Update 13-24: Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013.
"Scott Nearing Explains Why He Tendered Resignation." (Duluth Labor World) [April 21, 1917] On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany, beginning the nation's descent into World War I. Within a matter of days the good citizens of Toledo, Ohio would be calling for the termination of outspoken antimilitarist and syndicated columnist Scott Nearing, a professor of Political Science at the public Toledo University. Nearing chose to ease the Board of Directors' inevitable decision, tendering his resignation prior to completion of the 1916-17 academic year, to take effect at the directors' discretion. This was accompanied by a lengthy public statement by Nearing explaining his perspective on the war. There are only two possible ways to topple German militarism, Nearing says: either through the militarization of all nations or through the promulgation of the higher ideal of "industrial democracy." Like the American example of political democracy a century and a half earlier, American industrial democracy could serve as a beacon for the world. "If we adopt militarism, we lower ourselves to the level of German militarism. If we adopt industrial democracy, we have an opportunity to raise them to our new plane of justice and liberty," Nearing declares.
"Who Will Pay?" by Scott Nearing [c. June 10, 1917] Syndicated article to the labor press by former Toledo University professor Scott Nearing noting the cynicism and self-interested behavior of supporters of American militarization and entry into World War I. Despite repeated claims that this would not be "a rich man's war and a poor man’s fight," Nearing notes, when push came to shove "the business interests were depending on the working people to finance the war as well as to fight it." Nearing claims that there were "a hundred banking firms in the country that could easily have carried the entire" first $2 billion Liberty Loan. Instead this burden was placed upon working people, in addition to the implementation of a whole array of new consumer taxes. Nearing concludes: "Business is not to be disturbed. The people are to pay. This is a democracy, we are told, but when it comes to raising revenue, the world over, the same crowd pays the bill."
"Reds Bolt Convention of State Federation: Harass Delegates With Their Adroit Program: Resolutions Condemning Government Are Defeated." (Duluth Labor World) [events of July 16-18, 1917] While there was no love lost between many mainstream conservative trade unionists and the socialist movement, the sometimes tense relations between the two camps were exacerbated following American entry into World War I as this article from a mainstream Duluth trade union weekly indicates. A series of resolutions were presented by Socialist trade unionists at the 1917 state convention of the Minnesota Federation of Labor, hotly debated, and resoundingly rejected by the ultra-patriotic majority. Rejected resolutions included condemnation of the use of non-union labor in construction projects at Fort Snelling, a call for the Wilson administration to define its war aims and peace conditions, a demand for the repeal of military conscription, and a resolution of support for the "downtrodden laborers" of Allied and enemy countries of Europe alike. A speech by Minneapolis' Socialist mayor Van Lear was "loudly cheered by socialist delegates when he denounced the Wilson administration for its effort in the war with Germany," the conservative writer of the piece declares. At the end of the three day convention, "the radicals, composed of Socialists, who were dissatisfied with the proceedings of the convention, bolted, and met in another hall," the writer notes.
"Fraina and Cheney Cases Are Postponed: Will Come Up October 10 -- Are First Charged Under Espionage Law." (NY Call) [Oct. 5, 1917] Short news article announcing the granting of a continuation in the trial of Louis C. Fraina and Ralph Cheney, arrested at a Sept. 27 meeting of conscientious objectors in New York City. The pair faced charges under the criminal section of the espionage law and for conspiracy to violate and evade the draft. Together the charges could bring 12 years in prison and a substantial fine, the article notes. An anecdote is related by Fraina about meeting a fellow Socialist in jail, William Hendel of the Bronx, who was held in The Tombs for 29 days and counting without being charged for his refusal to appear for physical examination for the draft.
"Casino Crowd Cheers Hillquit, Not Slobodin: Jewish Socialist League Has Stormy Session When It Invades Harlem District." (NY Call) [event of Oct. 5, 1917] On the evening of Oct. 5, 1917 a wild scene erupted at the New Star Casino in Harlem at an organizational meeting for the Jewish Socialist League of America, a pro-war social democratic offshoot of Samuel Gompers' American Alliance for Labor and Democracy. About 2/3 of the audience was loyal to the Socialist Party and they erupted and disrupted when speaker Henry L. Slobodin called the Socialist Party to which he had formerly belonged "the little Germany of the United States." Slobodin accusing Mayoral candidate Morris Hillquit and newspaper publisher Victor Berger of consistent pro-Germanism and of "working for the kaiser" and supported post office censorship of the Milwaukee Leader, which further inflamed the crowd. The audience cheered disruptively every mention of Hillquit, Berger, or the Socialist Party, walked out and in again, and heckled, driving follow up speaker Henry Simpson, formerly of The New Review, from the podium. Meeting chair Jacob Chaiken threw water into the crowd, a policeman was called, and the meeting broke up in disorder.
"Eye Opener is Cited by Post Office Department: Successor to American Socialist Ordered to Defend Its Right to Live -- Hearing Today." (NY Call) [Oct. 5, 1917] Following the suppression of the national newspaper of the Socialist Party of America by Postmaster General Albert Burleson early in September 1917, The American Socialist transferred its mailing list to a previously existing Chicago Socialist weekly called The Eye Opener, which also hired as its new editor J. Louis Engdahl, former editor of The American Socialist. One month later, postal authorities moved on this new iteration of the Socialist Party's new semi-official organ, as is noted in this news report from the New York City Socialist daily. This piece provides a few details about the Post Office Department's method of action against The American Socialist and notes that Washington, DC attorney and SPA National Committee member Julian Pierce was to represent The Eye Opener at its forthcoming Washington hearing. Postal Solicitor Lamar at the initial hearing presented evidence to allege that the paper's continued circulation "insubordination, disloyalty, and mutiny in the naval and military forces of the United States, obstructed the recruiting and enlistment service, interfered with the operation and the success of the military and naval forces, and promoted the success of the enemies of the United States."
"Burleson and Lamar Get Absolute Control of All American Papers." (NY Call) [Oct. 8, 1917] This short news snippet from the Washington bureau of the Socialist New York Call points to a "press gag" provision of the newly signed Trading with the Enemy Act as the legal basis for suppression of the anti-war press by Postmaster General Albert Burleson and his department. No effort would be made by Woodrow Wilson to intercede in the establishment of "as complete a terrorism of the press in the United States as have marked autocratic government abroad," the article indicates. Instead of establishing an advisory commission of editors and publishers, Burleson and Post Office Solicitor William Lamar were to serve as "National Thought Controllers," effectively shutting down through mail regulations any newspaper which they deemed "seditious," the article charges.
"Burleson Notifies The Call To Appear for 'Hearing': Call Joins Socialist Papers Stabbed While Serving the People." (The Call) [Oct. 9, 1917] On October 8 it would be the turn of the Socialist daily New York Call to be cited by the Post Office Department for its opposition to militarism and the European war. This announcement of the action ran on the front page in larger-than-average type and recounted the serial actions of Postmaster General Burleson & Co. against the Socialist press "in direct violation of the rights of free press guaranteed by the constitution." Second class mailing rights had already been recently removed from the daily Milwaukee Leader, the Hungarian-language Elore, the Russian-language Novyi Mir, the German-language daily Volkszeitung, and the Yiddish-language Daily Forward, the article notes. As for their own part, The Call declares "No specific charges of any misuse of the mails is made in the document served upon us. No quotations from any articles which in any manner violate any statute law of the United States as set forth are given. No charges of any character whatsoever are made against your paper." Its record of opposition to conscription, for adequate pay to conscripts, for a rapid peace agreement, and in opposition to the wartime attack on labor rights and press freedom had been consistent and unflinching. "We have no apologies to make, no word to regret," the paper declares, asking on its readers to each enlist a new subscriber in New York City and to elect Morris Hillquit and the Socialist slate in the forthcoming city election as a means of practical opposition.
"Rev. Thomas to Help Hillquit Win Election: Minister Says Prussian Methods of Administration Lead Him to Support Socialists." (NY Call) [Oct. 10, 1917] This short article from the New York Call is interesting for its implicit inclusion of future five-time Presidential candidate Rev. Norman Thomas among the ranks of the "non-socialist clergymen, college professors, and teachers" in support of Morris Hillquit for Mayor of New York. Thomas's letter of support is reprinted in full. Thomas, then pastor of the East Harlem Church and head of a federation of Presbyterian churches and agencies of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, lists three primary reasons for his support: 1. Belief that hope for the future lies in a new social order to move beyond capitalism; 2. Need to voice support for an end to the World War and a new positive internationalism through a Hillquit vote; and 3. Need to protest against growing American autocracy and "Prussian methods," particularly the new press censorship.
"The Socialist Press and the War," by Eugene V. Debs [Oct. 10, 1917] This very short snippet by Socialist Party founder and icon Gene Debs cheers on the Socialist party press for its "desperate struggle...to save itself for the future service of the movement." According to Debs, the government was making a two-pronged attack on the SPA including efforts to force bankruptcy by excluding them from them mails as well as the emasculation of their "policy and propaganda" through a "rigid censorship." The Socialist press is held to be of fundamental importance to the health of the Socialist movement, in Debs' view.
"IWW Secretary Arrested: Hall is Raided by Officers at St. Maries." (Spokane Spokesman-Review) [event of Dec. 22, 1917] Short news account marking the raid of a local IWW hall in a small town in the timber-rich Idaho panhandle and the arrest of the local secretary on the same day that a touring IWW organizer was scheduled to speak. Secretary William F. Nelson was arrested by the Benewah County sheriff and charged with "criminal syndicalism and advocating sabotage." The raid is said by the news account to have been largely the product of a right wing organization called the Benewah County Defense Council, a group said to be planning "a vigorous campaign to promote patriotism and stamp out disloyalty." The report notes that "the council will keep a record of all persons who indulge in disloyal talk and who fail to back the government by assisting in war activities."
"Katterfeld Met by Hostile Audience," by Albert Strout [event of December 22, 1917] Brief account of the dirty tricks played by conservative opponents of the Socialist Party in a small Washington town during the World War. With touring Socialist speaker Ludwig Katterfeld scheduled for an 8 o'clock public lecture at the local courthouse, the local chapter of the Red Cross scheduled its own meeting at 7:30 for the same location, then proceeded to attempt to make Katterfeld's meeting impossible by filibustering into Katterfeld's time. When the Socialist audience failed to either concede or respond with violence, the Socialist opponents departed, amidst cries of "Traitor!" The author of this account, Secretary of the Socialist Local, notes: "It is being circulated in Republic that the Kaiser furnished the funds for this lecture. Also that no more Socialist lectures will be allowed."
"Katterfeld Meeting Broken Up by Patriots." (Cooperative News) [late December 1917] While a previous lecture by touring Socialist organizer and future Communist Labor Party leader L.E. Katterfeld was not disrupted in the town of Republic, Washington, conservative forces in the small Eastern Washington town of Davenport were more successful, according to this short news report. As soon as Katterfeld touched upon the war, the ringleader of the so-called patriots rose and instructed the audience "please leave the hall as a protest." As for those failing to heed these words, "we will take their names and hand them to the proper authorities for investigation." This coercive tactic had the effect of clearing the hall and ending the meeting, the report indicates.
"Declares All Must Work: Sprague Patriotic League Passes Resolution: Even Retired Farmers Should Assist in Harvesting Crops, Says Text." (Spokane Spokesman-Review) [event of April 29, 1918] This short article hints at the repressive nature and practices of small town patriotic organizations during the World War. According to this report, the Sprague [Washington] Patriotic League's meeting of April 29, 1918 passed three resolutions, including one demanding that all unemployed men, including retired farmers, assist with the harvest under pain of being denounced as "slackers"; a second demanding that surplus flour be "turned in" within 10 days, as the Executive Committee of the Patriotic League "had the names of those who were hoarding flour"; and a third announcing that the Executive Committee of the Patriotic League would be investigating all deferred classifications under the draft law and reporting those who "wrongfully received deferred classifications." Women were also instructed by the local Red Cross through the Patriotic League to "do their share of work," for "if they did not some system would be worked out whereby the names of the slackers would be posted by the league."
"Loggers Arrested on Marble Creek: Aliens Refuse to Take Oath of Loyal Legion and Are Apprehended." (Spokesman-Review) [April 30, 1918] This short news report emphasizes the potentially punitive nature of the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen, a patriotic quasi-trade union entity established by the War Department of the United States in 1917. Nine "alien" loggers had been arrested by the Shoshone County sheriff at Marble Creek for refusing to take the loyalty oath of the LLLL. After their arrest the Scandinavian immigrants had "suddenly became patriotic and not only offered to sign up, but to buy Liberty Bonds as well," according to the report. This proved insufficient and the nine were transported to Wallace, Idaho as part of an ongoing effort by authorities "to rid the county of undesirables and trouble makers," according to the report.
The Proletarian, vol. 2, no. 1 [May 1919] (Graphic pdf, large file, 2.3 megs.) Full issue of the official magazine of the Socialist Party of Michigan/Proletarian University faction headed by John Keracher. This issue contains: "Spartacan Sparks." John Keracher: "May Day, 1919." "Peace or Revolution?" Fred W. Hurtig: "The Mooney Strike." Oakley C. Johnson, "Radicalism a la Mode." Breit (Carl Berreiter): "Lions, Lambs, and Other Animals." John Keracher: "International Notes" (Germany, Russia, Great Britain, Canada, Poland, Italy). "Our First Anniversary." "The Proletarian University of America." Dennis E. Batt: "Right, Center, and Left." John O'London (pseud.): "Grant Allen: A Tribute to His Scientific Work." Robert Louis Stevenson: "The Woodman" (poem).
The Proletarian, vol. 2, no. "4" [Sept. 1919] (Graphic pdf, large file, 2.3 megs.) Full issue of the official magazine of the Socialist Party of Michigan/Proletarian University faction headed by John Keracher. This issue contains: Cover art by Breit. "Spartacan Sparks." "Communist Party Convention," by Editorial Committee. Oakley C. Johnson: "Race Riots in America." Breit (Carl Berreiter): "Bolshevism is Dead -- Long Live Democracy." James Conlan: "Bourgeois Ideology vs. Revolutionary Action." "The Socialist Forum." John Keracher: "International Notes" (Hungary, Russia, Finland, England). John O'London (pseud.): "Revolutionary Political Action: The Road to Socialism" (Pt. 4). John Keracher: "The Proletarian University." John Keracher: "Money Talks." L.B.: "Book Review: 'The Gospel for a Working World,' by Harry F. Ward."
The Proletarian, vol. 2, no. 7 [Nov. 1919] (Graphic pdf, large file, 2.6 megs.) Full issue of the official magazine of the Proletarian University CPA faction headed by John Keracher. This issue contains: Cover art by Breit. "Spartacan Sparks." Oakley C. Johnson: "The Psychology of Militarism." "The Big Strike." Dennis E. Batt: "Minority Action." L.B.: "Blurring the Class Lines." John Keracher: "International Notes" (England, Bulgaria, Russia). "The Socialist Forum" ("Who Has the Voting Power?" "Does the Salesman Create Value?"). John O'London (pseud.): "Revolutionary Political Action: The Road to Socialism" (Pt. 6). Frederick Engels: "The Materialist Conception of History." "Suggestions for the Conducting of Study Classes."
The Proletarian, vol. 2, no. 8 [Dec. 1919] (Graphic pdf, large file, 2.4 megs.) Full issue of the official magazine of the Proletarian University CPA faction headed by John Keracher. This issue contains: Cover art by Breit. "Spartacan Sparks." Dennis E. Batt: "Storm Clouds Gather." Murray Murphy: "The Labor Conference." M.M.: "Journalism -- From the Inside." L.B.: "Can the Workers Understand?" "The Abolition of Capital." Dennis E. Batt: "Sarton Resartus" (anti-Mary Marcy in Gale's Magazine). John Keracher: "International Notes" (Russia, Finland, England). John O'London (pseud.): "Revolutionary Political Action: The Road to Socialism" (Pt. 7). John O'London (pseud.): "Political Action and the General Strike." "The Socialist Forum." Frederick Engels: "Another Engels Letter" (Sept. 21, 1890).
"Socialists End All Talk of Dictatorship: Motions for Policy, Opposing and Defining It, Alike Rejected: NEC Urges Party to Get to Work," by William M. Feigenbaum [June 26, 1921] Coverage of Day 2 of the 1921 National Convention of the Socialist Party of America in Detroit, written for the New York Call. The delegates failed to agree on use of the phrase "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" and voted down five different propositions, Feigenbaum notes. The most conciliatory viewpoint was unsurprisingly presented by Morris Hillquit, who noted that the phrase was both "an old one" meaning "as Marx used it, the capture of political power by the working class." Hillquit continued that "Most people do not understand the term, and it seems formidable to many people" and he sought to reassure his listeners that the Socialist Party favored the preservation of democracy and the democratic socialist rule of the working class majority. The debate of all five motions on the question of Dictatorship of the Proletarian, including one advanced by Hillquit that was defeated by a narrow 18-20 margin, was explained by one delegate wag with the words: "The convention was so hell bent on taking no stand that they took no action on a motion committing the party to a stand that said it takes no stand."
"Socialists to Sound Other Radical Groups: Party Waives Traditional Policy of Aloofness to Seek Possible Cooperation to Beat Old Parties: Will Not Compromise Socialist Principles or Autonomy of Party," by William M. Feigenbaum [June 27, 1921] Coverage of Day 3 of the 1921 National Convention of the Socialist Party of America in Detroit, written for the New York Call. A historic ideological pillar of the Socialist Party — "No Political Trading" — was buried when the 40 or so delegates of the disrupted and dwindling SPA voted to accept the principle of working together with other political organizations. According to Feigenbaum, "On a motion presented by Morris Hillquit of New York, the party voted to canvass all the militant labor and radical forces in the country with a view to seeing how far cooperation with them is possible without in any way compromising the integrity of Socialist principles, or the autonomy of the party." Few delegates voted against this fundamental revision of party doctrine, including among them Victor Berger of Milwaukee and Otto Newman of Oregon. The new role of the SPA would be closely analogous to that of the Independent Labour Party in England, Feigenbaum indicates. A resolution by Otto Branstetter calling for expulsion of party members endorsing the Comintern's 21 Points was rejected, with Morris Hillquit declaring: "I hate heresy hunting. I have never indulged in it and I never will. I do not consider Communists and adherents of the Moscow International place themselves outside of the Socialist movement. But Engdahl has no right to go outside of the party and make common cause with enemies of the party in a publication, the so-called Workers’ Council, every number of which is a venomous attack upon the party as such. Such a person has no place in the party. Self-respect should impel him to leave it."
"Resolution of Expulsion Lost in Convention: Incident Considered Closed -- Socialist Party Delegates Vote for Strong Central Organization," by William M. Feigenbaum [June 28, 1921] Coverage of Day 4 of the 1921 National Convention of the Socialist Party of America in Detroit, written for the New York Call. A pointed resolution calling for the expulsion of party members favoring affiliation with the Comintern (which required the expulsion of Morris Hillquit and others as a precondition for membership) was defeated, with only two delegates voting for the measure. The Socialist Party's failing finances dominated the discussion, with Morris Hillquit of New York moving a motion for the rapid raising of a $10,000 fund within 30 days for support of the National Office; this figure was upped to $20,000 by amendment and a paid administrator was to be put to work raising thi emergency fund. The convention was addressed by Jim Maurer of the Pennsylvania Federation of Labor, who intimated that the Communist Left Wing were government agents: "when I think of some of the revolutionaries I've met, who say they are the great leaders, I don't want to have them lead me. Where were they when there was work to be done after the armistice was signed? There they were, calling us names, busting things up. The rank and file may have been all right, but that element was inspired by the government to break us up, make no mistake about that." Another speech by Milwaukee Mayor Dan Hoan demanded the expulsion of "anarchists" from the Socialist Party, declaring, "If anyone doesn’t believe in political action, if they don’t believe in taking off their coats and working on election day, they don’t belong in the party."
"The Communist Hoax," by James Oneal [Jan. 1924] (Graphic pdf) Pioneering popular history of the American Communist movement from the pages of The American Mercury by the ideological pitbull of the Socialist Party's Center faction, James Oneal. Oneal discounts contemporary estimates of between 1 million and 1.5 million American Communists as "absurd" but does note the proliferation of an amazing number of factional groups and grouplets -- a total of 17 organizations during the first four years of the American movement. "Each new program and each coalition of two or more groups has usually produced only fresh schisms and desertions," Oneal declares, with the current year of 1924 representing "probably" the "lowest ebb" of American Communism. Oneal's short survey touches on the following organizations: (1) Communist Party of America; (2) Communist Labor Party); (3) Proletarian Party; (4) Industrial Communists (Nov. 1919); (5) Rummager's League (1922); (6) United Communist Party; (7) Committee of the Third International (1921); (8) Workers' Council (1921); (9) African Blood Brotherhood; (10) American Labor Alliance (1921); (11) Workers' League (Fall 1921); (12) Workers Party; (13) "What was called the Proletarian Party" (Central Caucus CPA, 1922); (14) United Toilers (1922); (15) Federated Farmer-Labor Party; (16) IWW; (17) Trade Union Educational League. Oneal estimates the total number of American Communists as "something less than 20,000, about one-half the number in 1919." Oneal asserts that "this little band of emotional men and women" has been "magnified into millions by those unacquainted by the facts" and that this mistaken reflection of the "nervous psychology of fear" was actually "the greatest hoax in history."
"The Socialists in the War," by James Oneal [April 1927] (Graphic pdf) With the Socialist Party of America at its 1920s nadir, National Executive Committee member James Oneal pauses to reexamine the party's wartime experience in the pages of The American Mercury. In Oneal's telling the Socialists were a "small band" who challenged the corporations, politicians, newspapers, the church, and smug small town society and its various mechanisms of coercion over American entry into the World War and the establishment of conscription in the country. "We had not calculated on the mob," Oneal acknowledges: "Few of us had any idea of the crowd-hysteria that could be summoned up by journalists, politicians, and the bourgeois intelligentsia in general." A section of the party defected from Socialist ranks over the issue, Oneal indicates. Oneal attempts to show that such defections were by some Socialist intellectuals such as A.M. Simons and William English Walling who were former adherents of the ideological left of the party; these formed a "Left squad" on behalf of Woodrow Wilson and his American "Cheka" in fueling the hysteria and suppression, joined by others like John Spargo and Allan Benson from the party's Right, as well as anti-Socialist nemesis Samuel Gompers of the AF of L. Within a year of American entry into the war, 22 Socialist publications were banned from the mails, several of which were prohibited from express shipment by train. Mail was held up, offices raided, officials prosecuted, and "no man was safe from the swarm of informers, spies, and agents provocateurs, volunteer and official," Oneal notes, adding that "once having got their hands on the national throat, the bureaucrats continued business into the peace period." The end result was the destruction of "a thousand or more of the Socialists' locals in the smaller towns and cities" by the organized "White Terror," Oneal asserts. On the other hand, "we increased our membership, after the war, in the large cities," he says, although the Bolshevik revolution in Russia led to the emergence of "an irresistible desire to ape the Russian Bolsheviks" by "hundreds of ambitious Lenins." There followed a period in which agents of Wilson's Cheka "immediately entered the Bolshevik organizations, helped to write their programs, rose to high positions in them, arranged for their scattered members to meet on the same night all over the country, and then bagged thousands of them in a general raid." Oneal concludes: "We Socialists thrived on the malice of the Cheka, but the Bolshevik nonsense hurt us. It left gaping wounds from which we have not recovered."
"The Socialist Labor Party," by Nathan Dershowitz [Summer 1948] (Graphic pdf) Attack piece from the magazine Politics on the Socialist Labor Party, whose 1600 members are said to have been "systematically milked to the tune of about $200,000 per year" to support a costly National Office headed by National Secretary Arnold Petersen and his "clique." Any research by the membership into remuneration of the National Office staff is forbidden, Dershowitz indicates. Dershowitz calls the party's internal regime "a particularly ruthless totalitarian body." Free communication and discussion between party members is banned, information from the center is subject to "an all but military censorship," and expelled members of the organization are subjected to systematic shunning, Dershowitz notes. Internal dissidents are said to be subjected to "totalitarian invective" coming from the National Office in New York. Individual members in the various Sections are first "propagandized" by the center, then instructed to conduct expulsions by the center, Dershowitz states, under the shadow of expulsion of the entire Section en masse for "disruption." Dershowitz concludes: "It's quite evident that the SLP of Daniel DeLeon died a long time ago. What now passes for it is a grotesque caricature, an imposition on the American working class.... If DeLeonism is ever to gain the hearing of the American workers, it will not be through the fraud that today calls itself the Socialist Labor Party."