Update 11-09: Sunday, October 30, 2011.

"Diary Entry Regarding the Possible Pardon of Eugene V. Debs and Other Political Prisoners by Woodrow Wilson," by Josephus Daniels [August 10, 1920]  In August 1920, with World War I over for nine months, the question of a Presidential pardon for Eugene V. Debs came up at a meeting of Woodrow Wilson's cabinet. This brief exerpt from the diary of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels indicates that a majority of the cabinet offering opinions, notably including Attorney General Mitchell Palmer, favored the granting of a presidential pardon for Socialist leader Gene Debs and others jailed under the so-called Espionage Act, with Postmaster General Albert Burleson opposed. Woodrow Wilson emphatically shot down this suggestion, Daniels indicates, thereby dooming Debs and the others to imprisonment for the duration of his administration.

"Letter to President Woodrow Wilson from Postmaster General Albert S. Burleson, with Enclosure by Post Office Solicitor William Lamar Regarding Postal Censorship, September 3, 1920." Letter from head of the US Post Office Department Albert Burleson to President Wilson seeking guidance on whether to continue to make use of the Espionage Act against radical publications. Burleson attaches an opinion by Post Office Solicitor William Lamar that a provision of the Espionage Act declaring all matter "advocating or urging treason, insurrection, or forcible resistance to any law of the United States" to be nonmailable and opining that the recent decision of Judge William Hitz in the recent New York Call case striking down the Post Office's power to completely deny second class mailing rights was wrongly decided and advocates a continued hard line against the radical press. "In nearly every case there is an insidious attempt to keep within the letter of the law," Burleson acknowledges of the radical press, but he charges that in practice this propaganda attempts to instill "a belief that this Government should be overthrown by force, to encourage a belief in modern communism, to hold up as an ideal government the Soviet system in vogue in Russia," and to induce "direct action...to aid in wresting the control of government from the so-called capitalistic class." Burleson seeks a policy decision from Wilson, either in writing or verbally at the next meeting of the administration's Cabinet.

Exchange of Communications between Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer and President Woodrow Wilson Regarding the Case of United States v. Rose Pastor Stokes [October 1 & 4, 1920] With the November election of a new President barely a month away and the European war almost 11 months done, Attorney General Mitchell Palmer seeks direction from Woodrow Wilson as to whether he should retry prominent New York Communist Rose Pastor Stokes under the Espionage Act. Wilson declares Stokes to be "one of the dangerous influences of the country" and hesitates to encourage dropping the charges against her, but notes that public sentiment has turned against further use of the emergency powers of the Espionage Act. He declares no exception to Justice Department policy should be made for Stokes -- who was ultimately not returned to trial by Attorney General Palmer.

"How I Became a Rebel," by William Ross Knudsen [June 1922] One delegate to the 4th World Congress of the Comintern was a member of the Socialist Labor Party, William Ross Knudsen. This brief memoir by Knudsen from the monthly magazine of the Trade Union Educational League recalls his process of radicalization, in which as a young man just out of high school he was slugged in the jaw by a policeman for wearing a red necktie during a radical free speech campaign in San Diego. He was soon hauled in  for being in a radical hall during a police raid, when the good spirit of his fellow detainees contrasted with the brutality of the police, who turned a fire hose on the prisoners, providing the fuel for further reading and radical discovery.

"Details of Foster Kidnapping Related: Story of Disguise and False Name Denied and Illegal Arrest and Bertilloning Told." [events of August 6-7, 1922] While the railroad shopmen's strike was raging, Trade Union Educational League chief William Z. Foster found himself the target of terroristic activities by the constabulary of Colorado, this Federated Press report documents. Upon arriving in Denver, Foster was kidnapped by armed plainclothes officers of the Colorado rangers, said to be acting under direction of Governor Pat Hamrock. Without warrant Foster was detained on August 6, 1922 and held overnight. His papers were seized, including a book manuscript. The next day Foster was taken 100 miles by car, photographed, and "deported" to Wyoming. In Wyoming similar illegal treatment was repeated, with a sheriff driving Foster to a point in the middle of nowhere, 6 miles outside of Tarrington, Wyoming, where he was forced to walk to town to catch an east-bound train. Legal action against the authorities in Colorado and Wyoming was forthcoming, the article indicates.

"Michigan Central Wreck is Pretext for Raid," by Carl Haessler [events of Aug. 20, 1922] Report from the weekly newspaper of the Federated Press news agency concerning the raid on headquarters of the Trade Union Educational League in Chicago. A recent railway wreck in Gary, Indiana, tendentiously blamed upon strike-related sabotage, was used as the formal pretext for the TUEL raid. TUEL head Bill Foster was sanguine about the raid, noting “They have raided the painters, the building trades council, the janitors, and other unions and our turn had to come. It’s all part of the big business attack on labor. When one frame-up fails they start on another. It’s all in the day’s work.”

"Tribune Story Exploded by Facts," by Carl Haessler [Aug. 26, 1922] This news story by Federated Press staff correspondent Carl Haessler answers sensational but factually correct reporting in the Chicago Tribune that Trade Union Educational League chief William Z. Foster had fled the secret Communist Party convention in Bridgman, Michigan just ahead of raiding authorities with untruth packaged as "facts." The Tribune's assertion that "Foster, prize of the party, escaped, as did most of the others" is dismissed by Haessler as a "fairy tale." Haessler falsely asserts that "Foster had not been in Michigan" and contends that Foster's alleged presence at the convention was a pretext for police to conduct another glass-smashing and document-seizing raid of TUEL offices in Chicago so as to "embarrass" and thereby discredit a forthcoming national convention of that organization.

"Workers! You Must Fight for Freedom! Manifesto of the Workers Party." [Sept. 23, 1922] In the aftermath of an injunction won against striking workers in the great railroad strike by Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty, the Workers Party of America amped up its political rhetoric. This manifesto to the American working class declares that "the injunction granted at Chicago will destroy the labor unions, if it is permitted to stand unchallenged." Rather than appeal in the courts, the demand here is for mass action: "The general strike is the only effective answer which Labor can make to the attack of the Daugherty injunction," the manifesto declares. Establishment of a Labor Defense Council for legal defense, conceived of as a mass organization which "should include representatives of every part of the working class and of every group ready to enter the struggle to preserve the freedom of the American people." With the Republican administration moving towards establishment of the open shop, breaking the rail strike in the courts, and attacking the Communist Party through its mass arrests of participants at the Bridgman Convention in August, the American labor movement was facing its greatest moment of crisis in 25 years, the manifesto intimates.

"The General Strike is Dead! Long Live the General Strike!" by J. Louis Engdahl [Sept. 23, 1922] Almost as quick as it was started, the American Communist movement ended its agitation for a general strike in response to Harry Daugherty's injunction obtained in the railroad strike. Indeed, this manifesto to American workers was published in the very same issue of The Worker as the official manifesto of the Central Executive Committee of the WPA calling for a general strike. At root in this about-face seems to have been the refusal of the Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor to advance the call for a general strike, leaving the Communists generals without an army. Engdahl notes that the AF of L leadership, instead of embracing worker militancy "are trying to interest you in fake 'impeachment proceedings' against Daugherty, in per capita taxes for the relief of the striking shopmen that will never be collected, specious plans for curtailing the power of the US Supreme Court, and 'new legislation' for Congress to pass and the sacred cows of the Supreme Court to chew to bits." The cause of the Trade Union Education League for organization of the unorganized and amalgamation of existing craft unions into class-conscious industrial unions is espoused by Engdahl as the key to making the tool of the general strike effective in the future.

"Lessons of the Shopmen’s Strike," by William Z. Foster [October 1922] After three months of intensive battle, the Great Railroad Strike of 1922 ground to a halt in the fall, defeated by injunctions, strikebreakers, and division among the 16 railway unions of the country -- 7 of which supported the strike and 9 of which did not. Trade Union Educational League leader William Z. Foster raises the banner of amalgamation of the disparate craft unions into united industrial unions as the way forward for American organized labor. Foster is sharply critical of the "incompetent" central leadership of AF of L leader Samuel Gompers and the "reactionaries" around him and singles out for particular scorn President Grable of the Maintenance of Way Workers, Fitzgerald of the Railway Clerks, and Bill Lee of the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen for undercutting the strike of their fellow railway workers. "Only by consolidating our organizations into one can we prevent a repetition of the disastrous mistakes made in the shopmen’s strike," Foster declares, prescribing a "general amalgamation convention" called by the unions as a result of rank and file pressure as the means to this end.

"Debs, Hero of ARU Strike Nearly 30 Years Ago, Talks for Federated Press Readers," by Eugene V. Debs [Oct. 7, 1922] Socialist Party leader Gene Debs contributes an article for distribution by the Federated Press, the news syndicate targeted to the American labor press started by individuals close to Victor Berger's Milwaukee Leader before being effectively taken over and manipulated by the Communist Party. Debs agitates for the freedom of imprisoned California union leaders Tom Mooney and Warren Billings, declaring "I know Tom Mooney as I do my brother, and a cleaner, manlier man, a whiter soul never drew breath, and that is precisely why the silk-tied and white-livered wrecking crew that has California by the throat are determined to murder him." Debs declares the American government to be "the corruptest and cruelest in existence" owing to the country's wealth: "Riches, corruption, and decay, when the riches are in the private hands of a few parasites as in this country, have gone hand in hand down through the centuries from Nebuchadnezzar down to Rockefeller..... The handwriting blazes on the walls in the United States, but the bacchanalian revelers in high (!) life are drunk with power and blind with greed and will realize their inevitable fate only when they are swept into the abyss." Debs salutes the Federated Press, noting that the service already services some 80 papers and proclaiming its prospects bright with wartime censorship abating.

"The Skirmish in Cleveland," by C.E. Ruthenberg [events of Dec. 11-12, 1922] This assessment of the founding conclave of the Conference for Progressive Political Action by Workers Party of America Executive Secretary C.E. Ruthenberg first appeared in the pages of The Liberator. Ruthenberg declares that "with the help of Yellow Socialists “progressivism” carried the day but the conditions surrounding its victory spell its ultimate defeat and the victory of labor." Ruthenberg sees three factions within the CPPA alliance: a Right wing consisting of the Railroad brotherhoods, acting in concert with the Socialist Party who "do not want a labor party"; a Center group including the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, United Mine Workers, and other labor and farmer groups who sought a labor party but were unwilling to fight for it; and a Left wing including the WPA and its allies "who had come to the Conference prepared to fight over every inch of ground for the establishment of a labor party." A proposal for the formation of a Labor Party was defeated 52 to 64, Ruthenberg indicates, which shows "that if a determined fight had been made from the beginning, the labor party proposal would have been carried." Even though barred from the gathering, Ruthenberg proclaims it a "victory" for the organization, since "the question of the Workers Party and its determined stand for a class party of workers and farmers dominated the Conference."


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