Update 12-04: Sunday, January 22, 2012.

"Pages from an Editor’s Sketch Book," by August Spies [January 1887]  Chapter-length excerpt from the little known memoir of August Spies, one of five revolutionary socialist leaders judicially murdered in the aftermath of an 1886 bombing at Haymarket Square in Chicago. The German-born Spies (name pronounced "SPEES") was editor of the Chicagoer Arbeiter-Zeitung,and a member of the so-called "anarchist" left wing of the Socialist Labor Party. The bulk of this document deals with Spies' visit to an Ohio coal mining strike in 1884 and is an excellent primary source in the social history of the 19th Century American labor movement. After recounting his speech to striking miners, Spies declares: "it was not socialism that inflamed these men, for when I spoke of socialism to them, they became quiet and calm and interested; it was the words of the capitalist, their master -- it was the teaching of capitalism that incited them almost to madness! Socialism has nothing in it that incites to violence and bloodshed; these qualities are only peculiar to the doctrines of capitalism, doctrines based upon and maintained by force."

"To the Members of  Section Greater New York, SLP from L. Abelson, Organizer, June 20, 1898."
  This extremely lengthy open letter to the Socialist Labor Party's New York City membership by the party's Organizer illustrates several points: (1) Reducing the factional conflict to the person of party editor Daniel DeLeon is simplistic and obscures a broader ideological fissure; (2) The factional war within the SLP over its support of a dual trade union policy instead of agitating within the established union structure was not a sudden development at the time of the 1899 party split but rather was an ongoing battle in evidence since 1896 (implicitly dated by Abelson on pg. 14 here); (3) Any contemporary view of the SLP insurgents who were later to comprise one of the source groups of the Socialist Party of America as "democrats" in opposition to the "anti-democratic" DeLeon/Kuhn majority is at a minimum arguable, if not completely contrary to reality in this instance. Abelson details the factional machinations of what he repeatedly terms a "disloyal minority" in making use of constitutional technicalities as excuse for bucking party discipline. Speaking about the actions of 3 dissident Assembly District Branches of the SLP, Abelson declares "the purpose of these men was to estrange as many members from the party as possible. They tried to create a sentiment in favor of the Debs party. They slandered the party’s officers, they misrepresented the doings of the General Committee. And as a means to further their ends, they enlisted national prejudice by telling the German comrades that they were being deprived of their proper influence in the management of the party through the use of the English language in the meetings of the General Committee."

"Direct Action," by A.M. Stirton [Dec. 18, 1909]  Unsigned editorial in the first issue of the new Eastern weekly newspaper of the Industrial Workers of the World. "Direct Action" is used by editor Stirton not as description of a form of tactics, but rather than as a descriptive for the strategy of the industrial organization of the working class directly in their workplaces and their exertion of demands at the workplace level. Stirton rhetorically asks: "Why tinker and hesitate and compromise when all we need to put complete power in our hands is organization? Why go 'round and round the barberry bush' when the simple, direct action of the working class in the place where they work, the place where the fight is actually on, is ten times cheaper and more effective? Why make contracts with bosses when industrial organization will enable us to dictate terms? Why spend money on lawyers to fight injunctions when the industrial organization of the working class will make all the injunctions of Christendom as out of date as the edicts of Julius Caesar?" As military force relies upon industrial production, universal organization of the working class would make this impossible, Stirton intimates. "Direct action, therefore, leads away from violence and not toward it," Stirton concludes.

"The Seattle Riots: Shown to Have Been Prearranged by Capitalist 'Patriots' -- IWW Gains As Usual," by Frank R. Schleis [events of July 17-18, 1913]  An IWW account of the so-called Potlatch Riots of July 1913, during which a mob of right wing sailors and soldiers ransacked Seattle headquarters of the IWW and the Socialist Party, burning the papers and property of those organizations in the street. Schleis reveals the cause of the disturbance was the heckling and disruption by drunken sailors of a Thursday night soapbox speech by feminist speaker Anna Miller. After seizing the speaking platform the instigator raised his hand to strike Miller, who was intent on taking back the borrowed stand. A fight ensued during which the sailors seem to have received the worst of it. Schleis indicates that the nationalist Seattle Times used the tried-and-true tactics of yellow journalism to incite the sailors to revenge, which took place according to a premeditated plan at 7:30 pm the following evening. Two headquarters offices of the IWW and two of the Socialist Party were hit by the rampaging mob in sequence. Attempts the following day to shut down the city's saloons and impose prior restraint censorship upon the Times were stopped with a speedy injunction. Thereafter, Schleis relates, the Times published a sensational and completely fictitious story "telling of the death of one of the wounded soldiers, even describing minutely the death agonies endured" in an attempt to further inflame sentiment against the IWW. This had been revealed by the other newspapers of the city as a complete fabrication, however, moving one Seattle paper to call Times publisher Alden J. Blethen to "pull down the American flag from the top of his editorial page" since it had been "dishonored and disgraced by its use on the Times."

"Must Defend Hop Pickers." (Solidarity) [events of Aug. 3, 1913]  Sensational first report in the Eastern IWW newspaper Solidarity on the August 3, 1913 events at the Durst Ranch in Wheatland, California, best known as the Wheatland Hop Riot. Although erroneous in some particulars, the report provides an indication of the total number of workers involved (2300 -- far lower than some current accounts would indicate) and a count of the posse size (about 12) and indicates that there was a frenzied stampede of the crowd when the shooting started, a detail omitted in subsequent histories. Deputy Sheriff Dakin is credited with killing the Puerto Rican who used a gun against the District Attorney and Deputy killed in the affair. A total of 9 arrests were made in the immediate aftermath, the story indicates, and a $1500 defense fund was called for to establish a "jungle camp" for hundreds of potential witnesses for the defense. "The authorities know absolutely nothing about the facts, which will make it all the worse as the sheriff's posse which fled will have to resort to their usual tactics in such a case," the article presciently notes.

"Letter to Maximilian Cohen in New York from the CPA Executive Secretary Charles Dirba Notifying Him of His Expulsion." [Jan. 17, 1921]  As an advocate of prompt unity with the rival Communist Labor Party of America, New York dentist and CPA Central Executive Committee member Max Cohen was a black sheep in the pasture. Brought up on charges of violation of party discipline, on Jan. 16, 1921 Cohen was tried and convicted of "flagrant breach of party discipline and intentional misrepresentation of the activities of the CEC." This letter from Executive Secretary of the CPA Charles Dirba to Cohen passes along the full report of the three member investigating committee. Cohen his found to have stated that the CEC was suppressing news on the unity question and otherwise standing in the way of unity, that it was arranging caucuses in 4 of the 6 districts in order to prevent the election of unity-favoring delegates so as to crush the UCP, was making use of technicalities to hamper unity, and was otherwise preventing him (Cohen) from stating his views on unity in the party press. The investigating committee found that Cohen's own “Open Letter to the CEC of the CP” had corroborated these charges. Cohen was expelled from the party and wound up being assigned to organization work in Central America by the Comintern in the aftermath.


The URL of this page is http://www.marxisthistory.org/subject/usa/eam/12-04.html