Update 14-02: Sunday, January 12, 2014.

"The Eight-Hour Movement," by T. Wharton Collens [Aug. 1868]   This article by a supporter of a Missouri Icarian splinter group argues in favor of the newly emerging 8-hour movement. "While the Communist sees clearly that this reform cannot be realized under the present selfish and iniquitous organization of society and government, he also sees in the eight-hour movement a protest against the excessive burdens imposed upon the toilers, and a determined tendency towards the true solution of the social problem," Collens declares. He argues that in order to succeed the 8-hour movement needs to move from an orientation towards urban workers (mechanics) alone, but should include also "agriculturalists" in its appeal. While advocating for this immediate reform, Collens nevertheless professes the necessity of a universalist solution: "The only platform on which mechanics and tillers of the soil can stand together, fairly and equally, is Communism; for in Communism abides the remedy for all social wrong."

"'Socialism is the Only Remedy': An Interview with Eugene V. Debs, Woodstock Jail -- June 26, 1895."   This interview with imprisoned American Railway Union leader Eugene Debs by a reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer reveals Debs as a fully committed socialist by the time he left jailhouse doors: "Socialism is the only remedy. The philosophy of cooperation is rational, humane, and all-embracing, and I subscribe to it without reservation. The trend is toward the cooperative commonwealth. It is the hope of the world." Debs declares his faith in the inevitability of socialism, "as certain as the earth revolves upon its axis," and looks for it "soon after the sunrise of the 20th Century."

"The Truth About Colonies," by Herbert N. Casson [March 10, 1900]   Older, wiser, and $1,000 poorer, veteran of the Ruskin utopian socialist colony in Tennessee Herbert Casson attempts to prevent others from repeating his mistakes with this article in the Appeal to Reason, published by fellow Ruskin defector Julius Wayland. Miserable food, pathetic lodging, and disaffected fellow inmates are what are in store for those attempting to make their way into the woods to attempt to carve out a utopia. "There is not today, and there never has been, a single successful socialist colony in America," Casson emphasizes. Not only Ruskin but the Equality Colony in Washington state and the Christian Commonwealth of Georgia suffer identically miserable conditions, Casson says. All attempt to put up hand-labor against machine-labor, "which is like arming soldiers with bows and arrows against men with Mausers." Casson charges that all "ignore the value of specialists in production, and thus produce an inferior quality of goods. They can find no market except by appealing to the sympathy of socialists, who buy their stuff for the sake of the 'cause.'" He declares that his fellow "evolutionary socialists" have "no right to huddle together, as if we were saints and all other folks were sinners. We should rather stay with the crowd, teach them what we know, and learn more."

"Competition vs. Cooperation: Speech delivered at Central Music Hall, Chicago, IL -- Sept. 29, 1900," by Eugene V. Debs   This speech launched the 1900 candidacy of Eugene Debs for President of the United States under the banner of the Social Democratic Party of America. Debs takes aim at the Republican and Democratic parties, calling the former the party of big capital and the latter the party of petty capital and asserting no fundamental difference between the two, both being for continuation of the wage system of capitalism even if they disagreed on the question of imperialism. To this was opposed the new Socialist organization, representing the working class and "declaring in favor of collective ownership of the means of production" as the only possible solution to unemployment and chronic economic stagnation. Debs holds up radical abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and Elijah Lovejoy as role models, noting that in their time they were subjected to severe criticism and physical attack, only to be acknowledged as heroes by a later generation. Debs appeals for support in the voting booth, declaring that "It is infinitely better to vote for freedom and fail than to vote for slavery and succeed." He sees "wage slavery" as a comparable modern evil to the chattel slavery defeated by the abolition movement and argues that only socialism provides an escape, professing "absolute confidence" in achieving a socialist future.

"Ruskin College: The American Side of  the Oxford Movement." (Appeal to Reason) [June 1, 1901]   Short blurb promoting Walter Vrooman's new adult education facility, Ruskin College, located in the small town of Trenton, Missouri and modeled after Vrooman's similarly-named endeavor in Oxford, England. The $40,000 building was located on a 1500 acre farm and was the site not only of standard academic classes but also vocational activities, including a carpentry shop, farming, and sewing. The school was loose and unstructured: "There is no ironclad curriculum; on the contrary, the course is at all times subject to change and improvement, thus offering many advantages over the old-fashioned way. this plan, one can readily see, is conducive to growth on the part of the faculty, and stimulates and brings forth their best effort." End degree was a Bachelor of Arts, the blurb indicates. Includes a color photo of the building as it appears today (largely unchanged, it would seem.)

"The Unity Convention," by Walter Thomas Mills [Aug. 1, 1901]   Short report regarding the formation of the Socialist Party by socialist orator and correspondence school administrator Walter Thomas Mills. The 150 delegates in attendance at Indianapolis represented a membership of 12,000, Mills observes, adding that the work over the four days of the convention had been earnest and unmarred by personal strife. "The new constitution provides for state autonomy, there is to be no national organ, each organized state will carry on its own propaganda, each state will furnish its own share of the national funds in its own way — with or without dues as it may elect," Mills notes. He indicates that party headquarters will be in St. Louis, MO -- not an irrational choice as it was at the time the 4th largest city in America with a massive German-American population. Leon Greenbaum had been chosen as the group's first National Secretary, Mills remarks.

"Decoy Ducks and Quack Remedies," by Leon Greenbaum [Aug. 10, 1901]   Pamphlet-length propaganda article by St. Louis trade unionist Leon Greenbaum, the first Executive Secretary of the newly formed Socialist Party of America. Greenbaum explains the relationship between mechanization in industry and unemployment and holds up Socialism as the only possible way for the working class to escape from an increasingly grim "wage slavery." Greenbaum particularly warns of "independent reform parties" as the "decoy ducks" of the capitalist class, tricking the workers to maintain the wage labor system of capitalism with their temporary and insufficient ameliorative reform proposals, thereby leaving themselves at the mercy of the employers. "In order to rescue the people from the clutches of the capitalist class, we must have public ownership of lands, houses, dry goods, shoes, etc., and all other capital. Then the private capitalist will no longer squeeze us with the profit system. The public will be its own capitalist. It won’t squeeze itself. It will just hug itself for joy," Greenbaum opines. "If you believe in Socialism, vote for it. It will never come any other way," Greenbaum declares.

"The National Committee at Work," by Walter Thomas Mills [Aug. 20, 1901]   Socialist lecturer Walter Thomas Mills pays a visit on Socialist Party Headquarters in St. Louis to find the governing National Committee in session, he reports in this short dispatch to the Appeal to Reason. He finds the one room office occupied by the party to be "large, light, conveniently finished" and the National Committee to be "direct and businesslike." National Organizer Charles Vail was on hand to make a report, fresh from a Western tour, and he reported big meetings everywhere with a trend for former members of the People's Party to join the newly organized SPA, especially in the states of Oregon and Washington. Vail noted that these former Populists shared a common conviction that their party had failed because it tried to reform within the capitalist system, Mills reports.

"A Remarkable Growth: List of Local Branches and Secretaries of the Socialist Party of America Up to Oct. 30, 1901."  Early records relating to the total membership and structure of the Socialist Party of America are sporadic. This listing of "local branches" published in the Appeal to Reason in the fall of 1901 indicates that the framework was more substantial than the "loose federation of 23 state organizations" mentioned in the  literature. Appearing here are the names of "local branches" and their secretaries in 43 states and territories. While most of these names are forgotten, a certain number of these secretaries reappear in Socialist Party history, including State Secretaries James Oneal (Indiana) and Charles H. Kerr (Illinois) as well as local secretaries Julius Gerber (New York City), Emil Herman (Lyman, WA), Anna Maley (Minneapolis), E.N. Richardson (Girard, KS), and Emil Seidel (Renton, WA). As it only took 5 signatures and 5 cents a name dues to the National Office in St. Louis, many of these "local branches" may have been ephemeral. Most developed structures seem to have been in Massachusetts, California, and Washington as well as Wisconsin -- which did not formally register its locals with the National Office until 1905.

"Appeal to Reason Circulation by States." [Nov. 9, 1901] A snapshot of American Socialist organization at the time of formation of the SPA, as expressed in terms of subscriber count to the weekly Appeal to Reason, the largest circulation socialist publication in the country. Although by reputation a semi-populist agrarian-oriented newspaper focused on the Midwest, California tops the subscriber rolls to the Kansas broadsheet, with 8.6% of total subscribers. On a population basis, Washington's nearly 6500 subscribers in a state of approximately 550,000 people means that nearly 1.25% of the state's residents received the Appeal. The Midwest is well represented, including 4 of the top 5 states -- Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas. Penetration of the South, unsurprisingly, is slight.

"Letter to Glen Trimble from Gus Tyler in New York, circa July 15, 1937." A cautionary letter from left socialist and future ILGWU functionary Gus Tyler to his comrade Glen Trimble, who had chosen to cast his lot with the Trotskyists moving to split the Socialist Party of America. Tyler accuses Trimble of dishonesty, noting that the Clarity faction had been consistently in favor of party unity but that the Cannon-Shachtman Appeal faction had lied about the matter and vilified the Clarity-dominated National Executive Committee as a right wing body hand-picked by the conservative Milwaukee organization. Tyler accuses the Trotskyist Appeal faction of "dialectical crookedness" in demanding freedom of agitation when in the minority, fully intending to suppress dissent when in the majority. Tyler charges the Trotskyist foolishly refuse to accept the possibility of multiple correct revolutionary socialist solutions to social and political problems, thereby creating a situation in which "virtually every tactical difference becomes a principled difference; every momentary slip becomes a calculated conspiracy against eternal verity; every non-Trotskyite becomes a reformist, therefore an agent of the bourgeoisie, therefore a counter-revolutionary." Factional disintegration is the inevitable result, Tyler cautions. "Your organization can not gain any influence by basing itself upon the lie that it alone is revolutionary. Other revolutionists won’t believe you, and will despise you for your pious hypocrisy. The workers won’t believe you and will laugh at your splits when they find the time to pay any attention to you at all," Tyler presciently warns.


The URL of this page is http://www.marxisthistory.org/subject/usa/eam/14-02.html