Update 12-08: Sunday, February 19, 2012.

"The IWW Bogey," by Eugene V. Debs [February 1918]  In the wake of mass arrests of members of the Industrial Workers of the World on the West coast, Socialist leader Gene Debs comes to the defense of the hapless prisoners with this article from the pages of the International Socialist Review. Debs dismisses news accounts alleging an international conspiracy of Wobblies, Sinn Feiners, and Bolsheviks as a "wonderful cock-and-bull story" invented owing to its "great potency as a bogey to frighten the feeble-minded." Debs dismisses the tale of an IWW engaging in mass sabotage on behalf of the German Kaiser as a "stupendous lie" and a "ghastly joke." He charges that "It is from Wall Street, the money center of the American plutocracy, that the campaign of falsehood and slander against the IWW is directed; from there that the orders are issued to raid its national and state offices, jail its leaders, break up its meetings, and tar and feather and lacerate with whips and finally lynch and assassinate its speakers and organizers." Debs states that Wall Street "mortally fears the IWW and its growing menace to capitalist autocracy and misrule," and that it is for this reason that the campaign of calumny against them had been launched. Debs contrasts that torrent of slander and false accusations against the IWW with the pious pronouncements by "every hog under a silk tie" that the American Federation of Labor is a "great and patriotic organization."

"Rules of the Trade Union Educational League." [February 1922]  Fundamental document of organizational law of the Trade Union Educational League, American affiliate of the Red International of Labor Unions and trade union center of the Communist Party of America. In an effort to steer clear of charges of dual unionism, the document establishes the TUEL on a highly unusual basis: "The league is purely an educational body, not a trade union. It is strictly prohibited for any of its national or local branches to affiliate to or accept the affiliations of trade unions. No dues shall be collected from individual workers nor per capita tax from organizations of any kind. The revenues of the league, national and local, shall be provided through voluntary donations, meetings, entertainments, sale of literature, etc. No membership cards shall be issued to individuals cooperating with the league." The national office was to consist of a Secretary-Treasurer and a National Committee consisting of 14 heads of "industrial sections." Governance was to be by annual national conferences, delegated on the basis of the average annual subscription count of the group's official organ,The Labor Herald, associated with each local group. Editor of the magazine was to be elected at these national conferences.

"Order of Business for First  Meetings of Local General Groups of the Trade Union Educational League." [February 1922]  Prescription for initial organizational activities of local groups of the TUEL. As "the success of the league and its work will depend to a very great extent upon the circulation secured for The Labor Herald," activities were skewed towards the promotion of this publication, with the selection of "one or more live wires" to serve as literature agents for the magazine high on the list of priorities. The Secretary of the local group was to be "a trade unionist," with no additional qualifications noted. Local groups were to "make their own financial arrangements, except that they may not collect per capita tax or dues from organizations or individuals. To cut expenses the meetings should be held in the homes of members or in the halls of sympathetic unions." Semi-monthly meetings of the local group are explicitly specified.

"Circular Letter Mailed to Over 1,000 'Live-Wire Trade Unionists'  on Behalf of the  Trade Union Educational League from William Z. Foster in Chicago, Feb. 10, 1922."  Lest there be any doubt as to the date at which the Trade Union Educational League was actually launched, this dated circular letter by Secretary-Treasurer William Z. Foster mass mailed to over 1,000 "live-wire trade unionists" provides the answer. Foster announces a "big nationwide campaign to amalgamate the many trade unions into powerful industrial organizations and to infuse them with the true fighting spirit" and encloses a leaflet reprinted from the newly-launched Labor Herald including the organization's program. "The league is beginning immediately its active work of militant education and consolidation of the trade unions," Foster declares.

"A Call to Action," by William Z. Foster [c. Feb. 15, 1922]  An early appeal by head of the Trade Union Educational League to "live wire trade unionists" whom he solicited by direct mail. Foster depicts the main task of the new TUEL organization as one of consolidation and organization: "As things now stand, the militants are scattered broadcast through many thousands of local unions, central labor councils, etc., and there is scarcely the faintest trace of communication or cooperation between them. It is an utter chaos. And the only way this chaos can be conquered and the army of militants developed into a unified body capable of exerting great influence in the labor movement is by the rigid application of modern organization methods." First on the agenda will be the establishment of "general local groups," Foster says, followed by a coordinated effort of these to "organize the militants in the respective industries." The national organization was scheduled to launch in the first week of March 1922 when "at least 400 or 500 local branches" of TUEL would be simultaneously formed. "To avoid every semblance of dualism the league does not permit the collecting of regular dues or per capita tax from members or sympathizing unions," Foster declares, noting that "It is financed through donations by its members, sale of literature, etc." Foster also asserts that "under no circumstances should the groups be confined merely to member of this or that political party or tendency."

"The League in Chicago," by J.W. Johnstone [events of Feb. 27 to March 16, 1922]  Report by William Z. Foster's right hand man in the TUEL organization, Jack Johnstone, on the organization's initial activities in its major urban center, Chicago. The first meeting of the group was held Feb. 27, 1922 and drew a crowd of 400, Johnstone notes. Elections of officers were held, and a total of 335 subscriptions to The Labor Herald were obtained. A total of 1500 copies of the April issue of the magazine were on order for distribution by the group, Johnstone notes. The group seems to have been dominated by labor leaders in it initial phase, with Johnstone observing that "some of the strongest men in this locality are working for and with us." However, "our success depends upon our membership gaining the confidence of the rank and file," Johnstone remarks.

"Sacco-Vanzetti: Socialist Leader Makes Stirring Plea for Two Italian Labor Men," by Eugene V. Debs [July 6, 1922]  Appeal by Socialist leader Gene Debs in the celebrated case of two Italian anarchists convicted of murder and robbery in a payroll heist at a shoe factory. Debs likens the situation faced by Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti to that of the 1887 Haymarket martyrs or the imprisoned Tom Mooney and Warren Billings -- innocent labor leaders convicted on the basis of perjured testimony for political ends. "Another trial will result in acquittal and vindication, and that must be our demand, Debs declares, adding that "in every state and in every town and city the appeal must be made to the conscience of the people: 'Sacco and Vanzetti are innocent men. They shall not be murdered!'" Debs urges his Socialist readership to contact the Massachusetts-based Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee for literature to distribute and calls for financial contributions for the defense effort. "We can and must rescue these men from the electric chair, and I have sufficient faith in the workers to believe it will be done," Debs hopefully adds.

"From Atlanta Prison: A Letter from a Prisoner with a Warning," by Eugene V. Debs [July 6, 1922]  One of the chief rationales behind the wartime repression of conscientious and political objectors to American participation in the European conflict was that public oratory on the issue "impeded enlistment." In actuality, very few words seem to have been uttered at the time actually attempting to impede enlistment, as opposed to efforts to reverse American participation in the so-called "imperialist war." This article, on the other hand, penned by Socialist leader Gene Debs not long after his release from a three year prison term at Atlanta for having exercised free speech during wartime, actually does attempt to "impede enlistment" -- consisting largely of a long letter from an unnamed 11-year Navy veteran-turned-Socialist currently serving time at Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. The writer declares that he has finally "learned what our navy really stands for and that is not for the protection against invasion, but simply a school that teaches the doctrines of the rich." He upraids the navy for its "tyrannical rules" and declares that "candidly I would rather serve time [in federal prison] than in the navy." He states that "an enlisted man has no rights, only privileges, and these are granted by the commanding officers. Everything is at their discretion." He characterizes naval officers as a "class or clique" biased against enlisted men and intimates that the prohibition of whistling aboard ship is particularly odious.


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