Update 11-08: Sunday, October 23, 2011.
"Constitution of the Workingmen’s Party of the United States: Adopted by its Union Congress, Philadelphia, July 19-22, 1876." The first constitution of the Socialist Labor Party of America, albeit under its first organizational name. The familiar three institutional model later emulated by the Socialist Party of America was put into place here, with supreme authority vested in a bi-annual "Congress," decision-making authority between Congresses granted to a 7-member "Executive Committee," the actions of which were subject to the control of a 5-member "Board of Supervision." The primary party unit was called a "Section." The Congress was to specify the locales of the Executive Committee and the Board of Supervision and the Sections of those cities were to themselves elect the executive officers of the organization. Both official party and non-party papers were permitted under the constitution, with editors of the official press selected by the Executive Committee. Sections were to consist of at least 10 individuals "speaking the same language and being wages-laborers." Monthly dues were set at a minimum of 10 cents per member per month, 5 cents of which was to be sent to the Executive Committee to cover the operational costs of the organization. The only paid functionary specified in the constitution was the "Chief Editor" of the official organ, who was to receive a salary of between $15 and $20 per week.
"The Ballot Box: Resolution of the Workingmen’s Party of the United States Adopted at its Union Congress, July 19-22, 1876." This resolution was passed by the Philadelphia "Union Congress" that established the Workingmen's Party of the United States -- an organization better known as the Socialist Labor Party of America. The organization clearly starts from the perspective of Marxism rather than Lassalleanism when it declares that "only in the economical arena the combatants for the Workingmen’s Party can be trained and disciplined" and asserts that in America "the ballot box has long ago ceased to record the popular will, but only serves to falsify the same in the hands of professional politicians." Therefore supporters of the new organization are invited "to abstain from all political movements for the present and to turn their back on the ballot box."
"Workingmen’s Party of the United States: Address of the Executive," by Philip Van Patten & Conrad Pfeiffer." [Aug. 25, 1876] One of the most enigmatic figures in the history of American radicalism was Philip Van Patten, first Executive Secretary of the Socialist Labor Party of America -- a man who "suddenly disappeared" from his post in April 1883 (in the words of historian Ira Kipnis) to take a position in the federal government bureaucracy. This document emphasizes Van Patten's primacy from the time of foundation of the organization, being the first address of the 7 member Executive Committee to the membership of the organization. English-speaking "Corresponding Secretary" Van Patten and German-speaking "Recording Secretary" Conrad Pfeiffer collaborated on the preparation of this particular piece, which declares the party's mission to be convincing the "suffering millions" being crushed by the ongoing financial crisis that "their oppression is the result of unjust distribution instead of overproduction." The electorally-oriented Van Patten lends lip service to the party's abstention from use of the ballot, admitting its uses "as a means of redress for our wrongs is the result of bitter experiences in the political campaigns" against the corrupt forces of "United Capital." Nevertheless, the pair opine that "our policy should be to work faithfully and earnestly in the cause until we can march up to the polls in united bodies in a manner calculated to inspire respect, and by means of proper guards we may be certain that our votes will be received and counted." The pair wave the banner on behalf of the emancipation of women, declaring the necessity of "establishing the independence of the worker and equalizing women’s wages with those of men" for the achievement of that end.
"Workingmen’s Party of the United States: To the Workingmen of All Countries," by Philip Van Patten & Conrad Pfeiffer [Sept. 8, 1876] A second official pronouncement by the Socialist Labor Party of America under its first moniker, published over the signature of Corresponding Secretary Philip Van Patten, although perhaps written in conjunction with Recording Secretary Conrad Pfeiffer. Van Patten announces to the European socialist movement that a "complete and successful union" at a July convention had ended the "lamentable absence of harmony" among the American movement, marked as it had been by a number of small rival organizations. The goal of government, provision of "the greatest good to the greatest number," is proclaimed by Van Patten to be "most effectively and infamously prevented by the inhuman system of competition." Van Patten proclaims: "We will struggle not in a spirit of envy or misanthropy, not with feelings of revenge or desire for anarchy, but with the earnest determination to secure justice to all, to relieve men’s lives from the degrading and unnatural competition for bread, the chief cause of the evils of society, and to make true merit and worth the measure of greatness, instead of riches wrung from the necessities of others." Correspondence from European socialist parties is invited.
"The Social Revolutionists," by Philip Van Patten [circa January 20, 1881] With the anarchist movement gaining size and strength in the early 1880s, centered in the city of Chicago, electorally-oriented members of the Socialist Labor Party began to make inquiry as to whether adherents of so-called "Social Revolutionism" was compatible with party membership. With regards to a specific January 17 question from Philadelphia whether membership in the "Socialist Revolutionary Club" was permitted of SLP members, the NEC replies here that "Members of our Party have a perfect right to belong to any association, of whatever nature, provided that the principles, public declarations, official actions, and the Constitution of such association do not conflict with the Platform, Constitution, and Resolutions of the Socialistic Labor Party." As for the inquiry at hand, "whether or not the so-called Socialist Revolutionary Club is an organization hostile to our Party, we are not prepared to positively state." Van Patten notes that such organizations in New York and Philadelphia had "favored military organization and the study of revolutionary tactics, as opposed political action" and therefore indicated "a tendency contrary to the policy of our Party." But decisive action against subversion by the forces of anarchism was not forthcoming, with Van Patten declaring that "Not having seen the platform or constitution of either club, we have not the official information to justify decisive action by our Committee." Despite this inaction, Van Patten intimates that the "capitalistic enemies" were engaged installing extremist provocateurs within the ranks of the SLP "to shout revolution and clamor for blood."
"Address of Eugene V. Debs at the Opening of the Special Convention of the American Railway Union: Handel Hall, Chicago — June 15, 1897." The first convention of the Social Democracy of America, forerunner of the Socialist Party of America, was also the last convention of the American Railroad Union, the industrial union launched by Eugene V. Debs. The gathering opened with this keynote speech by the fiery Indiana orator. "The wage system, in spite of all the refinements of sophistication, is the same in all ages, in all lands, and in all climes. Its victims work, propagate their species, bear all the burdens, and perish," Debs declares. He holds the model of cooperative effort by like minded individuals as the mechanism for the winning of the Cooperative Commonwealth on a national basis, marking the efforts of the Mormons in Utah as the greatest contemporary example, and indicates the goal of the convention is to prepare for the first model colony. "Any one of several Western states, which are sparsely settled and where the people are very largely in sympathy with the enterprise can be selected for the beginning, adding that "we propose to colonize it with men and women thoroughly imbued with a knowledge of economics as applied to industrial affairs, men and women whose philosophy has taught them to deal with the knowable and the attainable, men and women of profound convictions..." In furtherance of this end "an organization of a million workers whose hearts are with us is the first thing in order," in Debs' view.
"Minutes of the Founding Convention of the Proletarian Party of America: Detroit, MI -- June 27-29, 1920." After six months of uneasy alliance followed by six months of factional squabbling, the Michigan-based "Proletarian University" faction headed by Scottish-born radical John Keracher formally established itself as a rival political party at a three day convention in Detroit late in June 1920. This file publishes the minutes of that gathering for the first time. The convention was attended by 11 voting delegates from 10 towns and cities (only two locations from outside of Michigan), as well as by three non-voting fraternal delegates. Interestingly it appears that this organization was established as a political adjunct of a parallel Proletarian University organization. "Temporary organizer" Keracher did not run for and was not elected to either a place on the group's governing National Executive Committee of 7 members or as National Secretary, with Dennis Batt elected to that latter post following Keracher's withdrawal. Nor does Keracher seem to have initially cast himself in the Daniel DeLeonesque role of Party-Editor-Without-Portfolio, with Batt at least formally assuming that position as well. Details about the relationship between the new PPA and the Proletarian University organization (presumably headed by Keracher) were left to be negotiated between the executives of these two institutions. The Proletarian was named the official organ of the new party, pending establishment of a weekly newspaper. A constitution, program, and organizational manifesto were hammered out and approved by the convention, with these documents to be sent out to the membership of the new group for formal ratification via a referendum vote. Initial membership, based upon generally optimistic delegate reports, appears to have been just under 100, with Detroit, Chicago, and Rochester, New York the primary centers of organizational activity.
"Manifesto of the Communist Party of America to the Workers of the United States." [Sept. 4, 1922] This massive Labor Day 1922 missive of the Communist Party of America answers charges made in the wake of recent raids on the conventions of the party and Trade Union Educational League that the Communist movement represented a secret underground terrorist conspiracy. Pointing out the organization's origins as an "open party" in 1919, the manifesto declares "It is only the brutal persecution that has driven us underground." An exit from this ongoing situation was clearly sought by the organization, which asserts the desire "to do everything in our power that will enable us to participate openly in political life." It is branded "an infamous lie" that the Communists were planners of "campaigns of bomb throwing, dynamiting, and sabotage." Quite to the contrary, the manifesto declares, the party remains "in principle opposed to all such individual actions -- instead of action of the masses -- not because we want to save the capitalists, but because we know that all such terroristic acts are ineffective and would serve to confuse the working masses, poison public opinion against the workers’ cause, and would afford the capitalist government an excuse to proceed against the workers." This said, the manifesto is unflinching about the ultimate necessity of force in the coming revolution proclaiming: "We know very well that capitalism cannot be abolished without the use of force. The capitalist magnates will hand over power to the workers only as willingly and as peacefully as the British Crown and Feudal Forces handed it over to the American bourgeoisie in 1776, and as peacefully and as willingly as the Southern slaveowners freed the Negro slaves in the Civil War." A call is made for a "United Front against all political persecution," for mass mobilization on behalf of civil rights and the labor movement, and for establishment of "a political party of the workers entirely independent of the capitalist parties."
"15,000 Russians Plan Return to First Workers’ Republic to Give Aid to the Revival and Development of Agriculture." [Sept. 16, 1922] In the fall of 1922 the government of Soviet Russia partially lifted its ban on the return of expatriate Russian citizens, this article reveals. Coordinating its "re-immigration" efforts through the Society for Technical Aid to Soviet Russia, the Soviet government set aside 8 million acres of land for the establishment of model collective farms by 15,000 returning Russians, who were to return and establish their farms by the Spring of 1923. "The condition for their admission into Soviet Russia is that they come organized into agricultural groups, communes, or collectives; that they come equipped, at their own expense, with tractors and modern agricultural machinery and implements, and that they be self-supporting for at least one year," the article indicates.
"Letter to C.E. Ruthenberg, Executive Secretary of the Workers Party of America in NY from John Keracher, Executive Secretary of the Proletarian Party of America in Chicago, March 3, 1923." Ultra-esoteric cover letter accompanying correspondence between the National Executive Committee of the Proletarian Party of America and the Central Executive Committee of the Workers Party of America regarding a unity appeal by the former to the latter. Adds minor detail to the chronology of the exchange of communiques.
"Minutes of the National Convention of the Proletarian Party of America: Held in Chicago, Illinois — Sept. 2-4, 1923." These are minutes to the 3rd convention of the Proletarian Party of America, an organization by this date headquartered in Chicago. A total of 17 voting delegates from 12 locals were in attendance, joined by 5 non-voting fraternal delegates and 2 ex-officio officers of the party. The gathering re-elected John Keracher as National Secretary and elected a 15 member National Executive Committee. Minutes are terse and do not shed light on the group's organizational situation. The newly launched weekly newspaper The Labor Digest, while lauded by Keracher for expanding the party's influence among the working class seems to have been an enormous financial drain from the start, with barely 1/3 of the paper's targeted financial nest egg successfully raised and the organization's cash flow pushed into negatives by the paper's ongoing expense. The convention affirmed the NEC's rejection of unity proposals from the Workers Party and passed a resolution prohibiting party members from membership in or adherence to the discipline of the Trade Union Educational League. The Dennis Batt case was considered and it was resolved that any PPA member endorsing an electoral candidate not approved by the organization (as apparently had Batt) would be expelled. The group's independent existence was carried forward by a resolution which declared the PPA would "maintain its separate existence from other working class parties...except at such time that a crisis may arise in the working class movement which necessitates the combined unity of the working class. At such time it will be the duty of the Proletarian Party to cooperate with other working class parties."