Update 11-07: Sunday, October 16, 2011.
"Labor and Work," by Adolf Douai [April 23, 1887] A rare English language article by Marxist pioneer Dr. Adolf Douai of Texas, best remembered as the father of the kindergarten movement in America. Douai attempts a distinction between "labor," a commodity corresponding to the capitalist process, with "work," voluntary activity for oneself and for the benefit of society. Every people around the globe dislikes the former -- the performance of labor for others -- but "likes" self-employment and "voluntary activity for useful and necessary purposes," Douai asserts. So-called "wage labor" is equally "against human nature" as was slave labor before it, the change in form initiated merely to boost the productivity of labor for the benefit of the ruling class, according to Douai. Douai hails the day "in the near future" when wage labor will be abolished and human beings will no longer be subjected to "labor of the most uniform, mind-killing, disgusting, and brutalizing kind" as slaves to the machine.
"Social Democrats in Convention: Large, Enthusiastic, and Intelligent Gathering." [events of March 6-9, 1900] Unsigned account from the pages of the Appeal to Reason of the so-called "1st National Convention" of the Social Democratic Party, a gathering of the Chicago-based organization which included participation by representatives of the rival organization by the same name based in Springfield, Massachusetts. Unity negotiations and the nomination of a Presidential slate dominated the proceedings, with a joint committee returning with a recommendation for merger or the two competing organizations but unable to agree upon a name. A 12 point platform for the party was moved for acceptance by Eugene Debs -- a program which interestingly marked the organization in favor of "equal civil and political rights for men and women" but which failed to mention the question of race. The convention was nearly split by the apparently unexpected refusal of Debs to stand as the party's nominee for President of the United States and a similar refusal by Job Harriman of California. An informal committee seems to have met with debs on the night of March 8 and to have pushed him into reluctantly accepting the party's nomination. Harriman of the Springfield SDP was similarly nominated by acclamation as nominee for Vice-President. Party name was to be decided by membership referendum, the convention determined, with the adoption of the name "Social Democratic Party" explicitly endorsed.
"The Social Democratic Convention has Emphasized Startling Truths," by Eugene V. Debs [March 24, 1900] In the wake of a convention two weeks earlier which seemed to move the Social Democratic movement in America towards unity and growth, party leader and Presidential candidate Gene Debs offered the following assessment of the organization and its prospects to readers of the weekly Appeal to Reason. "The Social Democratic Party is not a reform party, but a revolutionary party," Debs declares. "It does not propose to modify the competitive system, but to abolish it. An examination of its platform shows that it stands unequivocally for the collective ownership and control of all the means of wealth production and distribution — in a word, socialism." Debs notes that the Social Democratic Party now had a presence in 25 states, of which Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Washington were "marked for early conquest" by virtue of the movement's impressive roots there. Debs declares that "the reins of government" is the party's goal and that it refused to be moved "from the straight course mapped out for it by Marx and Engels, its founders, and pursued with unflagging fidelity by their millions of followers."
"Minutes of the Special 2nd Convention of the United Communist Party of America: Kingston, NY -- Dec. 24, 1920 to Jan. 2, 1921." Despite pseudonyms and secrecy, the Bureau of Investigation of the United States Department of Justice still managed to obtain a seat at the convention, when their confidential informant, Pittsburgh District Organizer "Ryan" was elected a delegate. This connection enabled to DoJ to obtain a copy of the secret minutes of the gathering, which were preserved in DoJ files. These minutes are published for the first time here. The Credentials Committee approved the credentials of 42 delegates, representing a paid membership of 5,801 spread across the 9 geographic districts of the UCP. The minutes indicate a very democratic debate over the organization's program and new constitution, with parliamentary procedure employed and motions made from the floor. Tactics with respect to party members also in the the Finnish Socialist Federation, which was unhappy with the Socialist Party and headed for a split. A financial statement for November 1920 showed a positive balance of accounts for the month, powered by over $5,000 in "special donations." A heavy Midwestern geographic presence is indicated in the financial report to the convention, which showed over 1750 of the 3200 UCP dues stamps sold in November 1920 coming from the Chicago and Cleveland districts alone. By way of contrast, fewer than 100 stamps were sold to the organization's three westernmost districts, combined.
"Notice of a Hearing of Expulsion for Maximilian Cohen in New York from Charles Dirba, Executive Sec. CPA, Jan. 12, 1921." One of the most outspoken pro-unity figures in the Communist Party of America was New York dentist Maximilian Cohen. Cohen's outspoken opposition to the policy of delay and obfuscation practiced by the majority of the Central Executive Committee brought about a disciplinary attack. Charges were preferred against Cohen, who was accused of having addressed a party meeting and charged the CEC was suppressing unity communications, censoring the flow of information to the membership about its actions, maintaining a black list of pro-unity members, and stating that the CEC majority was intent upon smashing the rival United Communist Party of America. A meeting was scheduled to hear the case against Cohen the next evening.
"An Appeal to the Executive Committee of the Communist International," by Maximilian Cohen [Jan. 16, 1921] Expelled from the Communist Party of America for violation of party discipline by campaigning for unity with the United Communist Party, Max Cohen made his appeal to the organization that was demanding just such a merger. Cohen explicitly identifies a cause of the ongoing organizational feud: "Behind the question of unity...lies the fundamental question of the future form of organization which the united party shall take — i.e., the old question of foreign language federations. Only through the solution of the 'federation problem' will the key to unity be found. Therein lies the secret of the feuds and the schisms, and the bitterness of the quarrels in the past." Cohen insists that it is up to ECCI to resolve fundamental difference between the two organizations on the place of the Federations to make unity possible. "Looking at the national language federations as a transitory form of organization, quite necessary in the beginning of the Communist movement when the American elements were not yet ripe for helping to build a Communist Party, the question we know have to face is: have these organizations begun to outlive their usefulness now that the American workers, or the vanguard of them, are slowly but surely coming in?" Cohen asks.
"The Communist Party and its Tasks," by C.E. Ruthenberg [July 1921] Although imprisoned in New York state, Communist Party leader C.E. Ruthenberg still managed to publish this pseudonymous article in the official organ of the newly united Communist Party of America. Ruthenberg reveals here the almost total annihilation of the Communist Labor Party prior to its 1920 merger with a dissident minority wing of the old CPA -- reduced to "less than a thousand of the original ten or fifteen thousand members." Ruthenberg attributes the previous two years of factional war, now seemingly ended by the merger, to the premature "hip-hip-hurrah" establishment of the American Communist Party. The draconian actions of the leadership of the Socialist Party of America had driven "thousands of members who did not belong there" into the Communist movement, weakening both the Socialist and Communist movements in the process. Ruthenberg urges that revolutionary verbiage be eschewed, and that effort be made in particular to lead and guide a movement mobilizing the unemployed. By establishing a program towards the unemployed and mobilizing unemployed workers into mass meetings and mass demonstrations in support of that agenda, the Communist movement would bring the unemployed into conflict with the "mailed fist of the capitalist government," ultimately creating a pool of alienated workers which could be moved to action for the overthrow of the state when a revolutionary situation presented itself. Ruthenberg advised the development of meaningful slogans and to use similar tactics in the labor movement, for the liberation of political prisoners, and in opposition to militarism as well as with regard to the unemployed.
"Some Important CEC Decisions." [article in CPA Official Bulletin, circa Aug. 15, 1921] This summary of key decisions of the governing Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of America in June and July 1921 was sent out to the membership of the party in a printed official bulletin. Party officials of the newly unified are listed, with all pseudonyms solved here. L.E. Katterfeld was named to replace Charles Dirba as Executive Secretary, with Dirba formally rebuked for circulating an unauthorized inflammatory explanation of his July 29 resignation among federation groups. Oscar Tyverovsky was named the CPA's representative to the Comintern, with Max Bedacht recalled. James Cannon resigned as editor of The Toiler, replaced by Jay Lovestone -- who headed the party's editorial department, assisted by John Ballam. Sixty cent monthly dues were no longer to be collected via federation channels but rather by regular party channels funneling money to professional District Organizers of the newly reorganized districts. Harry Wicks was denied admission as an undesirable member, while Max Cohen and Alex Bittelman were similarly refused readmission by CEC vote due clearly to lingering personal antipathy. The belated arrival of CI Rep Shachno Epstein is noted and the Comintern's advocacy though him of an English language daily newspaper, increased trade union work, and a de-emphasis of "our slogans regarding armed insurrection" in propaganda to the masses.
"Language Federations." [article in CPA Official Bulletin, circa Aug. 15, 1921] Brief review of the foreign language federation situation in the newly established unified Communist Party of America. The new organization included groups conducting their business in an astounding 21 different languages, the article reports, including several languages largely ignored in the literature, such as Armenian, Turkish, Japanese, and Spanish. A membership of 250 was deemed sufficient under the constitution for the organization of a formal "Federation Language Bureau." The article notes that ten such groups existed: Croatian, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, and Yiddish. National Conferences had been called to organize each of these 10 language groups, and the Bureaus of each were "expected" to issue the monthly official organ of the CPA, The Communist, in their own language. Similar parallel versions were also planned in Armenian, Czech, Estonian, and Italian -- making a total of 15 planned editions of the central organ. These costly and cumbersome parallel underground periodicals were to be distributed by party members to workers speaking these languages "no matter whether he himself can read it or not." Few specimens have survived and the extent to which these well laid plans were actually put into effect is largely unknown.