Update 12-16: Sunday, April 15, 2012.
"The Socialist Party Manifesto," by James Oneal [Sept. 4, 1919] A lite and breezy opinion piece written from Chicago by the New York Call's lead editorialist, James Oneal. Oneal considers the recently-adopted "Manifesto of the Socialist Party" -- an aggressively-phrased document written in large measure to stave the attrition of the SPA's more radical members. Oneal, the dominant leader of the SPA's Regular faction in 1919, admits as much here, calling the manifesto "a splendid document" which "will tend to rally members who have been uncertain of the outcome of the convention" as well as those blinded by the appeals of patriotism during the war years. "The old isolation of the United States is gone, gone for the Socialists and the exploiters of the country," Oneal declares. He notes that now that America was integrated into world imperialism henceforth American Socialists will have to give as much attention to matters such as militarism and colonialism as the European Socialists have.
"Parleys Fail to Effect Fusion of Communists: Both Groups Stand Pat on Original Declarations — Chicago is Adopted as Seat." (NY Call) [Sept. 5, 1919] This unsigned report from the New York Call documents squabbles at the founding conventions of the rival Communist Party of America and Communist Labor Party. In the CPA's case the cause of dissension was the location of party headquarters, with the Russian Federationists of New York City breaking ranks with their caucus in supporting NYC over Chicago -- a proposal which was defeated. The CLP fought over the composition of its NEC, with a first outcome that included moderates Ludwig Lore and Marguerite Prevey bitterly denounced by a bloc of New Yorkers including Jack Reed and Ben Gitlow as constituting an impediment to unity with the more radical CPA. A new election was held as a result of this attack, the article indicates, with a new 5 member NEC approved that included Max Bedacht and Edward Lindgren in place of Lore and Prevey.
"Convention Inspires Socialists to Build Mighty Party Anew: Reconstruction Now Keynote of Movement as Delegates Return Home to Intensify Local Organization Work." (NY Call) [Sept. 7, 1919] It is regrettable that this account of the Chicago conventions from the summer of 1919 is unsigned, for it adds free and easy and whimsical portraits of tense and overwrought gatherings. The writer notes several important technical details -- the fact that fully three days of seven had been spent just getting the credentials war at the Socialist Party convention resolved, the fact that a new orientation towards the trade unions through establishment of a Committee on Economic Organization, details of the revised party constitution, which was to end direct election of the governing National Executive Committee. First-hand glimpses are offered of the Communist Labor Party convention, including a comical take upon the Ohio CLP's dilemma of voting for its own candidates on the November ballot under the Socialist Party's banner, with Communist Party of America Executive Secretary C.E. Ruthenberg at the top of the ticket. A folksy description contrasting the demeanor of the aggressive New York and laid back Wisconsin delegations at the SPA's Emergency Convention adds spice, complete with charming descriptions of Milwaukee Socialists Ed Melms, Dan Hoan, and Victor Berger.
"Socialist Party Convention." (Editorial from The New York Call) [Sept. 9, 1919] Self-congratulatory editorial from the pages of the New York Call, probably but not definitely written by the paper's chief editorialist, James Oneal. The editorial calls the newly formed Communist Party of America "an anomaly in the history of working class parties" in that it is an organization established by foreign-born workers in an attempt to win power by gaining the mass support of a native-born population. Moreover, hostile constituent elements comprise the CPA, the editorialist notes, including an electorally-oriented but programatically impossibilist Michigan organization and language federations believing in imminent revolution while eschewing politics altogether. The rival Communist Labor Party is portrayed as a "wavering center" between the SPA and the CPA, comprised of Ohio and Washington delegations and a "few scattering delegates" from elsewhere. This group bolted one convention only to be excluded from the other and were a patched-together assemblage held together only by an amorphous conception of "political action." No long term party could be maintained around such a vague concept, the editorialist asserts. The Socialist Party, by way of contrast, is said to have repudiated the weak 2nd International and "without a dissenting voice, maintains its position of aid and endorsement of the genuine fighters for Socialism and the working class in Russia, Germany, and other countries, while opposing all groups that support counter-revolution or who sanction support of coalition governments." The editorialist expresses confidence that "the sincere members who have been misled during the past few months will return" to the Socialist Party's ranks.
"No Real Socialist Will Hold Back." (NY Call) [Sept. 10, 1919] While the Regular faction of the Socialist Party triumphed over their Left Wing opponents at the Emergency National Convention of 1919, the winners found the organization which they had "won" financially and spiritually undermined. Tens of thousands of duespayers had been suspended or expelled and that revenue lost, the not insignificant cost of the convention had been added to the party's list of financial liabilities, and many of the remaining party members had failed to purchase 50 cent "special assessment stamps" to fund the gathering or had seen their payments withheld by State Secretaries until after the factional smoke cleared. This short appeal published in the New York Call urges the purchase of special assessement stamps by those who had thus far failed to do so and the application of grassroots pressure upon State Secretaries to forward the funds if they had not done so already. A tendentious account is given of the 1919 convention, including the brazenly deceptive assertion that "All who were entitled to seats, regardless of their views, were given seats" -- neatly disregarding three months of mass expulsions, suspensions, and reorganizations involving 7 entire language federations, the entire states of Massachusetts, Michigan, and Ohio, the selective restructuring of New York and Missouri, and the treatment of the California delegation at the convention itself.
"Left Wing Left Far Behind in Primaries." (NY Call) [Sept. 12, 1919] Final, official vote counts from the unprecedented primary election battle in New York City between the slate of the Socialist Party Regulars and the slate of the Left Wing Section. Unlike the initial report of the vote count published a week earlier, this includes the names of the entire Left Wing slate. One or two of the very few races captured by the Left Wing shifted back to the Regulars in this final count.
"Steel Strike May Begin Labor's Last Big Battle With Industrial Barons: Bitterness and Violence Seen as Certain Results -- Wilson's October 6 Conference Mildly Amuses Wall Street Interests," by Laurence Todd [Sept. 20, 1919] Laurence Todd of the Federated Press sets the table for the Great Steel Strike, scheduled to begin the day after publication of this article. Todd notes with approval the decision not to delay the strike until after the October 6 scheduled start of Woodrow Wilson's Conference Industrial Relations, noting that the ranks of participants had been stacked with leading opponents of organized labor under the guise of representatives of the "public." Todd also notes that the red-baiting of strike organizer William Z. Foster had begun -- "the game is to present him as a dangerous anarchist." In contrast to the stillborn October 6 conference, Todd holds hope for a "genuine and sincere conference on the future of the railroad industry" in support of the Plumb Plan to be led by Frederic C. Howe. A grassroots movement in favor of a Labor Party and Farmer-Labor cooperation is noted, with state labor organizations in five states already having declared "for union with the organized farmers in the coming political campaign."
"Seattle Labor Forces Removal of Warden Who Tortured Wells: Halligan to be Ousted from McNeil Island as Result of Physician’s Report of Terrible Brutalities Practiced on Political Prisoners." (NY Call) [Sept. 24, 1919] News report indicating that the scandalous treatment meted out to Seattle Socialist and wartime political prisoner Hulet Wells had ended in removal of O.P. Halligan as warden of the federal penitentiary at McNeil Island, Washington. Wells, an opponent of conscription, had been jailed and sentenced to two years in prison even before passage of the 1917 Espionage Law. There he had been assigned to a work crew with the task of felling and cutting one cord of wood per man per day. Physically unable to perform this task, Wells had refused the duty and been consigned to a subterranan punishment cell, where for nearly two weeks in inadequate sanitary conditions he had been forced to undergo stress position and food deprivation torture -- limited to 14 ounces of bread plus water per day. His wife had alerted the Seattle labor movement to her husband's plight and a public scandal had erupted, ending with the warden's replacement by the former chief of the Washington state penitentiary at Walla Walla.
"To Our Comrades In Kings County! Open Letter from Headquarters, Local Kings County, Socialist Party." [Sept. 30, 1919] Open letter published on the party page of the New York Call from the Brooklyn Socialist Party organization inviting members who had left for factional reasons during the Left Wing split to rejoin the party. The unnamed author observes that the Socialist Party Regulars had been accused by the Left Wing of supporting the regime of Philipp Scheidemann in Germany, the failed Berne International, and of opposing the Bolshevik government of Soviet Russia -- not one of which was true, as proven by the actions of the recently completed Emergency National Convention. Nor had the Left Wing been barred from the convention, as "the records...show that quite a minority of delegates with Left Wing sympathies were seated without any contest and helped to organize the convention." The new dual Communist parties were already beset by factional strife and "cannot live," the writer contents, while the Socialist Party was "still growing" in Kings County. Despite having been slandered by the opposition "we also recognize that many comrades were honest and conscientious in taking the course they did," the writer notes, adding: "There is no desire to indulge in a policy of vengeance. A few of the leading offenders who were responsible for the injury will be excluded. But the mass of the honest members are welcome in the party at any time they desire to join."
"The Only Issue (Statement of the Communist Unity Committee)." [Feb. 15, 1921] With majorities of the leadership groups of the Communist Party of America and United Communist Party of America each trying to obstruct Comintern-mandated organizational unity in their own way, another group of leaders -- headed by expelled CPA member Alexander Bittelman -- attempted to "go over the heads of the obstructionists by making a direct appeal to party members under the aegis of the "Communist Unity Committee." This document reprints a basis programmatic statement of the CUC from the group's short-lived newspaper, Communist Unity. The question of language federations and their autonomy vis-a-vis the central party organization is identified as "the only issue" standing in the way of organizational unity. The CPA's historic contention that the American Communist movement must be directed by the "100 Percenters" of the Communist movement, the CPA language federations "holds good no longer" since over the subsequent two years of underground existence the remaining English-speaking elements had shaken free of the Left Social Democrats ("Left Wingers") who had attached themselves to the movement. "They are either nothing -- and out of the movement -- or they are conscious and reliable Communists," the CUC writer contends. Moreover, by now the Executive Committee of the Comintern had emerged to serve as the "keeper of principles," further belying such a role for the CPA "100 Percenters." Control should instead be exerted by a unitary central organization "led only by those trusted and respected by the rank and file of the movement, be these CP or UCP men," which would be quickly established by a joint convention held free of the machinations of the rival Central Executive Committees, the author contends.
"Open Letter to V.I. Ulianov (N. Lenin) in Moscow from the Communist Unity Committee in New York, circa Feb. 28, 1921." Lengthy public letter to Lenin by the Communist Unity Committee of America attempting to explain the political situation blocking unity between the rival American Communist parties. "The present divisions between our two parties do not at all run along the familiar lines of European Communism. At the bottom of our factional struggles lies a specific American problem -- the so-called problem of federations," the CUC declares. The issue of "centralization vs. federalism" with respect to the language federations is a strawman, the CUC contends, instead framing the question instead as follows: "1. Should the Communist activities in America be conducted in one language only (English), or in as many languages as there are nationalities among the proletariat of the United States? 2. If the languages of our propaganda are to be the languages spoken and understood by the various nationalities of the American proletariat, should this foreign language propaganda be conducted directly by the Central Committee of the Party, or should each foreign language group be given the right to itself provide for its own matters of propaganda and organization under the final supervision of the Central Committee of the Party?" Both the CPA and the UCP were composed of an "overwhelming majority" of non-English Communists and the CUC, in the quest to fulfill Comintern-mandated unity between the groups seeks Lenin's "advice."
"Letter to a Comrade in Moscow regarding the 2nd National Conference of the Communist Unity Committee from Alexander Bittelman in New York, March 12, 1921." With the 2nd Conference of the Communist Unity Committee completed, the group's Secretary, Alex Bittelman, sends an update on the American situation to its unnamed man-in-Moscow. While the CPA had gone backwards, giving more authority to its Central Executive Committee, CUC unity propaganda was having and effect among the leaders of the UCP, Bittelman indicates. As for the 3 member American Agency of the Comintern, that body had proved ineffectual, with Karlis Janson-"Scott" of the UCP and Louis Fraina of the CPA essentially sticking to the lines of their parties and "the so-called impartial chairman [Sen Katayama], is helplessly floundering between the two." Bittelman indicates that the CUC intended to demand that both underground organizations hold conventions in every district to pass resolutions upon party unity between the rival organizations. While "in general our position is very strong," Bittelman notes that "our future tactics will, of course, depend in a large measure upon the attitude of the Comintern toward the CUC. I will ask you, therefore, to make haste with your report, and communicate with us as quickly as possible."