"Letter to the Comintern by the Representative of the Proletarian Party of America," by Dennis E. Batt. [First half of 1921] Dennis Batt, former member of the National Left Wing Council, was the Executive Secretary of the PPA at the time this letter to the CI was written. In it he asks for a ruling on the PPA's application for affiliation. Batt offers an analysis of the American situation startlingly close to the actual course of events: an explicit statement that "America has not been, is not, and will not be for a considerable time on the verge of revolution" and a strong recommendation that revolutionary rhetoric be terminated. He also advocated the immediate formation of "an organization that functions openly and propagates Communism as far as that is possible... This open organization should be controlled by the underground movement and would function as a recruiting ground for same." The letter was fully translated into Russian and may well have played some role in decision to move forward with the parallel legal-WPA/underground-CPA structure that emerged in the winter of 1921.
"Third International Events in America," by A.J. McGregor [March 1921] Commentary on the underground Communist Party of America and United Communist Party from the pages of the official organ of the Proletarian Party of America. McGregor states that unity negotiations between the CPA and UCP were said to be moving forward slowly, although other communist groups (such as the PPA) were not invited to participate in the negotiations. Given all the secrecy, McGregor notes that "It is far easier to follow the developments of the movement in far off Russia or Armenia than to know what is going on at home. Of course, if one were a police-spy it might be different." McGregor cites Lenin in support of the assertion that any sound principle taken too far can be transformed into absurdity, which is exactly how he views the CPA/UCP mania for underground organization. When "the entire work of a party must at all times be conducted in secret; and that in order to be truly revolutionary a communist party must of necessity be an outlaw organization, then the principle is transformed and made absurd," McGregor states. Anticipating the course of events in the CPA by nearly 2 years, McGregor argues that organization of the communist movement as an underground organization with camouflaged legal work means disaster : "To adopt such a plan of organization means simply that we would sever our connection with the general working class movement and turn the workers over to the gently nursing of the reactionary Socialist Party." Instead, primary party organization and function should be open, with the secret parallel organization called for by the Comintern to consist of "only the tried and experienced members" functioning alongside the open organization. McGregor additionally observes that "it would be the height of folly to advertise that such an organization existed."
"Stedman's Red Raid," by Robert Minor. [May 1, 1921] Full text of a pamphlet produced by the UCP's Toiler Publishing Association detailing a particularly disgusting footnote to the 1919 split of the Socialist Party. Minor indicates that in the immediate aftermath of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer's anti-red raid of January 2, 1920, Socialist Party attorneys Seymour Stedman and Lazaras Davidow attempted to expropriate the assets of the Socialist Party of Michigan under the flimsy pretext that as "Communists" the expelled Michiganites of the party's holding company were participants in a criminal organization which "advocated the overthrow of the government by force and violence." At bottom of this scheme was a Detroit headquarters building owned by the Michigan party, represented by Minor as having approximately $90,000 of equity. Stedman issued a Bill of Complaint paralleling the criminal charges of the state against the unfortunate Michigan party members already jailed for alleged violation of the state's Criminal Syndicalism law. He then red-baited the members of the legitimate holding company on the stand in an attempt to have the property awarded to a hastily gathered and miniscule Michigan "organization" retaining ties to the national SPA. Minor states that when they were at last confronted about their uncomradely behavior by concerned Socialist Party members, Stedman and Davidow thereafter lied and mislead their inquisitors as to their actions and had a further smoke screen laid by SPA National Executive Secretary Otto Branstetter with a fallacious news release of his own to the socialist press. A sordid tale of greed, deceit, and foul play...
"Berger's Convention," by John Keracher [July 1921] This is an interesting perspective of the 1921 Detroit Convention of the Socialist Party of America, written by the leader of the Proletarian Party of America (based in Detroit) and published in that organization's official organ. Keracher sees the 1921 SPA Convention as a triumph of "Bergerism," with the new SPA "Left Wing" based around the publication The Workers Council and the Chicago party organization tiny, isolated, and decisively defeated. "These delegates had practically no support, a fact that was quickly taken advantage of by Berger, who made them the target for his shafts of wit," Keracher notes, adding that the most controversial matter -- the question of international affiliation -- readily disposed of on the first day of the proceedings, with association with the 3rd and 2-1/2 Internationals defeated handily and a decision not to affiliate with any international body passed by a vote of 31 to 8. Berger mockingly referred to the Left Wing as "Chicago Communists," Keracher notes, adding that he talked down to Left Wing leader William Kruse "like a daddy talking to a wayward boy, hoping that he would bye and bye grow into a great big man." Keracher also emphasizes the debate over the question of the "Dictatorship of the Proletariat," with the Left Wing's endorsement of the concept of a "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" in the transition period from Capitalism to Communism defeated by a big majority. Thus "these 'pure democrats' who expelled only 60 percent of their membership expressed themselves as 'opposed to the rule of any Minority,'" Keracher snidely observes. A further split of the SPA Left Wing in the near future is anticipated by Keracher.
"The Proletarian Party of America," by Warren W. Grimes [July 20, 1921] The American secret police apparatus maintained a substantial network of professional agents and undercover spies observing and reporting upon a range of left wing and labor organizations in the early 1920s, running the gamut from unions to the Civil Liberties Bureau to the Socialist Party to parties of the revolutionary left. This document is a section of a report by a "Special Assistant to the Attorney General" examining the organizational nature and biographies of the two principal leaders of the Proletarian Party of America. The biographies of Dennis Batt and John Keracher are useful synopses of secret police reports, gathered by the "General Intelligence Division" of the Department of Justice's "Bureau of Investigation." A large section of Grimes' report, microanalyzing the program of the Proletarian Party, has been deleted from this version, but his conclusions remain: The PPA is described as a "novel case" which "has made consistent efforts, in its program and activities, to avoid the use of terms as well as clearly expressed tactics which would make it objectionable.... If the failure to use direct terms in the program is intended as camouflage...the attempt is futile, for where they have avoided using the express terms "forcible" or "mass action" and so forth, they have not been able to avoid the "dictatorship of the proletariat," the "Third International," the overthrow of the "capitalist state," the use of armed citizenry against the police and army, which are legal agencies of organized government employed according to law on works opposed to the accomplishment of communist aims, and so forth."
"The Third International Congress," by Dennis Batt [Nov. 1921] Proletarian Party of America representative to the 3rd Congress of the Comintern Dennis Batt (a guest rather than a delegate) outlines a number of policy positions of the CI -- each of which is said to support the long-standing position of the PPA -- in contrast to the contrary positions of the Communist Party of America. These included the assertion that successful revolution implies the winning of the conscious support of a majority of the working class and other toilers; the necessity of maintaining an open organization; the importance of making use of every means to win support for communism, particularly parliament and parliamentary elections; and the need to enter existing mass unions and thus "by virtue of their activity and devotion to the cause of the workers, to convince the membership that Communism is the only solution for the endless struggle in which they are engaged." In each of these instances, Batt indicates that the position of the Proletarian Party was closer to the current Comintern line than that of the Communist Party, the membership of which was said to be " too stupid and ignorant of the proper Communist position" on legalization, adherents of a "silly semi-syndicalist attitude" on participation in elections, and continuers of a 25 year old policy of attempting to organize "pure" unions and then try to smash the AF of L.
"Memorandum to the CEC of the CPA on the Proletarian Party," by H.M. Wicks [circa Dec. 1922] This memo from former member of the Proletarian Party Harry M. Wicks notes that "since the fact that the Comintern has so far ignored [the Proletarian Party] is the only excuse they now have for remaining out of the Communist Party of this country I suggest that a communication be sent direct to [the PPA] requesting them to work in harmony with other Communist groups in the United States. Such a communication would undoubtedly force the leaders of that party to act or would alienate their membership from them, with the result that all the better elements of the Proletarian Party would join the recognized party of the Comintern [the CPA] and proceed to work under the discipline of that party." This idea was met with the Dec. 22, 1922, letter from CPA Executive Secretary Abram Jakira to the Comintern requesting the same and providing an outline of the Proletarian Party's history and suggested content for the communication -- which was issued on Feb. 19, 1923 by ECCI Secretary General Otto Kuusinen. This memorandum by Wicks is an excellent summary of the early history of the Michigan tendency in the Socialist Party of America and its emergence as the Proletarian Party of America, describing the events of 1919 through the eyes of an adherent of the Michigan group. Wicks states that he had been a follower of the Michigan tendency since 1916, that is, prior to his moving to Portland, Oregon and activity in the Socialist Party of Oregon. This explains much of Wicks' seemingly unstable political activity in the 1920-22 period -- behavior that has been attributed by some to external direction, with Wicks in the role of police spy. Instead, a certain coherence and logic to Wicks' actions reveals itself. Wicks freely admits that he broke the discipline of the Michigan faction in 1919 when he accepted a position on the CEC and Executive Council of the new Communist Party of America, but provides an explanation for his behavior (that he was "hoping to be able to propagate the Michigan tendency in order to test the Party position at the next convention.") His subsequent action was wholly in accord with the PPA's general political line up to his break with that organization in the fall of 1922, it now seems. Includes copious footnotes and a short biography of Harry Wicks.
"Comments Regarding the Wicks Memorandum on the Proletarian Party of America," by C.E. Ruthenberg. [circa December 1922] C.E. Ruthenberg's critical comments on various aspects of Harry Wicks' December 1922 memo outlining Proletarian Party of America history and recommending that the Comintern issue a communication instructing the PPA to liquidate itself and for its members to join the CPA/WPA. Ruthenberg accuses Wicks of painting too rosy a picture of the Michigan group's ideology, noting that Batt's alternative program had been "laughed out of court" by the June 1919 Conference of the Left Wing Section; that the group had held a sectarian anti-union position and had rejected the entire notion of mass action; that Wicks had misrepresented the nature of the St. Louis Manifesto of 1917 and the Socialist Party of Michigan's response to it; that the CPA's ideology had been misunderstood and mischaracterized as "Blanquism;" that the PPA's organizational strength had been exaggerated by a factor of 2; and that the details of the Michigan group's exclusion from the CPA were presented inaccurately. Rather than being expelled in November 1919 as Wicks contended, Ruthenberg asserts that "The Proletarian group was still part of the Communist Party in January 1920 after the raids. I personally went to Detroit to reorganize the CP and conferred with [Al] Renner, [A.J.] MacGregor, and [John] Keracher. They refused to become part of an underground party. They were dropped out of the CP in February of 1920 because they refused to have any part in the reorganization."
"Letter to the Executive Committee of the Communist International Regarding the Proletarian Party of America from Abram Jakira, Executive Secretary of the Communist Party of America, Dec. 12, 1922." This letter from the head of the underground Communist Party of America to ECCI illustrates the way in which the center-periphery relationship between the early Comintern and its member national Communist Parties was not a one-way street with Moscow arbitrarily "commanding" and the national parties silently and compliantly "obeying." In this case, the CPA requests of Moscow that a political letter be written by the Comintern to the Proletarian Party of America, instructing PPA members who wish to participate in the international communist movement to immediately join the Communist Party of American and Workers Party of America. An outline history of the Proletarian Party and its split from the CPA is provided to the ECCI as background information for the writing of the letter. An extensive set of points for inclusion in the letter is also provided, including a statement that the Comintern should tell the PPA that it considers the members of the Proletarian Party "to be good Communists," that the decision to exclude the PPA from the preparations of the Workers Party of America be admitted as a "tactical mistake," that the PPA's educational work "must be applied to organizing large masses of workers under the banner of a revolutionary party," and so on. Jakira states to ECCI that the CPA seeks the infusion of the small Proletarian Party due to the fact that "they are mostly English-speaking, good speakers, several good writers and active union men. There is such a scarcity of such material in our own ranks that the addition of the several hundred members in their ranks will be of tremendous importance for our immediate activities." Jakira's request for a Comintern letter to the PPA was met by ECCI Secretary-General Otto Kuusinen on April 7, 1923, when he wrote an open letter to the members and CEC of the Proletarian Party (also available as a downloadable file).
"Open Letter to John Keracher, Executive Secretary of the Proletarian Party of America in Chicago from C.E. Ruthenberg, Executive Secretary of the Workers Party of America in New York, March 17, 1923." The Workers Party sought to consolidate their growth in 1923 by incorporating the members of the Proletarian Party of America into their ranks. The PPA (formerly based in the Socialist Party of Michigan) is lauded by Ruthenberg as "an earnest self-sacrificing group inspired by the determination to help realize the goal of the Communist movement." Membership in the Workers Party, with its "20,000 members" would enable these individuals to "render vastly greater service" to the Communist movement in America, Ruthenberg notes. Understanding the PPA's fundamental belief that the current task of the Communist movement is to educate and enlighten the working class to prepare it for an eventually assumption of the reins of state and economy, Ruthenberg holds up the attractive possibility that PPA members might well play "very great" service "along the line of assisting in carrying on the educational work within the party." Ruthenberg asks Keracher to take the issue of joining the WPA en masse up with the National Committee of the Proletarian Party.
"Open Letter to the Members and the CEC of the Proletarian Party of America from O.W. Kuusinen, Secretary-General of ECCI, April 7, 1923." In the spring of 1923, the Workers Party of America put on a full court press attempting to win over the members of the Proletarian Party of America to its ranks. This letter by the Secretary-General of the Executive Committee of the Communist International makes the appeal in no uncertain terms: "The whole Proletarian Party must join the Workers Party of America. All who accept the leadership of the Communist International must be inside the ranks. The Proletarian Party as the last detached organized remnant today asserting communist principles and adhering to the ideas of the Communist International must no longer delay in becoming part of the unified revolutionary working class movement of America." The PPA is lauded for its "valuable educational work in Marxism" through the conducting of study classes, lectures, and street meetings. At the same time, it is held that the PPA "overestimated the value of purely educational activity," which to be effective must be applied through participation in the mass revolutionary movement. "The party organizing the workers must have as its tactic the getting of larger and larger masses into action until ultimately the big mass of workers will be prepared for the final struggle for power," Kuusinen states. Kuusinen calls the isolation of the small Proletarian Party "tragic" and urges the members of the PPA to "join the Workers Party, to accept the program, constitution, and decisions adopted by the last convention of the party, and help to develop it into the revolutionary mass party of the American working class."
"What Heinous Crime is This?" by H.M. Wicks [May 26, 1923] The spring 1923 attempt of the Workers Party of America to convince the Proletarian Party of America to discontinue its separate existence and to amalgamate was decisively rejected by the National Executive Committee of the PPA. The NEC went on the offensive, instructing PPA members to discontinue support of and participation in the Trade Union Educational League and insisting that it, the PPA, remained the sole legitimate vehicle of American Communism. Former PPA member Harry Wicks was called upon to return the salvo in kind, which he did with this article from the pages of The Worker. Wicks pulls no punches, calling his former comrades on the PPA's NEC "boastful hypercritical super-Marxists (?)" who were tending towards the swamp of Centrism through their over reliance on rank and file spontaneity in lieu of vanguard leadership. Wicks ironically remarks that "The Proletarian Party favors independent political action of labor, but that action must be confined to the Proletarian Party and does not embrace a Labor Party. However, it will favor a Labor Party 'if brought on by the rank and file.' What sort of leadership is this? Here are those who pretend to be a part of the vanguard of the proletariat waiting for the rank and file to act, then they, as gallant leaders, will follow." The Proletarian Party leadership dismisses the program of the Workers Party as a "fig leaf to cover old Centrist Leaders," Wicks notes, but in actual fact, the PPA's belief that a Labor Party was impossible without its development through the spontaneous action of rank and file workers was "as ridiculous as the opposite position held by J.B. Salutsky and his Centrist group," who asserted that a Labor Party is impossible due to resistance of Samuel Gompers and the AF of L machine. These were two sides of the same coin, in Wicks' opinion. "In the present case it is clear that the objective conditions for such a Labor Party are here, and evidence is accumulating every day that the subjective condition, viz., a strong demand for such a party from the rank and file of labor, also exists," Wicks asserts.
"Letter to O.W. Kuusinen, Secretary, Executive Committee of the Communist International in Moscow from John Keracher, National Secretary, Proletarian Party of America in Chicago, May 26, 1923." Formal reply of the Proletarian Party of America to the Feb. 19, 1923, request of Otto Kuusinen on behalf the Communist International that the PPA liquidate its organization and join the ranks of the Workers Party of America. Keracher indicates that the Comintern is seriously misinformed about the situation in America -- that neither the Proletarian Party nor the Workers Party itself was in any way a mass political organization of the American proletariat. "Far from having achieved influence in and having gained control of any portion of the labor movement, the WP is following a course which, if unchecked, will add to the discredit of the revolutionists within the organized labor movement of America," Keracher remarks, adding that "If members of the Proletarian Party have "attacked" some leaders of the Trade Union Educational League, it has been because they disagreed with the tactics of these individuals. If the Proletarian Party has withdrawn its support from the Trade Union Educational League, it has done so after mature consideration." Keracher emphatically states that "While being desirous of cooperating at all times with the work of the Communist International in the struggle against world capitalism, the steps urged upon the Proletarian Party in the communication [i.e. liquidating itself and joining the CPA/WPA] are so out of harmony with the requirements of the revolutionary movement in America that the Proletarian Party can not bring itself to an acceptance of this unsound proposal." Keracher closes with a call for "COMMUNIST UNITY," which he characterizes as an amalgamation based upon "full knowledge of conditions here, and this knowledge can only be obtained by a thorough investigation and study of conditions as they exist in America, as well as the principles of the different revolutionary groups here" rather than through external fiat.
"The Proletarian Party and Its Work," by John Keracher. [Jan. 1929] Keracher, the leading figure in the Proletarian Party, outlines the organization's history and political philosophy in the loosest of terms in this article which first appeared in the Jan.-Feb. 1929 issue of the Party's official organ, The Proletarian.