The Labor Defense Council (LDC, or the "G" in underground party lingo) was established by the Communist Party of America in September of 1922 as a broad-based organization for raising funds for bail and legal defense for those embroiled in the Aug. 22, 1922, raid on the Bridgman, Michigan, convention of the underground party. The LDC also attempted to raise public consciousness about the fate of the Bridgman defendants and the importance of those trials to larger issues of free assembly and free speech. The LDC was to be targeted towards labor unions and the Bridgman affair, while the National Defense Committee (NDC, or the "D" in underground party lingo) was initially to be retained to handle other matters, with the provision that it was not to circularize labor unions or to mention the Bridgman affair more than tangentially).

According to a Sept. 24 circular sent out by Executive Secretary of thw Workers Party of America C.E. Ruthenberg to all party branches, District Organizers, and Secretaries of Language Federations which announced the new organization, the LDC would be "a delegated body which will include representatives of the Trade Unions, the Trade Union Educational League, the Workers' Party, the Socialist Party, the Farmer-Labor Party, the Socialist Labor Party, the IWW, the Proletarian Party, the United Toilers, liberal organizations, and workers' social, relief, and cooperative organizations." Not only would the LDC deal with defendants in Michigan cases, but it would likewise come to the aid of defendants in "other similar cases arising out of the present attack upon the working class movement."

The Labor Defense Council was to be directed by a Secretary serving with a National Committee. A 'Provisional National Committee" was immediately named, consisting of Roger N. Baldwin (ACLU), Dennis Batt (Proletarian Party), Robert M. Buck (Farmer-Labor Party), Eugene V. Debs (SPA), Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (Workers Defense League of New York/CPA), Moritz J. Loeb (WPA),

William Z. Foster was later elected the National Secretary of the LDC. Its official (and figurehead) National Committee of 21 in 1923 included:

Roger N. Baldwin, New York (American Civil Liberties Union)

Normin B. Barr, Chicago (Oliver Institute)

Dennis E. Batt, Detroit (Editor of Detroit Labor News; Proletarian Party)

J.G. Brown, Chicago (National Secretary of Farmer-Labor Party)

Robert M. Buck, Chicago (Editor of New Majority; Chicago Federation of Labor)

John C. Clay, Chicago (Secretary of Teamsters Union Local 712)

Lenetta M. Cooper, Chicago

R.D. Cramer, Minneapolis (Editor of Minnesota Labor Review)

Eugene V. Debs, Terre Haute, IN (Socialist Party of America)

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, New York (CPA)

John C. Flora, Chicago

John Haynes Holmes, New York

Max S. Hayes, Cleveland (Typographers' Union and Socialist Party of America)

Francis Fisher Kayne, Philadelphia

Dr. John A. Lapp, Chicago (Director, National Catholic Welfare Council)

Moritz J. Loeb, Chicago (Workers Party of America)

Frances C. Lillie, Chicago

Father John A. Ryan, Washington, DC (Director, National Catholic Welfare Council)

John T. Taylor, Detroit

Hulet M. Wells, Seattle

George P. West, San Francisco

[fn. R.M. Whitney, Reds in America. (NY: Beckwith Press, 1923), pp. 172-176.]


In May 1923, the Labor Defense Council issued a pamphlet on the Bridgman Criminal Syndicalism case entitled The Burns's and Daugherty's Attack upon Labor and Liberty. Price of the 24 page pamphlet, which featured a drawing by Fred Ellis as well as 25 pictures of the principals of the defense and prosecution, was 10 cents, available in quantities of 100 for $6.50. Address on the publication was Labor Defense Council, Room 307, 166 W Washington Avenue, Chicago.


The Labor Defense Council made use of local organizations to raise funds.

An assessment of the post-Bridgman situation to Moscow by WPA Executive Secretary Ruthenberg optimistically noted that "The net result of the reaid on the Bridgman convention of thte Communist Party has been to establish closer contract between our party and the unions. It gave us the opportunity to go to the unions with the reasons why the Communist Party was an underground organization and to enlist the organized labor movement in the fight for the right of Communists to openly conduct their work. The results gained, while not as great as we hoped, have placed us in a stronger position than before this raid."

[fn. Ruthenberg to W. Kolarow, Feb. 17, 1923: Comitern Archive, f. 515, op. 1, d. 149, l. 2.]

The Labor Defense Council seems to have been absorbed into International Labor Defense at the end of 1925.

Downloadable Documents



"Nine Questions and Eight Answers About the Michigan "Red Raid" Cases: A leaflet of the Labor Defense Council, circa Oct. 1922." This leaflet was an early attempt by the Communist Party's new defense organization, the Labor Defense Council, to build popular support and raise funds for the defendants of the police raid on the August 1922 Bridgman, Michigan, Convention of the CPA. The attack on the "constructive revolutionaries" at Bridgman was an attack on the labor movement itself, the leaflet indicates: "In looking over the records of these 19 labor militants, it is not difficult to imagine why these men have been singled out for persecution. When the employing class finds the time ripe for an attack on the labor movement, it is always the outstanding labor militants who have to bear the heaviest burden." Includes short biographies of six leading defendants (Foster, Ruthenberg, Dunne, Krumbein, Harrison, and Browder -- in that order) and union affiliations of 13 others. This version includes a contrived police propaganda photograph showing the notorious Bridgman defendants seated behind an array of typewriters and mimeograph machines -- an image used with effect in another contemporary leaflet of the LDC.


APRIL 1923

"American Legion Has Another Brainstorm: Break Up Labor Defense Council Meeting in Kansas City Thus Preventing Another Revolution." (Miami Valley Socialist) [report of April 13, 1923] Brief journalistic account of unconstitutional action engaged in by the ultra-nationalist ex-soldiers' organization, the American Legion. A peaceful public meeting in Kansas City of the Communist Party's legal defense organization, the Labor Defense Council, was raided by the unholy alliance of American Legionnaires and local police. "According to reports appearing in the Kansas City daily press the raid was made on information given by the local American Legion Secret Service," it is noted, with this news report adding sarcastically that "it was not explained why it was necessary for any undercover sleuths to 'discover' the meeting, which was given all the publicity and advertising that the local Labor Defense Council could secure." Four local trade unionists were arrested at the meeting. "Ella Reeve Bloor, who was the speaker at the meeting, was not molested. She announced as the crowd was being chased out of the hall by the dicks and Legion that a mass meeting would be held on Sunday, April 15 [1923], and the authority of the police and the power of the Legion to stop peaceful assemblages will be tested."


"The Menace of 'Criminal Syndicalism': War Time Repression by the Federal Government is Continued Through the States." [c. Dec. 1923] Full text of an extremely rare leaflet of the Labor Defense Council -- a mass organization established by the Communist Party of America to provide funds for bail and legal defense of those embroiled in the August 1922 raid of Justice Department and Michigan law enforcement officials upon the secret convention of the CPA. The leaflet emphasizes the fact that those charged in connection with the Bridgman Raid were accused of no concrete act beyond "assembling with" a group "formed to teach or advocate Criminal Syndicalism." The charge that the Communists inherently relied upon the use of "force and violence" was belied by recent events in Red Hungary, in which a Soviet government had come to power without bloodshed, according to the LDC piece. The Michigan and similar state criminal syndicalism laws were modeled upon the now repealed wartime Espionage Act, the leaflet argues, and were being used by right wing elements in the federal government as a means of extending that terminated policy indefinitely. C.E. Ruthenberg had been convicted by a packed jury and a biased judge and the legal fate of 30 others depended on a successful appeal in his case, the leaflet asserts. Funds for the legal defense are solicited.




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