Update 13-12: Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013.

"Mission of the Socialist Party: Speech at Coliseum Hall Arena, Denver, CO," by Eugene V. Debs [May 26, 1902]  The best-known leader of the new Socialist Party of America made this appeal to a crowd of 3,000 people under the auspices of the Western Federation of Miners and the American Labor Union. Debs proclaims no compromise possible between the principles of private and collective property, declaring that one would just as well attempt "to harmonize fire and water." Just as the Republican Party had emerged to eliminate chattel slavery just over 40 years earlier, the Socialist Party had emerged to muster the class-conscious votes of the working class to eliminate wage slavery today, Debs declares. Centralization of economic activity was inexorably bringing a close to the wage system which, having fulfilled its historic mission, would pass away in favor of "the new society that is evolving from the present competitive chaos," according to Debs. Debs states that only two possible roads were available for the change, by securing control of the government through the ballot or by revolution. Since "no sane man prefers violent to peaceful measures," it followed that "Socialists rely upon the efficacy of a united class-conscious ballot to accomplish their end," Debs says.

“'We Must Gain Possessionof the Tools of Trade': Speech at Butte Auditorium, Butte, Montana," by Eugene V. Debs [June 16, 1902]  This speech by Socialist Party leader Gene Debs to a packed house at Butte Auditorium is interesting in that it includes a number of explicit pronouncements about life during the transition period from capitalism to socialism. Debs asserts that capital is conscious of itself and its interests and coordinated in its actions, while labor is only fumblingly making its way to such status. Its coordinated action is a necessary precondition to bringing an end to the rule of the capitalist minority, in Debs' view. Following the winning of the government, socialist policies would follow in short order, with the elimination of profits via the increase of wages given highest priority. Thereafter the high wages paid by public-owned industry would create a situation in which labor in the private sector would refuse to work for greatly lesser wages, causing the economic failure of these competing capitalist firms and their takeover by the state. The advantages of wealth would likewise disappear as servants would find more lucrative employment in industry.

"For the Adoption of the Communist Exclusion Plan," by Otto Branstetter [June 4, 1921]  The Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party of America takes aim at prominent SPA left winger Louis Engdahl in this New York Call article. Engdahl, a staunch supporter of affiliating the Socialist Party to the Third International, had challenged the veracity of Branstetter's assertion that the party's application for membership had been rejected and intimated that a purge of supporters of left wing supporters of affiliation was in the offing at the behest of the party leadership at the forthcoming 1921 National Convention. Branstetter retorts here that Engdahl was lying, "in the approved Communist manner," and was dodging the real issues involved in favor of the spreading of "misrepresentation, insinuation, half truths, and deliberate misstatements of fact." Branstetter states that the proposal for the expulsion of left wingers actually came from below, via a resolution of Chicago's 13th Ward Branch, rather than through the initiative of the party leadership. That said, Branstetter minces no words about what he feels should happen to the left wingers still in the Socialist Party: "The issue is clearly drawn.... Shall we expel Hillquit or Engdahl? I vote enthusiastically for Engdahl. After all, we are still a Socialist party, and Hillquit is a Socialist. Let us keep Hillquit, Oneal, Shiplacoff, Maurer, and the other loyal, devoted Socialist comrades and permit Engdahl to obey his master’s voice and join the United Communist Party."

"International Affiliation at the Detroit Convention," by James Oneal [June 8, 1921]  With the 1921 convention of the Socialist Party of America looming, National Executive Committee member James Oneal uses this article in the New York Call to attempt to disabuse his comrades of the notion of affiliation with the Third International in Moscow, as advocated by the SPA's left wing. A laundry list of requirements would face the SPA in affiliating, Oneal indicates, including the purging of longstanding party veterans, establishment of an illegal organization, acceptance of armed insurrection and dictatorship, and the taking of orders from Moscow, among other things. Oneal notes that this program had roots in the "Bakunin anarchists" who had wrecked the First International as well as the Chicago-based anarchist movement of the 1880s which had ended in the Haymarket bombing and the repression which followed. The Left Wing of 1919 "did us a service by leaving us, and we would do ourselves injury by returning to them," Oneal declares. "If they think that by playing hide and seek with secret service agents, and that hurling leaflets from buildings urging 'armed insurrection' is the thing, we should allow them a monopoly of this stupidity." He seeks the coming convention to "draw the line in these matters."

"Regeneration of Party Depends on Convention: Dissension on Points Raised by World Events Must Be Ended by Clear Cut Stand before Real Work Can Be Resumed -- New Split Seen Possible," by William M. Feigenbaum [June 13, 1921]  New York Call journalist William Morris Feigenbaum notes the critical importance of the forthcoming 1921 convention of the Socialist Party of America for the party. According to Feigenbaum, although the Socialist Party had 110,000 members, it was "not in a healthy condition" owing to the war. The war had previously caused a severe attrition of regular party members, in Feigenbaum's account, who were quietly replaced by "tens of thousands of Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Ukrainians, Letts [Latvians], Slovenians, and others" who joined in the wake of the armistice, inspired by the Russian Revolution. A split and formation of the Communist parties followed, which resulted in demoralization and further atrophy of the party ranks, a process accentuated by the Palmer Raids. In 1920 the SPA was again subjected to a split between Morris Hillquit-led regulars and a left wing faction headed by journalist J. Louis Engdahl. The regulars had controlled the gathering, going so far as to expunge from the record a left wing-presented resolution highly critical of Hillquit and the defense in the case of the suspended New York Assemblymen.


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