(I) -- The Communist Labor Party of America


During 1919, the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party of America carried on an active campaign to win a majority of the SPA's governing National Executive Committee. It ran slates of candidates in each of the six electoral districts and sought those branches and locals committed to its program to vote solidly for its slate. National Executive Secretary Adolph Germer and the outgoing NEC cried foul against bloc voting by Left Wing branches and made the claim that the Left Wing Section was a "Party Within the Party." A series of suspensions and expulsions followed. The outgoing NEC invalidated the results of the 1919 SPA election and set about electing a slate of delegates to the forthcoming National Emergency Convention in Chicago who were loyal to it. The Left Wing Section split in half over how to respond to these gross violations of party legality by the outgoing NEC. One faction, dominated by the suspended Language Federations of the SPA, sought the immediate formation of a Communist Party in America. This group became the (old) Communist Party of America. Another group, headed by the "invalidated" National Executive Secretary-elect Alfred Wagenknecht and a number of prominent Left Wing SP members, sought to win over the National Emergency Convention -- and, only upon failing at that, to take as many "firendly" delegates as possible away from that gathering into a new Communist organization. This group tried and failed to win over the (stacked) National Emergency Convention of the SPA and duly consituted themselves the Communist Labor Party of America (CLP).


1. -- "Founding Convention" -- Chicago, IL -- Aug. 31 - Sept. 5, 1919

The Founding Convention of the CLP named Alfred Wagenknecht as National Executive Secretary, a position which he held for the entire 8 months that the organization existed. The CLP campaigned ceaselessly for unity between the two Communist Parties -- on the basis of party equality, a system which would give the members of the CLP representation in excess of their actual organizational size. The CLP's entreaties were repeatedly rebuffed by decision-makers in the old CPA.

The gathering adopted a constitution for the new organization. The form of the CLP was closely modelled after that of the Socialist Party, with day-to-day affairs conducted by a National Executive Secretary chosen by an elected 5 member National Executive Committee. Compensation of the Executive Secretary was to be determined by the NEC. The Executive Secretary was to conduct the day-to-day operations of the National Office and to issue weekly and monthly reports on the status of the membership and finances of the organization to the NEC and the rank and file.

As was the case with the Socialist Party, the CLP used a state-based system of organization, with each state affiliate headed by a "State Secretary" [List of State Secretaries and Representatives, as of November 1919]. Each state was further organized along territorial lines into county or city "locals" -- the largest of these further subdivided into "branches." This system of organization was abruptly scrapped when the party was driven underground by the Palmer Raids of January 1920. States were required under the constitution to have 300 average paid members over a 6 month period to achieve and retain organized status.

Under the constitution, National Headquarters were to be determined by decision of the NEC. Initial headquarters were established in Cleveland, Ohio, with an office located at 3207 Clark Avenue in that city. A temporary New York headquarters was also established at 43 W 29th Street.

Initiation fee into the organization was set by the constitution at $1.00 and monthly dues were 50 cents per month. The National Office was to receive 25 cents of each initiation fee plus 20 cents of each 50 cent dues stamp sold. Exemptions to dues payments were to be allowed to members temporarily unable to pay dues due to unemployment resulting from sickness, strikes, or lockouts. Special stamps were to be provided for married couples at the single member rate.

As was the case with the Socialist Party from which it sprung, the CLP made provision for the establishment of Foreign Language Federations, to be formed as soon as 5 branches were formed using a common language. Each federation was to elect an officer called the Translator-Secretary, who was to act as a facilitator with the National Office, passing information and instructions each way. As soon as a federation counted 1,000 dues paying members among it, it was to be entitled to office facilities in the national headquarters building, according to the constitution. Federation branches were to buy dues stamps from the city committees with which they were affiliated; receipts for stamps purchased were to be given to the Translator-Secretary, who was to be reimbursed to the tune of 15 cents per stamp to maintain the operations of the federation.

The constitution stated that the fundamental decisions of the organization were to be determined at an annual convention, to be held each year on May 10th. A total of 100 delegates were to participate in these gatherings, with each organized state receiving 1 delegate and the remainder apportioned to the various states on the basis of average paid membership for the preceding year. Delegates were to be selected by the various state organizations.

The power of expulsion was explicitly vested by the constitution to the various state organizations as well as the county organizations of which they were composed. Federations could only exclude members from the federation itself, not from the organization as a whole -- suspended or expelled members would continue to maintain membership in the county and state organizations until the decision upon their expulsion was formally ratified by the county or state itself.

Revisions of the constitution were to be conducted by referendum of the membership in a manner directly borrowed from the Socialist Party of America.

Other documents of interest available here include Minutes of the Left Wing Caucus to the 1919 Convention of the SPA, Minutes of the Founding Convention of the CLP, and a web page listing delegates to the convention.

The CLP convention was attended by an employee of the US Military Intelligence Division as a delegate (identity unknown at this time) as well as undercover St. Louis-based Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Louis Loebl and his associates. Loebl submitted reports of convention activities to the Department of Justice's BoI: DAY ONE | DAY TWO | DAY THREE | DAY FOUR | DAY FIVE | DAY SIX

The CLP applied for Comintern membership with a letter to Moscow by Wagenknecht dated Sept. 21, 1919.


Second Plenary Session of the NEC -- New York, NY -- Oct. 25-27, 1919.

The second plenum of the National Executive Committee of the CLP was held in New York City from Oct. 25-27, 1919. Details of the meeting were reported in the still above-ground party press. The sessions were attended by the entire NEC: National Secretary Alfred Wagenknecht and NEC committeemen Max Bedacht (San Francisco), Alexander Bilan (Cleveland), L.E. Katterfeld (Cleveland), Jack Carney (Duluth), and Edward Lindgren (Brooklyn). The group heard an organizational report by Wagenknecht, in which he stated that a total of 6,788 charter (initiation) stamps had been ordered to date, plus 14,976 monthly dues stamps and 657 dual husband/wife monthly dues stamps. State organizations wer chartered in 9 states, with several others due to follow in short order and additional unorganized states to be divided into regional districts. The group addressed the ongoing unity discussions with the Communist Party of America and established an editorial board and an array of publications, including a new bi-weekly official newspaper to replace Communist Labor Party News called Communist Labor. Max Bedacht was named editor of this publication. The NEC voted to absorb the backstock of publications of the Socialist Publishing Society, including the theoretical magazine The Class Struggle, and to issue this magazine and other future publications in its own name. Ludwig Lore was named editor of The Class Struggle and Jack Carney and A. Raphailoff were elected associate editors. The session also voted to move party headquarters from Cleveland to New York, effective in November 1919.


New York Headquarters of the CLP at the end of December 1919 were located at 208 E 12th Street, Top Floor, New York City.



(II) -- The (old) Communist Party of America (CPA)


The members of the Left Wing Section of the CPA who had given up on "winning" the Socialist Party altogether prepared a founding convention for a new Communist Party to be held in Chicago at the same time as the Socialist Party's gathering.

1. -- "Founding Convention" -- Chicago, IL -- Sept. 1 - 7, 1919

The Founding Convention of the old CPA was attended by 137 delegates. The group was divided into three caucuses, the Russian Federation group (about including Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Ukrainian, and Jewish Federation members and headed by Alexander Stoklitsky, Nicholas Hourwich, Oscar Tyverovsky, H. Hiltzik, Daniel Elbaum, George Ashkenuzi); the National Left Wing Council group (about 30 adherente including prominently Charles Ruthenberg, Isaac Ferguson, Louis Fraina, John Ballam, and Maximilian Cohen); and the Michigan group (about 20 adherents including Dennis Batt, John Keracher, Al Renner, and Harry M. Wicks). The Department of Justice managed to place a mole, N. Nagorowe, a Russian from Branch 2, Gary, Indiana, into the ranks of the delegates. Nagorowe sat in caucus with the Language Federationist faction and later provided the Bureau of Investigation with a detailed account of these procedings. The Michigan perspective is told in an unsigned account from The Proletarian magazine.

The Convention drafted and approved a Constitution and Program and established an organizational framework in which the convention elected a Central Executive Committee of 15, as well as an Executive Secretary and Editor. Five members of the CEC living in the headquarters city of the organization (New York) plus the Executive Secretary and Editor were to constitute themselves as the Executive Council, the day-to-day governing body of the group.

A stenographic report seems to have been kept of the meeting; it was never published and to date a copy of this document has not surfaced.

Bureau of Investigation reports were provided by undercover agents James Peyronnin, Jacob Spolansky, and August Loula for DAY 1 (P) | DAY 1 (L) | DAY 2 (P) | DAY 2 (S) | DAY 3 (S) | DAY 4 (P) | DAY 5 | DAY 6 (P) | DAY 7 (P) . In addition, Bureau of Investigation Special Agents attended the mass meetings which were held by the CPA in Chicago on Sept. 4 (Polish) and Sept. 6 (multi-nationality).


At 9 pm on the evening of Nov. 8, 1919, simultaneous search warrants were executed on 71 "headquarters" of the Communist Party of America scattered around New York city. The coordinated raid was conducted by the New York Joint Legislative Committee Investigating Seditious Activities (the "Lusk Committee") under the direction of Inspector Joseph Faruot of the New York Police Department, leading over 700 members of the NYPD. Tons of literature were seized and "a large number" of prisoners taken. Among those arrested on that date were Benjamin Gitlow and James Larkin, co-editors of The Revolutionary Age.

[fn. Archibald Stevenson (ed), Lusk Committee Report, v. 1, pp. 22-23.]


1st Plenary Meeting of the CEC of the CPA -- Chicago -- Nov. 15-18, 1919

The Central Executive Committee of the CPA held its first physical meeting in Chicago oon Nov. 15, 1919. Eleven members of the CEC were present, none of whom were using pseudonyms at this point: Alex Biittelman, Max Cohen, Charles Dirba, Daniel Elbaum, I.E. Ferguson, Louis Fraina, Nick Hourwich, K.B. Karosas, C.E. Ruthenberg, John Schwartz, and Oscar Tyverovsky. The body met continuously in plenary session for four days. Minutes of the gathering have survived. A committee of 3 was selected to conduct unity negotiations with the rival Communist Labor Party and decisions were made about the basic structure of the organization, including the naming of international delegates.

On Nov. 17, 1919, Hungarian Communist Paul Petros submitted his resignation, and was replaced by alternate Rose Pastor Stokes.


2nd Plenary Meeting of the CEC of the CPA -- [New York???] --Jan. 17(?)-??, 1920

The next physical meeting was scheduled for Jan. 17, 1920, but by that time the Red Raids of Attorney General Mitchell Palmer and his special assistant J. Edgar Hoover had intervened and details of the conclave are sketchy. No minutes of the meeting seem to have survived, although a handwritten report by Executive Secretary C.E. Ruthenberg detailing a shift to an underground structure built around District organizations in "industrial centers" dated Jan. 18, 1920, did surface in the party's papers held by the Comintern in Moscow. No further information on the location, duration, or composition of the meeting is available.


3rd Plenary Meeting of the CEC of the CPA -- [New York???] -- Feb. 7, 1920

By the time of its next physical meeting, police repression had forced the Communist Party of America and its CEC underground and the minutes of the session show a move to the use of pseudonyms. The gathering discussed ongoing unity negotiations with the Communist Labor Party. A motion to accept the CLP's statement that "we recognize that there is no fundamental difference of principle between the Communist Labor Party and the Communist Party and we agree to send out a call for a joint convention on the basis of the Communist Party manifesto and program" was defeated by a vote of 5 to 2, with Executive Secretary C.E. Ruthenberg and his colleague I.E. Ferguson in the minority.

It is not known whether this session of the CEC met for but a single day. In any event, the only surviving document is a handwritten minutes for a meeting of February 7.


4th Plenary Meeting of the CEC of the CPA -- New York -- March 17-20, 1920

The next plenary session of the CEC of the CPA continued the discussion on ongoing unity talks with the Communist Labor Party. Minutes of the meeting have survived.


5th Plenary Meeting of the CEC of the CPA -- New York -- April 15-19, 1920

The next group meeting of the CEC of the CPA was dominated by the bitter division of the CEC over the question of unity with the CLP -- a fundamental disagreement which would lead to the split of Executive Secretary C.E. Ruthenberg and his co-thinkers in the midst of the session. The first section of the minutes was retained by Ruthenberg and seems not to have survived; a second section was carried forward from April 18th by the majority group headed by Charles Dirba. A copy of this second portion of meeting minutes survived in the Comintern Archive in Moscow.

The meeting was an expanded session which included the 5 principal District Organizers of the party, as well as representatives of the Latvian, Lithuanian, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Estonian, German Federations (and one other, not identified). The meeting was bitter from the start, with severe objections raised to the content of C.E. Ruthenberg's minutes of the previous session, corrections made, and a written protest as to their tone passed by 7 members of the CEC. Reports were presented by Ruthenberg and a representative of the Executive Council detailing the two perspectives on the split of the organization which threatened. The meeting broke into caucuses in the hope of reaching a negotiated compromise, meetings of which continued through Sunday, April 18, when the two sides arrived at a deadlock. At issue was the power of the CEC to remove District Organizers (actions of factional importance) with the Ruthenberg minority group seeking to protect its men in Chicago and Cleveland, while the majority objected to the minority's factional monopoly of the party press.

The meeting was called back to order in the evening of April 18. Executive Secretary Ruthenberg refused to participate and refused to recognize the CEC's authority. Acting Secretary Charles Dirba then called the meeeting to order and invited those not recognizing the authority of the CEC to depart. Ruthenberg and his cothinkers Jay Lovestone, Alex Georgian, Leonid Belsky, Marion Sproule, as well as the representatives of the German, Estonian, and Polish Federations and the DOs for Cleveland and Pittsburgh bolted the meeting at this juncture, making the feared split a reality.

The CEC Majority, headed by Acting Secretary Dirba, elected Max Cohen as the new Editor of The Communist and chose a new Editorial Board of 3: Nicholas Hourwich, Rose Pastor Stokes, and Charles Dirba. The 3 member Negotiating Committee which sought to forge a unity convention with the CLP was also filled out, with Dirba and Nick Hourwich joining Max Cohen on the committee -- replacing Ruthenberg and Alex Bittelman.

Meeting of the Executive Council -- New York -- April 21, 1920


Meeting of the Executive Council -- New York -- April 26, 1920


Meeting of the Executive Council -- New York -- April 30, 1920


Meeting of the Executive Council -- New York -- May 8, 1920


Meeting of the Executive Council -- New York -- May 15, 1920


Meeting of the Executive Council -- New York -- May 20, 1920


6th Plenary Meeting of the CEC of the CPA -- New York -- May 21-23, 1920

The first meeting of the CEC after the defection of the Ruthenberg group was something of a reorganizational meeting, as shown in the Minutes of the Session. Charles Dirba continued in his role as Acting Secretary of the organization. Sitting on the CEC for the first time was Pascal Cosgrove ("Jack Ryan"). Status of the various districts was analyzed in depth, although similar analysis federation by federation seems to have been lost from the minutes.

A convention call and agenda for the 2nd Convention of the CPA were adopted.

Louis Fraina was denounced for bringing Jacob Nosovitsky to the conference of the Amsterdam Bureau. A statement to this effect was to be written, disseminated, and published in the party press. Fraina was to be instructed once again to return home to America. A proposal of his that the CPA should endorse a Presidential candidate in the 1920 election was shelved and referred to the forthcoming 2nd Convention; a committee was appointed to draft a statement in opposition to Fraina's proposal, which was deemed to be in opposition to the principles of the organization.

The Executive Council was instructed to issue a statement branding Ruthenberg for his "treasonous" behavior in absonding with party funds and issuing his own paper under the party name and seal.

A committee of 3 was appointed to reexamine the Ballam Affair, in which he was charged with having obtained under false pretexts $100 from the Boston District Organizer, Marion Sproule. A committee of 5 was appointed to approach the Jewish Federation and, if it deemed practical, to hold a conference of branches, groups, and individuals remaining loyal to the CEC of the party.


Extraordinary Meeting of the CEC of the CPA -- New York -- June 12, 1920

No minutes extant in Comintern archive. A meeting of June 12 is referred to in passing in the minutes of the regular June 19, 1920 session.


7th Plenary Meeting of the CEC of the CPA -- New York -- June 19, 1920



8th Plenary Meeting of the CEC of the CPA -- New York -- July 5-6 & 8-10, 1920



2. -- "Second Convention" -- New York City -- July 13 - 18, 1920

BoI Agent Spolansky wrongly lists dates as "July 17-25, 1920" [NARA M-1085, reels 922, 931]

The Second Convention of the CPA was held in conditions of extreme secrecy due to harsh repression of the radical movement that was then taking place across the country. A complex system of direct elections was used, outlined in the convention call, in which groups elected delegates to a sub-district meeting, the sub-district meetings elected delegates to District Conventions, and the District Conventions elected the delegates to the actual National Convention. A total of 24 delegates and 5 members of the Central Executive Committee attended the gathering, which was held in New York City. Fraternal delegates from the Russian, Ukrainian, and Lithuanian Federations of the CPA were also present, as was a fraternal delegate from Chicago.

The report of the Central Executive Committee was delivered by the party's Acting Secretary, Charles Dirba ["D. Bunte"]. The Convention was chaired by Henry Allen [Max Cohen] with Louis Shapiro ["Lawrence Bain"] serving as Secretary. Both of these were elected to the Central Executive Committee of the party by the convention, with Shapiro subsequently selected as Executive Secretary of the organization at a meeting of the CEC held July 20, 1920.

Minutes of the gathering were kept and preserved in the Comintern archive in Moscow. They are available here for download for the first time.

The meeting voted to set wages for CPA employees without dependents at $35 per week and wages of those with dependents at $45 per week. A set of resolutions were passed by the body, including greetings to the Comintern and the Soviet government, a statement by the party on the role of Soviets before and after the revolution (which argued that party workplace units would provide the nucleus of soviets in the revolutionary period). Communists aged 17 or over were invited to join the CPA, while those under that age were to be enrolled in special educational groups without normal party voting rights. Unity with the UCP on an organizational basis was resoundingly rejected in favor of a policy of winning the radical rank and file away from their so-called "Centrist" leaders.

A revised Program and Constitution for the CPA were written and approved by the assembed delegates.

In attendance were P.P. Cosgrove and John Ballam from Massachusetts, according to the report of an undercover informant who did not attend the gathering.

A document in the Comintern Archive (RGASPI, fond 515, op. 1, d. 30, ll. 32-37) is handwritten on the letterhead of the Marlborough Hotel, Herald Square, Broadway between 36th and 37th Streets, New York City. Whether this was the actual location is unknown.


CEC Plenary Session -- New York City --- Jan. 11-16, 1921


3. -- "Extraordinary Third Convention" -- Brooklyn, NY -- Feb. XX - XX, 1921

The Extraordinary Third Convention was in conditions of extreme secrecy as a by-product of the Comintern's instruction that all member parties hold conventions to ratify the decisions of its 2nd Congress. As was the case with the CPA' s 2nd Convention, this convention was composed of delegates elected via a complicated system of elections beginning at the branch level, which elected to a local convention, local conventions electing to a sub-district convention, subdistrics electing to a district convention, and the district conventions finally selecting delegates. The process began in December 1920 on a date not specified in the original convention call document.

The gathering, held in the first half of the month, lasted 10 days and was attended by 30 delegates and 7 fraternal delegates, who discussed and ratified the theses of the Communist International. The convention also discussed parliamentarism, the structure of the party in the shops, the role of the party in the unions, the role of the federations, and reaffirmed that future unity with the United Communist Party was to take place only on the basis of proportional representation -- a system which would assure that decisive authority would be vested in the hands of the former members of the (old) CPA.

Apparently the most divisive issue arising at the Brooklyn convention was the question of appointment of party organizers. A decision was made by the divided convention that the principle of appointment become universal, with all organizers, from the top District Organizers down all the way to group organizers to subsequently be appointed by the next higher party unit. Previous practice in the CPA had been for the appointment of District Organizers and Sub-District Organizers, but the election by the rank and file of local and group organizers. While a majority won the day at the convention, a Left Wing minority -- which included future Central Caucus stalwarts Charles Dirba, Alfred Edwards, and Morris Holtman -- formally appealed the decision to the Comintern.

The Extraordinary Third Convention adopted a Program and Constitution for the CPA.

[fn. Date and location here are from Highlights From a Fighting History, pg. 491.]

Dues in the Communist Party of America were 60 cents per month. The Language Federations collected dues and remitted a portion of collected funds to the center, retaining 20 cents per member per month to cover their costs of operation.


An index has been prepared listing all the 1921 meetings of the CEC of the old CPA, including the location of available minutes in the Comintern archive.


(III) -- The United Communist Party of America (UCP)


On April 18, 1920, C.E. Ruthenberg resigned as National Executive Secretary of the (old) Communist Party of America and, together with Jay Lovestone, I.E. Ferguson, and a circle of largely anglophonic supporters, departed to constitute themselves as an independent group in preparation for unity with the Communist Labor Party. This "Minority Group" took with them the bulk of the CPA's funds and went so far as to publish their own version of the party's organ, "The Communist," using the same volume and issue numbers as the CEC Majority Group.


1. -- "Joint Unity Convention" -- Bridgman, MI -- May 26 - 31, 1920

[Note: The CPUSA's Highlights of a Fighting History erroneously states that this convention started May 15, 1920.]

On May 25, 1920, delegates of both the Ruthenberg Minority Group of the CPA and the Communist Labor Party arrived at Bridgman, Michigan, and conducted their own preparatory caucus meetings. The CPA pre-convention was attended by 32 delegates, representing 6,119 members, and the CLP pre-convention by 25 delegates, representing 4,525 members. The groups met separately on May 26.

On May 27, these two "mini-conventions" joined into one large body, a "Unity Convention," where it constituted itself as the United Communist Party of America (UCP). There were 32 CPA delegates, 25 CLP delegates, and one fraternal delegate who caucused with the CLP. The Belorussian Jewish Communist Samuel Agursky presented a credential of the ECCI with a mandate to asist in the formation of a united party. He was seated as a fraternal delegate.

There are three accounts of the 1920 Bridgman convention that have come to light, all from the perspective of the CPA. The first is a lengthy account of the seven days of the convention, written by Isaac Ferguson, which was published in the official organ of the United Communist Party. A shorter and less important account was also published by C.E. Ruthenberg in that same issue. A third, rather dissident, account was published in the Yiddish language edition of The Communist by "R. Newman" and recounts the Convention from the perspective of the CPA's informal "Left" faction at that gathering. The "Newman" account was actually translated and published by the Majority CPA as a factional document in an effort to undercut the version of "unity achieved" put forward by Ferguson and Ruthenberg. A lengthy and hostile critique of the Ferguson and Ruthenberg accounts was also published by the editor of the CPA's official organ, Maximilian Cohen.

The delegates of the Ruthenberg-CPA were animated against the continuation of language federations, while the institution of the federations had support from a segment of the membership of the old Communist Labor Party. After debate the institution of language federations was eliminated from the structure of the new organizations.

The convention approved a consitution for the UCP and spent a great deal of effort debating and approving a program for the organization. It also passed a number of resolutions. After much drama and tension spread out over two days, the group also elected ten members of the Central Executive Committee -- five from each party. The original conception was for a 9 member CEC, but chaos ensued when five members of the former CLP were elected -- a working majority -- which prompted the resignation of C.E. Ruthenberg and two of his allies from the newly-elected body and a restructuring of the CEC.


The new CEC met immediately after the convention and elected Alfred Wagenknecht as Executive Secretary of the UCP. C.E. Ruthenberg was elected Editor of The Communist, the official organ of the party. The party also established a network of 11 regional districts for the organization. An account of this CEC meeting, including specific locations of each district, was published in the party press.



2. -- "Special 2nd Convention" -- Kingston, NY -- Dec 24, 1920 - Jan. 2, 1921.

The Second Convention of the UCP was called to ratify the decisions of the Second Congress of the Communist International in Moscow. The convoluted procedure for election of delegates was detailed in a convention call issued in November 1920.

It was attended by 42 delegates, representing the 5801 members of the UCP, as well as 8 representatives of the Central Executive Party of the organization, an international delegate, a fraternal delegate from the Young People's Communist League, a representative of the 3rd International, as well as other party members who served as technical workers. The gathering was held at an unspecified location near Kingston, New York, in the foothills of the Catskills, a relatively short communte from New York City. According to the later testimony of L.E. Katterfeld, the meeting was held at a farmhouse, a detail confirmed in Ralph Chaplin's 1948 memoir, Wobbly, which descibed the location as "a big farmhouse on a lonely road somewhere in the hills" and guarded by "huge Great Danes."

He additionally recalled:

"The agenda had been carefully prepared in advance with typical Communist thoroughness. By remaining in almost continuous session, a large volume of business was disposed of with amazing efficiency. Max Shachtman made speeches of incredible length and eloquence in an attempt to prove that his policies did not deviate from the party line. [Alfred] Wagenknecht reported on party finances. Max Bedacht told of progress being made among foreign-language groups. Bob Minor drew pictures of farm animals in ludicrous poses to amuse the farmer’s little daughter during lunch intervals. Caucuses and committees were debating in every room. The walls seemed to vibrate with high-pitched voices."

[fn. Ralph Chaplin, Wobbly: The Rough-and-Tumble Story of an American Radical. University of Chicago Press, 1948, pp. 304-305.]

The Convention rejected the claims presented by the CPA of its superior membership size (and consequent entitlement to proportionately more delegates at a future unity convention), instead counterproposing the convocation of a gathering on the basis of organizational unity. According to a report of the convention in the UCP's official organ, "throughout the conventon, committees or messengers hurried to the CEC of the CP with the urgent messages of the convention, and returned with cold replies. The convention was punctuated by these arrivals and departures, and the report of a messenger was each time made the immediate order of business." Depite being rebuffed again and again by the CEC of the old CPA in New York City, the convention decided not to accept this refusal as final. It elected a group of 25 delegates to such unity convention that might be called on the basis of equality of organizations in the future. Each district delegation determined its representatives to this convention, which were approved as a list by the entire UCP convention assembled.

In addition to unanimously ratifying the actions of the 2nd Congress of the Comintern and adopting a new program for the organization, the 2nd Convention considered seriatim and adopted a contitution for the organization. This process of revision of the program and constitution was painstaking and took a significant percentage of the convention's time and effort.

The 2nd Convention of the UCP also notably committed itself to move forward with the organization of a Youth Section for the UCP, to be known as the "Young Communist League of America, Section of the Young Communist International."

The Convention elected as well an new Central Executive Committee on the last day of the gathering. A great difficulty presented itself in getting 9 members to commit themselves to serve as officers of the organization, with only 7 not declining during the initial phase of nominations. Nominations were again opened and a full slate of nominees were at last garnered, with the voting taking place by secret ballow. A reporter noted the following in the party's official organ:

"...[A] great number of the comrades felt obliged to guarantee results by caucusing in advance of the nominations. But caucuses of groups within a party are fragile in proportion to the strength of party unity; when it came to the voting for CEC candidates, the caucuses did not hold. Of the delegation from District 7 [Chicago], two ["Flat" and "Adams" of the Chicago district] who had accepted nomination to the CEC and who were disappointed in the unexpected defeat of another candidate offered their resignations immediately after being elected. The resignations were rejected by the convention."

The official minutes of the convention do not mention any of the nominees or officers elected by name, even by pseudonym, and the precise details of this small factional scrum remain unclear as of this writing.

A report of the convention was published in The Communist, the official organ of the UCP.

[fn. "The Second UCP Convention," in The Communist [UCP: NY], no. 13 (circa Jan. 1921), pg. 1; "Minutes of the Special 2nd Convention of
the United Communist Party of America: Kingston, NY - Dec. 24, 1920 to Jan. 2, 1921," downloadable pdf from]

Dues in the UCP were 75 cents per month, collected by group organizers, remitted to branch organizers and thereafter up the chain to the District Organizers. Dues were receipted in stamps, which were to be destroyed by the recipient upon receipt. For security reasons, no membership cards were used by the UCP.

Although the UCP formally had 12 districts by the end of 1920, in actual practice it only had a significant presence in 7: District 1 (Boston), District 2 (New York), District 3 (Philadelphia), District 4/5 (Cleveland), District 6 (Detroit), District 7/8 (Chicago), and the new District 12 (Minneapolis). It maintained a nominal presence in 3 others -- District 9 (Denver), District 10 (San Francisco), and District 11 (Seattle).


The Raid of UCP Headquarters

An apartment leased by Helen Ware (daughter of Ella Reeve Bloor), located at 170 Bleeker Street, New York City, apparently used as de facto National Headquarters of the UCP, was raided on April 29, 1921, leading to the arrests of UCP leaders Edward Lindgren, Abram Jakira, and Israel Amter. Internal documents of the Bureau of Investigation indicate that the BoI never themselves made the connection of this apartment with this function, however, the raid having been caused by the penetration of the Pittsburgh organization with a BoI informer, which lead to the covert trailing of Lindgren from Pittsburgh back to headquarters in New York.

A membership bulletin issued by the CEC of the UCP in early May asserted that the safe addresses of the party's various contacts were not compromised in the raid, however, and declared that the CEC and DOs of the organization remained on the job. Nevertheless, authorities seized a considerable cache of UCP publications and documents in the operation, breaking one of the party's codes as a result. Material seized in this April 29, 1921 raid appears in DoJ/BoI Investigative Files, NARA collection M-1085, reels 939 and 940.


(IV) -- The Communist Party of America, Section of the Communist International

(a.k.a. "unified CPA")


Faced with loss of recognition by the Communist International in Moscow if they could not find a way to bury the hatchet and unite, the UCP and the (old) CPA found themselves forced into a marriage, which finally took place in May of 1921. It was this gathering that should be regarded as the founding convention of the American Communist Party, akin to the 1901 Unity Convention held in Indianapolis that is heralded as the moment of birth of the Socialist Party of America.

1. -- "Joint Unity Convention" -- near Woodstock, NY -- May 15 - 28, 1921

The Joint Unity Convention was attended by 60 delegates, 30 each from the United Communist Party and the (old) Communist Party of America and was presided over by a non-factional chairman, Dr. Jacob Hartman. The delegates stayed at the Overlook Mountain House hotel, located near Woodstock, NY at an elevation of 3,000 feet (images above courtesy Rob Yasinsac). In addition to the 60 regular delegates, there were also 6 fraternal delegates in attendance. All delegates were approved upon report of the Credentials Committee without protest. The group initially did not fraternize between organizations, instead meeting in caucus. The initial meeting was held out of doors amidst the greenery of the Catskills in a natural ampitheatre. The delegates sat in a large semi-circle, with the 30 members of the old CPA seated on the left and the 30 members of the UCP on the right. A boulder in the center was used as the chairman's podium. The session opened with a short address from the representative of the Comintern's Pan-American agency, Karlis Janson ["Charley Scott"].

The report of the CEC of the United Communist Party was delivered by Ludwig Katterfeld ["Comrade Elk"], who related the UCP's organizational history and emphasized the group's commitment to unity and willingness to submit to the solutions proposed by the Comintern. The report of the CEC of the old Communist Party of America was delivered by Charles Dirba ["C. Dobin"], who defended the group's Federations structure emphasized his group's commitment to building an effecttive revolutionary organization and a commitment to propagate the idea of the inevitability armed insurrection amongst the workers. Both of these lengthy reports illustrate well the history and differing concerns of each of these underground organizations.

The delegates haggled over details of merger, a constitution, and a program for two weeks before finally coming "to a unanimous agreement on every essential point." There was a great deal of unanimity on programmatic issues, but negotiations over the constitution to establish the form of the organization were met with a series of party-line votes. Eventually, a negotiations committee consisting of five members from each side, worked out a compromise, the formation of a Central Executive Committee containing five members from each party -- to which were deferred the bitterly divisive matters of the district structure and paid party organizers.

[fn. Official Bulletin of the Communist Party of America (Section of the Communist International), no. 1 [May 1921], pg. 1; "The UCP and the CP United: An Account of the Joint Unity Convention, The Communist [NY: unified CPA], v. 1, no. 1 (July 1921), pp. 1-3.]


An index has been prepared listing all the 1921 meetings of the CEC of the unified CPA, including the location of available minutes in the Comintern archive.

(V) -- Central Caucus faction's "Communist Party of America" / United Toilers of America


The Central Caucus faction broke from the CPA as an alternative party at the end of November and in the first part of December 1921. This split was largely caused by the decision to move forward with a "Legal Political Party" -- the Workers' Party of America -- which would operate without pseudonyms or clandestine organizational forms, thus jeopardizing the entire movement, it was believed. To a large extent, the Central Caucus Faction marked a return of the old-CPA to organizational independence. It was a minority group, however, as only a portion of the old-CPA broke with the unified-CPA at this time.

This group used various names during its brief tenure, initially calling itself the "Central Caucus," before (confusingly) using the name "Communist Party of America, Section of the Communist International" in parallel with the "regular" organization. The CC-CPA also, from February 1922, established a somewhat halfhearted Legal Political Organizationarty called the "United Toilers of America." The CC-CPA had approximately 2,500 to 3,000 duespaying members, the United Toilers of America claimed approximately 1,500.

[fn. "A View on the Former Opposition and Our Present Unity: Second Extract from Report of the Representative of the Communsit International to the Presidium of the CI," The Communist [unifed CPA], v. 1, no. 11 [Oct. 1922], pg. 6.]

The Central Caucus faction was headed by three former members of the Central Executive Committee of the unified CPA: Charles Dirba, George Ashkenuzi, and John T. Ballam.


1. -- "Emergency Convention of the CPA" -- New York City -- Jan. 7 - 12, 1922

The "Emergency Convention of the Communist Party of America" (actually called the "National Conference of the Central Caucus" in the run up to the event) was the first conclave of the Central Caucus Faction. It was attended by 20 delegates as well as 18 fraternal delegates representing the Central Executive Committee, the languarge federations, the Young Communist League, and even three delegates of the Proletarian Party. The gathering heard reports of a total membership of approximately 4400, with 95% of this number concentrated in the Lithuanian (1100), Ukrainian (1000), Russian (900), Latvian (630), Polish (400), and Jewish (150) Federations. Half of the organization was concentrated in the Boston, New York, and Philadelphia districts.

The Convention heard a report on a plan for legal organization and rejected a proposition to recognize the Proletarian Party as "the legal expression of the Party." A raft of constitutional amendments were adopted and a resolution on the Young Communist League passed instructing the CEC to put all efforts in developing a unified YCL, not split along factional lines, but built instead on the principle of "organizational neutrality."

Robert Minor addressed the gathering on behalf of the CPA majority group, reading communications from the Executive Committee of the Comintern on Legal Activities and the Legal Political Party.

Elections were held to choose a 7 member Central Executive Committee, and John Ballam was elected as "Special International Delegate" to state the group's case in Moscow before the Comintern. The gathering approved a Constitution of the organization and the events of the convention were reported to the membership in the underground press.

[fn. "Condensed Minutes of CPA Emergency Convention, Jan. 7-11, 1922. Copy in Comintern Archive f. 515, op. 1, d. 130, ll. 1-2.]

On Feb. 12, 1922 there was a conference held in New York City to establish the Legal Political Party associated with the Central Caucus faction's Communist Party. This conference established the United Toilers of America.

The Comintern in Moscow was adament and unwavering against this split, however. Ballam was sent to Moscow by the organization to argue his case. He received a chilly greeting and an instruction in no uncertain terms that the Central Caucus faction should terminate its split and return to the majority group's Communist Party of America. Ballam agreed to do just that and returned to the United States on May 7, 1922. The next day a conference was held including the top leadership of the Central Caucus faction: it's officials, 7 district organizers, heads of the Jewish, Ukrainian, Russian, Latvian, Polish, and Lithuanian Federations, and the editor of its official English Language press.


2. -- "Conference" -- New York City -- May 8 - 12, 1922

The CPA Opposition's May 1922 "Conference" included the members of the CEC, District Organizers, Editors, and Federation Secretaries of the Opposition. The met in New York City at the same facility which housed the January Emergency Convention. The conference heard a lengthy report of the "International Delegate" of the faction, John Ballam, detailing hist trip to Moscow in March and his hearing before the American Commission (Rakosi, Brandler, Kuusinen) and the Executive Committee of the Communist International.

The participants at this Conference refused to comply with the instructions of the Executive Committee of the Comintern, relayed by Ballam, instead wishing to continue their organizational independence in hopes of appealling over the heads of the ECCI to the next Congress of the Communist International.

After this decision, Ballam broke with the Central Caucus faction over this failure to comply with the instructions of the ECCI to reunify with the CPA majority and went on a tour around the country attempting to appeal to the rank-and-file of the Central Caucus faction to rejoin the CPA majority in spite of the refusal of their leaders.


3. -- "2nd Convention" -- NYC? -- end of September 1922

The 2nd Convention of the Central Caucus-CPA was attended by 24 district delegates with vote as well as the CEC members, federation secretaries, and publication editors, who had voice but no vote. The gathering was addressed by an unnamed representative of the Communist International (pseudonym "Wilke"), who proposed that the organization return to the CPA, in return for representation on the leading bodies and organs of the party. The gathering was split into two caucuses: the opponents of unity, who characterized themselves as opponents of "unconditional surrender" and who controlled 12 votes, and a pro-unity caucus, which was represented by 9 votes.

According to CI Rep "Wilke," "the large majority of those without vote were for unity." As for the anti-unity forces, "Wilke" states that these were composed of two groups -- "factional extremists of different languages and several Americans (from Boston) with syndicalist tendencies under the leadership of two Letts," [clear reference to Alfred Edwards and his wife "J. Davis"].

During the lengthy debate on the unity question the advocates of rejoining the regular CPA argued as to the merits of party discipline and the hopelessness of fighting against the decision of the Comintern on the matter, while opponents of unity seemingly attempted to string out debate by making hardline demands, such as a demand for the expulsion of 4 named "liquidators" from the reunited organizations (the list of which, it was stated, could be extended), and the replacement of 5 members of the 10 member CEC of the regular party by adherents of the Central Caucus-CPA. To this the representative of the Comintern issued a written declaration indicating that adoption of such provisions by the conventions would be regarded as a rejection of the decisions on unity of the Comintern and that the CI Rep would immediately discontinue all further negotiations with the convention. The CI Rep left the room and a vote was taken in his absence; the hardline amendments to the merger resolution were passed by a vote of 12 to 8. "Thereupon the minority declared that it no longer considered itself a part of the convention and would leave," Wilke notes.

The next day the minority sent an ultimatum to the minority: either it would reverse its actions of the previous day or the minority would itself enter into negotiations with the Comintern representative on its own account. A discussion of several hours' duration ensued, with a motion ultimately passed in line with the ideas of the convention minority group. A committee of 5 was elected to confer with the CI representative on the conditions of unity. The final unity provisions were brokered and ultimately accepted by the majority of the convention, with 4 votes in dissent.

Having successfully brought to former members of the old CPA back to the unified organization, CI Rep Wilke stated to the Comintern with satisfaction:

"The former Opposition consisted as a whole of good Communist elements... Left-radical or sectarian tendencies, prejudices, and traditions are a universal disease of our American Communist movement. They cannot be removed by a surgical operation, but can be overcome only by extensive, persistent educational work....

"The Party has been decidedly strengthened by the return of the Oppositionists, the prodigal son. It will contribute valuable elements for all fields of Party work, for trade union work, the press, open political work, for major and minor organizational work. At one stroke, it represents a large numerical growth; as regards quality, the elements returning to the Party are, taken all in all, equal to those in the Party."

[fn. "A View on the Former Opposition and Our Present Unity: Second Extract from Report of the Representative of the Communsit International to the Presidium of the CI," The Communist [unifed CPA], v. 1, no. 11 [Oct. 1922], pp. 6-8; Alexander Bittelman, "Outline for a History of the Communist Party in America [circa 1923]," downloadable file from, pg. 14.]


Under terms of the reunification agreement, the CC-CPA was allowed an additional 2 seats on the CEC of the party, with 2 alternates for these positions in reserve; Language Federation Bureaus were allowed CC-CPA representation and, in the case of the CC-CPA's largest Federation, the 850-member Ukrainian Federation, the opposition Federation Bureau was retained as the basic organization, supplemented by 2 new members from the small Ukrainian Federation of the regular party. Quotas were allowed for CC-CPA members on the various district committees and provisions made to retain Harry Wicks, editor of the legal press of the CC-CPA's legal political organization, The Workers Challenge, on the staff of The Worker.


(VI) -- The Workers Party of America (WPA)


Left Sectarianism was one of the big problems in the world communist movement, according to Lenin, Zinoviev, and other principle figures in the Comintern. This was used by those favoring an open, mass Communist Party in America as a pretext for formation of a parallel "legal" organization, the Workers Party of America (WPA). The decisive majority of the Founding Convention came from the ranks of the CPA; delegate nominations for this gathering came from the various District Organizers and which were approved by the Central Executive Committee. The Founding Convention of the WPA was organized and conducted in conditions of semi-secrecy.


1. -- "Founding Convention" -- New York City -- Dec. 23 - 26, 1921

The Workers Party of America was born as the result of a convention call issued over the signature of the American Labor Alliance for Trade Relations with Soviet Russia and its affiliated foreign language federations, the Workers' Council group which had recently left the Socialist Party of America, the Jewish Socialist Federation, and the Workers Educational Association. In reality, the motive force behind the organizaiton was the underground Communist Party of America, which carefully mooted the gathering's delegates. In all, 164 delegates and some 100 fraternal delegates attended the founding of the WPA. While there was no convention of the underground CPA prior to the convocation of the founding convention of the WPA, as sought by the Comintern, the CPA delegates to the gathering did hold a 3 day caucus prior to the WPA event, at which programmatic documents were agreed upon. This served the same practical effect.

The gathering approved a Constitution and Program for the new organization.

Max Eastman attended the convention on behalf of his magazine, The Liberator, and he turned in an enthusiastic report of the event.


(IV again) -- The Communist Party of America, Section of the Communist International

(a.k.a. "unified CPA")

2. -- "2nd National Convention" -- Bridgman, MI -- Aug. 17 - 22, 1922

The Bridgman Convention of 1922 was an absolute debacle, held in secret in a state with a strict "Criminal Syndicalist" Law. The gathering was penetrated by an agent of the Department of Justice, Francis Morrow (party names "Day" and "Ashworth"), who was elected as a delegate from Camden, NJ -- the raid resulting in a series of litigation that tied up the energy and resources of the American Communist movement for years.

The Bridgman Convention was held in gullies amidst wooded dunes on the estate of Karl Wolfskeel, less than a mile from Bridgman and about 12 miles from the neighboring towns of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor. The "Wolfskeel Summer Resort" had a number of cottages that were routinely rented out to campers, which served to house the 70 or so who attended the gathering. The location could be reached only by an unpaved road, which helped to maintain the site's isolation. The meeting was attended by "Ward Brooks" (aka Genrikh Valetskii, born Maximilian Horwitz) as the representative of the Communist International.

[fn. R.M. Whitney, Reds in America. (NY: Beckwith Press, 1924), pp. 20-21.]

The Bridgman Convention was called to order by Executive Secretary Jay Lovestone on behalf of the party's Central Executive Committee. The agenda of the gathering was crowded with discussions on a wide range of topics. Ben Gitlow and Caleb Harrison were chosen as chairmen of the convention, heading its various sessions and resolving matters of parliamentary procedure. Comintern Rep Valetskii delivered a keynote address to the gathering in German, during which hestated that while capitalism's economic prospects were improving, the consciousness of the workers was still growing and the class struggle sharpening. The Communist Party had emerged from its factional struggles stronger than before, having carefully studied various questions of tactics, Valetskii hopefully asserted.

Jay Lovestone reported on the progress of the party-related organizations the African Blood Brotherhood and The World War Veterans, while on Saturday, Aug. 19, William Z. Foster addressed the gathering on behalf of the Trade Union Educational League.

The agenda of the gathering was chiefly concerned with the issue of whether the underground CPA should be dissolved and was divided on the issue between a narrow majority favoring retention of the underground organization (the "Goose Caucus") and a slight minority favoring its termination (the "Liquidators"). The decision ultimately reached by the gathering (with the vote deciding the matter by the narrowest of margins) called for the continuation of a controlling underground Communist Party, but with the primary work of the movement centered in open, "legal" work.

Abram Jakira ["J. Miller"] was named Executive Secretary of the underground CPA by the convention.

Aware that there was a growing police presence in the little town of Bridgman, the convention was prematurely terminated (with no final decision reached on the status of the underground party) and its documents buried in two barrels. Early in the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 22, the gathering was sensationally raided by police, with the hidden cache of documents easily uncovered due to Morrow's penetration of the gathering. Some 17 members of the CPA were arrested on the site, with many other participants -- including Foster -- arrested later under warrants issued on the basis of documents seized in the Bridgman raid.

The following members of the CPA were arrested in conjunction with the Bridgman convention: Phillip Aronberg, Alex Bail, Eugene Bechtold, Earl R. Browder, William F. Dunne, Charles Erickson, William Z. Foster, Alex Georgian, Caleb Harrison, Charles Krumbein, Cyril Lambkin, Max Lerner, Elmer McMillin, John Mihelic, Seth Nordlin, Thomas J. O'Flaherty, William Reynolds, C.E. Ruthenberg, A. Severino, T.R. Sullivan, Norman H. Tallentire, and Joseph Zack [Kornfeder].

A legal defense organization called the "Labor Defense Council" emerged in the fall of 1922 to raise consciousness about the fate of the Bridgman defendants and funds for their trials. This group, of which William Z. Foster was National Secretary, included a 21-member National Committee, including such non-CPA figures as Roger N. Baldwin of the ACLU, Father John A. Ryan of the Catholic Welfare Council, Eugene V. Debs of the Socialist Party, and John Haynes Holmes.


After Bridgman, the CPA began to divide its Central Executive Committee into smaller and pivotal subcommittees, the "Organization Committee" or "ORCOM," which handled financial and personnel matters, and the "Political Committee," or "POLCOM," which handled resolutions, manifestos, and tactical decisions. A complete list of meetings of the CEC, POLCOM, and ORCOM in 1922 along with archival locations for the minutes of each has been prepared and is viewable as an html page here.


3. -- "3rd National Convention" -- New York City -- April 7, 1923

The April 1923 Convention was the final gathering of the "underground" CPA. All caucuses and factionalism was expressly banned at the gathering by the Jan. 26, 1923, decision of the Central Executive Committee. A convention call issued in February outlined the procedure for election of delegates and made clear the very limited agenda with its rather definite perscription.

The meeting was attended by 19 regular delegates (Boston - 3; New York - 5; Philadelphia - 1; Cleveland - 2; Chicago - 3; Detroit - 2; St. Louis - 1; Pittsburgh - 1; Minneapolis - 1). In addition there was 1 delegate from the Young Communist League and 13 members and 2 alternates of the Central Executive Committe, for a total of 35 in all.

The official view of the Central Executive Committee calling for the liquidation of the underground CPA was delivered by three: A John Pepper {"Sh---" = "Short"] delivered the main report, with C.E. Ruthenberg ["Br---" = "Brenton"] making the presentation for the second agenda item, "The Question of the Open Party." Ruthenberg was the Executive Secretary of the CPA's legal arm, the Workers Party of America -- an organization which was significantly larger and substantially more vital than its erstwhile parent by 1923.

The body unanimously approved a thesis prepared by the Central Executive Committee which liquidated the underground CPA organization. An apparatus within the legal party designed for secret operations to safeguard the organization and carry on confidential work was also established, with Abraham Jakira named the "Secretary for Confidential Work." This apparatus for confidential work was the subject of a small bit of controversy at the Convention, as Ludwig Katterfeld argued that the group should consist of the whole of the former underground CPA and that its further membership be elective; instead the conception of a much smaller group of trusted party members appointed to the tasks as needed was unanimously approved.

Letters to the Communist International and to the Workers Party of America written Wednesday, April 11, 1923, in the name of the CPA by Executive Secretary C.E. Ruthenberg announcing the decision to dissolve the organization marked a formal end to the underground CPA. Henceforth underground operations served as a supplemental adjunct of the "open" party -- the Workers Party of America. A statement of the American party situation was prepared for the Enlarged Executive Committee of the Communist International dated that same day.



(VI again) -- The Workers Party of America (WPA)


"The Cancelled Convention"

One little-known effect of the Aug. 22 Bridgman, Michigan raid of the underground Communist Party was a forced postponement of the Second National Convention of the legal Workers Party of America. The Second Convention was initially scheduled to open on Monday, August 28, 1922, in Chicago, immediately after the closing of the convention of the underground CPA.

The date of the Convention was set by the June 29-30 meeting of the Central Executive Committee of the Workers Party, which also appointed an agenda committee consisting of Robert Minor, J. Louis Engdahl, C.E. Ruthenberg, Elmer T. Allison, and Alexander Trachtenberg to prepare the gathering's agenda and author a preliminary draft of a revised party program. Seventy-five delegates were apportioned for that gathering, based on average dues paid for the months March-June, 1922, and 10 fraternal delegates were slated to attend. The gathering was to convene at the site of the 1919 Emergency National Convention of the Socialist Party, Machinists' Hall, located at 119 S Ashland Boulevard.

With the Bridgman arrests, which tied up leading members of the WPA, the convention was hastily rescheduled for Dec. 24, 1922, in New York.

[fn. "Hold Party Convention at Scene of Socialist Split Three Years Ago," The Worker, v. 5, whole no. 236 (Aug. 19, 1922), pg. 1; "Workers Party Convention Called," Truth [Duluth, MN], v. 6, no. 28, whole no. 263, (July 14, 1922), pg. 1.]



2. -- "2nd National Convention" -- New York City -- Dec. 24 - 26, 1922

The Second National Convention of the WPA was attended by 52 regular and 4 fraternal delegates.

The gathering adopted an extensively revised program. It also approved a number of changes to the Constitution of the WPA, providing for an expansion of the Central Executive Committee to 25 members and for the introduction of a new inner circle, an 11 member Executive Council chosen from the CEC. This was a conscious move to downsize the size of the governing body due to the difficulty and cost of conducting regular operations with relatively large numbers of participants.

C.E. Ruthenberg, having been released on bail in April 1922, was named Executive Secretary of the organization. He afterwards published a short, upbeat account of the gathering in the party press. Another summary account of the convention was provided by Editor of The Worker J. Louis Engdahl.

The 2nd National Convention passed a resolution moving the headquarters of the organization from New York to Chicago, ostensibly due to the more central nature of that city. The convention also voted to reduce the price of dues stamps charged to the language federations by 5 cents, thus allowing those groups an additional five cents per month for their operations.

The convention was addressed by four of those arrested at the ill-fated August 1922 Bridgman Convention of the Communist Party -- Earl Browder, Norman Tallentire, Bill Dunne, and Charles Krumbein. The convention greeted its legal defense affiliate organizations, the Labor Defense Council and the National Defense Council, and pledged its "wholehearted support to every endeavor to free all class war prisoners."

The Convention set into motion plans for a mass organization called the National Council for Protection of Foreign Born.

[fn. "Support the Prisoners," The Worker, Jan. 6, 1923, pg. 3.]


The WPA moved its headquarters to Chicago effective September 1, 1923. It remained there until the move back to New York decided upon by the 5th Convention was completed on Oct. 4, 1927.


3. -- "3rd National Convention" -- Chicago, IL -- Dec. 30, 1923 - Jan. 2, 1924

The Third National Convention of the WPA was convened at Imperial Hall, Chicago, and was attended by attended by 52 regular and 35 fraternal delegates. The gathering was run according to Roberts Rules of Order with a prepublished agenda. Although originally slated to end on January 1, the gathering actually took a fourth day to finish its business.

The main report of the Central Executive Committee was delivered by C.E. Ruthenberg. William Z. Foster also delivered a long report on trade union work of the Trade Union Educational League. Other reporters included J. Lous Engdahl (Comintern), Jay Lovestone (American Imperialism), Robert Minor (Soviet Recognition), Ludwig Lore (Protection of Foreign Born), John J. Ballam (Daily Worker), Abraham Jakira (Party Press), Max Bedacht (Shop Nuclei Organization), Joseph Manley (Agriculture), Martin Abern (Young Workers League), and James P. Cannon (Party Educational Work).

Discussion was held over changing the form of organization from one based upon territorial units to shop-based units. While some delegates expressed sentiments to place the entire organization on a shop-unit basis, the view to combine shop and territorial units prevailed at the convention.

The convention continued with the previously existing program of the organization without making any changes to its content.

The size of the CEC was scaled back from an unwieldy 28 members to just 13, consisting of twelve members, plus Martin Abern, a representative of the Young Workers' League. Eight of these were adherents to the Foster faction and a minority of 5 owed allegiance to the Ruthenberg-Pepper group.

[fn. Philip Kerr, "The Workers Party Convention," The Proletarian, v. 7, no. 2 (Feb. 1924), pp. 16-18.]


Plenum of the Central Executive Committee -- Chicago, IL -- Jan. 3, 1924

The newly elected Central Organizing Committee met in Chicago immediately after the conclusion of the 3rd National Convention of the WPA to reorganize itself. Although the Foster-Cannon faction constituted the new majority of the CEC, it reelected C.E. Ruthenberg to the post of Executive Secretary. The Foster group retained a voting majority of 4-3 on the important Political Committee and 3-2 on the Organizational Committee. Minutes of this plenum are available here as a downloadable pdf file.

Plenum of the Central Executive Committee -- Chicago, IL -- Feb. 15-16, 1924

The 2nd 1924 plenum of the CEC. The CEC splits bitterly over the question of the WPA's actions in the Farmer-Labor Party movement, with the Ruthenberg-Pepper minority seeking specific direction to build a "class" Farmer-Labor Party independent from the Third Party (LaFollette) movement, with a mandatory call for a May 30th convention -- with or without the participation of outside forces. A thesis by Foster (not included in the minutes) is instead adopted by the majority, which results in the minority declaring that it will immediately appeal to the Communist International for resolution of the matter. Minutes of the plenum are available here as a downloadable pdf file.

Plenum of the Central Executive Committee -- Chicago, IL -- March 17-18, 1924

The 3rd 1924 plenum of the CEC. Party membership continues to grow, according to Executive Secretary Ruthenberg, although "at least one-third" of the Party's members are not paying dues regularly. As a result, the Party's financial situation "is not the best," he says, having increased its indebtedness by approximately $1500 since Dec. 1, 1923. A report is given on the June 17th Convention of the Farmer-Labor Party, the date arrived at as a compromise with the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party (the WPA initially seeking a May 30 date -- attempting to stave off a planned July 4 convention that was to link non-communist Farmer-Labor forces to the LaFollette bandwagon). Olgin, Pepper, and Foster are dispatched to Moscow at once to seek the Comintern's decision on the WPA's role in the turbulent American political environment. Minutes of the plenum are available here as a downloadable pdf file. 

On March 27, 1924, the majority of the CEC of the Workers Party of America addressed a communication to the Executive Committee of the Comintern requesting the recall of John Pepper from the United States. The group of 7 indicated that this subject had come up at the 3rd Convention and that 37 out of the 52 delegates gathered their had approved the CEC making this request. William Z. Foster was authorized to state the case for the group while he was in Moscow seeking the Comintern's support for their program for the WPA with respect to the Farmer-Labor Party.


4. -- "Nominating Convention" -- Chicago, IL -- July 10, 1924

This one day conference terminated the campaign of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party (For President: Duncan MacDonald; for Vice President: William Bouck) and instead nominated for President William Z. Foster and for Vice President Benjamin Gitlow on the Workers Party ticket.


The Workers (Communist) Party of America 

With the demise of the the parallel "underground" party, the 4th Convention of the Workers Party of America approved the change of the group's name to the "Workers (Communist) Party."

In December of 1924, a "party discussion" on the Foster-Cannon "majority" and Pepper-Ruthenberg "minority" theses of the CEC on the farmer-labor party tactic. A series of 10 open "membership meetings" were held in the party's district centers of the East and Midwest -- New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Buffalo, Minneapolis, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and New Haven. These meetings were conducted under the authority of official representatives of the CEC and an even number of tellers from each faction were appointed to count votes for each of the theses. Additional motions on the question were permitted from the floor; vote and voice were limited to paid WPA members of branches under the City Central Committees of each of these district centers.


5. -- "4th National Convention" -- Chicago, IL -- Aug. 21 - 30, 1925

The Fourth National Convention was marked by extreme factionalism, pitting the Ruthenberg/Pepper/Lovestone and Foster/Bittelman/Cannon groups. The Foster group secured the allegiance of 40 of the 61 delegates ultimately accredited, but the CEC selected had an enforced parity of 10-10 between the factions, with a "non-factional" chairman, Comintern Rep Sergei Gusev ("P. Green").

The 4th Convention officially expelled Ludwig Lore from the Party. The convention officially restructured the Communist Party from a "territorial branch" form of organization to one based upon "shop nuclei."


6. -- "5th National Convention" -- New York City -- Aug. 31 - Sept. 6, 1927

The Fifth National Convention of the Workers (Communist) Party was held in New York, with 50 delegates in attendance. The Convention opened at 1 pm at Irving Plaza Hall, located at Irving Place and 15th Street in New York City, and was called to order by Jay Lovestone, "Acting Secretary" of the Workers (Communist) Party. In attendance was Comintern Rep Arthur Ewart, who apparently lent his support to the Lovestone group in their struggle with the Foster group.

The convention elected a Central Executive Committee of 37 members, a group which was to hold plenums at least quarterly. The CEC consisted of 22 members of the Pepper-Lovestone majority group and 15 members of the various oppositons, the primary opposition faction headed by William Z. Foster and Alexander Bittelman.

This CEC in turn elected a political bureau of 11 which was to handle the day-to-day affairs of the party.

The 5th Convention, dominated by the Lovestone faction, approved the move of party headquarters from Chicago back to New York City. The move was completed as of Oct. 4, 1927, according to a notice on the front page of the Daily Worker of that date. Headquarters were located at 43 E 125th Street, NYC.

[fn. Anthony Bimba, History of the American Working Class. Second Edition. (NY: International Publishers, 1936), pp. 321-322; American Labor Year Book 1929, pp. 166-167; "5th Party Convention Opens Today," Daily Worker, Aug. 31, 1927, pg. 1.]


7. -- "Nominating Convention" -- New York City -- May 25 - 27, 1928

The 1928 Nominating Convention was held inat Mecca Temple. Delegates were to be elected based upon the strength of party organization in each state (List in Daily Worker, May 12, 1928, pg. 2).

The Nominating Convention adopted a program which was published as a 64 page pamphlet calle The Platform of the Class Struggle.


Plenum of the Central Committee --- (New York?) --- Dec. XX-XX, 1928.



Two reps were delegated to the American party in the run-up to the 6th National Convention (thought by some to be there with the task of advancing the interests of the Foster faction). One was Harry Pollitt, Rep of RILU; the other was the German Phillip Dengel, Rep of the CI, a follower of Thällmann. John Pepper was recalled to Moscow, but he quietly refused, instead going into hiding in New York and continuing to conduct factional organization for his group. At this time the Lovestone-dominated party's "men in Moscow" were its Rep to the CI, Bert Wolfe, and its Rep to the Profintern, Harry M. Wicks.


8. -- "6th National Convention" -- New York City -- March 4-10, 1929

The 6th Convention was dominated by delegates loyal to the Lovestone faction, which handily defeated the Foster-Bittelman Opposition in the run-up to the convention. Approximately 90% of the delegates were adherents of the Pepper-Lovestone group, it has been stated.

The convention opened the evening of March 4, 1929 in Irving Plaza Hall, located on 15th Street and Irving Place in New York City. The convention was greeted by Jay Lovestone, Secretary of the party. A total of 104 delegates and 62 alternates were reported by the Credentials Committee after it conducted its deliberations. The party press declared that 10 delegates were black and 1 was Japanese. [DW 3/8/29, pg. 1]

A Presidium for the Convention was elected unanimously: District 1 (Boston): Charles W. Bixby; District 2 (New York): Ben Gitlow, Otto Hall, and Henry J. Rosemond; District 3 (Philadelphia) Jay Lovestone and "Fred" [missing line?]; District 5 (Pittsburgh) W.J. White; District 8 (Chicago): William F. Kruse, Lehtinen; District 13 (San Francisco) John Owens; Young Workers League: Herbert Zam; also Ella Reeve Bloor and William Z. Foster.

The first order of business was a Report on the War Danger, delivered by Max Bedacht, member of the Political Committee of the CEC. This was followed by a Report on the 6th World Congress of the Comintern, delivered by Will Weinstone.

The third session of the convention began at 3 pm on March 7, with Ella Reeve Bloor in the chair. The session discussed the reports on the War Danger and the 6th World Congress of the CI. That evening, beginning at 8:15 pm, the 4th business session was held, with Executive Secretary Jay Lovestone delivering the Political Report of the CentralExecutive Committee, which was said to be a "combined political report and a report on the Right danger and Trotskyism." [DW, 3/9/29, pg. 1.]

The convention named a Negro Commission of 22, with Otto Hall of the Negro Department of the party, as chairman, and a Committee on Trotskyism, including 17 members, headed by Otto Huiswoud.

The final session of the 6th National Convention ws held in executive session, beginning Saturday night (March 9, 1929) and which "lasted far into Sunday morning." [DW, 3/11/29, pg. 1.] The business of this final session included discussion and action on the report of the Organizational Department of the party and election of a new CEC and Central Control Commission.

The 6th Convention formally changed the name of the organization to "Communist Party of the United States of America, Section of the Communist International." [DW, 3/15/29, pg. 2.]


During the convention, a factional document of the Foster group, claiming the Comintern intended to place it in control of the American party, was lifted and cabled to Moscow, along with the names of a number of protesting delegates. The Comintern reassured the Americans that they would have the right to select their own party leadership, with two important exceptions -- arch-factionalists Jay Lovestone of the majority and Alexander Bittelman of the minority were not eligible for leadership, being instead called to Moscow for assignment to Comintern work.

Lovestone clearly did not accept the fact that he was to be removed as Executive Secretary as a factionalist. A cable was sent to the leadership of the Comintern -- now in the hands of Viacheslav Molotov, assisted by Bela Kun -- announcing of its decision to appeal the decision of the Comintern on the reassignment of Lovestone. A special delegation of delegates from the 6th Convention, "preponderently proletarian," was being sent to Moscow to make the case for Lovestone in the appeal, the Americans announced.



The Communist Party, USA


Plenum of the Central Committee --- New York --- October 6-8, 1929.

This was the first plenum of the CC since the December 1928 session. A massive document called "The Economic and Political Situation in the United States and Tasks of the Communist Party" was adopted detailing the Third Period strategy of the CPUSA, including the task of winning the majority of the working class to the Communist Party. The Socialist Party was decried for having become "more and more an open agent of imperialism" and for "exhibiting features of social fascism." The working class in the USA was said to have been increasingly radicalized by rationalization of industry and a "ruthless fight against the workers' movement."

[fn. "The Economic and Political Situation in the United States and the Tasks of the Communist Party," Daily Worker, Oct. 16, 1929, pp. 3-4 and Oct. 17, 1929, pp. 3-4.]


Plenum of the Central Committee --- New York --- March 31-April 4, 1930.

A plenum of the Central Committee was held March 31-April 4, 1930, to prepare a thesis on the economic situation and various resolutions for the 7th Convention of the CPUSA. Resolutions were adopted on Building TUUL, on Matters in District 8 [Chicago], on Party Work in the South, on the Organization of Factory Nuclei, on Party Fractions, on Language Work, and on Keeping New Members. This thesis and resolutions were published in book form by Workers Library Publishers in 1930.


9. -- "7th National Convention" -- New York City -- June 21 - 25, 1930

The 7th National Convention was attended by 306 delegates -- 102 regular, 64 alternate, and 140 consultative. Party leaders William Z. Foster, Robert Minor, and Israel Amter did not attend, serving jail time which resulted from their March 6th arrest on the steps of New York City Hall where they had attempted to present the demands of the unemployed to Mayor Walker (the trio were sentenced to "6 mos. to 3 years," and were released on Oct. 21, 1930).

On the eve of the convention a mass demonstration for the release of Foster, Minor, Amter, and Raymond was to "greet the convention." The event was held at Madison Square Garden, with admission of 35 cents in advance or 50 cents at the door.

Business sessions began on the morning of Saturday, June 21, with the delivery of the Political Report of the Central Committee by Max Bedacht. A 15 member Presidium of the Convention was elected, which included: Max Bedacht, Ella Reeve Bloor, Earl Browder, Harry Cantor, James W. Ford, Betty Gannett, Clarence Hathaway, Isaiah Hawkins, Hewitt, Isaki, Niels Kjar, Nowell, and Jack Stachel.

Discussion on Negro work was summarized by James W. Ford. The report on Agriculture and the Agrarian Thesis was deliverd by Harrison George.

The convention concluded on Wednesday, June 25 with the election of a new Central Committee of 25, with 7 candidate (alternate) members. The names of those elected were not immediately published in the Daily Worker.

The 7th National Convention elected Earl Browder as General Secretary of the Party, replacing Max Bedacht, who would soon move over to the CP's associated fraternal-benefit society, the International Workers Order.


9 -- "Nominating Convention" -- Chicago, IL -- May 28-29, 1932

The CP's 2 day nominating convention in May 1932 was part of its most serious electoral effort in the race for Presidency. Some 1200 delegates gathered at People's Auditorium on the West Side of Chicago to nominate William Z. Foster for President and James W. Ford for Vice President.

On the night after the first day of the convention, a mass session was held at Chicago Colisum, located at 15th and Wabash, an auditorium seating 14,000 that was packed to the gills. Earl Browder opened the evening session on behelf of the Central Committee with a speech detailing CP policies on unemployment insurance, relief of the unemployed, and against wage cuts. Browder introduced B.D. Amis, a black delegate from Cleveland, who nominated Foster for President of the United States. The hall broke into wild cheers and the singing of "The Internationale."

Then Clarence Hathaway, Campaign Manager for the 1932 effort, nominated James Ford for Vice President, declaring the CP in favor of "complete economic and political and social equality" of the races and calling for the confiscation of the land of southern white owners for the impoverished black farmers who actually worked it. Hathaway also noted that the CP "proposes to break up the present state boundaries and establish a state unity of the territory known as the 'Black Belt' in which Negroes are the majority of the population. Ford delivered his acceptance speech, which was followed by a 30 minute demonstration of those in attendance.

The second day of the Nominating Convention featured the unanimous acceptance of the Draft Platform submitted by the Communist Party. The 1200 delegates were addressed by Will Weinstone, editor of The Daily Worker, and Clarence Hathaway of the National Communist Election Campaign Committee.

The convention adopted resolutions calling for the formation of Anti-War committees in the factories and for "committees of control" to stop shipments of munitions, calling for the expulsion of the Japanese government and a boycot of Japanese goods, calling for withdrawal of troops from China, and "setting up of an iron wall for defense of the Soviet Union." Another resolution demanded payment of the Soldiers' Bonus. The National Free Mooney Convention scheduled for Labor Day in Chicago was endorsed, and a call made for a mass movement in defense of the Scottsboro boys. The Los Angeles Olympics were denounced and support given to a Counter-Olympics proposed for Chicago.

[fn. "15,000 at Coliseum Show Tremendous Enthusiasm," Daily Worker, vol. 9, no. 128 (May 30, 1932), pp. 1, 3."Adopt Class Struggle Platform at National Convention in Chicago," Daily Worker, vol. 9, no. 129 (May 31, 1932), pp. 1, 3.]


10 -- "Extraordinary National Conference" -- New York City -- July 7-10, 1933.

Whereas the May 1932 CPUSA Nominating Convention was a much ballyhooed mass spectacle, the July 1933 Extraordinary Conference was a subdued affair, with no daily reports appearing in the party press. Over 200 party leaders were brought together from around the country to formulate and discuss an an extremely important document called An Open Letter to All Members of the Communist Party that was required reading of all party members. The gathering also published a pamphlet called The Communist Position on the Farmers' Movement.

The main report was delivered to the gathering by Earl Browder on behalf of the Central Committee. Browder declared that the purpose of the extraordinary conference and the open letteer was to rouse the party to meet the "extreme sharpening of the crisis and consequently of the class struggle and of the danger of imperialist war." A "revolutionary upsurge among the masses" was perceived, to which the party was believed currently unequal.

Editor Clarence Hathaway made a report on the status of The Daly Worker. Jack Stachel reported on Trade Union work. Robert Minor reported on the imperialist war danger and threat to the Soviet Union. Alexander Trachtenberg reported on the German Situation and the struggle against fascism.

The Open Letter was to be published in the DW on July 13, according to an article on July 12, but never appeared. It was published instead in pamphlet form.

[fn. "Communist Party Holds Extraordinary National Conference to Strengthen Work in the Factories and Trade Unions" Daily Worker, vol. 10, no. 166 (July 12, 1933), pg. 1.]


11 -- "8th National Convention" -- Cleveland, OH -- April 2-8, 1934

Earl Browder delivered the keynote "Report of the Central Committee," which was later published as a pamphlet.


Enlarged Plenum of the Political Bureau -- New York, NY -- May 9-10, 1936

The Political Bureau met in conjunction with District Organizers and other leading members of the party in New York from May 9-10, 1936. The gathering was addressed by Earl Browder, who delivered a lengthy report in preparation for the 9th National Convention. Browder's report dealt with the struggle for peace and the forthcoming election of 1936. The party saw its main task as being the mobilization of the masses against the "Republican-Liberty League-Hearst combination," which was seen as the source from which flowed "the chief menace of fascism." The construction of a mass Farmer-Labor Party was seen as the primary tool in fighting the reactionary wing of the Republican Party, although an independent Farmer-Labor Presidential campaign was deemed impossible.

The Communist Party also in this period advocated consultation and joint work with the Socialist Party, Farmer-Labor forces, and adherents to Labor's Non-Partisan League "on all those issues where united action is possible."

[fn. Alexander Bittelman, "Review of the Month," The Communist v. 15, no. 6 (June 1936), pp. 483-490.]


12 -- "9th National Convention" -- New York City -- June 24-28, 1936

Earl Browder delivered the keynote "Democracy or Fascism: Report of the Central Committee," which was later published as a pamphlet. The Resolutions of the Convention were published as a pamphlet under separate covers.


National Party Builders Delegates Conference -- New York, NY -- Feb. 18-21, 1938

The National Party Builders Delegates Conference was a gathering held in conjunction with the Central Committee called "to review the course and achievements of our national membership recruiting campaign" and which was to "lay the basis for systematic and daily Party building." The conference was a by-product of the CP's membership drive, which sought to recruit 25,000 new members by Jan. 21, 1938, and to raise monthly dues payments to 50,000 members per month.

[fn. The Communist, v. 17, no. 2 (Feb. 1938), pg. 112.]



13 -- "10th National Convention" -- New York City -- May 27-31, 1938



14 -- "11th National Convention" -- New York City -- May 30-June 2, 1940



15 -- "Special Convention" -- New York City -- Nov. 16, 1940


Extraordinary Session of the National Committee, Feb. 8, 1944.

Called in conjunction with changing the name and orientation of CPUSA to the "Communist Political Association." This proposal met with the heated opposition of William Z. Foster and Sam Darcy, both of whom spoke against Browder's "new course" -- a proposal which was supported by a big majority of those gathered.

Foster kept his criticism within the Party CC, but Darcy elected to conduct broader agitation against this change of line, circulating a letter to party members and apparently writing on the issue for the "bourgeois press." A commission of the Central Committee headed by Foster expelled Darcy from the party for "slanderous declarations" against the party leadership and for allegedly attempting to form a fraction.


16 -- "[12th] Communist Party Convention" -- New York City -- May 20, 1944

The Convention of the CPUSA was called to order at 10:30 am by National Chairman William Z. Foster. The delegates began by singing "The Star Spangled Banner." Chairman Foster appointed a 5 member Credentials Committee. Charles Krumbein of New York, as Secretary of this committee, presented a preliminary report that credentials had been received for 220 regular and 173 alternate delegates, representing 44 states. A motion was made and carried to seat all credentialled delegates.

Foster then took up the Jan. 11 recommendation of the National Committee to change the form of organization of the CPUSA. Foster recognized CPUSA Secretary Earl Browder, who presented a formal motion that "the Communist Party of America be and hereby is dissolved and that a committee of three, consisting of the Chairman, Secretary, and Assistant authorized to dispose of all its property and to turn over any surplus that may remain to any organization or organizations that in their opinion are devoted to our country's winning of the war..." Morris Childs, William Schneiderman, and Gilbert Green all spoke in favor of the motion, which was then carried unanimously. Minutes of the proceeding were subsequently published.

Its business completed, the convention of the Communist Party USA voted unanimously to adjorn itself.

[fn. The Path to Peace, Progress and Prosperity: Proceedings of the Cinstitutional Convention of the Communist Political Association, New York, May 20-22, 1944. (New York: Communist Political Association, 1922), pg. 140.]




16 -- "Constitutional Convention of the Communist Political Association" -- New York City -- May 20-22, 1944

The gathering unanimously elected Earl Browder as President of the Communist Political Association.

This convention was later referred to as the "12th National Convention" in subsequent CP history.


In April of 1945, a lengthy article entitled "On the Dissolution of the Communist Party of the United States," signed by French Communist leader Jacques Duclos appeared in the French journal, Cahiers du Communisme. The article showed an intimate familiarity of details with the American party's internal political situation that (correctly) indicated to careful American readers a Moscow source of origin of the document. The publication of this article prompted an uproar in the CPA, as factional fighting was unleashed between those favoring a return to the previous "party" form of organization (lead by William Z. Foster) and those in favor of continuing the "new course" initiated by Browder.


Meeting of the National Committee, June 18-20, 1945.




17 -- "13th National Convention" -- New York City -- July 26-28, 1945



Note: If you wish to cite this exact page, the URL is
Author: Tim Davenport. Title: "The Communist Party of America (1919-1946): Party History." Site: Early American Marxism website. Last updated: Feb. 18, 2014.