"William Z. Foster," by William Hard [Jan. 7, 1920] Mill owners shamelessly red-baited Steel strike leader William Z. Foster as part of their effort to win the battle of public opinion and thus the strike. This article from The New Republic by liberal journalist William Hard comes to the defense of the embattled radical strike leader. Foster is portrayed as a brilliant self-taught worker who had lived a life of varied employment activities and whose thinking had developed an matured over time. He had come to the central idea of a single, united "church" of labor -- a position at odds with the theory and practice of the syndicalist, dual unionist IWW. "Mr. Foster urged the IWW to turn their rivulet back into the stream" of labor but the IWW had "remained stiff-necked in their heresy, and they continued to abide in their schismatic organization." Thereafter Foster is said to have moved wholeheartedly into the AF of L mainstream -- "an extreme case of the heretic turned churchman." Hard declares that "United States Senators may grieve and droop, thinking how Mr. Foster is undermining the Trade Union Movement. I shall worry when I see Mr. Gompers worrying. Mr. Gompers needs no worldly wisdom from anybody on the Hill, and he certainly needs no instruction in the salvation of trade unionism from people who do not know the beginning of the trade union creed. The beginning of the trade union creed may have something to do with unswerving absolute loyalty to The Trade Union Movement as existing, as organized, as officered, as led. Mr. Foster gives that loyalty and is known to give that loyalty."
"Note to Leon Trotsky Regarding a Survey on Conditions in America Distributed in Advance of the 1st World Congress of RILU from Earl Browder, Delegate, in Moscow, May 9, 1921." Short addendum to responses made by others to a survey circulated by Leon Trotsky among delegates to the 1921 World Congress of the Red International of Labor Unions. UCP member and RILU congress delegate Earl Browder writes to Trotsky about future revolutionary possibilities in America. Browder declares that "mass-action of the workers in America almost invariably springs from the ranks of organized labor or finds its expression in the attempt to organize. It is usually defeated and dispersed by some definite act of submission of the union officials to the capitalists or to the capitalist state." The volatile events of 1919, with strikes in steel, mining, and on the railroads, demonstrated "that it is within the realm of possibility, in the immediate future, for the Communists of America to take over the direction of the labor movement if they could be given a clear idea of the technical requirements for labor union leadership and administration. A compact, well educated Communist minority in the great mass organizations, united upon a clear program of practical action, can obtain the strategical positions of power in organized labor. With these positions the masses can be thrown into direct conflict with the state whenever a similar situation arises, like that of 1919." Browder therefore feels it of primary importance that Communist activists be instructed so as to be able to fulfill the technical requirements needed for union leadership."
"Wherefore Stand Ye Divided?" by William Z. Foster [May 28, 1921] This article is a bit of a curiosity -- a piece written by closeted Communist union leader William Z. Foster and published in The New Day, propaganda weekly of the Socialist Party of America (probably distributed by the Federated Press as the conduit). Foster outlines the fundamental principles of his union philosophy: "For a generation virtually the whole radical movement has been wasting itself on utopian union projects," Foster declares, dedicating themselves to futile radical dual unions and abandoning the mass organizations to the control of a conservative bureaucracy. In Foster's view the dual unions violate what Foster calls "the first principle of unionism, namely the solidarity of labor." Foster states that the dual unions are essentially utopian attempts to bypass the normal development of mass unions -- which in other countries typically include a broad array of ideological tendencies, including "Anarchists, Socialists, Communists, Catholics, Protestants, atheists, craft unionists, industrial unionists, etc.," instead basing themselves on narrow ideological tenets "not held by the great masses." The normal course of union development includes 3 phases, Foster believes, including "(1) Isolation; (2) Federation; and (3) Amalgamation." Foster bitterly notes: "but our dual unionists ignore it all. They have their spick and span, blueprinted, perfected organizations. And they ask an ignorant working class, habituated to craft unionism, to throw aside their old unions, built through 40 years of strife and struggle, and to join themselves forthwith to the highly advanced type they propose. They would abolish the law of labor union development. That's all. Is it any wonder that the American radical movement stagnates, resting as it does upon such a bizarre and unworkable economic program?"
"The Red Trade Union International: The First World Congress of Revolutionary Unions," by Earl R. Browder [events of July 3-??, 1921] Pioneer American Communist Earl R. Browder, a delegate to the 1st World Congress of the Profintern held in Moscow in the summer of 1921, provides an account of the gathering for the members of the Workers Party of America. Browder characterizes the gathering as the "culmination of a long historical development in the principles and tactics of the international labor movement" in which the wartime use of European trade unions as recruiting grounds for the army and post-war period of the trade unions being instruments of the immediate political situation, in which the bureaucratic leadership of the unions had blocked the revolutionary impulses of the rank and file, had given way to a new phase. "By the spring of 1920 a great movement of revolt against the reactionary control of the trade unions by the international organization at Amsterdam was in full swing throughout Europe," Browder asserts, adding that "this revolt was spontaneous, chaotic and unorganized, and without center or directing head. "The first steps taken to unite all these forces into one disciplined body were taken in Moscow in July 1920, when the leaders of the Russian trade unions took advantage of the presence of many union representatives from England, Italy, France, and other countries, some of whom were attending the Congress of the Communist International, and invited them to confer," Browder states. Anti-political revolutionary syndicalists chose to participate in the 1st World Congress of the Profintern in an attempt to capture it, but this tendency was decidedly in the minority, Browder notes. Browder promises further commentary on the specific issues of division in a future article, which does not appear to have made print in the pages of The Worker.
"W.Z. Foster, Back from Europe, Pins Faith on Economic Action: Labor Man Slips Quietly Into US After Months in Russia, Italy, Germany, France, England -- Confident of Soviets' Success and Leadership of ACW Here." [Sept. 15, 1921] This article from the pages of the Socialist Party's New York Call documents the return of William Z. Foster from his extended tour of Russia, Germany, Italy, England, and France on behalf of the Federated Press. The friendly writer of this piece indicates that "There are two things of which Foster remains sincerely convinced: that the Russian revolution is a success and that the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America will continue to be the leader among American labor organizations." Foster is characterized as "an optimist, confident of the ultimate victory of the working class in the very near future," despite his belief that the world was enmeshed in a "trough of reaction," with the revolutionary movement stilted across Europe. The Call writer says that Foster argued that one of the most serious problems facing the European labor movement was "the lack of restraint of the younger men." Foster recalled that in Germany and Italy "the workers were continually called on strike, how often at intervals of only 2 or 3 days, for Mooney, for Russia, because some leader had been assaulted, and for hundreds of trifling incidents in the course of events. The workers have struck time and again and nothing has happened. They have become tired of striking." The revolutionary moment had particularly passed in Germany, in Foster's estimation, where "with 9 million members in the unions alone and the workers thoroughly conscious of their political power, the average workman laughs when asked about the revolution."
"The Principles and Program of the Trade Union Educational League," by William Z. Foster [March 1922] This early leaflet of the Trade Union Educational League reprints an article by the group's founder, William Z. Foster, on the thinking behind the organization. America was marked by a particularly backwards state of unionism, in Foster's view, with fewer than 4 million out of 27 million workers unionized -- a far lower rate than that of Germany or Great Britain. Worse still, these unionized workers were dissipated throughout a maze of craft unions, often at cross-purposes with one another. These unions were furthermore in their political infancy, Foster states, not having "advanced to the point of even rudimentary political class consciousness." With two international organizations of unions in the field, the "reformists" of Amsterdam and the "revolutionaries" of Moscow, the "pitiful" conservative American trade union establishment was, alone in the world, unwilling to join either "on the ground that both are too revolutionary." TUEL was organized to combat the 30 year trend of radical workers deserting the "backward" and "ultra-conservative" American union movement, Foster states. He announces a determination to "develop trade unions from their present antiquated and stagnant condition into modern, powerful labor organizations capable of waging successful warfare against Capital. To this end it is working to revamp and remodel from top to bottom their theories, tactics, structure, and leadership. Instead of advocating the prevailing shameful and demoralizing nonsense about harmonizing the interests of Capital and Labor, it is firing the workers' imagination and releasing their wonderful idealism and energy by propagating the inspiring goal of the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of a workers' republic." A dual structure of TUEL organization is posited including "general groups" formed in localities as well as others formed as "industrial sections." A non-dues organization, the sale of "pamphlets, bulletins, journals, etc." was to be paramount, with the monthly magazine The Labor Herald proclaimed to be the official conduit of a "burning message of constructive unionism and solidarity."
"Which International?" by Earl Browder [April 1922] "Which labor International should workers support -- Moscow or Amsterdam?" asks Trade Union Educational League magazine editor and future Communist Party chief Earl Browder. Not surprisingly, the case is laid out for support of the Red International of Labor Unions based in Moscow. Browder decries the Amsterdam International for having been organized "under the protection and with the cooperation of the capitalist League of Nations" and accuses them of having repaid this favor by splitting and disrupting the French labor movement. He charges that "Amsterdam, in short, is the last stand of the forces of reaction in the labor movement; it is the organized 'stand-patters,' those who never learn, and whose highest conception of the movement is as a means to get a fat government job." By way of contrast, RILU is said to have "emphatically opposed all attempts to split any national trade union movement," particularly that of France, and to have become the home for all "life-giving elements of the trade union movement."
"Report on the United States of America: A confidential document prepared for the Comintern, June 1922." by James P. Cannon A lengthy and detailed assessment of the economic and poitical situation in America attributed to WPA man in Moscow James P. Cannon and dated to June 1922 from content. An extremely revealing glimpse at party thinking with regard to specific unions (United Mine Workers, Metal trades, Needle trades, Railway Brotherhoods, local federations) the role of the Trade Union Educational League, the position of the party towards the IWW and the Socialist Party, the Farmer-Labor Party, the Conference for Progressive Political Action, negro political organization, Russian famine relief, application of the United Front policy, role of the party press, position of the CEC towards the Central Caucus faction opposition, and the relationship between the underground CPA and the "overground" WPA -- including specifics about the thinking of dissenters on the Central Executive Committee Ludwig Katterfeld, Alfred Wagenknecht, and Robert Minor. Cannon speaks of a conscious strategy of the CEC to shift the "seat of Party authority" from the underground party (as a directing center of the legal organization) to the legal organization (with the underground apparatus a sub-division under the control of the "overground" organization. This transition is slated to take time, Cannon indicates, as "the CEC takes the position that the seat of Party authority can be transferred from the illegal to the legal party only after the latter has become a Communist Party in the full sense of the word -- if its program, contents of propaganda, international affiliation, and name are those of a Communist Party."
"The Crisis on the Railroads," by William Z. Foster [June 17, 1922] With TUEL funded for 1922 to the tune of $5,000 by the Comintern via the Communist Party of America, this typeset news release was produced for the Trade Union Educational League by the Workers Party Press Service. In it, TUEL head William Z. Foster weighs in on the economic situation facing common workers of the rail transportation industry. Foster provides statistics to demonstrate the miserable financial situation faced by the Shopmen (repair workers) and Maintenance of Way workers -- pitiful salaries which were under further attack by railroad ownership forces. A "lickspittle" Railroad Labor Board, controlled by the employers, had approved reductions of salary, pushing many employees off the financial precipice. The solution seems clear to Foster: "What must be done in this crisis? Strike, of course, if the Railroad Labor Board tries to make its recent infamous decision stand up. But not a strike of a few crafts. Make it a strike of every railroad man in the United States. Anything short of this would be a crime. The railroad employers of the country are united. They are determined to crush the unions and to wipe them off the railroads. The railroad men, therefore, must stand together in one solid body."
The Bankruptcy of the American Labor Movement, by William Z. Foster [Oct. 1922] Full text of a pamphlet published by the Trade Union Educational League as No. 4 in its "Labor Herald Library" series, authored by the founder and secretary of the TUEL organization, William Z. Foster. Foster depicts the weak position of American unionism as a byproduct of the dual unionist tradition of the countries radical labor militants, who anathmetized the American Federation of Labor in favor of a series of ineffectual attempts to build an explicitly radical alternative. This strategy was wrong-headed, Foster argues, noting the unions congealed in the AF of L were actually "primitive but genuine attempts of an ignorant working class to organize and fight the exploiters that are harassing it." It was the widespread perception among the militants that the AF of L was a hopelessly conservative, capitalist organization incapable of development that provided the prime explanation "why the Socialists did not invade the AF of L, depose the Gompers regime, and change the whole face of the labor movement twenty years ago." Foster optimistically adds that "the new movement, as represented by the Trade Union Educational League, repudiates the conception, long a dogma of the dual unionists, that the trade unions are anchored to the principle of craft unionism and cannot develop into industrial organizations." This pamphlet includes a useful chapter in which Foster recounts his previous organizational activities as founder of the Syndicalist League of North America, the International Trade Union Educational League, and the TUEL itself.
"Report on the Labor Union Situation in the United States and Canada, Dec. 16, 1922," by William Z. Foster. A confidential report from the Comintern Archive, likely intended to Grigorii Zinoviev and other decision-makers in the Comintern apparatus. Foster describes the efforts of the Trade Union Educational League in rather heroic terms, stating that with a paid staff of 2 and virtually no funding it had "started" the amalgamation movement, which was "now the sensation of the American trade unions" and "running like wildfire." As unions melted away under the fire of the capitalist offensive, rand and file revolt against "Gompersism" was brewing. Foster requests an annual appropriation of $25,000 to fund four full-time field organizers for TUEL and upgrade the official organ of the organization, The Labor Herald.
"W.Z. Foster Defeats Ranger Autocrat: Labor Leader Returns to Denver and State Official Who Deported Him in Violation of Law Resigns." (Miami Valley Socialist) [event of Dec. 31, 1922] On Dec. 31, 1922, head of the Trade Union Educational League William Z. Foster made a triumphant return to Denver, Colorado, delivering a public address in a state from which he had been illegally kidnapped and deported the previous August. This report in a Socialist Party weekly notes: "No sooner had Gen. Pat Hamrock, commanding the Colorado Rangers, kidnapped Foster from the Oxford Hotel in Denver Aug. 6 , than arrangements were begun by the American Civil Liberties Union to bill Foster at a public protest meeting in Denver. Roger N. Baldwin, director of the union, carried on correspondence with Gov. Shoup, under whose authority Hamrock held his job, and finally after the November election, Shoup climbed down. His policies had been overwhelmingly repudiated by the Colorado voters, who had elected William E. Sweet, Democrat, as Governor. Sweet had denounced Hamrock's lawless Rangers."
"'Militants, Notice!': An Advertisement for the Trade Union Educational League" (circa 1923). Machine-readable facsimile of an advertisement appearing on the inside front cover of an early TUEL pamphlet by William Z, Foster -- almost certainly written by Foster himself. The ad states that the Trade Union Educational League is "in no sense a dual union," but rather is "purely an educational body of militants within existing mass unions, who are seeking through the application of modern methods to bring the policies and structure of the labor movement into harmony with present day economic conditions." TUEL is called "a system of informal committees throughout the entire union movement, organized to infuse the mass with revolutionary understanding and spirit" and basing its work on the existing union structure rather than upon "starting rival organizations based upon ideal principles." It is this tendency of progressive unionists to establish dual union organizations that is "one of the chief reasons why the American labor movement is not further advanced," the ad declares.
"A Year of the League," by Charles Krumbein [Feb. 1923] Recap of the events of the first year of existence of William Z. Foster's Trade Union Educational League by one of his co-thinkers. Krumbein sets readers straight about the actual birth date of the organization, noting that "Although the Trade Union Educational League was organized in November 1920, it is really only a year old, because previous to the launching of The Labor Herald in March 1922, it consisted of little more than a few scattered groups throughout the country." Krumbein sees real progress for TUEL in its advocacy of a Labor Party, affiliation with the Red International of Labor Unions (Profintern), and in advancing the slogan of Amalgamation as a mechanism to achieve industrial unionism. Krumbein notes the integration of the radical movement into the existing union structure had been instrumental in helping cure the "infantile sickness of dual unionism." Krumbein notes the coordinated efforts of Samuel Gompers and his "lackeys" to attempt to "discredit the League in the eyes of the rank and file by painting it red and denouncing it as a Russian conspiracy against the labor movement." Circulation of The Labor Herald needs to be quadrupled to 50,000 copies per month, Krumbein opines.
"An Open Challenge," by C.E. Ruthenberg. [March 1923] At the end of February 1923, jury selection for the first trial resulting from the August 1922 Bridgman, Michigan raid was begun. The best-known public figure among the defendants, William Z. Foster, was chosen by the prosecution to first face the jury. This article by C.E. Ruthenberg, published in the March 1923 issue of The Liberator, marks the beginning of this trial. Ruthenberg charges that the Palmer Raids of 1919-20 had as their goal not prosecution for crime but rather destruction of the radical movement and that the "bugaboo of violence" alleged of the revolutionary socialist left would be belied by the evidence presented at the Michigan trials. "No Communist advocates the use of violence in the class struggle in the United States today.... No Communist has been convicted of an overt act of violence in the United States," Ruthenberg notes.
"The Trial of William Z. Foster," by Robert Minor. [April 1923] Labor cartoonist and Communist Party leader Robert Minor writes here about the start of the William Z. Foster trial. Foster was charged in conjunction with the 1922 raid of the CPA's Bridgman, Michigan Convention with "unlawful assemblage" under the state's Criminal Syndicalism Law, for which he could have been imprisoned for up to ten years. Particular attention is paid to the seating of the jury and efforts of the government -- in conjuction with the Burns Detective Agency -- to sway public opinion in the case. Minor states that "the prosecution of Foster is a bald attempt of the Harding Administration to mould the American labor movement in its own image. Before the jury was completed the prosecution had deŽnitely outlined its purpose to eliminate the Trade Union Educational League from the American Federation of Labor, the imprisonment of Foster being one of the intended means."
"Getting Together," by Eugene V. Debs. [April 1923] Article by the Socialist Party of America's 5-time Presidential candidate on the trade union situation in America, published in the monthly magazine of the Trade Union Educational League. Debs states that recent defeats of major strikes in the steel, mining, and railroad industries would have been winnable had they been conducted by unified industrial unions rather than a multitude of fragmented craft unions -- a form of organization which Debs believed to be an obsolete relic of individual handicraft production, utterly unsuited to the large-scale and complex industry of the modern world. In advancing the end of amalgamation of existing craft unions into large industrial unions, Debs wholeheartedly supports the work of the TUEL: "The Trade Union Educational League, under the direction and inspiration of William Z. Foster, is in my opinion the one rightly directed movement for the industrial uniŽcation of the American workers. I thoroughly believe in its plan and its methods and I feel very conŽdent of its steady progress and the ultimate achievement of its ends."
"On Trial in Michigan," by William Z. Foster. [May 1923] On April 4, 1923, after 31 hours of deliberation and 36 ballots, the jury in the William Z. Foster case resulting from the Aug. 1922 Bridgman Raid was declared deadlocked 6-6 and dismissed, resulting in a mistrial. This is Foster's interesting personal account of the trial, written in the immediate aftermath of the proceeding and published in the pages of the monthly TUEL journal, The Labor Herald. Foster noted that his case had been rightfully made into a test of Free Speech rights and that the mistrial represented a major defeat to the forces behind the case: the federal Department of Justice and the Burns Detective Agency. Foster asserts that government agent Francis Morrow was a provocateur who voted repeatedly for maintenance of the underground party at the Bridgman convention and who lied repeatedly on the stand in an effort to bolster the government's case for conviction.
"Attempt to Murder Foster! Gunmen Burst in on Union Meeting and Open Fire on Labor Leader as He Commenced Speaking at Protest Meeting Against Expulsion of Garments Unionists by Perlstein," by Jack Johnstone [events of Aug. 27, 1923] One of the little-known details about the life of William Z. Foster is that he survived an attempt against his life by a gunman, as this news report from the Workers Party's Chicago English language weekly recounts. Foster was speaking before nearly 2,000 at Carmen's Auditorium in Chicago at a mass meeting called to protest the expulsion of a number of TUEL activists by the General Executive Board of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union. "Foster had just commenced speaking, when suddenly the door to the right of the platform was thrown open and 3 shots fired - all of them at Foster, who owes his life to the fact that the gunmen were so anxious to cover their faces that it interfered with their aim. The gunmen came up the fire escape and went out the same way," Johnstone notes. Johnstone indicates that this attempt at Foster's life came only after a failed attempt by ILGWU partisans to disrupt the meeting by steadily heckling each speaker. The meeting passed a resolution, included here, condemning the expulsions and urging the GEB of the ILGWU to reconsider its actions.
"The Yellow Streak in Coal," by J. Louis Engdahl. [Sept. 1923] During the first half of the 1920s the most volatile sector of the American economy was that of coal mining -- a wave of strikes swept the country. This wave of militacy found reflection in the United Mine Workers Association, as insurgent leaders like Alexander Howat of Kansas came to the fore, clashing with the established leadership of the union, led by John L. Lewis. This article, published in the Communist Party press in September 1923, details the struggle between the Trade Union Education League-backed UMWA militants and the leadership of the International Union. Engdahl characterizes the militants and reflective of the desires of the rank-and-file and the established leadership as corrupt and collusionist.
Advertisement Requsting TUEL Members to Purchase Shares in the Daily Worker Publishing Co. [Sept. 1923] Machine-readable text of an advertisement in the monthly organ of the Trade Union Educational League soliciting the purchase of $5 shares of "preferred stock" in The Workers Publishing Co. A fundraising drive to raise $100,000 to fund the Daily Worker was hereby announced, with the paper to be launched by the Workers Party of America in Chicago on November 7, 1923 -- the 6th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. While the paper was to be published in Chicago, funds for shares of stock were to be sent to 799 Broadway in New York City.
"Police Report that Real Bullets Were Fired at W.Z. Foster," by Carl Haessler [Sept. 8, 1923] Whether the gunman that fired three shots at William Z. Foster at an August 27 TUEL protest meeting was actually trying to kill him was a matter of some debate in the mainstream press, with the Right Wing Chicago Tribune twice levying the charge that the entire incident was a fake planned by Foster and his associates to garner publicity and support. This article by Carl Haessler of the Federated Press quotes Detective Sergeant Crowley of the Chicago police: "From our investigation we have no reason to believe the Tribune statement that the shooting was 'faked,'" reads Crowley's statement, adding that "we have not caught the assailant, but are working on the case." Haessler also cites the unnamed manager of Carmen's Hall: "The manager of the hall declares that he had noticed a number of interrupters who were getting ready for more pronounced action and he spoke to them asking who they were. They told him, he says, that they were members of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. He advised them to abandon their tactics and for a while there was quiet. Then after Foster had begun speaking a man in the audience near the emergency exit tapped loudly on the bottom of a seat. Immediately afterwards, the door suddenly opened, a single gunman fired, masking his face with one arm, and fled." Haessler states that "The bullet holes were plainly visible to me. They were evidently made through hasty pulling of the trigger while the gunman brought the revolver down forearm to level it at Foster. The first bullet narrowly missed a huge inverted electric light bowl, of which there were 2 in the line of shots. The second shot wavered a little to the right of the first, but 6 feet nearer the platform. The last was in direct line and 10 feet closer to Foster."
"An Open Letter to William Z. Foster," by Scott Nearing [May 10, 1924]. This document, first published in the pages of The Daily Worker, is provocative left wing critique of the tactics being followed by the Workers Party of America and its trade union arm, the TUEL. Nearing states that in contrast to Foster, he did not believe there was a widespread revolutionary ferment among rank and file American workers which was being impeded by a reactionary union officialdom. To the contrary, Nearing states that the rank and file had been lined up in defense of the capitalist order by "the most complete system of propaganda, lies, diversions, amusements, excitements, and thrills that the world has ever produced." Public schools, newspapers, and movies had been employed with success "to put their interpretation on events, to suppress information, or to deliberately misrepresent the facts," in Nearing's view. Further, those American workers who did tend to believe in radical change tended to be European immigrants; "the native born American who believes in fundamental change is the exception and not the rule." Thus, outside of certain hotbeds like Butte, Seattle, New York, and Chicago, the revolutionary movement was miniscule and ineffectual. This perspective of the ideology of the American working class had important tactical implications, Nearing strenuously argued: education needed to be conducted, forces marshalled, decisive tests of strength avoided until such time that the battle could be actually won. For, Nearing stated, "an organization cannot stand too many defeats. Napoleon marched only once into Russia, but that once was enough to wreck his fortunes. The radical movement in the United States, following your policies, is marching toward its Moscow. When your front is sufficiently extended, and you are well cut off from your reserves, the enemy will annihilate your, as they annihilated your Steel Strike Organization five years ago." John Pepper and Foster were following a course "based on Russian experience, which is quite unfitted to cope with the situation you confront in the United States, and which you drive your party to ruin if you pursue it," Nearing warned.