party," by Max Bedacht [Feb. 2, 1924] Still smarting from a factional defeat at the 3rd National Convention of the Workers Party of America, Pepper-Ruthenberg factional partisan Max Bedacht produced this lengthy defense of the WPA's Third Party strategy. He mocks the assertion of Ludwig Lore's Newyorker Volkszeitung that the new Foster faction-led Central Executive Committee represents a victory for radicalism, noting the instrumental importance of the Finnish Federation and the intellectuals of the Lore group in the win. Bedacht defends the November 1923 theses of the CEC on the Third Party, connecting the simultaneous and parallel battles of the lower middle class to free itself from big capital and the working class to free itself from the capitalist class as a whole. He challenges the idea of Lore and the anti-Third Party forces that the radical farmers' movement is inherently reactionary. To the contrary, the coming convention of the Farmer-Labor Party in St. Paul represents an opportunity for the WPA, according to Bedacht. "The Communists want a clear separation of workers and poor farmers from the Third Party, and in this way from the political leadership of the middle class," he says, with the possibility of winning the day at the convention and thereby "consolidating the workers and poor farmers...into a political united front on a class basis with a realistic class program."
"Recommendations to the American Commission," submitted by William Z. Foster and James P. Cannon [circa April 15, 1924] Set of 13 theses presented by leaders of the Majority faction of the Workers Party of America, William Z. Foster and James P. Cannon. This document demonstrates that there was support on the ground for the "Bolshevization" of the WPA by moving from a territorial and language-based form of organization to one based upon shop nuclei -- a switch which would have enormous impact upon the membership size and ethnic composition of the WPA after implementation of the scheme in 1925. Foster and Cannon call for the bringing of the entire party press under direct ownership and control -- a move which would similarly have a dramatic impact on the party when actually implemented in 1930-31. The Majority faction calls for formal condemnation of the notion of the Pepper Minority that there was a direct path of transformation on the horizon to convert a future "Left Wing Labor Party" into a "mass Communist Party," noting that even if successful the tactic would result in the formation of dual Communist parties. Foster and Cannon also, unsurprisingly, call for a "manifold" increase in the WPA's trade union work, including a requirement backed by party discipline for party members to join trade unions in their fields. Foster and Cannon also call for the identification and promotion of actual workers at the bench into the CEC as a means of "proletarianizing" the party -- a move which would, incidentally, have shifted the balance of power away from the "New York intellectuals" of the Pepper-Ruthenberg-Lovestone faction towards the trade union-oriented Chicago faction of Foster and Cannon. A detailed call for the liquidation of factionalism is somewhat disingenuously appended.
"Speech to the American Commission of ECCI: Moscow -- April 29, 1924," by William Z. Foster Gargantuan 10,000 word speech made to a special American Commission held in Moscow in connection with the 4th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI. Foster responds at length to the previous speech of Moissaye Olgin (made in German), an advocate of disassociation of the Workers Party of America from further machinations around the emerging "Third Party" perking around the potential Presidential candidacy of Sen. Robert LaFollette. Foster's presentation clarifies one of the least precise elements of Theodore Draper's second book, details of the political struggle and the factional situation around the Farmer-Labor Party, the Federated Farmer-Labor Party, the Conference for Progressive Political Action, and the potential "Third Party" of 1924. In short: 1. The Pepper-Ruthenberg-Lovestone and Foster-Cannon factions seem to have been largely united around the idea of entering the Third Party movement in order to finesse a split of its proletarian rank-and-file from its "petty bourgeois" leadership. 2. The battle over convention dates was not an aspect of this factional fight, but rather an effort to navigate around a potential LaFollette candidacy. The Communists wanted to go early (May 30) in order to name a labor candidate such as Bill Dunne ahead of a scheduled Republican Party convention and its anticipated split of the LaFollette "progressives," while the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party with which the WPA had made alliance wanted to go late (July 4) so as to join and bolster the anticipated LaFollette boom. The date June 17 was selected as a compromise to avoid a premature split that would have isolated the Communists. 3. Objections to the Third Party tactic revolved around the perceived lack of size and discipline of the Communist movement to enter and effectively control such a Third Party movement as well as that movement's orientation to farmers rather than workers. 4. Foster's perspective as to the possibility of the Third Party movement winning state power and the chances of the Third Party tactic actually generating a mass Communist Party is more or less realistic -- it was all a long shot. Foster is not married to the idea that the FFLP-supported June 17 Convention will necessarily be more radical than the CPPA-supported July 4 Convention, arguing that the former might be swamped by a sudden and massive entry of LaFollette forces, which he regards as antithetical to the party's mission.
"Speech to the American Commission of ECCI: Moscow -- May 6, 1924," by William Z. Foster Thirty minute speech by de facto Workers Party leader William Z. Foster to the American Commission of ECCI held in advance of the 5th World Congress of the Communist International. Although in agreement on tactics of the WPA towards projected Third Party Movement of Robert M. LaFollette, there is plenty of room for bad blood and factional polemics in this reply to the speech of John Pepper. Foster denies that he is a syndicalist, reemphasizes his belief that party work in the trade unions is underemphasized, and denies Pepper's charge that Foster's intent is to forge an alliance with the trade union bureaucracy of the AF of L. He also scoffs at Pepper's attempt to associate him with the semi-social democratic views of Newyorker Volkszeitung editor Ludwig Lore. Foster attacks the central idea of Pepper's "August Theses" of 1923 that a left wing Farmer-Labor Party can be created and transformed into a mass Communist Party. The failure of the united front policy in Chicago, ending in the split of John Fitzpatrick of the Chicago Federation of Labor from the Federated Farmer-Labor Party was not the fault of the Chicago-based Foster faction since the CEC was completely apprised and completely supportive of every tactic pursued, Foster says. Indeed, Foster says he was opposed to the break with Fitzpatrick, as "largely a manufactured split." "We split with one group of so-called progressive trade unionists to go into another group just as bad, if not worse," Foster declares. Foster does continue to hold out hope that the Farmer-Labor movement can be put into action against the Gompers bureaucracy, however. He cautions that ECCI "must be very careful before you give us a program of splitting the June 17th Convention with a left split. If you do, the Communist Party of America is going to be thrown back, is going to be detached form the masses, and its work is going to be greatly hampered, not for a few months, as Olgin says, but for a long time to come."
"Speech to the American Commission of ECCI: Moscow -- May 7, 1924," by Karlis E. Janson This contribution to the debate on the political situation in the Workers Party of America at the American Commission of ECCI was made by of the key founding figures of the American Communist movement, the Latvian-born revolutionary Karlis Janson, better known by his Americanized name "Charley Johnson." This document is an esoteric contribution to Janson's biography, including: 1. Janson's background in America as having been employed for about 15 years as skilled worker in the (Boston) shipyards. 2. The Profintern functionary Janson's obvious antipathy to Jozsef Pogany/John Pepper. 3. Janson's having been moved from work as one of three members of the "American Agency" of the Comintern to work helping to establish the fledgling Communist Party of Canada. Janson challenges the commonly-held notion that the highly paid "labor aristocracy" were American-born, noting from his own experience that skill and education was related to salary and that in the shipyards such workers were apt to be Germans or Latvians rather than American-born. Janson argues that certain unions, such as the Machinists and the Garment Workers, were reachable by the Communist Party and he advocates a strict Labor Party orientation in the United States and Canada rather than an attempt to cobble together a Farmer-Labor alliance.
"Message from the Central Executive Committee of the Workers Party of America in Chicago to the Executive Committee of the Communist International in Moscow re: Leon Trotsky’s Book 1917 and the Newyorker Volkszeitung." [circa Dec. 20, 1924] Several main contenders for the leadership of Soviet Russia in the year after the death of V.I. Lenin rushed to validate their intellectual credentials through the publication of collected works by the State Publishing House. Leon Trotsky added accelerant to the factional fires with the addition of a polemic introduction, "Lessons of October," to the third volume of his Sochineniia, entitled 1917. This short document illustrates the nature of the international campaign the "old guard" leadership of the Russian Communist Party and their acolytes around the world to squelch the "deviation of Comrade Trotsky and his followers" through prohibition of the American Communist press from publishing from the book serially or in excerpt. As part of the American factional war, Pepper Faction pugilist Jay Lovestone falsely accused Ludwig Lore's Newyorker Volkszeitung of having violated the proscription against publishing from 1917. This message to ECCI from the CEC of the Workers Party clarifies the error -- it was not 1917 being published serially in the New York Communist German daily, but rather a translation of Trotsky's book O Lenine. This work, the CEC contends to a no doubt approving audience in Moscow, was "in many respects as objectionable from the point of view of Leninism as is the book 1917." The CEC promises a "systematic ideological campaign of education of our membership" as the "best antidote to Trotskyism and other opportunist deviations from Comintern policy."