"Like a Prairie Fire Labor Party Spreads: Movement Starts in Widely Scattered Localities -- Enthusiasm and Loyalty in Hundreds of Letters [unsigned article from The New Majority] [Jan. 4, 1919] This editorial from the debut issue of The New Majority, official organ of the Chicago Federation of Labor and the Labor Party of Cook County, trumpets the fact that a labor party movement was spreading "like wildfire." The movement had spontaneous origins, the editorialist opines: "It started in many widely scattered localities without prearrangement. No one tried to get it going in these different places, but like Topsy 'it just growed.' Local unions and city and state central bodies are organizing to get into politics. Letters and telegrams are being exchanged between officials of organizations and the wave grows bigger every hour. Men with long experience in the labor movement have never seen anything like this common desire, so enthusiastically expressed, for a new deal in America." Secretary Ed Nockels of the Chicago Federation of Labor, the organization which served as the advance guard of this new movement, is quoted as saying, "Never before in my 20 years' experience has there been such prompt and enthusiastic response to any proposition sent out to labor bodies as there has to this Labor Party plan."
"Labor's 14 Points," by The Labor Party of Cook County [IL] [Jan. 11, 1919] Taking a page from the political playbook of President Wilson, the Labor Party of Cook County issued this set of "14 Points" as general demands of the emerging labor party movement. These "14 Points" included such venerable trade union demands as the right to organize, the 8-hour day in the 44-hour week, abolition of unemployment through government works programs, and the democratic control of industry. Also figuring largely were measures related to war and its aftermath, such as an end to profiteering through the establishment of cooperatives, liquidation of war debt through inheritance and graduated income taxes, extension of the government insurance provided to soldiers to the entire population and its expansion in scope, and the establishment of "a league of the workers of all nations pledged and organized to enforce the destruction of autocracy, militarism, and economic imperialism throughout the world, and to bring about worldwide disarmament and open diplomacy." The restoration of "all fundamental political rights" suspended during the war -- free speech, free press, and free assemblage -- "at the earliest possible moment" is sought. Seats for labor in government and the peace conference were also demanded as part of the Labor Party's "14 Points."
"Ex-Alderman Buck Joins Labor's New Party: Leaves Republican Fold with Statement Charging No Difference Between Old Political Groups." [unsigned article from The New Majority] [Jan. 18, 1919] This article from the official organ of the Labor Party of Cook County (Illinois) documents an important addition to the organization -- former Chicago alderman and progressive Republican activist Robert M. Buck. The journalist Buck was soon to take over the reins as editor of The New Majority and along with Chicago Federation of Labor officials John Fitzpatrick and Ed Nockels would remain a leading figure in the burgeoning labor party movement throughout the first half of the 1920s. Buck declares that he had "long felt the uselessness of the struggle to make the Republican Party responsive to the first principles of democracy" but that since the war the situation had worsened and the party's leadership had commenced "hurtling the party further and further along the autocratic highway toward imperialistic enterprise" contrary to American values. The Democratic Party was deemed "no better," headed temporarily by Wilson "a forward looking man of conscience, intellect, and power" -- but handicapped by petty jealousies and insincerity in its program. As for the Socialist Party, Buck deems that it "lost the esteem of red-blooded Americans by its action on the war. When forward looking citizens, even those who doubted the sincerity of the war leaders, supported the war with the determination to do everything in their power to make it a war for democracy, the Socialist Party officially turned its face against such an effort." Consequently, Buck believes, a new political party was necessary to defend the interests of the workers, "who have been swindled out of that which is theirs" by their exploiters.
"Socialist Party in Swing to the Left," by Robert M. Buck [events of May 17-18, 1919] This short news snippet from the Labor Party of Cook County's official organ documents the heated proceedings at the recently completed convention of the Socialist Party of Cook County. The gathering had been dominated by a Left Wing majority, Buck states, with "William Bross Lloyd, multimillionaire" presiding and "Isaac E. Ferguson, lawyer" steering "the radical element to their triumph." The gathering had nearly erupted in a riot the first day of the gathering, Buck observes, "but the Sunday gathering was peaceful and orderly, after the withdrawal of the moderate delegates, led by Seymour Stedman." "There was talk of a dual organization during the heat of the conflict, but so far as could be learned no definite steps have yet been taken," Buck notes.
"Fred C. Ellis Plunges 5 Stories; Hits Walk: Cartoonist Escapes with Minor Fractures When Painters' Swing Rope Breaks," by Robert M. Buck [event of July 24, 1919] A short anecdotal sidebar to the tumultuous history of 1919, this news story documents the near-fatal fall of Fred C. Ellis, one of the great political cartoonists of his generation. Ellis, a regular contributor to The Liberator and The New Majority, was working at his craft putting up an outdoor advertising sign on the side of a 6 story building in Chicago's North Side, when one of the ropes holding the scaffold from which he was working frayed and broke, sending Ellis crashing feet-first to the sidewalk 60 feet below. Miraculously, Ellis escaped with fractures to both feet, his right hand, and his back -- another sign painter had been killed in a similar accident nearby just a few days previously when he fell through the roof of a car. "I knew I was due for a drop," said Ellis, "I was too far over to grab the guide line -- so I just set myself for the spill. I figured if I could keep my head up I would have a chance. It seemed like I was standing in the air while I was dropping to the sidewalk. I remember seeing the fellows come over and scoop me off the sidewalk -- then I lost consciousness." Includes a photograph of a youthful Fred Ellis.
"Proclamation Concerning the Race Riots by the Chicago Federation of Labor." [Aug. 9, 1919] Racist violence erupted in the summer of 1919 centered around Chicago's stockyards, pitting largely non-union black workers against the largely unionized whites whom they replaced during the war and after. This August 9 proclamation of the powerful Chicago Federation of Labor places blame for the crisis firmly upon the employers: "The profiteering meat packers of Chicago are responsible for the race riots that have disgraced the city. It is the outcome of their deliberate attempt to disrupt the union labor movement in the stockyards. Their responsibility is shared by the daily newspapers which are kept subsidized by the extravagant advertising contracts of the packers..." Non-union black workers had been imported to Chicago from the South in an effort to sabotage the unionization efforts of the stockyards workers, the proclamation states, adding that "organized labor has no quarrel with the colored worker. Workers, white and black, are fighting the same battle." Efforts were made to bring black workers under the umbrella of unionization. "At every opportunity the packers and their hirelings fanned the flames of race prejudice and the fires of prejudice between strikebreakers and organized workers, hoping for the day to arrive when union white men would refuse to work beside unorganized colored men, so that the union men, white and black, could be discharged and nonunion workers, white and black, put in their places, until the spark came that ignited the tinder piled by the packers and the race riots ensued," the proclamation declares.
"National Labor Party is Born: Conference of Delegates Calls Convention at Chicago, November 22nd," by Robert M. Buck [event of Aug. 18, 1919] On Aug. 18, 1919, a national conference consisting of 30 representatives of Labor Party groups from 7 states met in Chicago and determined to establish a national Labor Party at a convention to be held Nov. 22, 1919. A temporary chairman (Max Hayes of Cleveland) and 7 members were named to to a temporary executive committee. The official organ of the Chicago Federation of Labor and the Labor Party of Illinois, The New Majority, was named the official organ of the forthcoming party (subject to confirmation by the founding convention). A basis for representation to the founding convention was decided.
"Call to the Convention to Organize a National Labor Party in the United States." [Aug. 30, 1919] This is the call for a convention to establish a national Labor Party, to begin Nov. 22, 1919, in Chicago. The basis of representation was announced as: "1 delegate from each state or local organization with a membership of 500 or less and 1 delegate for each 500 additional members or major fraction." The convention is said to be summoned for the "formation of a political party of hand and brain workers based upon political, industrial, and social democracy embodying the following: 1. Restoration of all civil liberties. 2. The national ownership and democratic management of the means of transportation and community mines, finance, and all other monopolies and natural resources. 3. The abolition of excessive land ownership and holding land out of use for speculative purposes." "All Labor Parties and bona fide labor organizations (including city central bodies) and cooperative societies" are called upon to send delegates to the gathering.
"Rethinking the Labor Party," by John M. Work [Oct. 20, 1919] Thinking in the Socialist Party about the possibility of active cooperation with the fledgling Labor Party movement began in 1919, as this column by former SPA National Executive Committee member John Work demonstrates. Work directly quotes the letter he wrote to the 1919 Emergency National Convention of the SPA, calling on the organization to "make it legal for a Socialist Party member to belong to the Labor Party or the National Nonpartisan League, without forfeiting his membership in the Socialist Party." These were organizations that "are headed straight for Socialism, and will duly arrive if we assist them," Work asserted -- but no delegate to the 1919 Convention followed up on his suggestion. This article was written by Work for publication in the Milwaukee Leader to further advance this idea. "Fundamental changes in the social system are going to be made one of these times. If we want to imprint our ideas upon these changes, we must place ourselves in a position where we can do so. Otherwise we shall look on while others do it. Splendid isolation doesn't suit me a little bit. I want to help build the new social order. To do so, I am willing to work with all other organizations that are willing to federate for working class purposes," Work states.
"Keynote Speech to the Founding Convention of the Labor Party of the United States [excerpt]: Chicago -- November 22, 1919." by Max S. Hayes On Nov. 22, 1919, over 1,000 delegates from around America assembled in Chicago to help form the Labor Party of the United States. After a series of nominations and declinations, publisher and typography union member Max Hayes of Cleveland (temporary chairman of the Executive Committee coming into the gathering) was elected permanent chairman of the convention by acclamation. Thereafter, Hayes delivered the keynote address to the assembled delegates. "The time has come for us to burn the bridges of the old political parties behind us, and to rally to the new movement of the working people," the former Socialist Hayes declares. During the war, the employers had made pious pledges to uphold the right of the workers to organize and collectively bargain, but in the aftermath of the war, the employers and their political allies in Congress had reneged: "They declared that the trade unions were controlled by revolutionists, bolshevists, anarchists, and "reds" -- the very names to strike terror into the hearts of the unsophisticated -- in order to prejudice the minds of the people against organized labor. Railway men, miners, iron and steel workers, all were charged with attempting to bring about revolutionary chaos, a thing that is furthest from their minds." The almost universal support for the revolutionary regime of Soviet Russia among the American working class is emphasized by Hayes biggest applause generator, met with a standing ovation and delegates throwing their hats in the air: "We know as Americans what our rights are and we intend to enforce them. Our slogan is "America for the Americans." Just as we believe in America for the Americans, so will we stand for Russia for the Russians."
"Constitution of the Labor Party of the United States: Adopted by the 1st National Convention: Chicago, IL -- Nov. 22-25, 1919." Fundamental document of party law of the new Labor Party of the United States, organized in Chicago at the end of November 1919. The purpose of the Labor Party of the US is stated as the organization of "all hand and brain workers of the United States in support of the principles of political, social, and industrial democracy." Governance is to be by a National Committee consisting of 2 members from each state, 1 male and 1 female -- the first American political organization to establish gender parity in its central administrative body. This National Committee was to elect a 7 member Executive Committee and a National Secretary-Treasurer to handle the day-to-day administration of the party. Membership in the Labor Party of the US was to be open to "all workers over 16 years of age, without regard to race, color, sex, or creed, who subscribe to the principles and purposes of the Labor Party, are eligible to membership." There were to be two forms of membership, affiliation of national and local unions and other groups, who paid a per capita tax of 5 cents per month for their entire membership, as well as individual at-large members, who paid 25 cents per month for dues stamps. State organizations were empowered to establish similar per capita taxes of their own. The primary party unit was to be the "local branch" although no specification of their minimum size and mechanism for obtaining charters is given. The National Committee was given the power of expulsion, with a sole party crime, fusionism, specified: "No member of the Labor Party shall permit his name to be placed in nomination by any political party other than the Labor Party, and no branch of the Labor Party shall endorse the nominee of any other party."
"Declaration of Principles of the Labor Party of the United States: Unanimously Adopted by the 1st National Convention: Chicago, IL -- Nov. 22-25, 1919." The 32 point program of the newly organized Labor Party of the United States. "The Labor Party is destined to usher in the new day of freedom in the United States - freedom from the grind of poverty; freedom from the ownership of government by big business; freedom from the slave-driving of workers by profiteers; and freedom of the men and women who buy food and clothing and pay rent from exploitation at the hands of the money kings.... During the war, under the cloud of alleged emergency necessity, the rights and privileges of citizens of the United States were stripped from them and guarantees in our constitution were suspended. Now that the war is over, these rights, privileges, and guarantees are still denied and withheld from the people by federal officials and state and local officials who are under the domination of big business... The day has passed when forward-looking citizens can hope for progress, aid, or sincerity at the hands of Republican or Democratic Party officeholders. The time has come for the workers of the United States to force a clear line of cleavage and disengage themselves definitely and permanently from old party ties and henceforth support only those who openly espouse the cause of the workers who constitute the large majority of our citizens and do it under the banner of the workers' own party."
"The Labor Party Convention," by A.S. Carm [events of Nov. 22-25, 1919] In November of 1919, approximately 1,000 delegates representing trade unions from around the country gathered in Chicago to form the Labor Party of the United States. This is the account of the gathering from the pages of the official organ of the Socialist Labor Party. Max Hayes, former member of both the SLP and the Socialist Party, was elected permanent chairman of the gathering and delivered the keynote address. Carm indicates that many of the the delegates were members of the AF of L officialdom or past or present members of the Socialist Party of America. Outstanding figure in the organization is said to be Chicago Federation of Labor leader John Fitzpatrick, also a key figure in the effort to organize American steelworkers into an industrial union. Carm provides no evidence that anything of import was accomplished by the gathering, which from his account seems to have been dedicated largely to speeches from fraternal delegates and socializing amongst the delegates.
"Vegetarians Arrested as 'Reds': Tailor Seized in 'Tolstoy' Cafe Freed on Showing Union Card." [event of Jan. 2, 1920] Anecdotal news account emphasizing the dysfunctionality of the coordinated nationwide "Palmer Raids" conducted over the night of Jan. 2/3, 1920. B. Slater, an official in Local 104 of the Ladies' Tailors union, stopped by the "Tolstoy Vegetarian Restaurant and Library" in Chicago to attend a lecture on Vegetarianism. Slater found the restaurant filled with policemen. He testifies that "I made for the door to go home, when a husky guy asked me where I was going. The detective told me there was no hurry, that I should stay inside where it was warm and comfortable. Then they took a picture of us and a patrol wagon drove up and we were brought to the West Chicago Avenue station. They asked me if I belonged to the Communist Party and I replied that I was not affiliated with any party. They asked me to identify myself and I showed them my membership card in the Ladies Tailors' Union. This seemed to satisfy them, for they said they couldn't find anything against me, and they let me go. They warned me, however, to keep away from the Tolstoy Restaurant." Slater indicated that the nearest excuse for calling the place a library was a few books in the rear of the restaurant, and as far as he knew they all preached the Tolstoyan doctrine of non-resistance.
"Call Off Steel Strike, Union Drive Goes On: National Committee Says Men Can Go Back to Mills While New Plans are Perfected," by Robert M. Buck [event of Jan. 8, 1920] Beginning Sept. 22, 1919, a enormous strike was conducted in the American steel and iron industry, led by the National Committee for Organizing Iron and Steel Workers headed by William Z. Foster. On January 8, 1920, with the strike effort under external pressure from courts, police, politicians, and press and collapsing internally the steel strike was terminated. This news report from The New Majority includes the full January 8 statements made by the National Committee for Organizing Iron and Steel Workers and resigned strike leader William Z. Foster. Foster states: "The overwhelming power of the steel corporations, the wholesale prostitution of the press to the service of the employers, the unparalleled hostility of the courts, the use of federal troops, the brutal suppression of our rights of free speech and free assembly, the clubbing, shooting, and jailing of thousands of our men, the use of city, country, and state political machinery and peace guardians as strikebreaking agencies - these and many more factors utilized on a scale and with an unscrupulousness unknown before in industrial conflicts, had served to break the ranks of the hastily organized steel workers to such an extent that the strike had lost the effectiveness necessary to have it lead to a settlement through negotiation. According to the judgment of practically all the organizers and officials in the field, to keep the strike on longer would have been merely to punish thousands of our own good men needlessly." With labor in short supply and large numbers of orders unfulfilled amidst strong industrial demand, future victories in issue of the duration of the working day are predicted despite the failure of the Great Steel Strike.
"A Yankee Convention," by Robert Minor. [April 1920] In this article from the pages of The Liberator, Communist Party leader Robert Minor expresses excitement over the growth of the cooperative movement in America, not so much for that trend's ability to lead to the long-run liberation of the working class, but for its ability to bring together farmers and the urban working class in a common cause. Minor here reports on the Cooperative Congress, a national convention bringing together cooperative operators, farmers' groups, labor unions, and the Plumb Plan League. Although the gathering formally banned the discussion of politics from its proceedings, Minor emphasizes the potential political importance of the cooperative system, particularly as a provisioner of striking workers. Includes several drawings by Minor of key participants of the gathering.
"Wild-Eyed Palmer Waves Red Flag: His Fake May Day 'Rebellion' Makes Him Laughing Stock of Nation," by Robert M. Buck [May 8, 1920] According to The New Majority, May Day 1920 was cynically used by Presidential aspirant Attorney General Mitchell Palmer as a means of launching his bandwagon. Instead of appearing as the nation's savior, however, Palmer came across as a laughing stock: "In spite of front page newspaper warnings by Palmer that the United States was to be plunged into a bloody revolution May 1  by the 'reds,' not a red revolted. No one expected them to, except Palmer and his press agents. He built a man of straw, stuffed his pockets full of bolsheviki literature, adorned him with false whiskers and a red flag -- then kicked him to pieces, and announced that the Department of Justice under his guidance had the 'reds' in control. The whole 'red' scare was a farce from beginning to end.... All the newspapers were agreed that the whole May Day 'red plot' was improvised to make political capital for Mr. Palmer and for no other reason. " In Chicago 600 people were rounded up by police as part of Palmer's anti-red campaign, most of whom were merely "homeless persons tramping the streets in search of a job or a place to live," according to Buck. In New York, May Day hysteria ran rampant as well, with armed troops and machine guns sent in to guard public buildings.
"Socialists Discuss Labor Party League: National Convention to Decide Whether Union of Forces May Become Possibility," by J.C. Laue [May 11, 1920] Report from the official organ of the Labor Party of the United States on the deliberations of the Socialist Party of America with respect to cooperation with non-socialist political organizations. Laue is optimistic, writing: "It is almost certain that the convention will recommend the party to continue its sympathetic attitude toward all organizations that have cut loose from the dominant political parties and that the way will be paved at this 1920 convention for a coalition of all radical groups in political life after the fashion of the British Labour Party in which each radical group will maintain its integrity but will 'go along' without internal war against a common enemy." The Left Wing Chicago delegation was opposed to this policy, the Right Wing Wisconsin delegation in favor, the New York delegation taking a center position, Laue believes, adding: "Practically every delegate west of the Mississippi River is in favor of the coalition and the outcome will be determined by the quality of the leadership in the convention."
"Thumbs Down" is Socialists' Edict: Can't See Labor Party -- Caution Governs Deliberations at 8th Convention." (Unsigned news article from The New Majority) [May 22, 1920] Contrary to previous expectations, the Socialist Party did not liberalize its anti-fusionism rules at its 1920 national convention. "The Labor Party came in for a panning, and cooperation in this country with other political groups whose views are in accord with those contained in Socialist Party platforms was specifically turned down by the convention," the article indicates. The report indicates that a telegram signed by 30 delegates had been dispatched to James Maurer of Pennsylvania, urging him to accept nomination as Vice Presidential candidate on the Socialist Party ticket but that "Maurer declined, as he had decided to link his fortunes with the Labor Party of the United States."
"The Farmer-Labor Party Convention: Chicago -- July 11-14, 1920," by Robert M. Buck The second convention of the Labor Party of the United States, held in Chicago July 11-14, 1920, accomplished three major things: the change of the organizational name to Farmer-Labor Party of the United States, the nomination of the group's first Presidential campaign ticket (Parley Parker Christensen for President and Max S. Hayes for Vice President), and the amalgamation with a major part of the Committee of Forty-Eight, a national liberal organization whose political line was exemplified by the magazines The New Republic and The Nation. This day-to-day account of the convention from the pages of the official organ of the FLP, The New Majority, recounts the ebb and flow of the convention and ongoing efforts within it to unite the organization around a progressive Presidential candidacy of Wisconsin Senator Robert LaFollette.
"John Fitzpatrick Greets Delegates: Room for All Useful Citizens in the Labor Party of US, He Says." by Robert M. Buck [July 11, 1920] Keynote speech by Chicago Federation of Labor leader John Fitzpatrick to the 2nd Convention of the Labor Party of the United States. Fitzpatrick states that the old parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, had kept the working class hopelessly divided. Fitzpatrick declares that the Chicago Federation of Labor "after going up against this situation all of these years understood that thing then they knew that a new day in politics must be brought into the situation, if we intended to smash the old regime and to bring that new day that we hoped for to the people. So, the declaration was made that a labor party would be started, and we asked the rank and file of the membership of the organizations affiliated with the Chicago Federation of Labor what was their conclusions in this matter..." Fitzpatrick draws attention to the positive work done by the Bolshevik government of Russia and holds up that working class government as a sort of model for America: "But Russia has destroyed the situation, and has brought into being a government of the people, representing the people, and which takes into consideration the rights and activities of the people in the way that the Russian people want them taken care of. So, I am not worrying about Russia. Russia has done a tremendous job. Oh, that the day was only near when the workers in the United States would be able to concentrate their effort and do a job such as Russia has done." This assertion was met with "prolonged cheering and vociferous applause" from the assembled delegates, according to the stenographic report of Fitzpatrick's speech.
"The Farmer-Labor Party," by Upton Sinclair [July 25, 1920] Brief summary of the 2nd Convention of the Labor Party of the United States (which changed its name to the Farmer-Labor Party of the United States) by California Socialist author Upton Sinclair. Sinclair writes that "Three or four days ago it looked as if there were going to be a combination of all the various liberal and labor parties, with Senator LaFollette as candidate, and so I prepared a brief article, setting forth the high opinion I had of Senator LaFollette, and how sorry I was not to be able to support him for President. The next morning I opened my paper and read that the various parties had swallowed 5/6ths of the Committee of Forty-Eight and the remaining 1/6th of the committee had held a "rump" convention and had adopted resolutions setting forth how disappointed it was. The Farmer-Labor Party has nominated a man of whom I have never heard before [Parley Parker Christensen], but he comes from the West and is 6'4" high and weighs 287 pounds, and every pound was found useful in handling a stormy convention." Sinclair characterizes the Committee of Forty-Eight as having originated with a "group of liberals who are tinged with Single Tax thought," an ideology which Sinclair states was impractical in the era of trustified industry. Sinclair characterizes such parts of the Farmer-Labor platform as he has seen as "quite wonderful reading" and indicates an ideological proximity between the Farmer-Labor and Socialist Parties. "Apparently it is too late to get the two groups together for this election, so we who are going to support Debs can do no more than resolve to do it as tactfully and persuasively as we can. If we must oppose the candidate of the Farmer-Labor Party, let us at least do it without bitterness and narrowness, without suspecting the motives of those who have not traveled quite so far along the path as we have," Sinclair volunteers.
"Radicalism in Amerca," by Morris Hillquit. [October 15, 1920] This article by Socialist Party NEC member Morris Hillquit in the party's official organ reviews the two new political organizations to emerge in post-war America -- the Labor Party (which transformed itself to the Farmer-Labor Party) and the Communist Party. Hillquit states that the Labor Party began from a principled position, seeking fundamental change of capitalist society, but was quick to sacrifice principle for expedience on the campaign trail, destroying its working-class nature through a merger with the "nebulous aggregation of middle-class liberals known as the 'Committee of 48.'" To this amalgam was added the "purely imaginary forces of the farming community," resulting in an eclectic mish-mash slated for quick political extinction. As for the Communist Party, Hillquit stated that while it was "desirable" to have "extreme" groups within the Socialist Party as a counterbalance to "any existing tendencies to opportunism," in the current case the Left Wing's position was not a "legitimate reaction" since the SPA had taken "the most advanced international socialist position" during and after the war. Instead, it was a "quixotic" attempt to duplicate the Bolshevik Revolution in the United States -- and effort which had shattered by "endless internecine strife and successive splits" as soon as the negative program of opposition to the SPA leadership was replaced by the positive task of organization building. As a result, neither of the new political groups had made "any essential contribution" to American radicalism. "The Socialist Party still holds the leadership in radical politics in the United States," Hillquit notes.
"Theses on the United Front of Labor," a confidential document adopted by the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of America at its session of May 29, 1922. A fascinating glimpse from the Comintern Archives at the thinking of the governing CEC of the Communist Party with respect to its United Front strategy. The majority of the American proletariat was not conscious of its distinct class interests, the document stated, and could gain awareness -- and usefulness to the revolutionary movement -- only through its daily struggle over wages, working conditions, etc. These struggles would expose reformist economic and political leaderships as enemies of the working class. While a broad united front might be constructed in the labor field through the amalgamation process, in the political sphere established parties claiming to represent the working class must be eliminated from positions of leadership. Practice would prove the superiority of the Workers Party's tactics, slogans, aims, and leadership and a role of political leadership would consequently follow. The Communists must become a factor in any Labor Party to be formed in America. "We can achieve this end only if we anticipate the formation of such a party and now adopt a policy through which we will become established as a force in the political struggle of the workers..." Any party emerging from the Conference for Progressive Political Action would be retrograde due to its eclectic class compositon, however. This organization would dissipate working class power in "election campaigns fought on the basis of petty ameliorative reforms and of schemes for minor changes in the form of capitalist government." Only a federative United Front Labor Party allowing the Workers Party's continued existence "as a distinct organization with a disciplined, educated membership acting upon a program to give leadership to the struggles of the workers," complete with "its full independence, its right of criticism, and its freedom of action" would be acceptable, according to these theses. Primary authorship of this document has been attributed to Max Bedacht.
"For a Labor Party: Recent Revoltionary Changes in American Politics: A Statement by the Workers Party of America, Oct. 15, 1922," by John Pepper. Full text of a rather long pamphlet published in this first edition by the Workers Party of America without authorship noted -- two later editions attributed to the pen of John Pepper. The pamphlet argues that while most previous efforts have met with failure, the success of the Republican Party -- originally a Third Party -- in establishing itself proved that the Third Party tactic was viable. America as a nation was in the process of becoming ever more centralized and bureaucratized, tendencies favorable to the reshuffling of the political deck. A mass Labor Party was the answer -- its long-term survival inexorably linked to actual union participation in the organization. The non-partisan "reward friends and punish enemies" orientation of Gompers' AF of L was roundly criticized. Regardless of this line of the national trade union bureaucracy, State Federations of Labor around the country were standing up for a Labor Party and a national organization along those lines was in the offing.
"The Workers Party and the Labor Party," by C.E. Ruthenberg. [Nov. 1922] Executive Secretary of the Workers Party of America C.E. Ruthenberg attempts to explain the relationship between the WPA and a forthcoming labor party -- an institution which Ruthenberg was being inevitably brought into existence by the development of economic forces. This new party would be extremely positive, he argues, noting that if such a party was established and had "the support of millions of organized workers would be the greatest stride forward in the history of the American working class." It was the task of the Communists to "stay with the masses in their struggles," Ruthenberg indicates, and thus to participate fully in the labor party that was coming to be.There would be no liquidation of the Workers Party should any such labor party come about, however, for the educational and agitational role of the party would remain, akin to the role of the Trade Union Educational League in the unions -- leading the working class and helping to transform the new party into a Communist party. Ruthenberg offers two slogans to summarize the task: "For a Labor Party!" and "For a stronger, more powerful, better disciplined Workers Party!"
"Red Raid Scribe in Nonunion Clan: Connections is Shown Between Michigan Cases and the Labor Movement," by Robert M. Buck [Jan. 6, 1923] The grandfather of Right Wing ultra-politicized "history" of American radicalism was journalist R.M. Whitney, who was granted special access to documents seized at the August 1922 raid of the Communist Party's convention at Bridgman, Michigan by the Department of Justice and then used this material as background for a sensational and sensationalized series of articles in the Boston Transcript and a 1924 book called Reds in America. In this article Robert Buck of the Farmer-Labor Party reveals the linkage between the organized anti-labor movement in America and the "red raids" of the early 1920s. Historian Whitney is revealed as the Washington, DC director of the "American Defense Society," a nationalistic pro-business organization which sought to establish "Home Defense Committees" around America to stand ready to break the strikes of " irresponsible agitators" and to work for the elimination of "labor reds and outlaw strikes." The ADS also provided printed propaganda to employers for insertion into pay envelopes urging increased productivity as a means of reducing the cost of living. The American Defense Society "folds itself in the American flag and makes itself out a kind of an industrial Ku Klux Klan," Buck declares.
"FLP in Move to Unite Forces: Fitzpatrick Proposes July Convention in Chicago; Invite Other Parties," by Robert M. Buck [March 17, 1923] In March of 1923, member of the National Committee of the Farmer-Labor Party of the United States and head of the Chicago Federation of Labor John Fitzpatrick made a motion, later approved, to hold a special convention of the FLPUS beginning July 3, 1923 in an attempt to bring together the disparate working class political organizations of the United States in common effort under the Farmer-Labor Party's banner. The National Secretary of the organization was specifically authorized "to invite all labor, farm, and political groups to send representatives to the said National Convention of the Farmer-Labor Party" in the effort to forge a common program of action. While negotiation with the powerful Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota for a joint convention with the FLPUS was ongoing, according to National Secretary J.G. Brown, nevertheless the call for the July 3 gathering was issued.
"Letter to Otto Branstetter, Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party of America in Chicago from J.G. Brown, Secretary of the Farmer-Labor Party of the US in Chicago, April 11, 1923." This letter from the Secretary of the Farmer-Labor Party to the Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party invites the latter to elect delegates to the forthcoming July 3 national convention of the FLP. Brown writes: "In the past, as you know, the farmers and city workers have been either divided in numerous minority parties with competing candidates at election time or have supported the candidates of one of the old parties. Where the latter course has been followed it has been with the hope that if friendly candidates were elected consideration would be given to the political demands of both divisions of labor. Nearly all agree that results from any of the plans so far tried have not been satisfactory. All felt the methods followed were justified as being the best under the circumstances. Many have waited and hoped that some group would take the step now being taken by the Farmer-Labor Party and invite all organizations and all parties to a convention where this grave situation might be dispassionately discussed and, if possible, ways and means found for solidifying political power of the workers as has been done in other countries." The Socialist Party is asked to forward a list of delegates to the convention and additionally to contribute "any amount you can send" to help defray the substantial costs of the convention.
"Monster Political Convention of the Workers of America, Chicago, July 3, 1923. Every Local Union, Central Body, Farm Organization, State, National, and International Body and Political Group Invited. A Chance at Last for Bringing About United Action of the Workers of Hand and Brain on the Political Field. [Circa May 1923] Convention call of the Farmer-Labor Party of the United States (J.G. Brown, Secretary) to a July 3, 1923 gathering in Chicago called for the purpose of "devising means for knitting together the many organizations in this country in such a manner as will enable the workers to really function politically." While established national organizations were already invited, "the National Committee felt the rank and file should also be represented, and it was therefore voted to send credentials to all local and central labor and farm bodies in the United States and urge that delegates be sent to this most important convention." Local organizations had simply to elect a delegate, have the President and Secretary sign and stamp the form, and return a duplicate slip by mail to the Farmer-Labor Party of the United States in Chicago.
"For a Labor Party: Addenda to the Second Edition, May 15, 1923," by John Pepper. There were three editions of the pamphlet For a Labor Party produced over the course of 1922-23, the second and third of which added additional commentary reflecting the developing situation. This document collects the vast majority of changed material from the original October 15, 1922, document (available as a separate file). Pepper excoriates the action of the Socialist Party delegates to the December 1922 Cleveland gathering of the Conference for Progressive Political Action, blaming them for the failure of the gathering to launch the Labor Party anxiously sought by rank and file trade unionists and poor farmers. Instead, the gathering chose to temporize, barring the Workers Party from participation, passing a virtually meaningless and watered down middle class platform, and following the AF of L's line of non-partisan political action ("rewarding friends and punishing enemies"). The decision of the Socialist Party not to agressively pursue an independent federated Labor Party was an act of premeditated treason against the working class, in Pepper's view. It was left to the Farmer-Labor Party, which bolted the CPPA following it's defeat of a proposal to form a Labor Party, to organize this new federative group and a call for a July 3, 1923, Convention to found a new party had been issued. This July 3 Convention would "represent hundreds of thousands, and will be the Þrst real step to an organization of a mass party of the American working class," Pepper asserts, adding that "the idea of a Labor Party is advancing, and it can no longer be stopped."
"Reply to the Farmer-Labor Party: A Letter to J.G. Brown, Secretary of the Farmer-Labor Party of the United States from a Committee of the Socialist Party of America, circa June 1, 1923," by William Henry et al. Official reply of the Socialist Party to the April 11, 1923, invitation of the Farmer-Labor Party for the SP to send delegates to its June 3 convention in Chicago. The Socialist Party declines to attend: "The Socialist Party fully agrees with the Farmer-Labor Party as to the desirability of uniting the workers on the political field. The only question is how soon and by what means this end can best be attained. A necessary condition to the establishment of a really powerful political party of the working class is the active support of at least a majority of the great trade unions. Unless there is assurance that this support is now obtainable, any attempt at this time to effect the proposed "unity of the political forces of the entire working class" would result in disappointment. Is there reason to believe that a sufficient number of powerful national and international unions favor independent political action at the present time? We wish that we could answer this question in the affirmative. Candor compels us to admit that, while there are evidences of widespread discontent with the parties of capitalism within the ranks of Organized Labor, comparatively few of the great unions are yet ready to take the decisive step of launching a working class party on a national scale." The situation was seen as fluid however: "We are convinced that working class opinion is fast evolving in this direction, influenced thereto by the logic of events as well as by the arguments of those who already advocate independent political action. We think, however, that it would be a mistake to force the issue prematurely, or to take such action as might give a delusive appearance of political unity of the whole working class without the reality."
"Statement in Reply to the Socialist Party's Decision Not to Participate in the July 1923 Convention of the Farmer-Labor Party of the United States, circa June 23, 1923," by Jay G. Brown Disappointment and pique is palpable in this response of the National Secretary of the Farmer-Labor Party of the United States to the June 19, 1923 declination of the Socialist Party of America to participate in the forthcoming July 3 convention of the FLPUS -- a special gathering which was intended to attempt to unite the political activities of various working class political parties under a common banner in the 1924 elections. The 1923 SPA convention had appointed a committee to reply to the FLPUS before its adjournment on May 22, but a reply had not been received until fully a month later, and this only after the letter of declination was first published in the pages of the New York Call. "To profess a desire for unity and then refuse to discuss means of achieving it is not a very consistent attitude. To withhold sending a communication for 30 days was discourteous; to publish the letter before mailing it was to capitalize the discourtesy," Brown declares. "The action of the Socialist Party has been a disappointment to the Farmer-Labor Party," Brown states, adding that the Farmer-Labor Party "felt the Socialist Party would be the last group to refuse. No obligation was exacted in advance, no expense was entailed, no pledge to abide by the findings was required." With the Socialist Party opting out, the Farmer-Labor Party was faced with the prospect of conducting a joint convention in just 10 days time with potential allies on the far Left with whom it shared less in common -- the Workers Party of America and the Proletarian Party of America.
"Report of the National Secretary to the Convention of the Farmer-Labor Party of the United States: Street Car Men's Hall, Chicago -- July 3, 1923," by Jay G. Brown Text of the keynote speech of National Secretary Jay G. Brown to the convention of the Farmer-Labor Party of the United States. Brown recounts the FLP's disappointment with the Conference for Progressive Political Action, which it broke with in Dec. 1922 over the CPPA's refusal to endorse independent political action of the working class (i.e. a 3rd Party). Brown indicates that the traditional policy of the AF of L of "rewarding friends and punishing enemies" has been a failure, leading to anti-labor policies and a diminution of civil liberties from Republican and Democratic administrations alike. "it is amazing that the workers of both fields and factories can be induced to support candidates of the Republican and Democrat Parties rather than massing their political strength in a party of their own," Brown declares. A "federated" labor party is called for by Brown, in which affiliated organizations might retain their organizational identity in a broad effort under an umbrella organization. Brown posits the FLPUS as just this umbrella organization: "it is worthwhile calling attention to the structure of the Farmer-Labor Party itself. It is provided therein that political, economic, and cooperative groups may become affiliated without being required to forfeit any of their individual autonomy. If the present Farmer-Labor Party could be constituted as or converted into the central body of a federation it would have the advantage of being already established, and in quite a number of states has the standing of a recognized political party. Moreover, there are several hundred local labor organizations already affiliated with it." An agenda for the convention is proposed, in which the convention of the FLPUS would adjourn, to be replaced by a conference of those gathered attempting to forge a program and structure for join federative action; thereafter the proposals of this non-binding conference would be referred back to the FLPUS and other affiliating organizations for consideration.
"Statement of Principles of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party: A document of the National Convention establishing the FFLP held at Chicago, July 3-5, 1923." During the 4th of July holiday in 1923 a conference was held in Chicago, conceived in large measure by the Workers Party of America as the vehicle for its united front efforts, which established the "Federated Farmer-Labor Party." This document is a statement of political principles of this new organization, which united elements of the old state Farmer-Labor Parties with representatives of sundry workers', farmers', and radical political organizations under the de facto direction of the WPA. "Today the government of the United States is a government of, for, and by Wall Street and the Þnancial and industrial system it represents," the document states. As a result "only one road lies open for the industrial workers and farmers to protect themselves against the exploitation and oppression of the Þnancial and industrial lords who rule this country -- to organize a political party representing the interests of the industrial workers and farmers and enter into the political arena to wrest control of the government from the hands of the Þnancial and industrial masters who now rule in this country."
"Organization Rules of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party: A document of the National Convention establishing the FFLP held at Chicago, July 3-5, 1923." Constitution of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party approved by the founding convention of the organization. The group was to be directed between conventions by a National Executive Committee based upon proportional representation of affiliated organizations with a designated set-aside of 5 for the old Farmer-Labor Party. This National Executive Committee in turn was to elect a 7 member Executive Council, the National Secretary, and National Chairman of the organization. Dues were to be either on an at large ($1 per year) or per capita affiliation (1 cent per member per month) basis.
"FLP Disowns the New Party: Workers Party Takes Advantage of its Position as Guest to Start Dual Movement," by Robert M. Buck [events of July 3-6, 1923] After adjourning as the convention of the Farmer-Labor Party of the United States, delegates in Chicago reformed as a conference to forge a non-binding umbrella organization for joint federative action of various working class political organizations and trade unions. The Workers Party of America, which had organized the election of delegates to the FLP convention and conference, prepared a program, and conducted itself as an organized caucus, found itself in a position of hegemony vis-a-vis the Farmer-Labor Party of the United States in the gathering. Rather than set up and recommend a non-binding federative umbrella, the conference set upon establishing a formal federative party organization, passing a constitution and program and electing officers. Thus was born the Federated Farmer-Labor Party. The FLPUS, intent upon its original vision of a non-binding recommendation subject to approval by each federating organization (and intent as well on retaining hegemony over the new organization) recoiled from the WPA-inspired new party, walked out of its own conference, and launched an acrimonious blast at the communists. "The Farmer-Labor Party was graciously allowed 2 representatives on a committee of 29, some members being added to the committee on the floor of the convention at the last moment," New Majority editor Robert Buck snidely notes. Upon the reporting of a new constitution to the conference, "the Farmer-Labor Party members, reporting as a minority, said that the Farmer-Labor Party could not accept the new plan, which set up a new party dual to the Farmer-Labor Party, in that it was almost a duplication by its form of organization, and further, that the majority of the committee proposed to steal the name of the party that invited them to the conference." The Farmer-Labor Party met again in a snap convention on July 6, 1923, Buck notes, with WPA and other non-FLPUS delegates excluded. After 4 hours of heated debate, a motion to appoint 5 members to the National Executive Committee of the new FFLP was decisively defeated and the breach between the two Farmer-Labor Parties was formalized. "The Farmer-Labor Party remained intact following this severance, except for its Washington state branch, the delegates of which bolted the convention and attached themselves to the new party," Buck notes, additionally slinging the epithet that those delegates seeking to remain in the Federated FLP rather than sticking with the FLPUS after its break with the new organization were "bolters."
"The FLP Convention," by Robert M. Buck [events of July 3-6, 1923] Editor Robert Buck of The New Majority presents an editorial review of the happenings of the eventful July 3, 1923 convention that saw the formation (and subsequent disavowal) of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party (FFLP). The Farmer-Labor Party of the United States (FLPUS) was uniquely suited to serve as the umbrella organization for a British Labour Party-style federative organization, in Buck's view; it alone of the existing working class parties accepted memberships from affiliated organizations on a per capita basis -- the others being based solely upon individual memberships. This fact implied that the organization should first establish deep roots with affiliated unions rather than attempt to forge working agreements with "other groups having a definite and different philosophy than its own, until such time as it, the central organization, the Farmer-Labor Party, should have worked up substantial strength of its own," Buck states. Still, a section of the FLPUS sought alliance with other parties of the Left to consolidate their appeal to the working class, and the July 3 convention was called to attempt to reach a working agreement with these other Left organizations, particularly with the Socialist Party of America and the Workers Party of America. The SPA was " not ready for unity except with themselves" and declined to even send a fraternal delegate to the July 3 convention, leaving only the WPA as the target for united action. "Reports came into the party headquarters that the Workers Party was packing the conference with delegates from trade unions in which they had enough members to have their own people named as delegates," Buck states, but the FLPUS did not burden themselves with much concern about this, since the convention was perceived as preparatory and subject to the ratification of the various constituent organizations. However, "instead of a program for a plan to be carried back by the delegates to their several constituents," the gathering hastily moved upon a "plan for immediate organization, including the election of a new National Executive Committee, not in the future, but by that conference, then and there, which they had packed and which they controlled," Buck declares. The "guests" had failed to "behave themselves," and the FLPUS had moved to disassociate itself organizationally from the new FFLP. Instead of joint action between the FLPUS and the WPA, greater factional confusion had been the perverse result of the convention, with the formation of a "dual" Farmer-Labor Party in addition to the already existing organizations.
"The Farmers in the New Party," by Hal M. Ware. [August 1923] While a great deal of analysis has been lavished upon the relationship between the Communist Party and the trade union movement during the Federated Farmer-Labor Party interlude of 1923-24, little effort has been spent on examining the relationship of the radical farmer movement to the new organization. This short article, written by the leading CP specialist in agricultural affairs of the first years of the 1920s, casts the relationship in a glowing light. Farmers were burdened by staggering debt, Ware says. He states they were ready to forge a coalition in a new political organization dedicated to addressing their specific needs, rather than continued reliance upon "farmer friends" in the legislative branch, with their "miserable patchwork legislation."
"The Federated Farmer-Labor Party," by William Z. Foster. [August 1923] This long day-by-day account of the founding convention of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party (July 3-5, 1923) was written in the immediate afterrmath of the gathering by William Z. Foster. This piece, published in the pages of the monthly magazine of the Trade Union Educational League, is gushingly upbeat and positive in its characterization of the founding convention: "Marked by a tremendous outburst of militancy and enthusiasm, it was a vibrant, thrilling, overwhelming demand by the rank and file of agricultural and industrial labor for the formation of a powerful political party of the toilers. Nobody who attended its sessions will ever forget them." While Foster would very soon come to regard the WPA's ideologically blinkered Farmer-Labor Party policy and TUEL's subsequent loss of contacts and influence in the labor movement as the greatest of debacles -- fuel for the factional war inside the Workers Party over the next several years -- at this precise moment he was positively ebullient about the organization's prospects, it's founding marking a new epoch in American political history: "A mass party, led by militants, embodying the vital idea of a united political organization of workers and farmers, and operating in the midst of the present industrial and agricultural discontent, it is full of dynamic possibilities," Foster declared. Foster dismissed the "supposed [old] Farmer-Labor Party bolt" as a "lie widely spread," and he asserted that "the fact is that the most militant elements in the FLP, carrying with them the bulk of the organization, have declared for the new party."
"The Workers Party and the Federated Farmer-Labor Party." by John Pepper [Aug. 1923] The immediate post-convention assessment of the new Federated Farmer-Labor Party written by the chief adherent of the Farmer-Labor Party tactic, John Pepper. Pepper depicts the new organization in the most rosy colors, calling it a "militant revolutionary party" and a "real mass party" to which 616,000 workers and farmers are affiliated through their organizations. Pepper ironically notes the contradictory behavior of Chicago Federation of Labor leader John Fitzpatrick, who split from the Dec. 1922 meeting of the Conference for Progressive Political Action in favor of a labor party, but split from the July Convention establishing the FFLP against formation of a labor party. "It is a pity about Fitzpatrick," Pepper remarks, "He merited much in the labor movement and was a good leader," but "the road to revolution is paved with the poltical corpses of well-intentioned leaders." The Fitzpatrick bloc consisted of "not more than 50 or 60 delegates," Pepper says, noting "the Workers Party was also in the minority" with a representatiion "through various militant unons and other labor organizations" of "not quite 200 delegates." Pepper says the WPA won all four of the "great tactical batttles" which took place at the FFLP Founding Convention -- the seating of every delegate by the credentials committe, the report of the organization committee to establish a labor party immediately, the continuance of the alliance with the farmers in the report of the agrarian committee, and the defeat of an attempt by the old FLP to adjourn and reorganize a new party barring the Communists. In the establishment of the FFLP at convention, the Workers Party had demonstrated itself a "real communist party," Pepper states.
"Detroit Central Cans New Party: Refuses to Affiliate with FFLP as Not Representing Farmers or Labor," by Robert M. Buck [Aug. 4, 1923] While the Farmer-Labor Party of the United States generally maintained an almost religious silence towards other political organizations on the Left, the perceived hijacking of the group's July 1923 convention and establishment of a new organization bearing the FLP name was a bitter pill to swallow. A bit of factional mirth can be discerned in this New Majority news report of the new Federated Farmer-Labor Party's difficulty in maintaining adherents. The latest defection was that of the Detroit Federation of Labor, which after a 2 week investigation had overturned the decision of its Executive Board to affiliate. In its official statement of disassociation, the Detroit Federation stated: "The statement has been made that the Federated Farmer-Labor Party was organized by the rank and file of farmers and laborers and not formed from the top down by big officials. An analysis of the representation at the convention would seem to indicate that it was organized from the outside with a view of imposing it upon the labor movement." The claimed affiliated of membership appeared to be inflated, the Detroit Federation stated, adding: "The Detroit Federation of Labor would be very unwise if it would allow itself to be stampeded into an abortive attempt to organize a labor party, the reaction from which is apt to set back the organization of an actual farmer-labor party."
"To All Labor Unions in Chicago: A Circular Letter Dated Oct. 31, 1923," by Joseph Manley In the aftermath of the July 3-5, 1923 convention which established the Federated Farmer-Labor Party there was a great deal of acrimony directed at the Workers Party of America for their purported splitting of the farmer-labor movement. This letter to Chicago unions, signed by Joseph Manley (son-in-law of William Z. Foster and National Secretary of the FFLP) answered these charges. The body of this letter is actually a quoted letter stating the position of the Workers Party, signed by the Executive Secretary of that organization, C.E. Ruthenberg. Ruthenberg charges that it was the (old) Farmer-Labor Party of Fitzpatrick and the Chicago Federation which "got cold feet," violated its previous understanding with the Workers Party, refused any further effort at mediation of differences, and which ultimately was ready to "sacrifice the labor party because Gompers threatened them." The Workers Party was not at fault, Ruthenberg stated: "If there was any split at this convention it was not a split caused by the Workers Party. If there was a betrayal, it was not a betrayal by the Workers Party. The split and betrayal were the work of Fitzpatrick and the Farmer-Labor group."
"Letter from C.E. Ruthenberg in Chicago to Morris Hillquit in New York, Nov. 3, 1923." A cryptic note sent from the Executive Secretary of the Workers Party of the member to the leading light of the arch-rival Socialist Party of America. Ruthenberg notes that he will be in New York on Nov. 8, 1923, and that he seeks a conference with Hillquit to "talk with you" in regard to an invitation sent by the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party to labor political groups for a Nov. 15 conference in St. Paul. This conference was an attempt to "come to an agreement on the question of calling a national convention for the nomination of a presidential candidate and the adoption of a national platform." Despite the hostility between the two organizations, this document affirms that there was at least informal discussion at the top level about the possibility of joint action with regards to the Farmer-Labor Party movement.
"Letter from C.E. Ruthenberg in Chicago to Osip Piatnitsky in Moscow, Nov. 19, 1923." A lengthy and illuminating review of the Workers Party of America's Farmer-Labor Party strategy as it rapidly evolved in the fall of 1923. Ruthenberg relates the decision of the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party to call a convention at St. Paul in May of 1924 for the purpose of joint nomination of a candidate for President of the United States and adoption of a joint program -- thereby uniting the various state Farmer-Labor organizations, the Federated Farmer-Labor Party, and other labor and political groups into a single organization. Upon learning of this initiative, Ruthenberg states that the CEC immediately sent him to Minnesota, where he met for two days with Minnesota FLP officials working out the details for a November 15 pre-convention conference. Interestingly, Ruthenberg states that it was his initiative over "considerable objection" to extend an invitation to the pre-convention conference to Morris Hillquit of the Socialist Party in an effort to bring the SP and its popular cachet into the new united organization. Ruthenberg also related the decison of the CEC to declare a truce in the ranks of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, which was racked by a severe struggle between the union administration of Sidney Hillman and a TUEL-based left opposition. Hillman and the ILGWU were to be key players in the forthcoming Farmer-Labor Party movement, Ruthenberg indicated, while Hillman had the incentive to play the public role of peacemaker, thus consolidating his position in any forthcoming amalgamation of the ILGWU with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, believed by Ruthenberg to be in the offing in the not too distant future. This document demonstrates that volition in WPA action in the Farmer-Labor Party movement came from the party itself -- that it did not blindly follow "orders from Moscow" on this matter but rather acted as it saw fit under the general line of the Comintern, providing information of its specific actions after the fact.
"Our Labor Party Policy," by James P. Cannon and William Z. Foster. [Nov. 1923] The split of the Chicago Federation of Labor from the Federated Farmer-Labor Party Conference of July 3-5, 1923, came as a stunning blow to the Communist Party's union-oriented activists -- of which Bill Foster and Jim Cannon were in the first rank. That the New York-based Central Executive Committee attempted to spin the July Conference as a great triumph rather than an unmitigated debacle came as an insult to this Chicago-centric cohort. It was this matter that triggered a bitter factional war inside the Communist movement that lasted for the rest of the decade. This internal party document by Cannon and Foster is a salvo against the New York leadership of John Pepper and his co-thinkers. To split with the centrist progressive union movement "on the grounds that they are not good revolutionary militants is to reject the idea of alliance of the Communists with other elements in the labor movement, and to repudiate entirely the principle of the united front," Cannon and Foster charge, adding that the result of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party blunder was sectarian isolation. "We have lost the issue of the united front labor party and are fighting now for our own labor party, the Federated. As a consequence our comrades are largely isolated, and face a united front of all other elements against them." Convention delegates who voted for the new party and returned to their unions either recanted under the onslaught or were repudiated, Cannon and Foster state, noting "we captured the delegates for three days, but we did not capture their organizations for the FFLP. The claim that the FFLP is a mass party with approximately 600,000 members has absolutely no foundation in fact."
"Communist Party Pays for Farmer-Labor Party Convention," by Emil Herman. [Dec. 1923] This unusual and valuable account by Socialist Party leader Emil Herman briefly details the Washington state convention of the Farmer-Labor Party, held in Everett over the weekend of Nov. 24-25, 1923. Herman states that "the Federated Farmer-Labor Party was born under the guidance and domination of the Workers Party" and that the WPA had lent the Farmer-Labor Party $500 to fund the mailing of its call for the Chicago FFLP founding convention, paid the expenses of some delegates to a pre-convention caucus meeting in St. Paul. Herman also stated that Washington FFLP Secretary John C. Kennedy had received dues payments from at-large members so infrequently that he was not even certain of the annual rate. The Washington state convention voted to "cooperate" rather than "affiliate" with the national FFLP, Herman said, adding that the FFLP was "truly an incongruous mass with aims leading in so many different directions that will end in division or dissolution -- another object lesson in waste of time, energy, and money for the benefit of a few politicians..."
"The Labor Party Campaign: An Excerpt from the Report of the Central Executive Committee to the Third National Convention of the Workers Party of America," by C.E. Ruthenberg. [Jan. 1924] The Executive Secretary of the Workers Party of America reviews the organization's activity for 1923 in the Farmer-Labor Party in this report to the 3rd Convention of the WPA. The failure of the WPA to have its delegates seated at the Dec. 1922 Cleveland Confrence of the Conference for Progressive Political Action combined with the FLP's withdrawal from the CPPA over its failure to launch a new broad-based Labor Party spurred a move by the WPA to join forces with the existing (old) Farmer-Labor Party as its "united front" vehicle for joint political action, according to this account. With announced decision of the Socialist Party and LaFollette Progressive movement not to participate in the forthcoming July 3, 1923, Conference to establish an new "Federated Farmer-Labor Party," the old FLP began to lose enthusiasm for the gathering, and a split with John Fitzpatrick of the Chicago Federation of Labor took place at the gathering. Ruthenberg is critical of the activity of the Chicago district of the WPA in the aftermath and attempts to document this group's mistakes in contrast to the "correct guidance" of the Political Committee of the CEC of the Workers Party.
"The Farmers and the American Revolution," by John Pepper [Jan. 19, 1924] One of John Pepper's most interesting and thoughtful analyses of the state of American agriculture and the Farmer-Labor movement -- an exposition of the core of his strategic thinking about contemporary American economic development from the perspective of a revolutionist. Pepper cites the statistics of Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace as to the extent of the deep crisis which rocked American agriculture throughout the 1920s: even though the 1923 harvest had been vast, high costs of tariff-protected manufactured goods and other production expenses and low market prices for agricultural commodities had combined to make agricultural profoundly unprofitable. Citing Wallace, Pepper states that about 8.5 percent of grain-belt farmers had already lost their farms to creditors with an additional 15 percent in a technical state of bankruptcy, surviving due to the leniency of creditors. This American agricultural crisis was the flipside of the industrial crisis then wracking Germany and Great Britain, with factories shuttered and millions of workers unemployed due to an inability to sell manufactured goods to an impoverished world. Over "big opposition in our Party" to the idea, Pepper stated that the agricultural crisis was not temporary and that "the most important revolutionary fact" of the January WPA convention was the decision to make a "bold attempt to place ourselves at the head of the farmers' revolt." Pepper analyzes the composition of the American working class and the WPA which mirrors it and concludes that "a revolutionary movement in the United States, which embraces only the foreign-born proletarian workers of the basic industries and only a narrow stratum of the native-born workers, has no real hope of gaining power without the support of the millions of native-born, working farmers." In short, in Pepper's view the potentially revolutionary condition was emerging in crisis-riven agriculture, not in the trade union movement, thus his seemingly obsessive drive to construct a class (i.e. Communist-led) mass Farmer-Labor political organization.
"Call for the National Convention of All Farmer Labor Forces in the United States: To be Held in St. Paul, Minnesota - June 17, 1924" [March 12, 1924] The convention call which emerged from the March 12 conference of Farmer-Labor groups, held in St. Paul, Minnesota. While the Workers Party of America through the Federated Farmer-Labor Party which it controlled sought a May 30 date for the Farmer-Labor Party's Presidential nominating convention, the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Federation sought a date of June 20. Eventually a June 17 date was decided upon. This convention call details the labor, farmer, and poltical organizations which were able to send delegates as well as a five point "tentative program" to which all organizations sending delegates must subscribe. This "tentative program" included public ownership, public control of natural resources, restoration of civil liberties, an end to the use of the injunction in labor disputes, and governent banking.
"Theses on the Workers Party Policy in the Elections of 1924," by Ludwig Lore & Moissaye J. Olgin [pub. April 12, 1924] The March 17-18, 1924 meeting of the Central Executive Committee dispatched three leading factional figures to Moscow to argue the merits of their programs for the Workers Party of America with respect to a formation of an American Labor Party. William Z. Foster represented the majority faction, John Pepper represented the minority, and M.J. Olgin represented the New York-based "Third Faction" (which was personified by Ludwig Lore on the party CEC). This is a document which Lore and Olgin prepared for the consideration of the Executive Committee of the Communist International explicitly detailing the ideas of the "Third Faction" -- which was known as the "Anti-Third Party Group" in the nomenclature of the day. While Lore and Olgin in this period have long been regarded as committed "2-1/2 Internationalists," this document does confirm the analysis made by Ruthenberg that the "Third Faction" criticized WPA policy from the Left. No support could be given to a third bourgeois party and no United Front campaign run with it, Olgin argues, as such a policy would smack of the sort of political machinations for which the "old parties" were held in contempt by the working class. Instead, the forthcoming June 17 convention should be utilized for the establishment of a firm "class line" "Labor-Farmer Party" which would run campaigns in opposition not only to the Repubicans and Democrats, but also in opposition to the forthcoming "third bourgeois party" which was then seemingly being born through the auspices of the Conference for Progressive Political Action at its scheduled July 4 convention. "Only a clear-cut party of labor and exploited farmers, controlled by organized labor and farmers, acting through representatives of workers and farmers, and nominating its own candidates on a definite class program of labor and exploited farmers, can dispel the mistrust of the labor masses, destroy their political inertia and make them fight capitalism through political weapons with at least the same determination as they have hitherto fought capitalism with the weapons of strike and boycott," Lore and Olgin argue.
"St. Paul -- June 17th," by James P. Cannon. [May 1924] An article from the monthly magazine of the Trade Unional Educational League lauding the forthcoming June 17th Convention of the Farmer-Labor Party, scheduled for St. Paul, MN. The St. Paul gathering was held in parallel with a July 4, 1924 convention of the Conference for Progressive Political Action, scheduled for Cleveland, which the Socialist Party was not incidentally attempting to steer in the same direction that the Workers Party was attempting to take the FLP. Cannon's article attempts to explain this dualism. The CPPA's "'sympathy' for the idea of a labor party is a disguise to hide their actual allegiance to the capitalist parties," he states, adding that the CPPA labor leaders are unable to form a working class party "because they do not have a working class point of view. They do not live like the workers and they do not think like the workers." Only the St. Paul convention offered a forum for the participation of the militant working class rank and file, Cannon asserts.
"Circular Letter to All Units of the WPA from C.E. Ruthenberg, Executive Secretary, circa May 1, 1924." This circular letter to all units of the Workers Party of America emphasizes an unpublished ECCI cable -- the content of which may well have originated from the WPA itself and been dispatched as a mechanism for building support of a controversial policy. The cable reads: "Communist International considers June 17th Convention momentous importance for Workers Party. Urges CEC not to slacken activities preparation June 17th. Utilize every available force to make Saint Paul Convention great representative gathering labor and left wing." Thus, Ruthenberg concludes, "the Communist International has spoken" and "the party must respond to this appeal of the Communist International." In the 6 remaining weeks before the St. Paul Convention Ruthenberg urges party members to (1) Distribute the June 17th Convention leaflet in all workers' organizations; (2) Have every member who is a member of a trade union, labor fraternal organization, cooperative, or farmers' organization bring the June 17th call before his organization and have a delegate elected to the convention; (3) Support the call for the formation of state party in support of June 17th; and (4) Raise the unit's quota of the "Farmer-Labor Campaign fund" and send it immediately to the national office of the WPA.
"Open Letter to the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party from the Central Executive Committee of the Workers Party of America." [May 14, 1924]. As the pivotal St. Paul Farmer-Labor Party Convention of June 17, 1924 drew near, the political rhetoric about the gathering intensified. This open letter to the governing National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party called upon that organization to "immediately sever its connection with and repudiate" the competing July 4th Convention of the Conference for Progressive Political Action. Contrary to the expressed desires of the Socialists, the CPPA would not yield an independent labor party, the open letter declared. "Even [if] the CPPA through some miracle were to enter into the political arena as a political party standing for independent political action, what kind of party would come out of the CPPA?... Its leadership belongs to the aristocracy of labor. The LaFollette group in Congress which it supports is not the representative of workers and farmers but of small business me, professional groups -- the petty bourgeoisie. Out of the CPPA there could only come a petty bourgeois Third Party, never a Farmer-Labor Party standing for the class interests of the exploited workers and farmers." The CEC of the Workers Party's open letter declared that "If the Socialist Party wishes to retain any vestige of a right to call itself a workers' political organization, it will give heed to this demand. Today it is an enemy of the movement for growing class action of farmers and workers through its support of the CPPA, which denies and opposes such class action and by its policy stands as an obstacle to the development of a great mass movement of workers and farmers..."
"Communists Absorb Selves: 'Lefts' Pick Still Another Alias In Drive to Pack St. Paul Convention." [May 24, 1924] This unsigned news report from the pages of the New York Socialist Party weekly The New Leader illustrates the depth of antipathy felt towards the Communist movement by the majority of the Socialist Party in the run up to the Farmer-Labor Party conventions of the summer of 1924. The lead mockingly notes that "A new 'Labor Party' consisting of Communists united with Communists and consolidated, federated, amalgamated, and joined with Communists, was launched here Sunday when a group of Communists met, declared themselves the 'United Farmer-Labor Party of New York State'" and describes the refusal of the Schenectady Trades Assembly to send delegates to the gathering, which was ultimately attended by 92 people. "So far as is known, did not have a single delegate from a bona fide Labor organization," the report indicates, sarcastically adding that among the 16 members of the executive of the new organization "are such well known American 'trade unionists' as Ludwig Lore, Harry M. Winitsky, Juliet Stuart Poyntz, William Weinstone, [Charles] Krumbein, Noah London, [J.] Jampolsky, and [Benjamin] Lifshitz."
"LaFollette and the Communists: The Statement of Robert LaFollette on Communist Participation in the Progressive Movement, May 26, 1924." An open letter from the time of Sen. LaFollette's independent campaign for President of the United States decrying Communist participation in the Farmer-Labor-Progressive movement. LaFollette, whose campaign was supported by the Socialist Party to the extent they did not run their own candidate in 1924, here calls the Communists the "mortal enemies of the Progressive movement and democratic ideals" and declares that "all Progressives should refuse to participate in any movement which makes common cause with any Communist organization" -- meaning the forthcoming June 17, 1924, Farmer-Labor Party Convention to be held in St. Paul, MN.
"Workers and Farmers on the Mark," by C.E. Ruthenberg. [July 1924] An account of the June 17-19, 1924, Convention of the Farmer-Labor Party, held in St. Paul, MN, by the head of the Workers Party of America. The convention, dominated by the WPA, was attended by over 500 delegates, who drew up a program and nominated candidates for President and Vice President of the United States (Duncan McDonald of Illinois and William Bouck of Washington, respectively). The body also elected a National Committee, which in turn elected a National Executive Committee, which included Alex Howat of Kansas as Chairman and Clarence Hathaway of Minnesota as Secretary.
"Letter to the Central Executive Committee, Workers Party of America in Chicago from M. Hansen, Secretary of English Branch - Seattle, WPA, July 17, 1924." The July 10, 1924 decision of the National Executive Committee of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party (controlled by 5 WPA members of the 7 member body) to abruptly terminate the candidacies of Duncan McDonald for President and William Bouck for Vice President came "as a bolt from the blue" to rank and file supporters of an anti-LaFollette "real Farmer-Labor Party." This letter from the Seattle English Branch to the center demands an explanation, as the reasons for the abrupt shift advanced in The Daily Worker are said to have "lacked sincerity." Hansen, the Branch Secretary, writes: "There is in Washington a considerable sentiment for a political organization so rooted in the economic life of the organized producers as to be permanent and enduring, and especially is this true of the delegates who attended the Convention, and who were so favorably impressed with the attitude of our Party. They had been convinced thoroughly that they did not want LaFollette, which to them meant the death of their hopes for a real F-L Party. Neither did they hold any hope for reaching any considerable number of the masses through the WP direct. They were enthusiastically behind the candidacy of the men named in the Convention, and the withdrawal leaves them out on a limb with our organization in the position of sawing it off next to the trunk."
"Letter to M. Hansen, Secretary, English Branch - Seattle, WPA, from James P. Cannon, Assistant Executive Secondary, WPA, July 22, 1924." Reply of the Central Executive Committee to the July 17, 1924 letter addressed to them by English Branch - Seattle seeking complete and accurate information as to the WPA's rapid change of course with regard to the Presidential campaign of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party. Cannon replies that the reports in The Daily Worker were, in fact, accurate and that the WPA determined that dspite its best efforts to create a United Front Farmer-Labor Party, this project was unsuccessful. The two non-WPA members of the FFLP National Executive Committee and a large section of the FFLP's supporters were in the process of going over to the mass independent campaign of Senator Robert LaFollette. Cannon states that after through discussion, "the conclusion we finally arrived at, on the basis of the facts staring us in the face, was that the Farmer-Labor United Front in the present campaign does not exist, with the possible exception of two or three states such as Minnesota, Montana, and Washington." Rather than running a watered-down Farmer-Labor Party campaign, around which there was no mass support, Cannon states that the Communists were duty bound to run a campaign under their own banner, and thus Foster and Gitlow were named as candidates, to run a campaign "on a clearly defined revolutionary basis." "Communists have to approach all these problems from the standpoint of the Communist Party, which is identical with the immediate and ultimate interests of the working class and which is the only Party that stands for these interests.," Cannon says, adding that the comrades of Local Seattle should talk frankly with "such well-informed leaders of the Farmer-Labor movement as John Kennedy and William Bouck" about the reasoning behind the WPA's decision.
"Letter to George Bloxam in Spokane, WA, from John C. Kennedy in Seattle, WA, August 6, 1924." Evidence of the damage done to the WPA's United Front effort in their 1924 Farmer-Labor Party debacle. John C. Kennedy, head of the Washington state Farmer-Labor Party and previously a close ally of the Workers Party's effort to construct a radical mass national Farmer-Labor Party writes to Spokane WPA member Bloxam: "The action of the Workers Party in putting its own candidates in the field and then having its members of the National Executive Committee [of the FLP] disregard the plain intent and desire of the St. Paul Convention [June 17, 1924] and withdraw McDonald and Bouck and in their place endorse the Workers Party candidates, has made it impossible for the Farmer-Labor Party of this state to continue its cooperation with the national Workers Party." The Washington FLP voted to follow the mass movement in endorsing the LaFollette-Wheeler Presidential ticket and to put their own full slate of candidates into the field as well. "Unquestionably the LaFollette movement is the most spontaneous movement of the producers along independent political lines for fifty years. We feel it is our duty to participate in this movement, rather than to stay outside hurling futile criticism at the masses who are beginning to move in the right direction, even though they don't see clearly their final goal," Kennedy notes.