Update 14-07: Sunday, February 16, 2014.
"Bellamy Beamings," by O.A. Tveitmoe [Feb. 4, 1899] Much enthusiasm but few concrete details are provided here by a member of the little-known "Bellamy Colony" of rural Toledo, Oregon, established in the spring of 1898. Tveitmore intimates that the going in the colony's first 10 months had been difficult, hampered by the "furious and ignoble attacks of the enemy and still more so the infernal machinations of cowardly traitors." Provisions for the colony had be bought at wholesale rates in the neighboring coastal town of Newport. The need for a planned production and trade between the various socialistic colonies of the Pacific Northwest via a line of steamers to be owned by the cooperative brotherhood. The economic mechanism to allow the establishment of such a line is not specified. It seems that bitter dissension was part of the Bellamy Colony's daily life, as Tveitmoe declares that "malcontents and crackers are omnipresent and 'driftwood' is found in the finest stream." Nevertheless, he insists the colonists will fight onward since "Nothing but hard, rational, practical work with brains and muscles will ever solve this question!"
"Colony Life in Washington," by Walter O. Griggs [May 20, 1899] Sympathetic outsider's appraisal of "Equality Colony," the first and most significant socialist enclave started by the Brotherhood of the Cooperative Commonwealth. Griggs, apparently a visitor from California, notes that on the untamed land of rural Skagit Co., Washingtoin, "a little band of 220 souls are trying to solve the industrial problem in a small way by substituting cooperation for competition." Griggs notes that on 605 acres of land the cooperators had established a "saw mill, printery, cooperative kitchen and dining rooms." Cabbage was farmed and sauerkraut made for the market, Griggs states. Turnover of members was high due in part to difficult conditions, which Griggs in a moment of understatement "lacks a whole lot of being a paradise, or a Bellamy ideal." Those making a successful go of life were not those who rode in "on the high tide of their own emotions," since "they can’t stand the wreck of their air castles." Rather it was the "cool, calculating, level-headed sort" who tended to succeed. The colonists worked 9 hour days, being credited 45 cents a day -- less a $2 per week deduction for room and board. The colony only made two expulsions in its first 16 months, according to Griggs -- one of a foul-tempered woman, another of a large family headed by two "invalid" parents. The family's fate is not specified.
"Eugene V. Debs -- Hail and Farewell! A Statement on His Death by the International Labor Defense," by James P. Cannon [event of Oct. 20, 1926] Despite the bitter internecine warfare between the rightward-trending Socialist Party of America and the ever-more-shrill and doctrinaire Workers (Communist) Party, SPA leader Eugene V. Debs remained a figure held in high esteem in the opposing camp, as this short memorial by Jim Cannon indicates. "The prisoner of Woodstock and Atlanta was close kin to all persecuted and imprisoned workers," Cannon writes. "Comrade Debs was not one of those who shrug shoulders at the imprisonment of workers as though it were a matter of small concern. He burned with indignation at ever case of capitalist persecution and was always in the vanguard of the fight for its victims, whoever they might be and whatever their political views or affiliations." Cannon declares that Debs "had nothing in common with these elements represented by the Jewish Daily Forward who fire from ambush at the movement for united labor defense. He helped to build where they try to disrupt." Debs remained on the National Committee of the ILD until his death, Cannon notes.
"SDF Calls Convention at Pittsburgh, May 29," by James Oneal [event of Feb. 7, 1937] First-hand report of the "Eastern State Conference of Social Democratic Organizations," called by the Socialist Party of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia on Feb. 7, 1937. The gathering brought together representatives of Old Guard-dominated Socialist Parties which had left the Socialist Party of America's orbit, including in addition to Pennsylvania the states of Connecticut, Maryland, and District of Columbia; parts of the Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey organizations; and the Finnish and Yiddish-language Federations. A 7 member committee on arrangements and finance was named as was a committee to draft a formal convention call. The main item of debate related to independent political action vs. participation in labor parties where possible, with Darlington Hoopes of PA and Jim Oneal of NY representing the two perspectives most aggressively. Oneal estimates the membership of the SDF at between 6,000 and 8,000 -- including the two powerful federations and states not yet affiliated with the fledgling organization; the Norman Thomas Socialist Party he estimates at 3,000 members of less. The date of the proposed National Convention was moved from March to May 29-31.
"Exclusive Story of SP Convention Shows Collapse: Party Disintegrating and in Complete Control of Communists, Milwaukee Delegate Writes," by Frederic Heath [events of March 26-29, 1937] Pioneer Milwaukee Socialist and founding member of the Socialist Party Frederic Heath offers a disillusioned and bitter account of the tumultuous 1937 national convention of the Socialist Party of America in Chicago. He and his moderate Wisconsin comrades had "felt as if they had blundered into an alien gathering to which they did not belong," he writes in a convention account for the New York Social Democratic Federation weekly, The New Leader. The first day of the gathering had been a shock, "surrounded by leering, victorious Communists who have made a complete capture of the movement we have given much of our lives to help build up," Heath notes. The fact that the convention had been placed "completely in the control of the enemy" was "a miracle that had been made possible by the arch betrayer, Norman Thomas," in Heath's estimation. A second part of the account, written two days later is more sanguine. Instead of seeing himself as part of a minority against a monolith in a 75-25 delegate split, Heath writes of delegates who were "not Communists in fact who had been stung by the direct actionists’ tsetse bug" and who attempted compromise with the Wisconsin delegation, including 2 designated seats on their forthcoming 15 seat NEC. The ultimate way the Socialist Party of Wisconsin would proceed in the wake of the expulsion of the Old Guard New York organization and departure of the Pennsylvania and Connecticut organizations from the SPA was not yet known, Heath indicates. "There will be no relish, to state it mildly, for a national party with a shipload of Communist pirates aboard and manning the guns," he remarks.
"Peoples’ Party Name Dropped at Convention: Will Act Only as the New York State Branch of Social Democratic Federation (New Leader) [March 27-28, 1937] With a regional conference completed and a formal national convention on the calendar, the former Old Guard Socialist Party of New York -- constituted as the "People's Party" since its 1936 expulsion from the SPA -- voted in March 1937 to formally rename itself as the New York state section of the Social Democratic Federation of America. The convention, held in New York City and attended by approximately 100 delegates from around the state, also voted to formally place its electoral efforts in the hands of the strictly trade union-controlled American Labor Party. Recommendations were adopted for establishment of a permanent 5 person committee to supervise a two-pronged youth movement, including both children's' and junior sections and for establishment of a network of "women's clubs" for educational and organizational purposes. Keynote speech was delivered by Louis Waldman, state chairman of the organization. The delegates were also addressed by Abrahan Cahan of the Forward, who expressed satisfaction with the political direction of the SDF in abandoning the radical-dominated Socialist Party. (A short snippet elsewhere in the Leader indicated that Local New York City of the SDF had 44 branches at the time of the name change.)
"SDF is Launched at Convention of 19 States: Organization Formed to Serve as Instrument for Socialism and Basis for National Labor Party." (New Leader) [events of May 29-31, 1937] Participant's account of the first national convention of the Social Democratic Federation, organization formed by Old Guard dissidents who split from the Socialist Party of America. Held the weekend of May 29-30 in Pittsburgh, the SDF convention was established around a bulwark of four state party organizations: the expelled Old Guard structure of New York (about half the former SP organization there), the Socialist Party of Pennsylvania, the Socialist Party of Connecticut, and a large section of the former SP organization from the state of Massachusetts. Smaller party organizations came in full from Maryland and Rhode Island, with scattered elements from more than a dozen states. The Jewish Socialist Verbund seems to have come over as a group; the Finnish Socialist Federation and the powerful (and moderate) Socialist Party of Wisconsin only sent observers -- certainly a major blow to the group's hopes for a successful launch. This enthusiastic account notes that individual states were left free to (1) keep their historic party names; and (2) deal with local alliances with fledgling labor parties as best they saw fit. "On a wider, national scale, the National Executive Committee will seek to bring about unification of all labor and progressive forces aiming at the formation of a Labor Party or a Farmer-Labor Party with a program clearly social in purpose," the reporter notes. Mayor Jasper McLevy of Bridgeport, CT was elected National Chairman and a 9 member National Executive Committee elected to govern the organization. This group met for the first time at Pittsburgh on May 31 to continue constructing the organizational form and to draft an agenda for political, labor, and propaganda work, the writer states. Counting the National Chairman, the NEC consisted of 2 each from New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and 1 member from Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, and Illinois -- another expression of the new organization's center of numerical strength.
"Social Democrats Combine in New National Federation: Pittsburgh Meet Paves Road for Rebirth of Party." (New Leader) [events of May 29-30, 1937] Participant's account of the first national convention of the Social Democratic Federation, providing detail about activities of the assembly during its two days of sessions. An extensive extract of the keynote address of Louis Waldman is provided. The Socialist Party was characterized by Waldman as "the betrayers of Socialist ideals," incapacitated by internal factional warfare, hiding itself from public view to conceal the bitterness of the struggle and what he believed to be the fact that the Trotskyist wing had captured the organization. The Social Democratic Federation, on the other hand, would resume the policy of cooperating with trade union progressives and others working towards independent political action through state and local labor parties, Waldman indicated. Fascist and Communist dictatorship was denounced, and division of the American trade union movement between the AFL and CIO organizations regretted by Waldman. Various resolutions and initiatives of the SDF are discussed, including greetings sent to the Labor and Socialist International, with a view to eventual affiliation.
"The Pittsburgh Declaration of Principles: Adopted by the National Convention of the Social Democratic Federation, May 30, 1937." Formal programmatic document of the newly established Social Democratic Federation of the United States of America at its founding convention in Pittsburgh, May 29-30, 1937. The shadow of the Socialist Party, from whence it sprung, looms large in the organization's emphasis on formal legality. "Property institutions are the creatures of law," the document observes, "By law they have been changed in ages past, and by law they can and must be changed in the years to come." This must be the product of democratic practice, the SDF contends, as "no dictatorship, whatever its avowed purpose, can be trusted to bring liberty, plenty, and peace. The institutions of political democracy must be defended and improved in order that economic and social life may be democratized." A laundry list of ameliorative reform suggestions is presented, with socialization of mass production industry projected as a multi-year process of "systematic transformation of private profit-making capital into socially owned means of production for use." Industries at the top of the agenda for socialization included armaments, transportation, communications, and electrical production and distribution. Industries were to be brought under public ownership "as a general rule" through compensation rather than expropriation, the declaration of principles notes.
"NEC Maps Program for Social Democratic Federation: SDF Constitution Protects States." (New Leader) [June 5, 1937] Cursory discussion of the features of the new constitution of the Social Democratic Federation of the United States of America. A return is made to the Socialist Party's original model of "state autonomy" -- the SDF was in a very real sense a federation of largely autonomous state and local groups. At the same time, the original slogan of "No Compromise, No Political Trading" was cast aside: Under the new constitution, state and local affiliates of the SDF were given authority to "adopt another name where necessary or desirable for political purposes." These affiliates were also free to cooperate with labor parties engaging in political action independent of other political organizations. Thus in Pennsylvania the SDF affiliate would remain called the Socialist Party of Pennsylvania, running its own candidates, while in New York it would be the New York State Section of the Social Democratic Federation, working hand-in-glove with the slate of candidates of the trade union-controlled American Labor Party. A system of internal elections and highly centralized collective leadership was established in which delegated annual national conventions were to directly elect a 9 member National Executive Committee, which was in turn to select the organization's National Secretary to serve at the NEC's pleasure. Minimum age for party membership was set at 21. The idea of a youth section was advanced, with members of these junior organizations to be strictly limited to under the age of 21 and to remain under the close supervision and control of the adult organizations in their territories. The die was thus cast for a safe-and-secure, stodgy organization, as befit the Old Guard's tastes and values in the aftermath of the Socialist Party's generational revolt.