Update 14-10: Sunday, March 9, 2014.
"On Liquor and Prohibition," by Eugene V. Debs [Feb. 2, 1916] Citing personal experiences gained during his seven years of frequent residency in the dry state of Kansas, Gene Debs offers a pragmatic view of prohibition and the liquor question. This article, originally written for his hometown newspaper, was part of an ongoing debate over the liquor question between Debs and a local Methodist minister. Debs argues forcefully that prohibition leads to the closure of otherwise healthy businesses and the consequent decrease of tax revenues, while at the same time boosting costs of government operation. Moreover, prohibition only leads to an illegal economy, Debs indicates: "There are 19 prohibition states in the country and every one of them swarming with bootleggers; not one of them in which you cannot buy all the whiskey you want if you have the money to pay for it. There is not an actually dry county in all these states and there never will be." As for the social gains of prohibition, Debs states these are non-existent, there being "not a particle of difference between so-called wet and dry states so far as the workers are concerned." Debs argues that only the elimination of profit from the liquor trade and its operation by the state would eliminate the ill effects associated with the industry, citing the late temperance leader Frances Willard's belief that the economic system which causes exploitation and poverty was the root cause of drunkenness and Socialism the solution.
"Preparedness Will Crush You," by Eugene V. Debs [April 8, 1916] Accusing steel magnates Charles Schwab and Andrew Carnegie of being the vocal nucleus of the so-called "preparedness" movement, Socialist leader Gene Debs warns his readers of the future effects of militarism in their daily lives. For the industrialists "the more preparedness the more profit," declares Debs, adding that "If war follows preparedness, as intended, all the better." But for the working class preparedness was, in Debs' view, "a fraud and a sham in so far as it means an army and navy controlled by the capitalist state," which "will respond to the commands of the ruling class and the workers need expect nothing from it except to be crushed by it when they revolt against starvation." Debs instead calls for an alternative "working class preparedness" based upon education and organization -- "preparing the working class, in every way that may be necessary for the class struggle, however it may be fought, and the overthrow, by whatever means, of the capitalistic system that now enslaves and robs them."
"Andrew Richards: An Obituary." (St. Louis Labor) [events of July 6-9, 1916] This obituary of the father of Missouri Socialist Kate Richards O'Hare makes it clear that she should be added to the long list of prominent "red diaper babies." Born of a slave-owning family, Andrew Richards had come to hate the institution as a boy and had enlisted in the Union Army as a bugler and drummer boy at the outbreak of hostilities. Following the war he had married his childhood sweetheart and moved to Western Kansas, where the couple raised Kate and her four siblings. During the 1890s, Andrew Richards had helped organize Section Kansas City of the Socialist Labor Party, the obituary intimates. Richards is called "one of the grand old workers of the Socialist movement" and funeral services had been conducted by Socialist Party of Missouri State Secretary Otto Vierling and editor Harry Tichenor of the socialist-free thought monthly, The Melting Pot, the obituary notes. Pallbearers had included Missouri Socialist worthies Phil Wagner and G.A. Hoehn.
"Our Platform for the 1916 Campaign: As Drafted by the National Executive of the Socialist Party." (St. Louis Labor) [July 29, 1916] This lengthy campaign document of the Fall 1916 Presidential campaign of the Socialist Party was drafted by 10 party worthies -- the members of the outgoing and incoming National Executive Committees, "in conference with" Presidential nominee Allan Benson and Vice-Presidential nominee George "Kirk" Kirkpatrick. Although not one of these eleven men and one woman were connected with the party's syndicalist or revolutionary socialist left wing, the document nevertheless includes a militant minority plank opposing war and militarism that foreshadows in tone and content the party's famous "St. Louis Resolution" passed the following spring. A lengthy litany of immediate demands follows, including such staples as hikes in income, corporate, and inheritance taxes to fund socialization of industry, the provision of low cost loans to states and cities to fund their own socialization programs; woman suffrage; adoption of a unicameral legislature and elimination of Supreme Court power to void law; extension of the public domain over mines, forests, oil wells, and water power; initiation of public works to employ the unemployed, etc., etc. The draft platform was to be immediately submitted to a referendum vote of the party membership for ratification, considering its various planks seriatim.
"On the Proposed National Platform," by Eugene V. Debs [Aug. 4, 1916] With the Presidential nomination already to be made by referendum vote, in an effort to conserve scarce party funds the 1916 national convention of the Socialist Party was canceled. The job of writing a new party platform was delegated to the staid party veterans of the National Executive Committee. The document which these moderates returned raised a firestorm of protest by the Socialist Party's center and left, including this impassioned letter to the rank and file from iconic party leader Gene Debs. Debs lists three deficiencies in the platform: a failure to clearly stand for the class struggle, a failure to clearly stand for "the revolutionary industrial union as against the reactionary craft union," and two passages which indicated the legitimacy of a war of self-defense. "This is putting the party back upon the same ground it occupied in Europe when on that very account it was swept into the hell of slaughter in which our comrades by the millions are now perishing," Debs observes, adding "Every nation in Europe, taking its own word for it, is fighting a war of defense and resisting invasion." Debs views this a "deadly peril" for the Socialist Party and urges the planks' defeat. "If the Socialist Party is true to itself and the working class it will take its stand staunchly in favor of the class war, the only war that can put an end to all war, and quite as staunchly against every war waged by the ruling class to rob and kill and enslave the working class," Debs insists.
"Constitution of The Federated Press League." [As revised Feb. 4, 1922] New reformatted edition. The labor news service known as the Federated Press was launched in January 1920 as the brainchild of Socialist Party member Edward J. Costello, Managing Editor of Victor L. Berger's Milwaukee Leader. The news service was intended as a mechanism to systematically provide content of interest to the scores of labor and left wing political newspapers functioning around the country. Members of the underground Communist Party of America gradually gained control of the service. This constitution, approved at a convention held Feb. 4, 1922, documents a short-lived effort to transform the Federated Press into a mass organization called the Federated Press League. Membership was to be open to dues-payers 16 years of age or over who were dedicated to defending "the principles of the freedom of the press against all the forces which seek its destruction and to aid in the support and development of the labor press and of The Federated Press." Primary organizations were to be known as "Local Councils," constructed on a geographic basis and containing 10 or more members of the organization. Governance was to be through annual conventions, with an elected Executive Board headed by a President, Executive Secretary, and officers in between conventions. Annual dues were set at $5, with a sliding scale including higher dollar membership types. The Federated Press League was conceived as a membership organization existing in parallel as an auxiliary to the Federated Press itself.
"California Radical Leaders Reindicted: American-born Communist Labor Party Organizers Will Be Tried for Political Activities." (Federated Press Bulletin) [April 15, 1922] Left wing news coverage of the state of California's decision to move forward on long-delayed 1920 cases against members of the Communist Labor Party for alleged violation of the state's so-called "criminal syndicalism" statutes. The cases of three had already been tried: Anita Whitney was convicted in 1920 and remained on bail pending appeal, James Dolsen was tried and freed by a hung jury, and John C. Taylor was convicted and spent time in San Quentin before being released on parole. Five more cases remained to be resolved, held over for more than two years by the District Attorney. These defendants, headed by Oakland World editor J.E. Snyder and including J.A. Ragsdale, E.B. Smith, C.A. Tobey, and J.G. Reed, were to be tried jointly in connection with the long-postponed 1920 red scare cases, it was announced on Feb. 21, 1922. Appeals of this decision to conduct a single trial were unsuccessful and the defendants were preparing to represent themselves, the article notes. A connection between the decision to move forward with prosecution and pressure from the right wing Better America Foundation is alleged.
"Foster Would Meet Gompers in Debate: Accepts Challenge When Chicago Amalgamation Resolution is Denounced by AF of L Chief," by Carl Haessler [event of April 19, 1922] In April 1922 the American Federation of Labor moved to stifle radical elements within the Chicago Federation of Labor centered around William Z. Foster's Communist-backed Trade Union Educational League and to short-circuit a proposed conference of international unions called by the CFL on the question of amalgamation. President of the AF of L Samuel Gompers called an April 19 meeting to include all international officials in Chicago, local officials, and officials of the CFL. Chairing the meeting himself, Gompers launched attacks on the amalgamation and Farmer-Labor Party efforts being conducted by the CFL. William Z. Foster took the floor to defend the policies being pursued in Chicago and offered to open the books of the TUEL an an auditing committee appointed by Gompers. He challenged AF of L organizer Emmett Flood to a debate on the question of amalgamation, which Flood had pointedly attacked, and was met with an attack by Gompers, who said "Never in history have I known such a self-appointed autocrat as this Foster, who discarded the IWW doctrine to return to the red mantle of sovietism." Gompers asked Foster why he had challenged (his spokesman) Flood to a debate and not Gompers himself. Amid hooting, Foster accepted this implied challenge, Haessler reports.
"1922 May Day Salutation," by Eugene V. Debs [April 29, 1922] Routine May Day greeting sent out to the labor press by recently freed Federal prisoner and Socialist Party icon Gene Debs. Debs acknowledges that the Socialist movement's "ranks were shaken" by World War I, but was in the aftermath "readjusting itself" to the new conditions. "Capitalism is bankrupt and in ruins and socialism is mounting to power to rebuild the shattered social fabric and save civilization," Debs hopefully offers. He additionally indicates that "bitter antagonisms engendered during that tempestuous period are subsiding" and that "before another year we shall have a more thoroughly unified, aggressive, and uncompromisingly revolutionary international than we ever had before."
"Report on the United States of America (A confidential document prepared for the Comintern, June 1922)," by James P. Cannon New reformatted edition. A lengthy and detailed assessment of the economic and political situation in America attributed to WPA man in Moscow James P. Cannon and dated to June 1922 from content. An extremely revealing glimpse at party thinking with regard to specific unions (United Mine Workers, Metal trades, Needle trades, Railway Brotherhoods, local federations) the role of the Trade Union Educational League, the position of the party towards the IWW and the Socialist Party, the Farmer-Labor Party, the Conference for Progressive Political Action, Negro political organization, Russian famine relief, application of the United Front policy, role of the party press, position of the CEC towards the Central Caucus faction opposition, and the relationship between the underground CPA and the "overground" WPA -- including specifics about the thinking of dissenters on the Central Executive Committee Ludwig Katterfeld, Alfred Wagenknecht, and Robert Minor. Cannon speaks of a conscious strategy of the CEC to shift the "seat of Party authority" from the underground party (as a directing center of the legal organization) to the legal organization (with the underground apparatus a sub-division under the control of the "overground" organization. This transition is slated to take time, Cannon indicates, as "the CEC takes the position that the seat of Party authority can be transferred from the illegal to the legal party only after the latter has become a Communist Party in the full sense of the word -- if its program, contents of propaganda, international affiliation, and name are those of a Communist Party."
"Agenda for the First National Convention of the Young Workers League of America (Proposed by the NOC of the YWL of A)." [event of May 13-15, 1922] Esoteric file detailing the published proposed convention agenda for the first national convention of the Young Workers League, held in Brooklyn from May 13-15, 1922. Main segments of activity were to include the report of the National Organization Committee, writing of a Manifesto and Program, drafting of a Constitution, details of the work of Soviet famine relief and the "Famine Scouts" movement, the passage of resolutions, and election of a governing National Executive Committee.
"The Road Before Us: Keynote Speech at the First National Convention of the Young Workers League, Brooklyn, NY -- May 13th, 1922," by Oliver Carlson Former YPSL leader turned Communist youth organizer Oliver Carlson welcomes the delegates to the first national convention of the Young Workers League to Finnish Hall in Brooklyn with this short speech. Carlson briefly details the move of the Socialist youth organization to independent status and the resolution of the founding convention of the Workers Party of America calling for youth organization. Establishment of an actual "real compact organization" immediately followed, with a functioning presence in 46 cities and a membership of 2,200 claimed after the first four months of organizational work. Carlson asserts that the "proletarian movement in America is becoming more and more revolutionary" and that after infusions of radical newcomers it is likewise true that "the unions are becoming more and more revolutionary." A centralized and disciplined organization like that in Russia, Germany, and England is sought.
"Our First National Convention," by Oliver Carlson [events of May 13-15, 1922] Secretary of the National Organization Committee Oliver Carlson reviews the proceedings of the 1st National Convention of the Young Workers League of America, held May 13-15, 1922 in Brooklyn, New York. There were 30 regular delegates and 5 fraternal delegates, representing YWL groups in 7 cities as well as one circle of the Independent Young People's Socialist League as well as a number of delegates from unorganized cities, Carlson notes, later adding that 8 more delegates were seated after the start of the proceedings. The keynote speech was delivered by C.E. Ruthenberg, Executive Secretary of the Workers Party of America, recently released from Sing Sing prison. A representative of the dissident United Toilers organization was in attendance, an individual who "urged the YWL to remain completely independent from any revolutionary political party, and then launched into an attack upon the Workers Party claiming that it was being dominated by Centrists and opportunists, and could in no way be considered better than the Socialist Party." Majority and minority reports were presented by the Committee on Manifesto and Program, with the minority seeking to maintain independence of the organization from the adult WPA. The majority report won the day, with an additional resolution adopted emphasizing the relationship of these organizations. A constitution based on the principle of democratic centralism was adopted. Chicago was adopted as the site of National Headquarters and a 7 member NEC consisting of H. Jacobs, L. Marks, Herbert Zam, Harry Gannes, Marty Abern, G.A. Schulenberg, and Oliver Carlson was elected.
"The Case of Fred H. Merrick: Statement by the Central Executive Committee of the Workers (Communist) Party." [events of Nov. 30-Dec. 4, 1925] Notice of the expulsion of veteran Pennsylvania radical Fred H. Merrick from the Communist Party for violation of party discipline. Charged along with Edward Hornacek, Tom Myerscough and 6 others for alleged violation of the Pennsylvania statute against "criminal syndicalism," former Pittsburgh DO Merick and the other defendants were instructed to plead not guilty. Merrick instead had his attorney plead him out "no contest." When brought before the judge for sentencing on Dec. 4, Merrick indicated that he had severed ties with the party in July 1925; he received 10 years probation instead of a jail term. The CEC's expulsion notice laments the loss of Merrick "a tragedy for the revolutionary movement," noting that he had served a 3-1/2 year jail term in connection with a strike at Westinghouse years earlier. Merrick is nevertheless condemned for "betrayal of his comrades and the revolutionary movement."