Update 13-22: Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013.

"Martyring the Socialist Movement," by J. Louis Engdahl [Sept. 23, 1917]  Brief account of the demise of the official organ of the Socialist Party of America, The American Socialist, in the words of its editor. Engdahl indicates that suppression efforts had been ongoing for over two months, beginning when the issues of June 16, 23, and 30 were declared unmailable. Even though these were produced and actually mailed, the bureaucratic ruling as to their unmailability was used as a pretext to cancel the paper's second class mailing privilege, forcing the use of prohibitively expensive rail freight and hand delivery in major cities. Local censorship had been established in Chicago from July 7 to August 11. Efforts were made to obtain new second class permit, to no avail, with the decision arbitrarily delayed in Washington, DC in a transparent effort to financially strangle the paper. A decision to allow the Chicago Eye-Opener to take over the American Socialist subscription list was denied by the Post Office department, which ruled that unless the latter paper was formally terminated, the former would not be allowed to serve its subscribers through its second class permit. The September 5 raid of Socialist Party headquarters and the American Socialist's printer had been the final blow, with the issue dated September 8 still on the press, the decision had been made to immediately terminate the American Socialist and to turn its subscriber list over to the Eye-Opener. Engdahl cites membership and circulation numbers (vaguely exaggerated) and declares that the "persecution contemplated by the Democratic administration tends to swell, rather than shrink, these figures." "What does the Democratic administration hope to accomplish by this latest act of tyranny?" he asks.

"20,000 Socialists Cheer Hillquit’s Peace Demand  at Madison Square: Party Gets Whirlwind Start for Campaign." [event of Sept. 23, 1917]  Less than three weeks after being targeted in a coordinated mass raid by the Department of Justice which ended in the closure of the National Office for two days and suppression of their national newspaper, the Socialist Party launched its biggest electoral effort of 1917. Some 20,000 people defied heavy police presence to pack Madison Square to hear the Socialist candidate for Mayor of New York City, Morris Hillquit. Hillquit observed: "The municipal election in this city will be the only great political contest in the United States since our entry in the war. It will offer the first real opportunity to the greatest community in the country to express its sentiments on war and peace. The verdict of the citizens of New York will be eagerly awaited by the people of the country. Aye! I may say, without exaggeration, by the people of the whole world." In addition to a very extensive direct extract of Hillquit's speech, this 4200 word article includes an extended quotation from the speech of SPA party attorney Seymour Stedman, who expressed the interest of Chicago and the West in the New York mayoral campaign.

"Letter to William F. Kruse in Chicago from Joseph M. Coldwell in Atlanta Federal Penitentiary." [written before June 24, 1921]  This letter from Socialist political prisoner Joseph Coldwell to Bill Kruse, head of the party's youth section, summarizes the frustration of Comintern-friendly radicals in an increasingly conservative SPA. "Just now I am without a home, politically," Coldwell writes, "as I cannot quite go the CP and the SP, as constituted at present, does not come up to my ideas of what a working class party should be. I believe in political action, based on working class needs, and backed up by a class-conscious membership." He wishes Kruse and party editor Louis Engdahl success at the forthcoming party convention: "Personally, I hope you and Engdahl will succeed in having the convention adopt a sane policy. The latest Van Lear fiasco should be a good argument against the old pure and simple policy. We have had too many politicians of that type in the party. Politicians who looked upon the securing of public office as the goal, the Lunn type, seems to predominate the party."

"Socialists Open Convention  in Detroit Today: Delegates Gather at 10 This Morning to Deal with Vital Problems of Party -- NEC on Scene," by William M. Fiegenbaum [June 24, 1921]  With yet another left wing split in the wind, delegates to the 1921 Socialist Party convention assembled in Detroit in an attempt to stabilize the floundering organization. New York Call reporter William Morris Fiegenbaum was on the scene to report the situation to the Socialist daily's readers. A break of the Bohemian (Czech) language federation and some portion of the Chicago organization over failure to affiliate with the Communist International was anticipated -- a split which was estimated by Fiegenbaum to potentially remove another 200 to 300 members from the SPA's dwindling ranks. An end to the SPA's foreign language federations was predicted by Fiegenbaum: "When there were a few federations, with a tenth of the party membership, there wasn’t any trouble; but when the federations had 55 percent of the membership there was a lot of trouble." Fiegenbaum felt that the Finnish Federation was in favor of ending the old semi-autonomous federation system, while Frank Petrich of the Yugoslav (Slovenian) Federation was bitterly opposed. Adding to the confusion was the fact that the SPA was flat broke. National Secretary Otto Branstetter was "worried nearly sick over the party’s finances," and was faced with the task of getting "the convention over with and [getting] the delegates sent home. And with an empty treasury it is no mean job."


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