Update 12-19: Sunday, May 6, 2012.
"Make-Believe Radicalism," by C.E. Ruthenberg [Sept. 23, 1911] Letter to the editor of Max S. Hayes' labor weekly, The Cleveland Citizen, by Socialist Party mayoral candidate C.E. Ruthenberg. Ruthenberg charges his Democratic Party opponent, Newton D. Baker, with opportunistically employing radical phrases to cloak the fundamental differences in strategic goals of the two parties. "The Democratic Party stands for reaction -- retrogression," Ruthenberg declares, adding that "In its platform it has declared itself in favor of returning to the days of ruthless competition in place of moving forward to the social revolution. The difference between the principles of the Democratic Party and the Socialist Party could not be greater than the differences now existing." Ruthenberg charges that Baker's refusal to debate him was related to a fear of exposure of these fundamental differences, rather than his claims that it would obscure fundamental unity of vision by dwelling upon minor tactical disagreements.
"Down With War! The Workers of the United States Have No Desire and No Reason to Shed Their Blood." [March 1917] Full text of a rare leaflet of the Socialist Party of America from the two month interval between the Wilson administration's severance of diplomatic relations with the German empire on February 3, 1917 and the country's declaration of war on April 6. The leaflet charges that without sanction of the people or consultation with Congress, "we are practically ordered to join in the mad dance of death and destruction and to swell the ghastly river of blood in Europe with the blood of thousands of American workers." The Socialists declare war to be "murder" and "the climax of utter lawlessness" opine that it is "idle to prate about lawful and unlawful methods of warfare." "The German submarine warfare does not threaten our national integrity or independence, not even our national dignity and honor," the leaflet asserts, charging that the "parasitic classes that have been making huge profits by manufacturing instruments of death or by taking away our food and selling it at exorbitant prices to the fighting armies of Europe" would be affected by a prohibition of American shipping from the war zone. Telegrams and letters to President Wilson and to Congress demanding that "this nation shall not be plunged into war for the benefit of plundering capitalists" are solicited.
"Proclamation and War Program." [May 1917] Full text of the so-called "St. Louis Resolution," the majority report of the Committee on War and Militarism of the April 1917 Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party of America. Passed just days after American entry into the European war, this staunchly anti-militarist brought the full force of the Wilson administration and the American state to bear against the Socialist Party. The resolution declares that the Socialist Party "solemnly reaffirms its allegiance to the principle of internationalism and working class solidarity the world over, and proclaims its unalterable opposition to the war just declared by the United States." Military power and "sham national patriotism" is held to be a bulwark of the capitalist state, the cause of war in general and this war in particular to be the competition for foreign markets in which to invest "surplus" wealth. "The ghastly war in Europe was not caused by an accidental event, nor by the policy or institutions of any single nation. It was the logical outcome of the competitive capitalist system," the manifesto declares. A program is advanced, including in part "Continuous, active, and public opposition to the war, through demonstrations, mass petitions, and all other means within our power," "Unyielding opposition to all proposed legislation for military or industrial conscription," "Vigorous resistance to all reactionary measures, such as censorship of the press and mails, restriction of the rights of free speech, assemblage, and organization, or compulsory arbitration and limitation of the right to strike," and "Widespread educational propaganda to enlighten the masses as to the true relation between capitalism and war," among other things. "The American people did not want and do not want this war," the manifesto declares, insisting instead that "they have been plunged into this war by the trickery and treachery of the ruling class of the country through its representatives in the National Administration and National Congress, its demagogic agitators, its subsidized press, and other servile instruments of public expression."
"Letter to Rose Ruthenberg in Cleveland from C.E. Ruthenberg in New York City, March 25, 1920." This surprisingly revelatory letter from Communist Party of America Executive Secretary C.E. Ruthenberg to his wife in Cleveland reveals that portrayals of his wife as apolitical and abandoned in this period are incorrect. Indeed, Rose Ruthenberg was handling the CPA's banking in Cleveland! This letter details the transfer of 10 checks totaling $1650. "The account is growing too big," Ruthenberg notes to his wife, and she is instructed to withdraw $2,000, laundering it through "The Co-Operators Company" before being deposited in the "Society for Savings" account. Rose Ruthenberg's discontent with the living arrangement is apparent, with C.E. reassuring her: "I know things are not pleasant for you as they are, and I assure you I would much rather be living quietly at home than to be in my present situation. But what can we do about it? So keep up your courage my dear and make the best of it for the present, and we’ll hope that the future will bring something better."
"Letter to Rose Ruthenberg in Cleveland from C.E. Ruthenberg in New York City, April 12, 1920." In this letter home, CPA Executive Secretary C.E. Ruthenberg is troubled by his forthcoming trial on charges of having violated New York's "Criminal Anarchism" law -- taking an automobile road trip to view Sing Sing Prison -- and discouraged about the future of the CPA. The organization is "running behind every month" financially, C.E. notes, and he finds little interest in living in New York City away from his wife and son. He looks to "get out" of the organization and wonders aloud whether he can find a job after his time as a party functionary. He is disconsolate about the organization seemingly "going smash" and seems in no mood to wade through an endless string of "personal squabbles" in coming months. "Although I cannot say definitely what will happen and that the conditions will be such that I will quit, the feeling is growing on me." Ruthenberg would ultimately bolt the organization with a handful of co-thinkers at a session of the Central Executive Committee held less than a week later.
"Letter to Rose Ruthenberg in Cleveland from C.E. Ruthenberg in New York City, April 19, 1920." C.E. Ruthenberg reveals details of the split of the Communist Party of America to his wife in Cleveland. CPA dues checks totaling about $870, made payable to a false name for security reasons, are included in the letter, together with instructions for their disposition. C.E. again asserts his weariness with the factional warfare, declaring, "I am sick and tired of the whole business and only wish I could drop out without leaving people who are depending on me in the lurch." He promises to quit the party within four weeks and looks forward to a summer of freedom before his trial for "Criminal Anarchism" in New York state begins in the fall. "I would like nothing better than to come home right away and let them squabble as long as they want, but I have the party money and I have certain responsibility, and I could not quit at this moment without shirking that responsibility," Ruthenberg remarks.
"Letter to the United Communist Party in New York from Charles Dirba, Executive Secretary of the Communist Party of America in New York, Oct. 15, 1920." [NEW EDITION] By the summer of 1920, the Executive Committee of the Communist International had lost patience with the endless factional shenanigans of the two rival American Communist Parties and it set about to end the counterproductive division of the movement by forcing unity under pain of expulsion . A two month deadline -- October 10, 1920 -- was established for the final amalgamation of the Communist Labor Party and the Communist Party of America. Unfortunately for all concerned, this ultimatum was not successfully transmitted to either of the American Parties. This shocked letter from CPA Executive Secretary Charles Dirba to the leadership of the UCP notes having discovered news of the ultimatum in the columns of the September 14 issue of Izvestiia -- on October 13, that is, three days AFTER the deadline for final union. Dirba seeks an immediate reply as to whether the UCP had been informed of this deadline. He also upbraids the rival organization for asserting a "downright falsehood" in their bulletin to District Organizers, in which they claimed that the UCP unity committee of two had been rejected out of hand by the CPA. Dirba declares that "we have no knowledge of your committee's having approached or got in touch with us in any way, and that we have not turned them down." He seeks a reply by the morning of October 18, 1920 so that the CEC of the CPA may act expeditiously in the unity matter.
"Open Letter to the Members of the Communist Party of America from Charles Dirba, Executive Secretary, October 20, 1920." On October 14 the Communist Party of America first learned of the decision two months earlier of the Executive Committee of the Communist International to force unification of the CPA and its hated rivals, the United Communist Party. The party began a flurry of activity to set the stage for this shotgun wedding on its own terms, dispatching a first unitycommunication to the UCP on October 15, a letter to the CI on October 19, and this letter to its own rank-and-file members the day after that. Executive Secretary Dirba emphasizes that the forced merger will be based upon the Communist International's “Conditions for Affiliation," which specified that all parties "must regularly and systematically remove the reformist and centrist elements from all the more or less important posts." Renegade former members of the CPA C.E. Ruthenberg, I.E. Ferguson, and L. Belsky are singled out along with "defenders of Debs," "'Americans' who can not tolerate language federations," and "'legalists'" as elements to be fought inside the new party and expelled "if necessary." When the time comes CPA members "should see to it that only true comrades, only steadfast and uncompromising communists, are chosen for electors and convention delegates," Dirba declares.
"Letter to the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of America in New York from Alfred Wagenknecht, Executive Secretary of the United Communist Party in New York, October 21, 1920." Reply of Alfred Wagenknecht on behalf of the CEC of the United Communist Party to the October 15, 1920 letter of his counterpart, Charles Dirba, of the rival Communist Party of America. Wagenknecht notes that the CPA's harsh critique of the UCP had been "decisively rebuked by the [2nd World] Congress of the International recognizing the United Communist Party as the major party in the United States and granting it a preponderance of the votes for the United States in the Congress." While a termination of negotions might have been in order given this situation, at the request of C.I. Rep Samuel Agursky the UCP had instead appointed a two person committee to negotiate terms of unity with the CPA before the Jan. 1, 1921 deadline for such an agreement. With time of the essence, a joint meeting was requested before the end of the week.
"Letter to the Central Executive Committee of the United Communist Party in New York from Charles Dirba, Executive Secretary of the Communist Party of America in New York, October 21, 1920." With ECCI threatening expulsion of any American Communists failing to achieve unity by a date already past, both the United Communist Party and the Communist Party of America accelerated negotiations for their shotgun wedding of a unity convention. In this letter from the CPA to the UCP, Executive Secretary Charles Dirba indicates that a 3 member negotiating committee had been appointed, specifies the basis for a unity convention, and declares that the all important question of delegate election shall be conducted on the basis of proportional representation of audited paid membership over some unspecified period in the past. As the larger of the two organizations, this would place the CPA in a position of majority control at the convention, able to force through the organizational forms and paid staffing decisions it desired. The long-desired unity convention is to be held within two months, the CPA announces.
"Letter to Rose Ruthenberg in Cleveland from C.E. Ruthenberg in The Tombs Detention Center, New York City, October 30, 1920." With his trial over and a sentence of 5 to 10 years in prison received, United Communist Party leader C.E. Ruthenberg composed this letter from The Tombs detention facility in New York City to his wife in Cleveland. Ruthenberg writes: "While the sentence could have been put off for a couple of days, we asked to have it done immediately so that we would not have to remain here for so long. I was asked first whether I had anything to say and made a speech defying the judge and jury and telling them they were part of the capitalist system of coercion and that I had not expected anything else from them. All the NY papers had the story. F[erguson] followed with a speech of the same character. The judge said he expected it from me but was surprised at F[erguson]. He didn't like me because I had treated him with contempt throughout the trial."
"Letter to the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of America in New York from Alfred Wagenknecht, Executive Secretary of the United Communist Party in New York, November 3, 1920." With their confidence bolstered by the privileged position they possessed relative to the Communist Party of America at the 2nd World Congress of the CI during the summer, the UCP opens its unity proposals with this one-sided set of conditions. Although the smaller organization, the UCP demands a set-aside of 60 percent of the delegates to the unity convention -- a proportion mirroring the voting blocs allotted at the 2nd World Congress of the CI. This would allow them to control the form of the organization and its paid staff. The other chief obstacle, the nature of the language federations of the new organization, is to be decided in the UCP's favor from the outset as a precondition of unity: "no autonomous groups or federations shall be allowed in the united party." A further requirement is to be made that voting membership is to be determined on the basis of the number of underground group participants, implicitly ruling out a swath of the CPA's membership contained in semi-legal or legal Lithuanian language groups, etc. In order to comply with ECCI's deadline, the joint unity convention is to be held prior to Jan. 1, 1921, the UCP notes.
"Letter to the Central Executive Committee of the United Communist Party in New York from Charles Dirba, Executive Secretary of the Communist Party of America in New York, November 3, 1920." CPA chief Charles Dirba wastes no time in rejecting the rival United Communist Party's November 3 demand for a 60% set-aside of delegates to a forthcoming joint unity convention. He declares in no uncertain terms: "The Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party will not accept any other basis of representation at the joint convention than the number of dues paying members, and will appeal to the Executive Committee of the Communist International in case the United Communist Party does not agree to this at once."
"Letter to the Central Executive Committee of the United Communist Party in New York from Charles Dirba, Executive Secretary of the Communist Party of America in New York, November 4, 1920." On the morning of November 4, 1920, the Communist Party of America received a communication from its representatives in Moscow, Louis Fraina and Nicholas Hourwich, which fundamentally altered the political dynamics of the Comintern's shotgun wedding of the United Communist Party and the CPA. Previously believing itself to be the Comintern's favorite, ECCI instead determined that the two American Communist organizations were to merge on the basis of a level playing field, with delegates proportional to the average of "dues actually paid" for July through October 1920. This ruling seemed to assure the hegemony of the larger CPA at the gathering -- and thus the preservation of its preferred organizational form of a federation of strong and partially independent language organizations and the all-important jobs of its professional functionaries. With the hole cards now revealed it would now be the CPA pushing for unity and the UCP attempting to stall and defer while it worked behind the scenes for a revision of this ECCI decision.
"Letter to the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of America in New York from Alfred Wagenknecht, Executive Secretary of the United Communist Party in New York, November 5, 1920." Executive Secretary of the United Communist Party Alfred Wagenknecht answers the November 3 communication of his Communist Party of America counterpart, Charles Dirba, with bluster and bluff -- the November 4 letter seemingly having crossed in the mail. After declaring the UCP to be "the body through which the Communist International functions in the United States," Wagenknecht mulls aloud the scenario of forcing the liquidation and merger of the CPA into the UCP without a convention. Only the possibilities of resulting "inequities" have stayed the UCP from this course, Wagenknecht intimates. He then declares CPA membership figures to be padded with members of federations only nominally participating in the underground party, instead belonging to their respective language federations for "social and nationalistic reasons." Wagenknecht makes the demonstrably false assertion that "The membership figures published by both parties for the months of July, August, and September 1920 show that the United Communist Party has twice as many members as the Communist Party" and then graciously repeats his offer to allow the (actually larger) CPA a 40% set-aside of delegates to the unity convention -- "a larger representation than its actual membership would entitle the CP to." Failure to comply with the UCP's ultimatum will result in an immediate appeal to the Comintern "to take decisive steps to compel obedience to its mandate for unity" by unilaterally liquidating the CPA and its constituent federations, Wagenknecht declares.
"Letter to the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of America in New York from Alfred Wagenknecht, Executive Secretary of the United Communist Party in New York, November 14, 1920." Facing the prospect of a unity convention proportionally delegated on the basis of dues actually paid in the past -- and minority status -- the UCP stalled for 10 full days after receiving notification from the CPA before deciding upon a policy of denial. Only six weeks remained to organize a unity convention before the Jan. 1, 1921 drop-dead date declared by the Executive Committee of the Comintern, but the UCP contended that no formal notification of ECCI's decision had been accorded it. "We state that we can only rely upon our own means of communications with the Executive Committee of the Communist International and see no reason for altering the provisions for the joint convention nor the basis for representation for same," the CEC of the UCP brazenly declared.
"Charles E. Ruthenberg: Fighter for Socialism," by Dan Ruthenberg  Short biographical sketch of CPUSA founding member and leader C.E. Ruthenberg, published by his son in the Communist press in 1937. The younger Ruthenberg notes that his father attended "Lutheran School and Business College, he had early ambitions for the Lutheran ministry, but these were quickly quenched by his inability to obtain answers to some of the questions he fired at his pastor." From 1917 until the time of his death in early 1927, "there was not one year which did not find him under indictment or sentence," his son notes. His father is depicted as a non-conformist fighter for authentic American values: "The Americanism of C.E. Ruthenberg was not the Americanism of the dollar-chasing exploiters, of blood-smeared generals, of lying, treacherous statesmen, of swindling office-holders, or of tax-dodging capitalists. His Americanism was that of the Declaration of Independence, that of Thomas Paine, of Emerson, of Twain, and of Phillips, Lowell, and Whitman."
"Childhood Memories of Charlie: Oral Testimony of Edward Ernest Arnold, Collected by Oakley C. Johnson for a Biography of C.E. Ruthenberg, circa 1940." Edited transcription of the oral recollections of the best boyhood friend of future Communist Party leader C.E. Ruthenberg, talking about growing up in Cleveland in the late 1880s and early 1890s. Both Arnold and Ruthenberg were of German-Lutheran extraction and attended a strict Lutheran parochial school together. Ruthenberg, a pampered youngest child, is characterized as studious, intelligent, sometimes mischievous, and possessing leadership qualities from an early age. Ruthenberg's parents are called "fine people" who enforced Sunday church attendance and provided young "Charlie" with a comfortable childhood existence. Out of contact with Ruthenberg after he left public High School to attend business college, Arnold laments the fact that Ruthenberg "got in with the wrong gang"and was "just a man that got started in the wrong direction, that’s all." Regardless of his political differences, Arnold is adamant that "Charlie was sincere" and didn't go into political radicalism "out of wanting to be a damned politician."
"My Boyfriend Charlie: Testimony of Margaret Bengsch Curtis, Collected by Oakley C. Johnson for a Biography of C.E. Ruthenberg, circa 1940." Edited transcription of the oral recollections of the childhood sweetheart of future Communist Party leader. Curtis remembers "Charlie" as an intelligent, neatly attired, bookish, and "sweet boy," who was "almost too bashful to kiss a girl." His mother, a kindly churchgoing homebody, spoke to C.E. around the house in the Low German dialect, but he always answered in English, Curtis recalls. At her 18th birthday party Curtis set C.E. up with his future wife, Rose, making sure that he took her home that night. Though they later married, C.E. always carried a torch for her, Curtis remembers, although the sentiment was not returned. Neither she nor Rose were supportive of C.E.'s turn to radical politics, Curtis intimates.
"My Friend C.E. Ruthenberg: Testimony of Theodore E. Kretchmar, Collected by Oakley C. Johnson for a Biography of C.E. Ruthenberg, circa 1940." Short biographical sketch of CPUSA founding member and leader C.E. Ruthenberg by a boyhood friend who moved to New York City with Ruthenberg and worked with him at the Selmar-Hess Publishing Company there. Kretchmar describes Ruthenberg's father as a stern Prussian sort of man who ran an old fashioned beer saloon, his mother simple and sweet. "C.E." was bookish and an enthusiast for literature, poetry, drama, and philosophy who briefly aspired to the Lutheran ministry. After finishing Lutheran School at age 13 or 14, Ruthenberg enrolled straight away in business college, Kretchmar indicates, graduating at age 16 to take a job in the office of the Ohio Molding and Picture Frame Company. From there he moved to New York to take a job as a regional sales manager for the Selmar Hess Publishing Co, Kretchmar indicates. Originally a devotee of laissez faire when he came to New York, Ruthenberg was bested in a debate on socialism with a friend and co-worker, McBane Walker. Ruthenberg began reading Karl Marx's Capital to prepare himself for a future debate and wound up converting himself to the socialist cause.