The Finnish immigration to the United States was tied to two factors: growing repression in Tsarist Russia and the need for immigrant labor as part of the process of industrialization in the United States. Immigrant recruiters were dispatched to Europe to entice people to come to America, where available land was bountiful and the promises of employment rosey. Recruiters were especially active in the Central and Northern European countries.

The peak year for Finnish immigration to America was 1902, when 23,152 Finns came to America. The total number of Finns in America by 1920 was estimated at 400,000 -- a figure which included the American-born children of immigrants.

[fn: Työmies Society, Seventieth Anniversary Souvenir Journal, pg. 12.]

Earliest Radical Finnish Organizations and Press in the United States

In December of 1890, Finnish immigrants in Brooklyn formed the first workingmen's benevolent association, called the Imatra Society. The Imatra Society proclaimed as its raison d'etre that it undertook to give aid, counsel and advice to the Finns of New York, to maintain a library and to provide lectures and entertainments, to provide for the support of sick members and for the burial of dead members. During the subsequent decade more than 20 similar groups were established in Finnish settlements throughout the East and Midwest. In the words of historian John I. Kolehmainen:

"These associations did not, of course, proclaim a class-conscious crusade against the capitalistic order. Rather they sought to assuage the stings which their members were receiving at its hands; in a word, they performed a beneovlent, mutual aid function, which was invariably enriched and enlivened by efforts to raise the educational-cultural level of the immigrants and to provide opportunities for fun and relaxation."

[fn: John I. Kolehmainen, Sow the Golden Seed, pp. 16-18.]

Explicitly socialist propaganda among the Finns dates from 1899, when a number of independent branches sprung up, primarily in the East and Midwest. It was in this year also, during the month of August, that the Myrsky (Storm) Society was organized in Rockport, MA, the first American affialiate of the Socialist Labor Party. This short-lived group of 14 members was launched by an expelled socialist student from Helsinki, Antero F. Tanner. Tanner moved from the task of organizing to the task of publishing, launching a Finnish-language newspaper called Amerikan Työmies (The American Workman), a publication which declared its intention to speak for the poor and exploited. From its launch on Jan. 2, 1900, a total of 24 weekly issues of the 4 page broadsheet were published before the paper was terminated due to lack of funds.

Following the failure of his paper, Tanner launched a national organizing tour, hitting the road in 1900-01 along with his colleague and co-thinker, Martin Hendrickson -- a man who would emerge as a perpetual traveling spokesman for the cause of socialism. One of the places that Hendrickson pioneered was in the Finnish communities of Minnesota, where the first socialist club, "Jousi" [Crossbow], was established in Hancock, Michigan.

[fn: Michael Karni, "Finnish Americans," in Buhle, et. al. (eds.) Encyclopedia of the American Left (First Edition), pg. 227; Työmies Society, Seventieth Anniversary Souvenir Journal, pg. 18, 22; Kolehmainen, Sow the Golden Seed, pp. 18-19.]

In 1903, a satirical, pro-socialist journal called Uusi Meikäläinen [New Fellow-Countryman] was published in Fitchburg, MA, by a recent arrival, Urho A. Makinen. Makinen joined with another new Finnish emigre, Antti Tarmo, and others and purchased a small press in Worcester, MA, where the American Finnish Workers Publishing Co. was formed. On July 8, 1903, the board of this company began the publication of a working class newspaper in the Finnish language, Amerikan Suomalainen Työmies [American Finnish Worker]. This would emerge as the leading Finnish-language newspaper in America. The publication began to appear on July 20, 1903, as a four page weekly and it continued being published as such for the next ten months in Worchester, MA. The first editor of the publicaton was Victor Kosonen who editorialized in the first issue of the publication the fundamental role the paper would play in support of "human dignity and justice for the oppressed peoples." In May of 1904, the board decided to move the newspaper to the largest Finnish community in the midwest -- the small town of Hancock in the Upper Pennisula of Michigan.

[fn: Työmies Society, Seventieth Anniversary Souvenir Journal, pg. 14.]

Työmies' first Michigan-produced issue appeared on August 16, 1904, and included the election platform of Socialist Party Presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs. Circulation of the paper grew to about 4,000 in that year. Despite its successful relaunch and growth, Työmies was racked by an internal conflict between its ideologically committed editor, Taavi Tainio, and its owner, Alex Heisson, who sought to use the burgeoning socialist movement for his own financial gain. In December 1904, the conflict came to an abrupt end when editor Tainio was fired.

Tainio returned to Massachusetts and a flurry of meetings followed in an effort to launch a new genuinely Socialist newspaper. A space was let on the second floor of a building in downtown Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and on January 3, 1905, the first issue of Raivaaja (The Pioneer) was published.

[fn: John I. Kolehmainen, Sow the Golden Seed, pp. 29-31.]


Formation of Independent Finnish Socialist Party of America Branches

Organization of Finns into the Socialist Party of America began on a larger scale in 1902 and 1903. Dozens of Finnish language SPA locals and branches were organized during this period. The Finnish movement remained scattered and weak in these earliest years, however, only gradually coming together as a formal national organization in its own right.

[fn: J.W. Sarlund, "Report of the Finnish Translator-Secretary to the Socialist Convention, 1912," in Proceedings: National Convention of the Socialist Party, pg. 237.]

1. First Convention of Finnish Workers' Groups -- Cleveland, Oct. 3-5, 1904.

A Convention of independent Finnish groups was held October 3-5, 1904 in Cleveland to discuss ways in which the varous Finnish branches could better work together. The gathering was attended by 14 delegates, some of whom represented multiple branches. No formal organization resulted from this gathering however, and the approximately 40 branches spread around the United States retained their organizational independence from one another.

The meeting was called to order at 8:45 am by M. Hahl, organizer for the Cleveland Branch. Delegates attending included: Wilka Bomar (Milwaukee), Victor Hall (New York City), Erlass Heiman (Chicago), Anton Ihsksella (Cleveland), Victor Kosonen (Hancock, MI), Hannah Lehtman (Brooklyn), J.H. Lehtman (Brooklyn), A. Meminen, Livo Narhi (Minneapolis), Axel Pekkol (Glassport, PA), A. Savolan (Maynard, MA), and T. Tainio (Fitchburg, MA). Robert Bandlow was in attendance on behalf of the Socialist Party, which reported on the convention in the pages of its official bulletin.

A. Meminen was elected President of the Convention, T. Taino Vice President, W. Bowmar Secretary, and Victor Kosonen Assistant Secretary.

A committee of three was elected to confer with the Socialist Party to determine the conditions under which the Finnish Workers Groups might affiliate with the Socialist Party. Elected to the committee were J.H. and Hannah Lehtman and Victor Kosonen. According to Bandlow, "The consensus of opinion, as I understand, was to have their organizations reorganized as a body, they to adopt our platform and constitution and their locals to fraternize with our locals. They did not care to become identified with our city [Chicago' or this organization directly."

[fn. Robert Bandlow, "Report of Representation at Finnish-American Socialists' Convention," Socialist Party Official Bulletin no. 3 (Nov. 1904), pg. 3.]

According to the 1908 report of the National Finnish Translator of the SPA, the First Convention of Finnish Workers' Groups adopted a resolution calling for "the affiliation of each and every local with their respective county and state organization" of the Socialist Party.

[fn. Victor Watia, "Report of Finnish Translator," in National Convention of the Socialist Party Held at Chicago, Illinois, May 10 to 17, 1908: Stenographic Report,... , pg. 315.]


United States Finnish Socialist Organization [Yhdysvaltain Suomalainen Sosialistijärjestö]

2. Organizational Convention -- Hibbing, MN --- Aug. 1-7, 1906.
Scholars should be advised that contemporaries referred to this gatherring variously as the "first" or 'second" convention.

In 1906 another convention of Finnish groups was held, this time at Hibbing, Minnesota. Thirty branches were represented. It was here that plans were laid for a permanent organization, the United States Finnish Socialist Organizaiton [Yhdysvaltain Suomalainen Sosialistijärjestö], and a Secretary elected to coordinate the various local organizations and to prepare for the affiliation of this new organization to the Socialist Party of America.

The United States Finnish Socialist Organization was governed by a 5 member "Executive Board," elected by general referendum vote of the membership. In addition, paralleling the structure of the SPA of the day there was a "General Committee" in which each state was represented according to the number of locals. The group also made use of the referendum vote to solve contentious issues, again closely following the practice of the SPA.

One important innovation created by the 1906 Hibbing Convention was the establishment of the National Finnish Translator's office. Difficulties with rendering English into Finnish for the various local branches and the press caused Finnish groups in Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin to hire a regular translator. This experiment proved to be a success and the Hibbing Convention established the position of National Translator, for the benefit of all member branches. Discussion was immediately held with the Socialist Party to have their National Translator work out of the national headquarters of the SPA in Chicago, a move which took effect with its formal affiliation of the Finnish Socialist Organization with the SPA on Jan. 1, 1907. The Federation initially paid for all office fixtures and rent for the Translator's office, as well as the Translator's salary. Effective in May 1908, the Socialist Party began providing free office space to the Finnish Federation. The salary of the Translator-Secretary also began to be covered by the SPA effective October 1910.

Victor Watia served as the first National Translator of the Organization of Finnish Socialists.

[fn: J.W. Sarlund, "Report of the Finnish Translator-Secretary to the Socialist Convention, 1912, in Proceedings: National Convention of the Socialist Party, pg. 237; Watia, "Report of Finnish Translator," pg. 315.]

The Hibbing Convention divided the group into three regional districts (alueet) for propaganda and organizational purposes -- Eastern, Middle, and Western -- each governed by its own 7 member District Committee. The three districts each employed a full-time District Organizer, periodically sent out additional special organizers, and published their own daily newspaper -- Raivaaja (The Pioneer) in the Eastern District (circulation over 6,000 in 1912), Työmies (The Worker) in the Middle District (circulation about 12,000 in 1912), and Toveri (The Comrade) in the Western District (circulation around 4,000 in 1912). This regional separatism of the Finnish organization's apparatus and press lead over time to ideological differences, with the Eastern District tending towards a more reformist orientation, while the Western and particularly the Central Districts tended towards a more revolutionary perspective.

[fn: J.W. Sarlund, "Report of the Finnish Translator-Secretary to the Socialist Convention, 1912, in Proceedings: National Convention of the Socialist Party, pg. 238.]

Funding of the Finnish Translator's Office was accomplished by the sale of special 5 cent monthly stamps to members of Finnish branches, as well as by dues rebates allowed by some (but not all) SPA state organizations. States allowing rebates in 1908 included Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

[fn. Watia, "Report of Finnish Translator," pg. 316.]


3. Second National Convention --- Hancock, MI --- August 23-31, 1909.

The 1909 Hancock Convention was held at Scott's Hall in Hancock, Michigan (Upper Peninsula), opening at 10am on Monday, Aug. 23, 1909. The gathering was preceded by a reception held at Germania Hall in Hancock at 9 pm the previous evening. By order of the NEC, Executive Secretary of the SPA J. Mahlon Barnes was in attendance. The gathering adopted a new constitution which enlarged the Executive Committee from 5 members to 7 and extended full autonomy to the three organization districts for control of affairs within their boundaries. The next convention was slated for 1912, with succeeding gatherings planned to be held on 4 year intervals rather than 3.

[fn: "Socialist News Review," St. Louis Labor, vol. 6, whole no. 447 (Aug. 21, 1909), pg. 8; "Socialist News Review," St. Louis Labor, vol. 6, whole no. 449 (Sept. 11, 1909), pg. 8.]

 In addition to the three newspapers previously mentioned, the Finnish socialist movement of the 1910s issued a monthly theoretical-literary magazine called Säkeniä [Fitchburg, MA], a comic bi-weekly called Lapatossu [Hancock, MI], a women's paper called Toveritar [Astoria, OR], and provided a major source of funding and subscriptions for a paper published in Port Arthur, ON, Canada, called Työkansa.
[fn: J.W. Sarlund, "Report of the Finnish Translator-Secretary to the Socialist Convention, 1912, in Proceedings: National Convention of the Socialist Party, pg. 238.]

The Finnish Federation was well-known for its network of Federation-owned halls located in the major centers of the Finnish-American community. These halls provided facilities for meetings, speeches, and social events such as dances. Shown above is the Finnish Socialist Hall built in Astoria, Oregon in 1910.

4. Third National Convention --- Smithville, MN --- June 1-10, 1912.

There were 58 delegates from across the country in attendance at the 3rd National Convention of the United States Finnish Socialist Organization which was held in the building of the federation's college in Smithville, Minnesota. The convention discussed the relationship of Työväen Opisto [Working People's College] to the national organization, criticized the national officers of the organization and made plans for their future work, and criticized the content of the three national Finnish socialist newspapers -- expressing a desire to bring these under closer control of the national organization. A proposal at the 3rd Convention to do away with the 3 District System was defeated by the convention, although it was resolved (in theory, at least) that the Federation should endeavor in the future to take direct ownership of the three stock companies publishing the district newspapers in a "Socialist Trust." The practical details of this transition was left to the future. The date of the next convention of the Finnish organization was set for "the same year as the National Convention of the Socialist Party" -- which was projected to be four years later.


The Translator-Secretary of the United States Finnish Socialist Organization in 1912-13 was J.W. Sarland.

During 1912, the Finnish Socialist Organization published Finnish-language editions of the following leaflets:


The Socialist Party and Woman Suffrage --------------- 25,000 copies

To Wives of Toilers ----------------------------- 25,000 copies

O'Hare: Wimmin Ain't Got No Kick ------------------- 25,000 copies

National Platform of the Socialist Party --------------- 40,000 copies

The Children of the Poor -------------------------- 25,000 copies

Why Socialists Pay Dues (revised ed.) ---------------- 25,000 copies


[fn: J.W. Sarlund, "Report of the Finnish Federation" to the National Committee of the Socialist Party, May 1913, pp. 3-4.]

The United States Finnish Socialist Organization showed the following pattern of growth:


1906 ------- 53 branches ------- 2,000 ave. members for year

1907 ----- 133 branches -------- 2,928 ave. members for year

1908 ----- 150 branches -------- 3,960 ave. members for year

1909 ----- 160 branches -------- 5,384 ave. members for year

1910 ----- 173 branches -------- 7,767 ave. members for year

1911 ----- 217 branches -------- 9,139 ave. members for year

1912 ----- 248 branches ------- 11,535 ave. members for year

1913 ----- 260 branches ------- 12,651 ave. members for year

1914 ----- 227 branches ------- 11,657 ave. members for year

1915 ----- 212 branches ------- 10,273 ave. members for year

[fn: J.F. Maki, "The Finnish Socialist Federation" in The American Labor Year-Book, 1916. (NY: Rand School Press, 1916), pp. 130-132.]

In 1913-14, factional differences within the Finnish Socialist Federation erupted and led to a split. The constructive socialist Eastern District, centered around the newspaper Raivaaja, named a slate of candidates for the Executive Committee of the Federation in the 1914 referendum election. Apparently supported by a moderate group heading the newspaper Työmies, the Raivaaja group was elected in its entirety.

The newly-elected Executive Committee attempted to exert control of the organization, publication, and assets of the predominantly revolutionary socialist Central District. The leading figure of the constructive socialist (Right) faction was National Committeeman Frank Aaltonen of Minnesota. Leaders of the revolutionary socialist (Left) faction included Workers' College instructors Leo Laukki, A. Rissanen, and Yrjö Sirola -- the last of whom went on to play an influential role in the Finnish Revolution of 1918.


Middle District Convention --- Duluth, MN --- Feb. 21-28, 1914

The 1914 convention of the Middle District was the scene of a showdown between the constructive socialist and revolutionary socialist wings of the Finnish Federation. The gathering was attended by 49 regularly elected delegates, elected by election districts. In addition, the Central Distict Committee, Työmies, and the Working People's College each were granted one delegate with voice but no vote to the convention.

An action was taken by the new Executive Committee on June 17, 1914, calling for sanctions against any local or individual supporting the new left-wing Finnish-language newspaper, Sosialisti, published in Duluth. Some 40 branches were expelled and another 30 withdrew amidst allegations that they advocated syndicalism and direct action, in contradiction to the constitution of the SPA. Most of these branches were located in Minnesota and Michigan, with only a few located in the Western States. In reality, these charges of "syndicalism" were trumped up, the locals expelled being essentially revolutionary socialist and industrial unionist in orientation.

The National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of America was called into the Finnish Federation dispute, siding with the Right Faction and prohibiting expelled Left Wing members from forming their own Finnish language Socialist Party locals outside of the control of the Finnish Federation itself. An account of this controversy appeared in the pages of The International Socialiist Review in 1915, available here as a downloadable pdf file.

[fn: J.F. Maki, "The Finnish Socialist Federation" in The American Labor Year-Book, 1916. (NY: Rand School Press, 1916), pp. 130-132. // "An Appeal to the Investigating Committee of the NEC," Sosialisti v. 2, no. 11 (Jan. 13, 1915), pp. 1, 3-4. // T.E. Latimer, "Executive Committee Rule," in The International Socialist Review, Feb. 1915.


5. Extraordinary Fourth National Convention --- Chicago, IL -- November 22-2X, 1914

The 4th Convention was called to resolve the factional warfare that was erupting within the Finnish Federation. It pitted a constructive Socialist Eastern "majority" faction against a midwestern "radical" faction, grouped around the Duluth, Minnesota newspaper Sosialisti and led by Leo Laukki, a former managing editor of Työmies. The majority faction seems to have easily controlled the gathering.

A special subcommittee of the Socialist Party's NEC consisting of Executive Secretary Walter Lanfersiek, Oscar Ameringer, and James Maurer attended the November convention of the Finnish Federation and held another session at which 7 representatives of each faction made their case verbally and with documents. The subcommittee reported to the December 12-13, 1914 session of the NEC and recommended that the constructive socialist leadership of the Finnish Federation be backed unconditionally. According to the unanimously-passed resolution of the NEC, "the decision of the Finnish Federation as to expulsion of locals or members shall be accepted by state, county, and local organizations as final." This decision assured a continued factional war with mass expulsions and resignations from the federation.

The 4,000 or so Left Wing defectors from the Finnish federation retained control of the Federation's Work People's College, located in Smithville, MN, and in 1915 began publishing a new newspaper of their own called Industrialisti. By 1920 this new publication claimed a readership of over 20,000.

[fn: Michael Karni, "Finnish Americans," in Buhle, et. al. (eds.) Encyclopedia of the American Left (First Edition), pg. 228. // "An Appeal to the Investigating Committee of the NEC," Sosialisti v. 2, no. 11 (Jan. 13, 1915), pp. 1, 3-4. // "Decision of the National Executive Committee on the Finnish Controversy" in Sosialisti, op. cit., pp. 2-3.]

Despite the NEC's earlier action, the factional war continued to rage among the Finnish Federation of Minnesota. The (Left Wing) state party organization refused to issue charters to new locals organized by the (Regular) Finnish Federation in the state. On this the NEC declined to act at its Sept. 11-15, 1915, meeting in Chicago, drafting instead a letter which noted that "Under the present national constitution of the Socialist Party, the Executive Committee has no jurisdiction in matters of this kind, and is therefore powerless to act. We are convinced any action we take as a committee instead of helping the situation may but lead to further friction and bitterness." An appeal was made to the Minnesota State Committee to "take up these differences in a spirit of comradeship."

[fn: NEC Minutes, Meeting of Sept. 11-15, 1915, The American Socialist, Sept. 25, 1915, pg. 3.]

Finnish Revolution

In Finland, the reaction crushed the revolution of 1918 and exacted a bloody vengeance, known as the "White Terror." According to Finnish historian Jaakko Paavolainen, during and shortly after the Civil War, reactionary Finns executed 8,380 people for purported "war crimes" or other reasons. The great majority of these came from the Finnish provinces of uusimaa, Turku-and-Pori, Häme, and Viipuri.

[fn: Jaakko Paavolainen, Poliittiset väkivaltaisuudet Suomessa 1918 II. "Valkoinen terrori." (Helsinki, 1967). Cited in Auvo Kostiainen, The Forging of Finnish-American Communism, 1917-1924. (Turku: Turun Yliopisto, 1978), pg. 53.]


In July of 1919, the Finnish Socialist Federation, headed by Translator-Secretary Henry Askeli, issued a proclamation calling for affiliation of the SPA to the Communist Internantional and demanding "the renewal of the program of the American Socialist Party," calling on it to "reject the viewpoint of petty bourgeois socialism" and demanding that it adopt "Marxian revolutionary socialism." The Finnish Federation endorsed the general line of the Left Wing Section while retaining certain criticisms of their idea of refusing to participate in reform-based political action and held out for a unified party on a radicalized programatic basis.

[fn: "Finnish Socialist Federation Endorses Left Wing Program," in The Ohio Socialist, July 16, 1919, pg. 3.]


On August 30, 1919, the Emergency National Convention of the SPA opened in Chicago. Of 124 official delegates present, 6 were from the Finnish Socialist Federation. These included both representatives of the Left like Henry Askeli and Yrjö "George" Halonen and those aligned with the Center-Right bloc, including Yrjö Mäkelä, Victor Annala, Wilho Hedman, and Lauri Moilanen. There were no members of the Finnish Federation elected to the National Executive Committee of the SPA; Matti Tenhunen of Superior, WI was nominated, but didnot receive sufficient votes. The convention was generally hostile to immigrant party members and a decision was made that applicants for party membership had to promise to apply for US citizenship within 3 months. This attitude alienated the Finnish Federation, driving that group increasingly into opposition to the SPA's ruling clique in Chicago.

[fn. Auvo Kostiainen, The Forging of Finnish-American Communism, 1917-1924. (Turku: Turun Yliopisto, 1978), pp. 78-79.]

In the aftermath of the split, the Finnish Federation saw the Socialist Party as the least bad option. Writing in Työmies in September of 1919, Finnish Socialist Federation Translator-Secretary Henry Askeli characterized the CPA as composed mostly of foreigners who were opponents of political action and who favored a program impossible to carry out in the United States. The Communist Labor Party was no bettter, according to Askeli -- an amalgam of adventurers, writers, soap box orators, and embittered Socialist regulars out only for revenge. The Socialist Party, even if controlled by the Center-Right, was the preferred option, in Askeli's view: "With work and by raising the level of consciousness among the membership, we can make it into a party capable of fulfilling the requirements of a political party for today's revolutionary workers."

[fn. Henry Askeli, "Mihin puolueeseen nyt" [To Which Party Now?] in Työmies, Sept. 17, 1919. Cited in Auvo Kostiainen, The Forging of Finnish-American Communism, 1917-1924. (Turku: Turun Yliopisto, 1978), pp. 78-79.]


6. Fifth National Convention --- Chicago, IL --- Oct. 25 to Nov. 3, 1919

The 5th Convention of the Finnish Socialist Federation gathered at Imperial Hall, located on North Halsted Street in Chicago and was attended by 42 delegates. As the delegates gathered, a split of the organization loomed. As a news account in the New York Call put matters:

It is certain that the convention will see a breach in the ranks, as several Finnish Socialist locals have already decided to demand that the party affiliate with the so-called Third International. A few Finnish Socialist locals already have demanded taht the Finnish Federation should join the Communist Party, but this is not likely to happen, although it is possible that some of the Finnish locals will secede from the party ahnd go to the Communists.

Going into the convention the Federation was deeply divided, with the Eastern district and its organ Raivaaja standing steadfastly for the Socialist Party, the Middle District and its organ Työmies highly critical of the Socialist Party (although still not advocating abandoning the organization), and the Western District and its organ Toveri attempting to steer a middle course.

[fn. Adolph Salmi, "Finn Socialists at Odds; Will Gather Monday," NY Call, Oct. 25, 1919, pg. 5.]

The Federation temporarily suspended the 3 district organizations, an action that was ostensibly intended as a means of preserving organizational unity by quashing "district spirit." Final approval had to be made by membership referendum, which was passed at the beginning of January 1920. This change was a victory for the Left Wing within the Finnish Federation, as it placed the maverick Eastern paper Raivaaja under closer control of the central leadership of the Federation.

The convention battled for several days over the lines of the Federation's two main newspapers, the social democratic Massachusetts paper Raivaaja and the more leftist Upper-Midwestern paper Työmies. After several days of debate, a resolution on Raivaaja was passed which criticized that paper for not altering its position to the left after the Aug. 1919 removal of Editor-in-Chief Frans Josef Syrjälä by referendum vote. The paper was accused of opportunistic views and "wrong" attitudes against the ousted majority of the Socialist Party. The position of Työmies was endorsed.

[fn. Auvo Kostiainen, The Forging of Finnish-American Communism, 1917-1924. (Turku: Turun Yliopisto, 1978), pg. 83.]

The Federation was divided between two main positions: staying within the Socialist Party of America or severing ties and existing as an independent organization. The 5th convention appointed a "Conciliatory Committee" composed of representatives of these two main views. The Eastern members of this group did not want to seceed from the Socialist Party, instead advocating that Finnish branches remain affiliated and carry out their affairs in a manner acceptable to the party. The representatives of the Central and Western Districts also emphasized the need to preserve unity of the Finnish Federation, arguing that the best means to achieve this would be to have the federation remain independent of any political party, while permitting individual members of the Federation to join the SP, the CPA, the CLP, or to stay independent of them all. The latter position ultimately won the day by a vote of 21 to 20, with all 19 Eastern delegates voting to remain in the SPA and all 19 delegates from the Middle and Western districts voting for independence. The deciding votes were cast by the representatives of the three Finnish papers, with F.J. Syrjälä of Raivaaja voting with the Eastern group and the representatives of Työmies and Toveri voting with the majority. The decision was referred to a vote of the membership of the Federation; a split seemed imminent.

[fn. Auvo Kostiainen, The Forging of Finnish-American Communism, 1917-1924. (Turku: Turun Yliopisto, 1978), pg. 86.]


In January 1920, a referendum was taken of the Finnish Federation's members. Powered by a united East, the final vote showed 3,775 to 2,259 in favor of remaining within the Socialist Party. The 6,070 votes indicated that 56% of the Federation had participated in the vote; of 3,800 votes cast in the Eastern District, some 3,212 (82%) favored continued affiliation with the SPA. Voting in the Eastern District was very heavy (67% voting), in the Middle District rather lighter (47% ), with voters in the Western District seemingly apathetic (just 29% voting).

[fn. Annual Report of the FSF for 1919, Työmies, Jan. 21, 1920, cited in Auvo Kostiainen, The Forging of Finnish-American Communism, 1917-1924. (Turku: Turun Yliopisto, 1978), pg. 90.]

On March 4, 1920, the Executive Committee of the Finnish Federation directly queried Executive Secretary Otto Branstetter and the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party about its plans with regard to the Comintern. The NEC formally responded to this document with a statement in November, indicating that membership in the Communist International had become impossible.


6. Sixth National Convention --- Waukegan, IL --- Dec. 25, 1920-Jan. 2, 1921.

The Finnish Federation held a Convention late in December of 1920. Throughout the year the United Communist Party had been conducting a campaign among the Finns to attempt to separate the organization from the Socialist Party. The program met with success, with Executive Secretary Wagenknecht claiming in May 1921 that a majority of the delegates to the 6th Convention of the Finnish Federation were already members of the UCP. Wagenknect noted in this May 1921 report that the UCP had 79 Finnish language groups, "and new groups are being formed constantly."

[fn: Report of the UCP to the Unity Convention, Comintern Archive, f. 515, op. 1, d. 50, l. 40.]

The 21 delegates voted by a tally of 16-5 to withdraw the Finnish Federation from membership in the Socialist Party, due in large measure to the failure of that organization to affiliate with the Third International. Even the representative of the Masschusetts paper Raivaaja voted for the independent organization, as did the delegates from New York state, contratry to their instructions. The increasing hostility of the old guard SP leadership stood in marked contrast to the rank and file of the Finnish Federation. Finnish Left Wing leader Elis Sulkanen sought to have the Finnish Federation depart from the Socialist Party on the one hand, but not to join with the United Communist Party on the other. Työmies backed Sulkanen in this view -- both were willing to leave the question of joining the Comintern through membership in one of its constituent parties to the future.

[fn. Auvo Kostiainen, The Forging of Finnish-American Communism, 1917-1924. (Turku: Turun Yliopisto, 1978), pp. 98, 102.]

As historian Auvo Kostiainen notes, "the Waukegan convention was the unofficial start of the Finnish-American communist movment. The sympathy of the Finnish-American radical 'independents' was on the communists' side, and a number of them were already members of the illegal communist movement. Now, they were waiting for the establishment of a legal communist party. During the following summer, the first open contacts were made with American communists and finally, at the end of the same year [1921], Finnish-Americans were an important element in the formation of an open communist party, the Workers Party of America."

[fn. Auvo Kostiainen, The Forging of Finnish-American Communism, 1917-1924. (Turku: Turun Yliopisto, 1978), pg. 105.]

Secretary of the Finish Federation was Henry Askeli, who maintained the organization's central office at 3323 N Clark Street, Chicago. The Executive Committee in 1921 included: K.F. Tuhkanen (Bloomington, IL); Imer Belle (Chicago); Fahle Burman (Waukegan, IL); Frank Laurila (Waukegan); Vaino Lehto (Waukegan); John Huttunan (Waukegan), and Caro Hyrake (travelling organizer).

In February of 1921, Raivaaja was captured by the Socialist Party loyalists who split the Finnish Socialist Federation in a bitter proxy fight. A new Left Wing Finnish language newspaper was established to take the place of the lost publication -- Eteenpäin, the first issue of which appeared on May 25, 1921 in New York City. After about a year, publication moved to Worcester, MA due to financial difficulties.


(reorganized) Finnish Socialist Federation [Yhdysvaltain Sosialistipuolueen Suomalainen Järjestö]

About 30 clubs with a membership of around 2,000, primarily in the Eastern region, withdrew from the Federation in the aftermath of the 6th (Waukegan) Convention in order to remain affiliated with the Socialist Party of America. This group of locals reorganized themselves as the Finnish socialist Federation in 1921, with a reorganization committee elected in January 1921 in accord with a suggestion of the National Office of the SPA.


At the end of February 1921 came the annual meeting of the Raivaaja Publishing Co., holding company for the Fitchburg, MA newspaper of that name. Just about all shareholders were represented by proxies at this meeting -- and some proxies were claimed by competing factions, each of which sent its own delegation to the meeting. "The tension between the two competing groups became so intense that even fist fights occurred, and poliice were called to keep order." Both sides had lawyers present. Supporters of the SPA gained the majority in the committee examining proxies and rejected delegates representing 3,000 shares, thus gaining control of the meeting for the faction loyal to the SPA. Raivaaja thus became the organ of the reorganized Finnish Socialist Federation and severed its connection with the independent Finnish Federation, which had founded the paper and ostensibly was its issuing authority.

The loss of Raivaaja was taken hard by Secretary Askeli and the Left Wing Finnish Federation -- the Executive Committee issued a statement accusing "eastern conservatives" of having stolen the paper from the federation.

[fn. Auvo Kostiainen, The Forging of Finnish-American Communism, 1917-1924. (Turku: Turun Yliopisto, 1978), pg. 107.]


1. Convention --- Fitchburg, MA --- Aug. 13-15, 1921.

The first convention of the reorganized Finnish Socialist Federation was held at Fitchburg, Massachusetts from Aug. 13 to 15, 1921. The gathering was attended by 12 delegates, elected by membership referendum. At the time of the convention, the reorganized federation claimed 66 locals in 14 states -- 20 of these in Massachusetts, 4 in Vermont, 7 in New Hampshire, 4 in Connecticut, 5 in New York, 1 in Rhode Island, 4 in New Jersey, 7 in Ohio, and the balance spread out in a number of other states. The federation claimed a membership of 3300.

The reorganized Federation again made use of a division into 3 regions -- one comprising the New England states, one New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and part of Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and the third the remaining portion of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the middle western states. Nine locals of the Finnish Federation organized youth groups, called Young People's Socialist Societies, chartered by the National Office of the Socialist Party and including 217 members at the time of the Fitchburg convention. Seventeen locals also conducted Socialist Sunday Schools, which included 946 children.

The Finnish Federation included a strong social (as opposed to political) component: 10 of the 66 locals of the reorganized Federation had brass bands at the time of the convention, 9 had singing societies, 18 had dramatic societies, and 13 had athletic clubs.

In addition to the daily Raivaaja, the reorganized Finnish Socialist Federation publishe a semi-monthly scientific and literary journal called Nykyaika. The reorganized Federation published 3 pamphlets up to the time of the August Fitchburg Convention -- one detailing the split in the federation, a second urging workers to support the Socialist Party, and a third containing the report of the Federation's fraternal delegate to the 1921 Detroit Convention of the Socialist Party, along with key resolutions of that gathering.

The reorganized Finnish Federation was headed by a National Executive Committee elected from the various locals in the Chicago area up to the August Fitchburg Convention. Due to the concentration of the reorganized Federation in the New England and Eastern US, however, that conclave determined to move federation headquarters from party headquarters in Chicago to Fitchburg -- ostensibly on a temporary basis. The local members of the National Executive Committee, previously hailing from the Chicago area, were henceforth elected from Locals Gardner, Fitchburg, Worcester, and Maynard, Massachusetts. The NEC of the Federation was to be elected each December by general vote of the membership, and was to hold office for one calendar year. This NEC was to directly appoint the Secretary of the Federation. Conventions of the reorganized Finnish Federation were to be held bi-annually.

The Fitchburg Convention reaffirmed the old model of federation relationship to the Socialist Party -- dues stamps were purchased by the Finnish Federation itself from the National Office in Chicago and were sold to the locals for 40 cents each; the locals then sold the dues stamps to the members for 50 cents each, keeping the difference to fund their own operations.

[fn: Jacob Spolansky, General Intelligence Report for Week Ending Oct. 8, 1921. NARA M-1085, reel 940, doc. unspecified; "Finn Federation Report Pledges Aid for Party," NY Call, Oct. 1, 1921, pg. 7.]
2. Convention --- city? --- February XX-XX, 1923.


The Socialist Party maintained a strong affiliated Finnish Language Federation throughout the 1920s and beyond. In 1927 this group counted an average monthly paid membership of 2,030 -- a figure which fell to 1,842 for the same months of 1928. Regardless, the Finnish Federation was the largest of the SP's five language federations in this period, contributing over 18% of the party membership in 1927 and over 16% in 1928.

[fn: Letter of National Executive Secretary Willam H. Henry to the NEC of the SPA, Nov. 24, 1928. Original in Bob Millar collection.]


Finnish Federation of the (unified) Communist Party of America

In late 1921, during the 5 months between formation of the unified CPA and the split of the Central Caucus faction, the Communist Party's Finnish Federation had an average monthly paid membership of 407, making it the 6th largest of the 10 Language groups in the party.

[fn: Comintern Archive: f. 515, op. 1, d. 75, l. 12.]
The Finnish Workers' Federation of the Workers Party of America

The Finns were the far and away the largest national group in the new Workers Party of America, established in the last days of 1921. In 1923 over 40% of the WPA's 16,000 or so paid members hailed from the Finnish Federation.

The Finnish Workers Federation had eight regional districts (alueet) -- 1. New England; 2. New York and the seaboard; 3. Ohio, including Western PA, Western NY, and Detroit; 4. Chicago, including Waukegan and Illinois communities; 5. Upper Michigan; 6. Minnesotat, including northern Wisconsin and the Dakotas; 7. Oregon and Washington; and 8. California. At times there were formal sub-districts in the mountain states and elsewhere that functioned under one of the regular districts.

Clubs in the various districts met annually in convetnion that reviewed the previous year's work, planned for the distribution and support of the Finnish-language press, planned for literature publication and distribution. Larger districts had full-time district secretaries and newspaper agents, who toured virtually house-to-house soliciting newspaper subscriptions and selling literature.


The Finnish Workers Federation merged with the International Workers Order in 1941.


JULY 1903

"Mission Statement of Työmies (From the Debut Issue -- July 20, 1903)," by Victor Kosonen. Työmies was the leading radical American newspaper in the Finnish language, published variously in Massachusetts, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Wisconsin. This is the lead editorial from the first issue of the publication, stating the aims of the new periodical. Työmies was promised to be "the voice of the Finnish working people in America" and "the most ardent promoter of the spiritual and physical endeavors of the Finnish working people." The paper declared that it demanded "human dignity and justice for the oppressed peoples" and that to achieve this goal, it would "strive by all peaceful means through our representatives to influence our society and our government." Editor Victor Kosonen promised a "liberal stand on religion," and the support of fraternal organizations as well as the women's rights and cooperative movements. "Only the working people themselves can improve their miserable conditions," the paper declared, and it sought the enthusiastic support and written contributions from its readership.


MAY 1908

"Report of Committee on Foreign Speaking Organizations to the National Convention of the Socialist Party, May 17, 1908." Committee report to the 1908 SPA Convention in Chicago, delivered by S.A. Knopfnagel. The Committee advocated the acceptance of all foreign language organizations seeking affiliation with the Socialist Party, subject to 5 conditions: "(1) They are composed of Socialist Party members only. (2) Any foreign speaking organization having a national form of organization of its own be recognized only if all the branches composing this organization having been chartered by the national, state, or local Socialist Party organizations, and pay their dues to the respective Socialist Party organizations. (3) No foreign speaking organization asking the Socialist Party for recognition shall issue their own particular national, state, or local charters. Same to be issued only by the respective organizations of the Socialist Party, as the case may require. (4) All foreign speaking organizations affiliated with the Socialist Party must and shall conform in every respect with the Socialist Party national, state, and local constitutions, platforms, and resolutions. (5) They should function only as agitation, education, and organization bureaus of the Socialist Party." Includes an amendment made from the floor but not published in the SP's Official Bulletin (probably due to incompetence rather than malice) prohibiting the refusal of admission to the SPA on account of race or language.


"Report of the Finnish Translator to the Convention of the Socialist Party of America, May 10, 1908," by Victor Watia Extensive report of the Translator of the Organization of Finnish Socialists (Finnish Federation) to the 1908 Chicago convention of the SPA. Watia provides a number of interesting details about the oriigin of the Finnish movement inside the SPA, noting the pivotal decisions of the Federation's 1906 convention which set the table for closer participation of the organization with the party. Watia reveals that the concept of a "Translator" emerged spontaneously in several states of the upper midwest, in which Finnish socialists found themselves in need of assistance converting documents between Finnish and English and employed their own translators. The Finnish organization determined to establish the post of National Translator and made every effort to have this individual located inside SPA headquarters for convenience. This office soon came to serve as the central office of the Finnish organization itself. Watia notes the mutually beneficial nature of this post and advocates the placing of skilled SPA organizers in the field among the various language groups and committing itself to develop Translators for other language groups desiring them. Also includes the budget of the Finnish federation for first 16 months of its affiliation with the SPA (which began Jan. 1, 1907). Watia's report includes a lengthy prohibition resolution of the Finnish Federation which caused Victor Berger to get grumpy.


MAY 1912

"Report of the Finnish Translator-Secretary to the Socialist Party National Convention, May 1912," by J.W. Sarlund. Report by the Translator-Secretary of the Finnish Socialist Organization in the United States to the 1912 Indianapolis convention of the Socialist Party of Ameica. Sarlund provides details on the history of the Finnish socialist movement, its size, demographics, finances, publications, and educational efforts. Sarlund includes specific recommendations fo the 1912 convention with regards to language federations, notably a nationally-binding rule making federation branches answerable to the national and state party organizations only, rather than state and local party groups.


MAY 1913

"Report of the Finnish Federation to the National Committee of the Socialist Party of America, May 1913," by J.W. Sarlund. Report by the Translator-Secretary of the Finnish Socialist Organization in the United States to the 1913 plenum of the National Committee of the Socialist Party. The Finnish Federation was at this time the Socialist Party's largest (roughly 10% of the entire party), and Sarlund details the Finnish Federations finances and activities for the year 1912 and the first quarter of 1913. Sarlund remarks that the Finnish Federation's three-pronged regional daily press "is and has been the secret of our success."


"The Finnish Young Socialists of the United States" by J. Louis Engdahl [May 1913] With a decision by the Socialist Party's National Committee on the organization of a national young people's section looming, Louis Engdahl analyzes the division of the youth sections on language lines, the most important section of which was the Finnish Gymnastic Societies organized by the various Socialist Party branches. There were some 53 of these societies at the end of 1911, Engdahl states: 22 in the Finnish Federation's Eastern District, 17 in the Middle District, and 14 in the Western District. A total of 1,156 young men and women were affiliated with these societies, which paid no dues to the Socialist Party but were funded by Party branches. In addition to these gymnastic societies, the Finns had choral societies, dramatic societies, dancing clubs, and other organized group activities -- projects that were advanced by the fact that many Finnish branches possessed their own halls. Engdahl notes that the Finnish and English language Socialist organizations had long remained segregated and that the task of integrating these sections of the party to work on matters of common concern remained largely unresolved.


Unspecified Date
"How to Become Naturalized" [1914] This bilingual pamphlet was issued under the joint auspices of the Socialist Party of America’s National Office and the Finnish Socialist Federation as part of the party and the federation's program of encouraging their members to gain citizenship. "No one should have any difficulty in becoming an American citizen," the pamphlet declares: "It is a very simple and easy matter. There are thousands of people who ought to be enjoying the full privileges of American citizenship, who hesitate and put off getting their naturalization papers because they fear that it is a difficult and complicated matter." The pamphlet observes that "A person of the white race, or African birth, or African descent, is allowed to become a citizen of the United States; but not persons of other races" and that the applicant "must declare that you are not opposed to organized government and are not affiliated with any association which teaches disbelief in organized government." Specifics on how to gain status as a naturalized American citizen are supplied.

JUNE 1914

"Länneltä." ("From the West") Magazine article from Säkeniä ("Sparks") -- IN FINNISH [June 1914] Non-machine readable pdf from the Finnish language theoretical-literary monthly published by Raivaaja Publishing Co. of Fitchburg, MA, and edited by Santeri Nuorteva. A description of the turbulent 1914 Special Convention of the Western District of the Finnish Socialist Federation at Astoria, Oregon, which "Santtu" Nuorteva attended in order to defend himself against charges of conservatism and to defend his actions as a former editor of the Federation newspaper Toveri. Likens the rowdy convention to the wild west, with an outstanding pen-and-ink drawing of delegates who do not play well with others. Includes sketches of three Finnish Federationists, A. Johnson, Santeri Nuorteva, and Alma Segerroos from San Francisco, as well as a couple photographs that reproduce poorly in the current format. IF ANYONE WOULD BE WILLING TRANSLATE THIS ARTICLE INTO ENGLISH, PLEASE GET IN TOUCH -- thanks! Tim,


"Decision of the National Executive Committee on the Finnish Controversy." [Dec. 13, 1914] From 1913 through 1915 a severe factional struggle raged in the Finnish Federation of the Socialist Party, brought about when the constructive socialist leadership of the Eastern District won control of the Executive Committee of the Federation and editorial control of the radical organ of the Middle District, Työmies. The left wing of the federation withdrew their support of Työmies and established a new daily newspaper called Sosialisti. The Federation leadership responded with a series of expulsions and the left appealed to the NEC of the Socialist Party to intervene. After hearings at the September 1914 NEC session, a subcommittee was appointed to deal with the Finnish controversy. The subcommittee attended the special convention of the Finnish Federation (boycotted by the left), and held a hearing of the two factions, before making their report to the December 1914 session of the NEC. The NEC approved the resolution here, which gave a green light to the constructive socialist Finnish leadership to purge the revolutionary socialist "disrupters" affiliated with Sosialisti, resolving that "the decision of the Finnish Federation as to expulsion of locals or members shall be accepted by state, county, and local organizations as final."



"An Appeal to the Investigating Committee of the NEC." [Jan. 13, 1915] A very rare document, published as part of a special English language edition by the Duluth Finnish-language newspaper Sosialisti. This extremely lengthy article details the faction fight which raged in the Socialist Party's Finnish Language Federation from 1912-15, in which the constructive socialist Eastern District and those around its organ Raivaaja captured effective control of Executive Committee of the Federation the leftist organ of the Middle District, Työmies. In response, a new left wing daily newspaper was established in the Middle District, Sosialisti. Punative expulsions of individuals and locals supporting the new periodical were begun by the Finnish Federation, which drew an appeal from the left wing to the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of America, since under the party constitution only the state organizations were granted the right of suspension and expulsion. The NEC of the SPA instructed the right wing majority group to reinstate the expelled left wingers and to settle the issue at a special convention of the Federation; this instruction was ignored by the Finnish Federation however, in an attempt to stack the forthcoming election of convention delegates. As a result, the left wing boycotted the election and renewed their appeal to the NEC. "The disruption within the Finnish Federation is very clearly and positively a result of a very fierce opposition in the main, of the officers in the organization against any criticism of their erroneous ideas, errors, or plain miscarriages in the offices," this appeal document argues.



"Executive Committee Rule," by T.E. Latimer. [Feb. 1915] In 1913-14 a serious factional struggle erupted in the Finnish Federation of the Socialist Party of America between a Right faction based in the Eastern US and a Left faction based in the Midwest. Accusing its opponents of favoring sabotage, in contradiction to the SPA Constitution, the Right faction attempted to seize the daily newspaper and assets of the Left faction and engaged in a series of expulsions as part of this process, which centered on Local Negaunee, Michigan. The SPA's National Executive Committee was drawn into the controversy. This contemporary article reviews the issues behind the fight from a perspective sympathetic to the Finnish Left faction and hostile to the SPA NEC. Originally published in the Feb. 1915 issue of The International Socialist Review.


MAY 1915

"The 1915 National Committee Meeting: Reports of National Committeemen L.E. Katterfeld and James P. Reid." [held May 9-14, 1915] Report of the annual meeting of the Socialist Party's National Committee, held in Chicago May 9-14, 1915 by two Left Wing members of the NC, Washington State Secretary L.E. Katterfeld and Rhode Islander James P. Reid. Katterfeld concentrates on the restoration of party democracy by the gathering. In his shorter assessment, James Reid adds that "The 'Finnish controversy' took up much time in the meeting and bodes danger to the party. It will be with us for some time to come." Reid notes that "the rank and file of the English-speaking comrades will have to become conversant with the element of danger to our movement which the structural connection of the foreign federation with our party means." Under the current system of attachment of the federations "ambitious persons in those federations can keep the whole party busy trying to settle their rows, and all to the detriment and delay of the work of organizing the American wing of the International Socialist movement," Reid observes.


"The Finnish Federation," by Leo Leino [October 1, 1915]  Lengthy statement of the factional position of the Center-Right majority group in the Finnish Socialist Federation. Leino provides the rationale behind the Finnish Federation's ban of the pro-IWW weekly Socialisti. He asserts: "The Finnish Federation never abridged the freedom of its members by forbidding them to read whatever they wished to read, but it is true that it does forbid the membership from supporting a paper [Socialisti] that has been established with the intention of destroying the means of education, the party papers, and also the oldest and strongest language organization of the American Socialist Party." With respect to the trade union movement, Leino indicates: "It is true we do not agree with the “radicals” in their contention that the IWW is the only industrial union that is worthy of working class consideration. We contend that the AF of L is being modified by the process of industrial evolution into an industrial union, and that this change in the nature of the organization is taking place just as fast as this new form of organization becomes more beneficent to the workers than the old form of trade unionism." A lengthy official document on the faction fight passed by the November 1914 convention of the Finnish Socialist Federation is also reproduced here.



"Election of Party Officials: Letter to the Editor of The American Socialist in Support of Santeri Nuorteva for SPA NEC," by J.F. Maki [Jan. 22, 1916] Translator-Secretary of the Finnish Socialist Federation J.F. Maki here endorses Santeri Nuorteva of Massachusetts in the coming election for the 5 members of the SPA's governing National Executive Committee. He provides a fine short biography of Nuorteva, noting that the young Nuorteva had spent two years in Germany as an office worker before touring the world as a fireman aboard a steamer. Maki says that Nuorteva was elected to the Finnish Diet 3 times and served as editor of party publications there, drawing the ire of the Tsarist censorship, "who indicted him at least 20 times for articles he wrote to the party press." Nuorteva had served one 7 month term in prison and was under the cloud of another sentence for a 2 year term in his native Finland. In America, Nuorteva "has made several lecture tours over the country, translated several works on socialism, and at the present time is editor of one of our dailies," Maki notes.



"State Convention Passes Upon Many Important Questions: Finnish Difficulties Satisfactorily Settled --Many Constitutional Changes." [events of Feb. 26-28, 1916] This unsigned article from the Minneapolis Socialist weekly New Times, edited by Alex Georgian, reviews the changes made at the 1916 Minnesota State Convention of the Socialist Party. The conflict within the Finnish Socialist Federation in 1914-15 had taken a serious toll on the party's membership, as had the discouragement and economic downturn which followed the eruption of war in Europe in the summer of 1914. From a high of 5,600, the paid membership of the Socialist Party of Minnesota had fallen to 3,547, it was reported to the convention. The convention determined to issue charters to five locals loyal to the (conservative) national Finnish Socialist Federation while at the same time implementing constitutional changes that would make it more difficult for the State Executive Board to arbitrarily suspend locals. Henceforth, charges would have to first be published in the official state newspaper and seconds for the proposed suspension gathered from 6 locals in no fewer than 5 counties. Former Christian Socialist and future Communist Jeremy Bentall was nominated to head the Socialist Party's ticket as its candidate for Governor.


"The Duluth Convention," by John Gabriel Soltis [events of Feb. 26-28, 1916] This upbeat report of the recently completed Minnesota State Convention of the Socialist Party of America hails the termination of the bitter feud within the Finnish Socialist Federation as the greatest achievement of the gathering. "It can be said to the credit of Leo Laukki, the brilliant Finnish thinker and leader of the 'Reds,' that he himself engineered and supported the much desired rapprochement between the two Finnish factions," Soltis writes. He adds: "It was clear to all that the Finns of both sides desired unity. After all they came to realize that their differences of opinion concerning tactics did not justify a wide split, so they united. As a result the organization is now much stronger. This act of unity confirms the theory that socialists can always unite if they have the will to do so." Soltis also indicates that the creation of a new county level of organization in the Minnesota party will go far in curbing the "anarchical" actions of individual locals. He also lauds the choice of Jeremy Bentall as the party's candidate for Governor, noting that Bentall is "an able speaker in two languages, and a clean student of the revolutionary movement."


"The State Convention," by Alex Georgian [events of February 26-28, 1916] Recap of the 1916 Minnesota State Convention of the Socialist Party by New Times editor Alex Georgian. Georgian concurs with other analysts that the chief accomplishment of the 1916 Minnesota convention was the liquidation of the split within the Finnish Socialist Federation in the state, revealing details of the backstory. According to Georgian, the pro-syndicalist Left Wingers of the Finnish Federation, expelled from the national federation for their support of the Left Wing daily Sosialisti, retained their charters from the Minnesota State Executive Board and blocked the efforts of moderates loyal to the national Finnish Federation from forming their own locals. Composition of the Minnesota Executive was determined in advance by the Left Wing Finns and their anglophonic allies, who elected a full slate, thus maintaining the status quo. The 1916 convention seems to have brokered an agreement allowing the moderate Finns to establish their own locals in exchange for legitimacy of the Left Wingers and their paper -- support of which had been deemed to be a party crime by the moderate Finnish Federation leadership, based in the Eastern District. Georgian, later a prominent member of the early American Communist movement, reveals his sympathies to be with the Finnish moderates rather than the pro-syndicalist Left Wingers.


"What the Convention Accomplished," by Sigmond N. Slonim [events of February 26-28, 1916] This analysis of the 1916 Minnesota State Convention of the Socialist Party reiterates the steps towards reunification of the so-called "Reds" and "Yellows" into which the Finnish Socialist Federation was divided. The two factions had "instead of fighting for the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of socialism, began to spend their time, money, and energy in fighting each other" and a split of the federation itself had resulted. The decision of the convention to allow the excluded Finns to establish locals had laid the groundwork for real unity of the two factions, Slonim believes. "I hope that the time is not very far off when the two factions of our party will soon realize the importance of having harmony in the party and they will join hands not only by holding membership in the party, but by doing away with their animosities and hatreds against each other and will then put up a solid front in their struggle against capitalism until the time will come when the toilers of the world will be emancipated from wage slavery."


MAY 1916

"The Finnish Amendment," by Sophie Carlson [May 6, 1916] The author of this letter to the Minneapolis Socialist Party weekly was a moderate member of the Finnish Federation whose local lost its charter as part of the faction fight in the Finnish Socialist Federation -- a particularly bitter battle in the state of Minnesota. Carlson describes the sequence of events, in which her Chisholm, MN local expelled a handful of pro-IWW dissidents for two years under Article II, Section 6 of the Socialist Party's national constitution. Under the Socialist Party's federative system, final say over such matters in the state was held by the elected officials of the state party in each state; and the Minnesota State Executive Board overturned the decision of Local Chisholm and ordered the expelled syndicalists reinstated by Local Chisholm. This the local refused to do, which the Minnesota SEB met by pulling the charter of Local Chisholm for violation of party discipline and issuing a new charter to the pro-syndicalist dissidents. When the moderate majority faction reapplied for admission to the Socialist Party of Minnesota, the SEB declined, stating there was already a Finnish branch in Chisholm. The moderate majority sought to align itself with the national Finnish Socialist Federation (which had itself conducted mass expulsions of its pro-IWW Left Wing) and refused to join the chartered local and a stalemate ensued. Carlson is not hopeful of rapprochement between the two factions: "We have had meetings and hot debates, and at present are trying to compromise but it seems impossible," she writes.


APRIL 1917

"The Reds and the Yellows," by Henry Ollikainen [April 7, 1917] This letter to the editor of the Minneapolis New Times by moderate Finnish Socialist Henry Ollikainen takes English speaking Socialists of the state to task for favoring the syndicalist Left Wing of the Finnish Socialist Federation as the "only movement which represents the revolutionary spirit among the Finns." Ollikainen charges that the syndicalist wing, headed by the "ill-famous" Leo Laukki, had been engaged in "spreading all kinds of slanderous charges against the Finnish Socialist Federation among the English comrades" and that they had been likewise speaking in a derogatory manner about the majority of the Socialist Party itself. Laukki is characterized as a "shrewd politician" and an opportunistic charlatan who had posed as a Socialist merely to gain employment in a party institution upon coming to America. "When the Federation at its National Convention at Smithville, Minn., in July 1912 decided to stand firmly for international socialist principles and by a great majority rejected the syndicalistic ideas, Mr. Laukki, and his followers started the cry that the whole organization is rotten, and that it is lead by a few blind leaders who do not know and do not care anything about Socialism," Ollikainen charges, adding that an "underground movement" had been formed to "capture" the Finnish Socialist daily Työmies for the syndicalists. When the attempt on Työmies failed, the syndicalists established their own paper, Ollikainen notes. He also charges that Laukki and the syndicalists "captured about 30 locals, mostly in Minnesota, and the controlled the Socialist Party of Minnesota for the last two years and a half and the result was that the membership fell down nearly 3,000. Now they charge the Finnish Federation for their own fault."


"The Russian Revolution and Finland," by George Halonen [April 27, 1917] Current Finnish Socialist Federation member and editor of Säkeniä and future member of the Workers Party of America George Halonen describes for an English language readership the exciting political situation of the socialist movement in Finland. The "beautiful spring days of liberty" had arrived in Finland with the fall of Nikolai Romanov in Russia, Halonen states. The Finnish parliament, the Diet, formerly stripped of its authority by the tsarist regime, had been thrust to center stage by rapidly evolving events. The last parliamentary elections (June 1916) had seen a majority of 103 of the Diet's 200 seats won by Socialists, who had accordingly split the 12 member executive body, the Senate, down the middle with the conservatives, headed by the Socialist Oskari Tokoi. Despite their parliamentary majority, Halonen states that the Socialists "will have to overcome many profound difficulties which will arise when they touch the sacred body of the capitalist system in order to fulfill their work for the emancipation of the working class," since "the Finnish bourgeoisie is not going to give way an inch without resistance." The fact that Finland was a small nation surrounded by capitalist states meant that it was not in a position to become "a complete Socialist state, free of all capitalist oppression," in Halonen's estimation. The "Red Parliament" had begun the long suppressed work of constitutional revision and were united against the European war, Halonen states, adding that despite tremendous difficulties and complicated problems, "the Finnish comrades will do their work in such a manner that it will arouse astonishment throughout the world."


"Letter to the Editor of New Times," by A.L. Sugarman [April 28, 1917] The State Secretary of the Socialist Party of Minnesota, a Left Winger and card-carrying member of the IWW, takes issue here with the April 7, 1917, letter to Minneapolis Socialist weekly New Times by Henry Ollikainen. Sugarman charges that Ollikainen misrepresented the views of the revolutionary socialist Left Wing -- the so-called "Reds" -- in his letter, which he held actually differed from the the constructive socialist moderates as follows: "The difference lies chiefly in the fact that whereas the Reds want to educate the proletariat, the Yellows wish to elect aldermen. The Reds say that a political campaign is essentially a device of education, a trick to take advantage of the state of the public mind at elections to pound home the message of revolt; the Yellows say it is chiefly an attempt to gain power. The former adopt the logical course; an educated working class will not need to be told how to vote. The latter puts the cart after the horse; secures a vote, and then tries to teach the voter." Sugarman claims that only an insignificant minority of the Left Wing did not believe in any form of political action and invites the constructive socialists to back up their theoretical advocacy of the principles of industrial unionism with concrete action "by endorsing the one organization that stands for it" -- the IWW. Sugarman also charges that a bloc-voting Finnish "machine" is behind the effort to recall him as State Secretary as part of its effort to seize "control."



"Sugarman Replies to Työmies: Says Finnish Machine is Menace to Party: Urges Election of Dirba as State Secretary," by A.L. Sugarman [Aug. 16, 1918] This testy letter from the outgoing State Secretary of the Socialist Party of Minnesota attacking the Finnish Socialist daily Työmies for a laundry list of alleged misdemeanors against the cause and touting the candidacy of Charles Dirba for new State Secretary may seem like an esoteric factional quibble -- and perhaps it is. Nevertheless, this letter demonstrates several interesting things at variance with Customary Belief. (1) Both publications embroiled in this war of words were publications from the Socialist Party's "Left Wing" -- Truth [Duluth] was later a publication closely associated with the Communist Labor Party, Työmies with the Workers Party of America. The Left Wing was heterogeneous, with personal rivalries and antipathies (Sugarman hated Finnish Secretary Henry Askeli) and policy disagreements (Työmies was hostile to the IWW, Truth supportive of it). (2) There was quite clearly debate back and forth across linguistic lines; Sugarman takes umbrage to Finnish language journalism published in Työmies; Työmies editor Eemeli Parras is offended and rebukes Sugarman and Truth for charges levied in the English language. Language groups were clearly not strict enclaves, but rather related with one another at least to some limited extent. (3) Dirba, the future Executive Secretary of the old Communist Party of America and leader of the Central Caucus faction's Communist Party of America, is depicted as someone very well qualified for the specific tasks of party secretaryship: "Dirba is so far superior to [competitor Anna] Maley that there can be little comparison. By trade a bookkeeper and stenographer, he is easily able to handle the work of the office. His wide propaganda experience as Secretary of the Hennepin County organization makes him far the best fitted for the position.... Dirba is not an IWW, but he believes that socialism means socialism and nothing else. Both in matters of policy and efficiency, Dirba will make a secretary that will help the movement grow, whereas if Miss Maley is elected, it can be expected that our organization will lose its identity in a sea of Non-Partisanism."


"Työmies Reply to Sugarman," by Eemeli Parras [Aug. 23, 1918] Työmies Editor Eemeli Parras takes umbrage to State Secretary A.L.Sugarman's claim that "Työmies advocated scabbery during the Mesaba strike." He challenges Sugarman to immediately produce evidence backing up this claim. Parras' tone is arrogant and dismissive, as he condescendingly calls the outgoing State Secretary "an enthusiastic young comrade in the party" who "may still be a socialist sometime in the future, when he matures and is schooled." Similar treatment is dealt to Truth Editor Jack Carney, who is chastised for "boyishness that is befitting only to a youngster" for having pecked at Työmies. " For some reason - we do not know what - the Truth has written against the Työmies. And the Työmies has not given any reason for it," Parras writes. In a rejoinder, Editor Carney (a founding member of the CLP National Executive Committee) hammers Työmies for allowing syndicalist leader Leo Laukki to be mocked while he was jailed by the Wilson administration. Carney declares: "We may be boyish, but we have never been guilty of making sport out of a comrade who is in prison: Työmies someday will recognize the fact that the members of the IWW are members of the working class, and they will also understand that the basic principle of the Socialist Party is: AN INJURY TO ONE IS THE CONCERN OF ALL. Until they recognize the foregoing, let them forever hold their peace." Includes a short biographical footnote on Eemeli Parras, a prolific journalist and writer who was deported from the United States to Soviet Russia in 1931 and who perished during the last days of the Ezhovshchina, in January 1939.



"Letter to Morris Hillquit at Saranac Lake, NY from Santeri Nuorteva in New York City, October 23, 1918." This document is useful as an illumination of the political perspective of Santeri Nuorteva -- a translator of John Spargo and close personal friend of Morris Hillquit on the one hand; an opponent of the anti-Bolshevik stance of Raivaaja managing editor Frans Josef Syrjälä on the other. Nuorteva calls Syrjälä "an honest Socialist and I value his friendship much, but he is one of those 'old fashioned' Socialists who feel themselves quite uneasy when something happens which on the surface of it is not in strict accordance with the rules laid by Kautsky. He takes his theories too literally and it seems to him impossible that the evolution [sic.?] in Russia may take a course somewhat different from that in other countries." One implication of this, of course, is that Nuorteva viewed the Russian revolution as an "acceptable deviation" from Socialist theory, rather than as a universalist prescription for socialist change in the future. Nuorteva had clashed with Syrjälä repeatedly on the matter, and he tells Hillquit that he suspects that Raivaaja had denounced his, Nuorteva's, activities on behalf of the Russian Revolution to alleviate the Post Office Department's threats upon the publication's mailing privileges. Nuorteva states that Syrjälä had a "general fear that my activities in the interest of the Russian revolution would incite the authorities into a prosecution of Finns in America and thus damage the many institutions we have built up in the past 15 years" and that this had further influenced Raivaaja's editorial policy, which had increased the difficulty of Nuorteva's work. Includes a biographical footnote on Santeri Nuorteva.


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"Membership Series by Language Federation for the Socialist Party of America: Dues Stamps Sold by Month -- January 1917 to March 1919." [compiled with footnotes by Tim Davenport] This document compiles and tallies complete dues information for 10 of the Socialist Party's 15 foreign language Federations as well as making use of incomplete statistics for the 5 others, drawing inferences from known statistics to fill in the blanks. It shows that far and away the largest Socialist Party Federation in the period was the Finnish, with a 1918 average membership in excess of 10,000; followed by the German (6150), Lithuanian (3,800), Jewish (nearly 3,800), and South Slavic (estimated at 2,300 in 1918 despite the disruption of having withdrawn from the party briefly in October over the question of the war). The figures show that in the 1st Quarter of 1919, the 15 language federations combined sold approximately 19,000 more dues stamps each month than they averaged during the previous year. This gain was not limited to the 7 federations summarily suspended by the National Executive Committee in May 1919, however, with the unsuspended Finnish Federation (+2,275), Jewish Federation (+2,450), German Federation (+1,800), Scandinavian Federation (+600), and Czech Federation (+450) accounting for nearly 40% of the total increase in the membership of the language groups in the period. The data shows a single gross dues anomaly among the suspended federations (March 1919 -- Ukrainian Federation) and potentially suspicious rates of growth in the 1st Quarter of 1919 in 2 others (Russian and Lithuanian). Dividing the sums of the Federation membership totals in the table into the known official paid memberships of the Socialist Party as a whole (1917 - 80,379; 1918 - 82,344; 1919-QI - 104,882) provides the information that an estimated 44.2% of SPA duespayers were members of foreign language federations in 1917, 45.8% in 1918, and 54.1% in the 1st Quarter of 1919.

JULY 1919

"Proclamation of the Finnish Socialist Federation," by Henry Askeli [July 23, 1919]  This lengthy manifesto issued by Henry Askeli of the Finnish Socialist Federation, while not fully endorsing the Left Wing Section and its program, effectively puts the majority Regular faction of the Socialist Party on notice that an adjustment of the party's ideological course to the left is demanded. The Finns express a position very close to that of the Left Wing on the taboo issue of "force and violence," declaring: "Violence and bloodshed do not make any movement revolutionary, and essentially they have noting in common.... But in its attempt to capture political power the working class cannot reject any weapon and the form of its revolution will finally depend upon prevailing conditions, and especially upon the opposition directed against its right of suffrage, other political rights, and against all other activities for gathering the forces of the working class, and against is endeavors for social reform." The leadership of the Finnish Federation -- largest language group in the Socialist Party including perhaps 10% of total party membership -- further provocatively declares: "Be the form whatever it may by which the transfer of power will occur, the rise to power of the organized workers will be followed by an era of proletarian dictatorship." The "absolute parliamentarism" of the Regular faction is "condemned," and the Finnish Federation announces that "mass action of the working class is shown by history to be the principle form to which the struggle will lead." The Finnish Federation declares itself to be of the Left Wing with this document, but the contend that party unity is "the all important matter" and acknowledge that "the organizing of a distinct organization within the party as such is a crime against the spirit of the constitution." Nevertheless the Finns "condemn the expulsions absolutely" and demand restoration of full rights immediately to those suspended or expelled from the party on the basis of "mere contentions, and without any formal investigations and hearings." The NEC had struck a blow "with a few strokes of the pen which disrupts the party completely," the Finns declare.


"The Socialist Party and Moscow: Statement Issued by the NEC in Reply to An Inquiry by the Executive Committee of the Finnish Socialist Federation. [Nov. 1920] A Minority Resolution initiated on the floor of the 1919 Chicago Emergency Convention and ratified by the membership of the Socialist Party via a referendum vote called for the party to affiliate in an international organization along with the Russian Bolsheviki and the German Sparticans. An application was duly sent to Moscow by National Executive Secretary Otto Branstetter on March 4, 1920. By the time of the SPA's 1920 Convention, no answer had been given from Moscow. Following the close of the 1920 Convention, membership of the SPA again reaffirmed their desire for affiliation with Moscow via referendum, placing more restrictions upon this allegiance. Shortly thereafter, the content of the "21 Conditions" for affiliation to the Communist International became known, throwing a wrench into the works. This report of the National Execuitve Committee of the SPA is intended to explain this political situation and to answer a request made by the Finnish Socialist Federation to "state clearly the attitude of the Party on the question of affiliation with the Communist International."



"United Communist Party -- "Groups" According to Language: As of December 1920." This is based upon an internal document of the United Communist Party captured by the Department of Justice's Bureau of Investigation in the April 1921 raid on UCP National Headquarters in New York. The UCP prided itself on having largely eliminated the federation-based form of organization which typified its rival, the Communist Party of America. Groups (Primary Party Units of between 5 and 10 members) were nevertheless based around language as well as geography and statistics tabulated by the organization. This snapshot from the midpoint of the UCP's one year of existence surprisingly shows more South Slavic (Croatian and Slovenian) language groups than any other (144), followed by the Russian (136), English (121), German (61), Latvian (49), Yiddish (37), Lithuanian (34), and Finnish (31) language groups.



"Finn Federation Report Pledges Aid for Party: Reorganized Socialist Division now has 3,300 Members with 66 Locals in 14 States...: Convention Decides Central Office Will Be Moved from Chicago to Fitchburg, Mass."(NY Call) [events of Aug. 13-15, 1921] This unsigned news report in the Socialist Party's New York Call announces the results of an August 1921 convention reorganizing the Finnish Socialist Federation, which had declared its independence from the SPA at the end of 1920 and slowly moved towards the Communist orbit. The reorganization convention had been attended by 12 delegates, each representing approximately 300 members of the Finnish Federation. The reorganized Finnish Socialist Federation included 66 locals in 14 states, predominantly in New England and elsewhere in the East. New organizational rules for the reorganized Finnish Socialist Federation were adopted and headquarters for the group were moved from Chicago to Fitchburg, MA -- location of the federation's daily newspaper, Raivaaja. The unknown Finnish-American writer optimistically notes: "Our Federation is now smaller than it has been for many years. But the days of dissension and dissolution are past. The agitated and chaotic state of the European Socialist movement, which has reacted upon our movement here, is slowly subsiding. The progress of events demonstrated that the new revolutionary theories, built by the Russian Communists upon the moment's expediency, are false. The workers, and especially the Socialists, received an object lesson in Marxian theory that there is no shortcut to Socialism. And this lesson will be of immense value for the Socialist movement in the future. It will save it from destructive emotionalism."



"Membership Series by Language Federation for the Workers Party of America. 'Dues Actually Paid' -- (March to June) vs. (July to Oct.) 1922 and 8 Month Average." Tim Davenport, ed. [from report of Dec. 24, 1922] This document summarizes federation-by-federation membership data presented to the 2nd National Convention of the Workers Party of America, based upon dues statistics generated through the month of October 1922. The statistics show that nearly half of the WPA in its first year were members of the organization's Finnish Federation. English was the 2nd largest of the 14 language sections (1 out of 8 WPA members hailing from English language locals), while the Yiddish language locals included 1 member out of 10.


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"Membership Series by Language Federation for the Workers Party of America. 'Dues Actually Paid' -- January to December 1923." Official 1923 data set of the Workers Party of America, compiled from a document in the Comintern Archive. This series shows a great numerical dominance of the WPA by its Finnish Federation, accounting for a massive 42.8% of the average monthly paid membership of the organization (6,583 of 15,395). The total of the English language branches is the 2nd strongest amongst the federations (7.6%) followed by the South Slavic (7.5%), Jewish [Yiddish language] (6.9%), and Lithuanian (6.0%) Federations. In all, there were statistics kept for 18 different language groups of the WPA in 1923, including the English and the barely organized Armenian sections.


"Initiation Stamps Sold by Federation for the Workers Party of America. January to December 1923." Official 1923 data set of the Workers Party of America, compiled from a document in the Comintern Archive. This series once again (repeating the previous published 1924 series) shows a schizophrenic pattern of stamp sales among language groups . Some federations clearly did not collect the initiation fees called for in the WPA constitution at all (Jewish, German, Latvian) while at the same time the quantities sold via the English branches are ridiculously high. Over 53% of the initiation stamps sold for the entire WPA were credited to the English branches -- nearly three times as many initiations than there were average duespayers in those English branches! Even assuming a significantly higher than average "membership churn" rate for English branches, there is clearly some other unexplained phenomenon at play in these English branch initiation stamp sale figures...


MAY 1923

"Problems of the Party (IV): Be American!" by John Pepper [May 26, 1923] In the 4th installment of his "Problems of the Party" series, party leader John Pepper analyzes the continued division of the Workers Party of America into a multiplicity of Language Federations, noting that not only the spoken language varies from group to group, "but often the ideology." He notes that "Our Russian comrades have a different historical tradition from the Italians, the Germans from the Poles. The workers belonging to various nationalities are still very deeply rooted in the social and political conditions of their old countries." Main issues of concern differed from group to group, as did their practical activity: "Our Italian comrades arrange a collection for the persecuted Communists of Italy, our German comrades send relief for the hungry children of German Communists. Our Hungarian comrades put forth great efforts to collect money for political prisoners suffering in Horthy's prisons. Our Polish comrades have made a collection for the support of the Communist election campaign in Poland. Our Ukrainian comrades collect money for the support of the Ukrainian publishing activities in Europe. Our Russian comrades are of course with heart and soul interested in relief of Soviet Russia. Our Jewish comrades collect money for needy Jewish workers in the Ukraine." Very often non-citizens and alienated from American political life, the Federations tended to retreat into their own "Ghettos," Pepper states. Political education and political activity had to be directed towards bringing the foreign-born majority of the WPA membership into the real American political struggle. To this end, Pepper puts forward the slogan "Be American!" -- a slogan which he says "means to struggle against the whole capitalist class of America; it means the hardest struggle against 100 percent nationalism of the jingoes. Be American means for the militant Communist to present the claim for the workers' rule of America."


Unspecified Month

"Membership Series by Language Federation for the Workers Party of America. 'Dues Actually Paid' -- January to December 1924." Official 1924 data set of the Workers Party of America, compiled from a document in the Comintern Archive. This shows a continued numerical dominance of the Workers Party of America by its Finnish-language federation, averaging a paid membership of 7100 (41% of the entire organization) for the year 1924. Impressive growth is shown by the Yiddish-language ("Jewish") federation, which moved to the third largest language group in the WPA in 1924. The English branches comprised the second largest language group in the WPA, but still remained just 11% of the overall organization. The South Slavic federation (predominately Slovenian and Croation) was the 4th largest language group in the WPA, topping the Russian, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian federations.


"Initiation Stamps Sold by Federation for the Workers Party of America. January to December 1924." Official 1924 data set of the Workers Party of America, compiled from a document in the Comintern Archive. An extremely interesting monthly series in which two unexplained anomalies are apparent: (1) The failure of at least 8 of the WPA's 18 language sections to make more than a token effort to collect the $1 initiation fee and obvious similar behavior (to lesser degree) among branches of other language groups; (2) A preposterously large sale of 5,264 initiation stamps to "English" branches, which averaged a paid membership of just 1909 over the course of the year. Either there was a revolving door in the English branches that was entirely dissimilar to the situation in any other language group of the WPA; or there was some sort of effort to collect initiation fees among "English" workers without organizational follow up; or there was some sort of strange accounting practice used by the WPA in which miscellaneous sales of initiation stamps were lumped into the "English" category (or some combination of these explanations). A perplexing question in raised, with further archival research clearly necessary.


"Memo on Branch Membership Status in WPA Dist. 9 to Executive Secretary C.E. Ruthenberg in Chicago from DO9 Clarence Hathaway in Minneapolis, Nov. 19, 1924." During the first 3 years of the Workers Party of America, the organization's primary component was the Finnish Socialist Federation, comprising nearly half of the organization's total membership. Nowhere was the Finnish Federation stronger, as a percentage of total membership, than in the WPA's Minneapolis District. This esoteric document from Minneapolis DO Clarence Hathaway analyzing the Minneapolis district branch by branch reveals a great deal about exactly what sort of partner the Finnish Federation was to the central WPA organization during the year prior to the structural reformation of the party under the moniker of "bolshevization." In branch after branch, dues collections as reported by Hathaway to have run several or many months late; dues paid frequently did not correspond to to the (irregularly-filed) reports of members on the books. Dual stamps seem to have been heavily utilized, possibly bordering on abuse, by some branches. Many branches had failed to complete their required industrial registration paperwork (matching up members with the unions and shops they were part of) or were otherwise unresponsive to the communications of the District Organizer. Hathaway's document is not a picture of a disciplined and organized party -- rather the opposite. In short, scholars may well need to examine this document and completely rethink the previous depiction of the "bolshevization" reorganization of 1925 in the literature. So-called "bolshevization" may well have been less an externally-determined and blindly-enforced diktat from abroad than a policy which spoke to rectifying festering conditions of disorganization, with lack of effective transmission belts between center and the branches and a tendency towards rampant "social" Federation membership rather than truly committed participation in the WPA organization.



"Criticism About the Practical Activities of the Party: Statement unanimously approved by the Editorial staff of Eteenpain [Worcester, MA], Dec. 3, 1924." In 1924, nearly 41% of the membership of the Workers Party of America were members of branches affiliated with the party's Finnish Federation. Despite the mammoth size of the Finnish Federation, comparatively little is known about the internal politics and development of this important institution. This editorial from one of the Finnish Federation's daily newspapers, Enteenpain, weighs in on the hotly debated and divisive farmer-labor party question as part of the pre-convention "Party discussion" of the matter. The unanimously approved Eteenpain editorial asserts that the WPA had made solid progress in 1924, with its membership increasing and its press gaining circulation. Despite these quantitative improvements, the WPA is said to be suffering from certain "weaknesses," including both a lack of ideological understanding commitment from rank and file members and a debilitating tendency towards factionalism among the leadership. This endemic factionalism had spilled over to the controversial question of the farmer-labor party tactic, the editorial asserts. While difference of opinion on such a matter was to be expected, "we believe that at the present time there has been no need to draft different sets of theses," Eteenpain declares. The Foster-Cannon-Lore majority had repudiated the farmer-labor party tactic -- a reasonable response to the "boasting and noisy campaign" initiated by John Pepper and his associates for a federated FLP, "a campaign which ate up energy and funds." However, the editorial continues, the error of overenthusiastically endorsing the FFLP was made by both main factions of the party leadership. "Now, when those great hopes have not been realized [the editorial continues], some of them again begin to overestimate that the coming of LaFollette has 'wholly' destroyed and eaten up the farmer-labor movement. This is no more true than the assumptions of a year ago." A falsely rosy view of the FFLP was being replaced by an overly pessimistic assessment. The editorial also complains of the way the CEC of the party was extracting excessive financial assessments from the membership to fund party activities and expanding the size (and financial burden) of the paid party apparatus at every turn. "The next convention should strive to prepare a strict budget of the National Office, because the financial burdens of our party are becoming too heavy," the editorial declares.


"Finnish Federation Bureau Supports CEC Majority Thesis." (Daily Worker) [Dec. 30, 1924] In 1924, nearly 41% of the membership of the Workers Party of America were members of branches affiliated with the party's Finnish Federation. This unanimous declaration of the governing Bureau of the Finnish Federation places the massive Finnish compliment of the WPA behind the Foster-Cannon "majority thesis" of the CEC on the farmer-labor party question: "The party has now come to the end of the road in its farmer-labor party agitation and organization; in fact the end of the road was reached July 8, last. The question now before the party is: shall we start this farmer-labor party agitation with its reckless maneuvering to follow all over again, in time when there is no actual basis for such agitation in existence? The minority in its thesis says 'yes.' The majority in its thesis says 'no.' We also say emphatically 'NO,' because our first experience does not warrant another trial at this time." There are no shortcuts to Communism in America, the resolution declares, and "our energy and means can be used to a better advantage in building up our own party organizationally and ideologically."


"The Party’s Finnish Section Reorganization Commission Is Planning Big Drive" (Daily Worker) [event of Oct. 19, 1925]   On Oct. 19, 1925, a special four member "Executive Subcommittee" of the Finnish Reorganization Commission held its first meeting to plan for an orderly transformation of the Finnish Federation of the workers party, organized around language branches, to a restructured Finnish section, based upon so-called "shop nuclei." More than 100 of the most important Finnish branches were identified, with these to hold special meetings to hear a representative of the Reorganization Commission and to reorganize themselves. A lengthy list of these speakers were identified, including General Secretary, Jay Lovestone, James P. Cannon, and top Finnish leaders such as Henry Puro, Elis Sulkanen, Fahle Burman, K.A. Suvanto, and others. This article from The Daily Worker is particularly valuable for its list of 121 communities and towns in which the Workers Party of America maintained Finnish-language branches.

"New Activity Under New Form," by William F. Kruse [Oct. 23, 1925]   The forthcoming restructuring of the Workers (Communist) Party is given an upbeat spin in this article from The Daily Worker. Kruse makes clear that the elimination of casual members in the language federations was not only expected but welcomed by the American party leadership. The "old territorial form of organization" being abandoned was a legacy of social democracy and its obsession with the bourgeois-democratic electoral process, Kruse notes, whereas the new form of organization was "the fruit of worldwide revolutionary experience." Kruse notes that opposition to the change is concentrated in the Finnish and German federations. He implies that the concern is misplaced, noting that in the Minneapolis district of the Workers Party, out of more than 60 towns in which the WPA had a presence, in over 50 there was only a single Finnish or Yugoslav branch, reducing the difficulty of forming multilingual shop nuclei. The loss of some members would be "undeniable, and also unavoidable," writes Kruse. "Elements, weak, unassimilated and unassimilable, will drop out. But by far the largest part of our proletarian elements will not only remain but will be heartened by the change to increase their strength."  A network of "worker clubs" would fulfill the role formerly played by Finnish socialist halls, Kruse indicates. Those members lost in the change would be individuals "who 'belong' for reasons of social or lingual gregariousness" who were "no material for our revolution, which must come from the workshop."


"About the Annual Meeting of Työmies," by K.E. Heikkinen [Feb. 13, 1926]   Summary of the factional struggle in the Finnish Federation of the Workers (Communist) Party of America in the aftermath of the organization's 1925 reorganization program, which put the party on the basis of shop nuclei instead of the previous language federation-based system. The party loyalist Heikkinen uses the term "party crisis" to describe the 1925 situation and writes here to chronicle the downfall of former member of the Central Executive Committee Henry Askeli, who was removed as editor of the party's central region Finnish daily, Työmies (The Worker) as an oppositionist. Reading between the lines, it appears that Askeli defended the semi-autonomy of the Finnish Federation from growing encroachment on the part of the W(C)PA's Central Executive Committee. It seems the Superior, Wisconsin subdistrict of the Minneapolis district was the heart of this oppositional activity, with many on the staff of Työmies supportive of Askeli. Askeli was cashiered at the 4th National Convention of the WPA, held in Chicago late in August 1925. Askeli issued an article or document about one week after the Aug. 30 close of the convention, detailing his own view of the situation, marking a formalization of his oppositional perspective. The editorial staff attempted to defend Askeli from dismissal on technical grounds, according to this article, but the effort was turned aside by a strong majority at the annual shareholders' meeting.

No Month 1928

"Amerikan kommunistinen liike ja suomalaiset siinä," by Henry Puro [1928] ***LARGE FILE (3.7 megs) ***  Graphic pdf of an 18 page historical article by Finnish-American Communist leader Henry Puro, from the pages of a 25-year anniversary volume published by the Työmies Society of Superior, WI. This material is in the Finnish language. If anyone can lend assistance by producing an English translation of this document, Anglophonic scholars of Finnish-American radicalism now and long into the future would be deeply appreciative. Please do contact me: Thanks!


MAY 1932

"The Finnish Socialists in America," by W.N. Reivo. [May 1932] Report of the Secretary of the Finnish Federation of the Socialist Party to the 17th National Convention of the organization, held in Milwaukee in May 1932. Reivo states in no uncertain terms that "the future of the Socialist Party in America is in the native born stock. They days of the language federations are in the past." Reivo notes that the children of Finnish immigrant socialist parents tend to join the English-language branches in their communities rather than the Finnish-language branches. This is not necessarily a bad thing, Reivo believes, as "perhaps it would be a mistake if the youth joined us directly and stood aloof of the body of the Socialist Party just as the older element does now." Nevertheless, the reputation of the Finnish Federation was greater than at any time since the 1920 split of the organization and the growth of the SP was edifying -- even if very few disgruntled ex-Communists were making the trek back to their former organization.


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