Reds! A Revolutionary Timeline: (Special Edition)
For those of you have followed and commented on Reds!, this will at least in part be a retread of what you've already read. However, this is the revised, definitive edition of the timeline, so there will be changes, new material and retcons abound. I hope that this will make a more complete alternate history. Unfortunately, this will be distracting me from updates for some time.
However, Illuminatus_Primus and myself are collaborating on this retcon project, with the hope of accomplishing it as quickly and thoroughly as possible, so that we can continue to surge ahead with the rest of the timeline. This will be part of the overall transition of the TL from a one-person show (with heavy reader input) to a collaborative TL. This baby has grown too big for one person to manage at any decent rate.
So, without further adieu, I present the revised Reds! TL.
The Central Committee’s Staff
The brainchild of PBS 7’s Aaron Sorkin, The Central Committee’s Staff was a weekly television drama that detailed the lives and work of the men and women in the Central Committee’s senior staff. The senior staff of the Central Committee are responsible for the unglamorous but crucially necessary work that keeps the government of the UASR functioning. Often criticized for having an overly optimistic picture of the inner functions of socialist democracy at the union level, it remained a huge critical and viewer success on public television for eight seasons before drawing to a close.
Here follows an excerpt from a novelization of the pilot episode:
So begins another day at the Committee’s Office. With all of the activity in the lobby this morning, it is easy to forget that this is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the seat of the All-Union Central Committee for the Union of American Socialist Republics, and not a busy subway terminal. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the early morning activity, a stately man, advanced in age, walks briskly past the security guards at the entrance. He moves quickly through the lobby, weaving past a busy clerical worker as he walks towards the receptionist’s office.
“What was the cause of the accident?”
“What are you, from the NHS?” he sighed, “Go! Do a job or something!”
“I'm just asking-”
He anticipated her next question: “He was swerving to avoid a tree...”
“What happened?” she asked.
“He was unsuccessful.”Excerpts from Sean Hannity, A History of the Worker's Vanguard in America, 1876-1946, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999)
The Socialist Labor Party grew respectably throughout the 1890s. Under the firm but often heavy handed leadership of the brilliant theoretician Daniel DeLeon, the party and the affiliated Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance increased it's influence within the American working class. However, there were notable setbacks in this period. German language sections of the Socialist Labor Party chafed under DeLeon's rigid ideological purity, particularly this centered around the Newyorker Volkszeitung.
The real godsend came when the relatively young leftist organization, Social Democracy of America, chaired by Eugene Debs, folded into the Socialist Labor Party in 1898. The young organization had formed out of the remnants of the American Railway Union, crushed by the bourgeois state during the Pullman Strike of 1894. It's members, most often relatively new to the politics of Marxian socialism, represented a diverse spectrum of left-wing radicals, from industrial unionists like Debs, to city sewer socialists, to Owenite utopian socialists. After rejecting initial plans for co-operative colonies as unfeasible, the dialogue developed with delegates from Socialist Labor would ultimately prove fruitful.
Debs himself engaged in a lengthy series of correspondence with DeLeon. While the two never found much personal affection for each other, both recognized the importance of an alliance between the two organizations. The potential for a resurgent American Railway Union within the STLA was far too politically important for DeLeon to let slip by. Likewise, Debs immediately recognized the importance of the organization that Socialist Labor had spent the last two decades building, from the myriad working-class newspapers, to the socialist clubs and party locals.
After the whirlwind romance, the short history of Social Democracy of America concluded. On June 14, 1898, the group's National Convention dissolved itself into the Socialist Labor Party by an overwhelming vote. Dissenting delegates associated with Victor Berger of Wisconsin left the organization, and attempted to form an independent Social Democratic Party of America later that fall. The Social Democratic Party would prove short lived, out performed at the ballot box by the Socialist Labor Party throughout it's decade long history. Finally, in 1908, the two organizations made their peace, with both formally endorsing Eugene Debs' presidential bid that November. Within a few months, the dissident Social Democrats accepted the logic of socialist industrial unionism, and joined Socialist Labor.
...Eugene Debs was unequivocally the rising star within Socialist Labor. His rapid assent to the national executive of the party confirmed his status as DeLeon's foil. The two would form an uneasy diumvirate over the party until DeLeon's passing in 1911. Perhaps the first recognition of the new consensus within the party was the 1899 compromise with the opposition faction, which softened the party's perhaps overly confrontational attitude towards the then dominant labor union, the American Federation of Labor. These changes reflected Debs' own power base within the party. As a union man at heart, Debs chief early contribution to the Socialist Labor Party was the growing parity of the STLA with the political organizations of the SLP. In time, the STLA would grow to become an equal partner with Socialist Labor, leaving DeLeon's shadow and growing to become an impressive political force itself.
In the 1900 presidential elections, Socialist Labor's ticket of Eugene Debs and Joseph Maloney won an respectable 165,000 votes, placing the party in 4th place on the national electoral stage. While still dwarfed by the dominant parties of the day, Socialist Labor was finally beginning to reach a national audience, allowing it to fulfill it's role in developing and organizing class consciousness among American workers.
Excerpt: A selection of posts from the alternatehistory.com discussion titled “WI: McKinley Assassinated in 1901”, dated May 1, 2009.
National PlatformThe Socialist Labor Party of America, in convention assembled, reasserts the inalienable right of man to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Socialist Labor Party of America
Adopted by the Eleventh National Convention, Chicago, May 1904
And approved by a general vote of the party’s membership.
We hold that the purpose of government is to secure to every citizen the enjoyment of this right: but taught by experience we hold furthermore that such right is illusory to the majority of the people, to wit, the working class, under the present system of economic inequality that is essentially destructive of their life, their liberty, and their happiness.
We hold that the true theory of politics is that the machinery of government must be controlled by the whole people; but again taught by experience we hold furthermore that the true theory of economics is that the means of production must likewise be owned, operated and controlled by the people in common. Man cannot exercise his right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without the ownership of the land on and the tool with which to work. Deprived of these, his life, his liberty and his fate fall into the hands of the class that owns those essentials for work and production.
We hold that the existing contradiction between the theory of democratic government and the fact of a despotic economic system—the private ownership of the natural and social opportunities—divides the people into two classes, the Capitalist Class and the Working Class; throws society into the convulsions of the Class Struggle, and perverts Government to the exclusive benefit of the Capitalist Class. Thus labor is robbed of the wealth which it alone produces, is denied the means of self-mastery by wagedom, rent, debt, interest, usury; and, by compulsory idleness in wage and debt slavery, is even deprived of the necessaries of life.
Against such a system the Socialist Labor party raises the banner of revolt, and demands the unconditional surrender of the Capitalist Class. The time is fast coming when, in the natural course of social evolution, this system, through the destructive action of its failures and crises on the one hand, and the constructive tendencies of its trusts and other capitalist combinations on the other hand, will have worked out its own downfall.
We, therefore, call upon the wage workers, toilers and yeoman of America to organize under the banner of the Socialist Labor Party into a class-conscious body, aware of its rights and determined to conquer them. And we call upon workers everywhere to join in the campaign of socialist industrial unionism in the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance to stand as one against the foes of human labor. And we also call upon all other intelligent citizens to place themselves squarely upon the ground of Working Class interests, and join us in this mighty and noble work of human emancipation, so that we may put summary end to the existing barbarous class conflict by placing the land and all the means of production, transportation and distribution into the hands of the people as a collective body, and substituting the co-operative commonwealth for the present state of planless production, industrial war and social disorder—a commonwealth in which every worker shall have the free exercise and full benefit of his faculties, multiplied by all the modern factors of civilization.
The two souls of the early Socialist Labor Party, the charming Eugene Debs (left) and the brilliant but abrasive Daniel DeLeon (right)
The Socialist Labor Party "Arm and Hammer" logo, 1876-1921
Important Events of Interest
February 10: The Western Federation of Miners breaks with the American Federation of Labor, following the sobering experience of the Leadville miner's strike.
March 4: William McKinley is inaugurated President of the United States, succeeding Grover Cleveland.
June 1: American mine workers begin a strike that successfully establishes the United Mine Worker's Union.
June 15: The original American Railway Union's final conclave begins in Chicago. The new organization, Social Democracy of America, is openly courted by delegates from the Socialist Labor Party following its quick and decisive repudiation of utopian colonization schemes.
September 10: The Lattimer Massacre: A sheriff's posse kills more than 19 unarmed immigrant miners in Pennsylvania.
October 4: At the close of the first national meeting of Social Democracy of America, the organization ratifies a general endorsement of industrial unionism, as the first step towards an eventual union with the Socialist Labor Party.
February 15: The USS Maine suffers a catastrophic explosion in Havana's harbor, sinking with nearly all hands. Though the cause of the explosion is unknown, the press, particularly those under the ownership of William Randolph Hearst, portray the sinking as a result of nefarious Spanish treachery.
April 22: The United States is at a de facto state of war with Spain, as the US Navy begins a blockade of Cuban ports and captures a Spanish merchant ship. A formal declaration will come three days later.
May 1: The Socialist Labor Party organizes small pro-labor, anti-war demonstrations in its strongholds in New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. While there are minor clashes with the police, the demonstrations fail to gain much public attention.
June 14: Social Democracy of America votes to dissolve the organization and its meager assets into relevant sections of the Socialist Labor Party and the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance.
July 7: The United States annexes Hawaii.
August 12: Hostilities end in Cuba between American and Spanish forces.
October 1: Victor Berger and other dissidents from the now defunct Social Democracy of America hold their first convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where they form the Social Democratic Party of America.
November 8: New York state office elections: the Socialist Labor candidate Benjamin Hanford makes the parties best run yet for the office, winning close to 30,000 votes, approximately 2.5% of the total.
December 10: The Treaty of Paris is signed, formally ending hostilities between Spain and the United States.
December 31: By year's end, John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company controls 84% of the USA's oil, and most American pipelines. The age of monopoly capital has begun.
January 6: The American Railway Union is reassembled as a member of the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance. Eugene Debs returns as national chair during the reorganization period.
February 4: The Phillipine-American War begins following the outbreak of hostilities in Manila.
February 14: The US Congress authorizes the use of voting machines for federal elections, providing endless amounts of fun for future corrupt corporations and conspiracy theorists.
April 17: Following the firing of 17 union employees at the Bunker Hill Mine in Idaho, 250 workers affiliated with the Western Federation of Miners occupy and demolish a mill at the mine. Following a major bribe by the United Mineowners, the National Guard is deployed by the Governor to Coeur d'Alene. After a violent confrontation, over 1,000 miners and their families are herded into makeshift prisons. Many will never be charged, and won't be released from the concentration camps for many months.
June 1: The Socialist Labor Party's 10th National Convention begins in New York City, to review the integration of the Social Democrats into the party organization.
June 18: At the close of the SLP's 10th National Convention, the leadership of Daniel DeLeon and Henry Kuhn concede to ARU president Eugene Debs' proposal for increased parity between the STLA and the party administration.
June 19: The Newsboys Strike begins in New York. Delegates from the SLP National Convention, inspired by the impressive initiative of the all children Newsboys Union, agree to help the child laborers organize their strike.
June 24: The use of brutal strikebreaking tactics on the Newsies begins to backfire, as the Newsies begin selling working-class alternate press cleverly disguised as more famous newspapers, which bring full exposés of Hearst and Pulitzer's brutal tactics.
August 21: The Newsboys Strike ends, with the recognition of the union, and a return to the pre Spanish-American war bundle price of 50¢. The Newsies will join the STLA by the end of the year.
October 10: Samuel Clemens, alias Mark Twain, has a chance meeting with young, up-and-coming writer Jack London in San Francisco. Clemens, a newly baptized anti-imperialist, befriends the young Socialist Labor activist, though he remains steadfastly opposed to joining the party.
December 2: The Battle of Tirad Pass: Filipino forces successfully commit to a delaying action against the US military, guarding the retreat of Phillipine President Emilio Aguinaldo before being wiped out.
January 3: The US Census estimates the country's population to be approximately 70 million.
January 8: Following reports of miner revolts and lawlessness, President McKinley places the Alaskan territory under military governance.
March 5: Two US Navy cruisers are sent to Central America to protect US interests following a dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
March 15: The Gold Standard Act is ratified, placing the United States currency on the gold standard, ending the era of bimetallism.
May 15: The II Olympiad opens in Paris, France, as part of the Paris World Exhibition.
September 13: Filipino resistance fighters overrun a large American column at the Battle of Pulang Lupa.
November 6: Republican incumbent is William McKinley is re-elected President over Democrat William Jennings Bryan. The Socialist Labor Party places a distant 4th, with 165,000 votes, approximately 30,000 shy of the 3rd place Prohibition Party.
March 2: The U.S. Congress passes the Platt Amendment, limiting the autonomy of Cuba as a condition for the withdrawal of American troops.
March 4: United States President William McKinley begins his 2nd term. Theodore Roosevelt is sworn in as Vice President of the United States.
May 17: The US stock market crashes.
June 12: Cuba becomes a US protectorate.
July 5: The Western Federation of Miners adopts a socialist platform, calling for collective, worker control of the means of production, and a program of industrial unionism to further that end.
September 6: Leon Czolgoz is arrested in Buffalo, New York for vagrancy. President McKinley attends the day's festivities unimpeded.
November 28: The new constitution of the State of Alabama incorporates literary tests for voters in the state.
February 18: The US Attorney-General brings a suit against the Northern Securities Company, a railroad trust, under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, in order to allay middle class outcry over the very public machinations of the schemers of the trust. In private, the President has expressed his support to the owners of the trust.
May 2: The Coal Strike of 1902. 150,000 miners in the anthracite coal fields of western Pennsylvania from United Mine Workers of America go out on strike, demanding shorter hours, higher pay and increased control over their workplaces.
May 20: The Republic of Cuba begins de jure independence. In reality, the country is an American puppet.
June 2: The Coal Strike deepens as maintenance and clerical workers affiliated with the mines join the strike in solidarity.
July 10: The Rolling Mill Mine disaster in Jonestown, Pennsylvania kills over 100 miners.
August 1: The Coal Strike: The owners appeal to the federal government for aid in defeating the strikers, as the Pennsylvania National Guard is not sufficient to maintain security of the mines and suppress the strike. Coal stockpiles have been exhausted, and by now, the entire coal field has joined in the strike.
August 22: President McKinley becomes the first American president to ride in an automobile today in Hartford, Connecticut.
October 15: President McKinley deploys units of the U.S. Army to suppress the Coal Strike. Over four dozen miners are killed in the resulting battles. The strike ends by early November, with the beaten unionists agreeing to return to work in exchange for modest pay cuts and a chance to keep their jobs.
November 30: The leadership of the United Mineworkers of America, radicalized by what they saw as the blatant betrayal of the people by the government, push for the adoption of a socialist platform at the next union national convention.
February 11: The Oxnard Strike of 1903 becomes the first time in U.S. history that a labor union is formed from members of different races.
March 4: Turkey and Germany sign an agreement to build the Constantinople-Baghdad Railway.
March 11: The Hay-Herran Treaty, granting the US the right to build a canal across the Isthmus of Panama, is ratified by the US Senate.
May 31: Following Columbia's rejection of the Panama Canal Treaty, President McKinley orders the dispatch of a cruiser squadron and a contingent of Marines to support the Panamanian independence movement.
June 1: The Butte Copper Strike begins in protest over low wages and the firing of known union leaders from the mine. The strike, jointly coordinated by the Socialist Labor Party local and the Western Federation of Miners, quickly shuts down the city's crown jewel industry.
October 6: The Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty is signed by the US and Panama, giving the US exclusive rights over the Panama Canal Zone.
October 11: In spite of sporadic violence, the Butte Copper Strike ends with a minor victory for the miner's union. While they fail to achieve all of their goals, the union wins pay raises and and a reinstatement of fired workers.
November 23: Colorado Governor James Hamilton Peabody dispatches the state militia to the town of Cripple Creek to quash a miner's strike. The Colorado Labor Wars begin.
January 31: The American Federation of Labor faces its first major reversal, the product of campaigns waged by employers for “open shops.” The employer and government back push starts with a legal injunction against United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.
March 14: The Supreme Court delivers it's verdict in Northern Securities Co. v. United States, 193 U.S. 197: The Sherman Antitrust Act is overturned as an unconstitutional overstretch of the federal government's authority to regulate interstate commerce due to a violation of the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment. The 5-4 decision represents a major blow to progressives in both major parties.
March 30: The US Army Corps of Engineers begins work on the Panama Canal.
April 8: The Entente Cordiale is signed between the UK and France
May 1: The Socialist Labor Party's National Convention begins in Chicago. The convention nominates Eugene Debs and William Wesley Cox to run on the party's presidential ticket.
June 6: The First Industrial Congress of the STLA opens in Chicago, to promote a national industrial union federation. At the Congress, the Western Federation of Miners amalgamates with the United Mine Workers, joining the STLA. With swelling membership, the STLA can, for the first time, stand as a legitimate alternative to the reformist AF of L.
July 1: The III Olympiad opens in St. Louis, Missouri.
August 14: In the final vote before the Congressional Recess, a revised antitrust bill fails 40-44. The bill, tailored to attempt to pass the Supreme Court's scrutiny following the overturn of the Sherman Antitrust Act, withers under criticism that it will still fail to pass legal muster.
November 8: Republican presidential nominee Charles Fairbanks defeats Bourbon Democrat Alton B. Parker.
The 1904 US General election, in brief
1904 would prove to be a tumultuous year in politics. Nowhere was this more the case than in the Republican Party. Strong voices of “Progressivism” in the party, among them Vice President Theodore Roosevelt and Wisconsin Governor Robert La Follette have become deeply dissatisfied with the state of American politics. With the overturn of the Sherman Antitrust Act, the lack of will to challenge the courts in the party, and the McKinley government's overly cavalier attitude in dealing with organized labor, they feel that the federal government and the state administrations controlled by the party have done great damage to the nation, and have aggravated a growing class war.
In spite of the vulgar rhetoric thrown at them by the conservative branch of the Republican Party, the Progressive Republicans were not socialists; or even social democrats at that matter. Almost none of them are opposed to trusts on principle, and many have no love for organized labor. However, they do recognize that a state overtly colluding with the masters of capital on such a grand scale is tearing the nation apart. In their nationalism, they believe that a reconciliation between classes must be achieved; the excesses of capitalism must be restrained, the people must have some democratic voice in their governance.
However, the class collaborationists were unable to convince the rest of the Republican Party of the logic of their position in this campaign. Theodore Roosevelt, though carrying considerable popular support going into the convention, is unable to defeat the retrenched conservatives in the presidential nomination. In a heated series of ballots, the conservative Charles Fairbanks sweeps aside Roosevelt, clinching the nomination.
As his running mate, the party selects a relative moderate, William Howard Taft. In the aftermath, the Progressive Republicans themselves faced internal conflict over the proper course of action. The “Legalist Progressives,” represented among the professional politicians, civil servants, in the law schools and bar associations, argue that the movement as a whole needs to change tack and adapt to the new conditions. The majority of GOP Progressives, their intellectual center has adopted a kind of proto-corporatist philosophy. Now that breaking up trusts is no longer on the table, they argue that the government must take an increased role to manage the excesses of capitalism in a more cooperative manner. The cartels will be need to be “guided” by the federal government to produce socially desirable outcomes, regulating prices and quality, with the government serving as the umpire between organized labor and large capitalists. Heavily influenced by political scholar Woodrow Wilson's treatise Congressional Government, the Legalist Progressives believe some form of constitutional form, likely pro-parliamentary, is necessary to reduce the “politics of personality” for the health of the republic.
In contrast, the “Populist Progressives” have become embittered by what is seen as a betrayal of the principles of the Grand Old Party of Lincoln. Government of the people, by the people, they argue, cannot be achieved through rational scientific management of the opposing classes of society. Without some material leveling, a republic itself is fast becoming an impossibility. Embittered and defeated in the post-election era, many of the faction feel they have been driven into the political wilderness.
The Democrats, at their St. Louis national convention, would ultimately thrust New York Appeals Court Judge Alton B. Parker into the limelight. A man with immaculate credentials and an air of seeming incorruptibility, Parker turns the party's campaign against “the rule of individual caprice” and “the presidential office's growing abuse of authority.”
The party platform would condemn the excesses of monopolies, high government expenses, and corruption within the executive departments. In spite of some of these paeans to populism, the party's platform remained essentially Bourbon in nature, favoring the gold standard, free trade and a relatively laissez-faire government attitude. While this put the Democrats at cross-purposes with the growing Legalist Progressives faction of the GOP, some common causes were found in the reduction of corruption and the limitation of presidential authority.
In spite of great enmity between Democrats and Republicans, relations between the two parties were relatively cordial this election. Both Fairbanks and Parker were quite conservative, having very similar philosophies about the role of government in society. Without William Jennings Bryan's decidedly class war laced campaign, the 1904 campaign proved to be quite amiable. And, at the very least, both candidates equally denounced the “radical anarchistic crusade” of the growing Socialist Labor Party.
1904 would be American Railway Union chairman Eugene Debs' second run for president. A brilliant, charismatic orator capable of uniting both AF of L supporters as well as his own STLA union's constituency, Debs gave “socialist treason” a human face. Supported by SLP stalwart William Wesley Cox as his running mate, Debs would greatly expand both the SLP's membership rolls as well as it's vote share through the course of the campaign.
The 1904 campaign saw the first chink in the AF of L's armor as well. Defiance of AF of L president Samuel Gomper's explicit voluntarist philosophy became more common among union locals of AF of L affiliates, particularly among teamsters, brewers and locomotive engineers.
The SLP also expanded into the traditional rural domains of the People's Party. Shattered by collusion and subsequent betrayal by the Democratic Party, the remnants of the Populists' organizations largely signed on to support Debs' call for a broad producers' alliance between industrial labor and yeoman farmers. However, this alliance is not yet universal, and many Populist groups do not actively endorse Debs' candidacy or make alliances with industrial labor. However, with the disintegration of much of the Populists' national organization those opposed to alignment with the SLP are unable to run a Populist candidate in the election.
The Great Crusade (Reds! Part 3)
1905-1912: The Rise of Socialist Labor
March 4: Charles Fairbanks is inaugurated as President of the United States.
March 20: The Grover Shoe Factory disaster: a massive boiler explosion occurs in a factory in Brockton, Massachusetts. The building subsequently collapses, killing 60 workers and injuring numerous others.
April 6: The United States Supreme Court overturns a New York state law regulating the work week in the case Lochner v. New York. The sweeping decision invokes the Fourteenth Amendment's “Due Process Clause,” and results in the widespread invalidation of many state laws regulating commerce and the work week. The doctrine of “substantive due process” as enumerated by the Court gives another blow to progressives in the GOP.
May 1: STLA deputy chairman William “Big Bill” Haywood announces the creation of two new unions within the STLA: the Yeoman Farmer's Federation, and the Agricultural Worker's Organization. As part of the declaration, Big Bill Haywood promotes the concept of the “One Big Union,” in which all members of the producing classes would organize together for a common socialist platform. The new organizations seek to organize cooperate mutual aid and revolutionary enthusiasm among small freeholders and the workers, sharecroppers and hired hands in big plantations respectively.
May 16: The beginning of the Congressional Revolt: Progressive GOP leadership in the House steer the passage of Comprehensive Federal Trade Act. The sweeping legislation, modeled in many ways off of German Chancellor Bismarck's “practical Christianity” or “Staatssozialismus” programs, would establish a Department of Industrial Coordination, comprehensive safety regulations, as well as some limited collective bargaining standards.
June 1: National Steel, a trust controlling almost 3/4ths of steel production in the United States, begins a major anti-union campaign against the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, withdrawing recognition of the union in all of the organized mills. Though the AAISW and the AF of L attempt to organize a national campaign against this, many of the larger locals go down without a fight in the opening salvo. The Labor Wars begin.
June 4: The Senate narrowly gives assent to the Comprehensive Federal Trade Act. However, the act is quickly and aggressively vetoed by President Fairbanks. In his veto message, Fairbanks scathingly denounces the Congressional leadership who forged the compromise act, accusing them of bowing to “syndicalist-anarchist intimidation” and “waging a bloody, unconstitutional class war by despotically depriving men of their property and liberty.”
June 30: The Labor Wars: The International Mercantile Marine Co. begins it's own anti-union campaign, particularly against longshoremen, using the AF of L's counterreaction as a pretext to destroy affiliated unions.
July 1: Congressional leaders fire back at the President, accusing him of abuse of power, and of undermining the health of the nation by refusing any compromise over the growing inequalities of power in the country. Though attempts to override Fairbank's veto fail, it's clear that the honeymoon between Fairbanks and his party is over quite soon.
July 9: The Labor Wars: Standard Oil joins in the attack on the AF of L. Attempts at organizing at fields and refineries owned by the trust are met with strikebreakers and scabs, resulting in the accidental death of three labor organizers in Texas.
July 20: Governor Robert LaFollete of Wisconsin announces a major legislative deal with Victor Berger's growing Social Democratic Party. LaFollete's progressive Republicans and the Milwaukee “Sewer Socialists” agree to cooperate on a progressive agenda very close to the SDP's minimum program.
July 31: The Women's Trade Union League votes to quit the AF of L, citing the ineffectiveness of the craft union policies, and the perverse indifference within the AF of L towards women workers and the women's suffrage movement. The predominantly socialist leadership of the League begin talks with the STLA to join the industrial union federation.
August 24: The American Amalgamated Coal Company forms. The new trust is an offshoot of the National Steel trust, formed as a part of a vertical integration plan by the trust's leadership. The new trust acquires the Consolidation Coal Company, the Pennsylvania Coal Company, two of the largest coal mining companies in the United States.
September 7: The American Telephone & Telegraph Company joins the Labor Wars, successfully crushing small union strikes within it's branches.
September 20: Samuel Clemens, alias Mark Twain, publishes his political satire, What's Mine is Mine, skewering the unashamedly servile press coverage of, among other things, the 1902 Anthracite Coal Strike. Even the great humorist is not immune to charges of being a “socialist-anarchist bombthrower.”
October 1: The Labor Wars: the Anaconda Copper Company, in Butte, Montana, begins a union-busting campaign at its flagship copper mines. The United Mineworkers responds by voting for a general strike against the Anaconda Company and it's affiliates.
October 8: Congressional GOP leadership enter into a further row with President Fairbanks, over corruption within the executive departments. The “Imperial President” widely loses favor with the public over apparently rampant connections to major trusts, especially the much reviled Northern Securities Company.
November 1: One month into the Copper General Strike, their seems to be very little hope for a peaceful resolution. The Governor of Montana, Democrat Joseph K. Toole, is pressured into mobilizing the National Guard to “restore order” in Butte, Anaconda, and the surrounding counties. This move meets wide resistance from Farmer-Labor groups, and ends up pushing the remnants of Montana People's Party organizations into the Socialist Labor Party, which has played a significant role in organizing the strike.
November 12: In one of the last votes of the year, the House of Representatives votes 254-99 to endorse the Congressional Government Amendment. The Amendment, authored by Democratic Minority Whip Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey, will be debated in the Senate next. The Amendment would significantly strip the powers of the presidency and establish a parliamentary governmental structure, with the Cabinet responsible to the House of Representatives.
January 16: The President's standoff with the legislative branch continues in the new year. Fairbanks' barbed State of the Union address reveals an executive un-intimidated by the Congress' threatened rebuke. He appears confident that the Republican Party political machines in the states will side with the executive instead of the Congress in the upcoming Constitutional Amendment battle.
February 10: The HMS Dreadnought is launched, revolutionizing naval warfare. An impending naval arms race between the UK and the German Reich is on the horizon, with the lesser naval powers of France, Italy and the US expected to take part to some degree.
February 14: An attack by the Montana National Guard against strikers in Butte is repulsed by an armed Farmer-Labor “Vigilance Committee.” Before the Montana front of the Labor Wars can further escalate, the Governor begins backing down, as he continues to loose support among the farmer constituencies that helped bring him into office. He urges the Board of Directors for the Anaconda Copper Company to enter the bargaining table with the strikers. Meanwhile, American Railway Union workers refuse to load shipments to and from the Anaconda Company, in solidarity with the UMW.
February 28: Upton Sinclair publishes his landmark novel, The Jungle. Though the socialist tract also spreads considerable concern about the health and safety of the meatpacking industry, the Supreme Court's case law precedent, and the President's threatened veto stymie attempts to make headway on regulation.
March 1: National leaders of the STLA and the United Mineworkers, including Eugene Debs and “Big Bill” Haywood, travel to Butte to begin a collective bargaining agreement with the Anaconda Company.
March 15: The US Senate votes 60-30 in favor of the Congressional Government Amendment, narrowly meeting the two-thirds constitutional requirement. The Amendment will now head to the states for ratification
March 17: The six-month long Copper General strike reaches an end, with a negotiated settlement. The UMW is tacitly recognized, and a bare-bones collective bargaining agreement is instituted, giving the union a measure of control over dismissal of members from the mines. The mineworkers also win small pay raises and shorter hours.
April 6: The Congress and the President again enter into a row, this time over naval armament spending. The President finds himself reluctant to authorize the necessary spending increases to pay for a navy necessary to project America's status as an emerging world power.
April 18: The Populist Party's Emergency National Convention begins. At stake is the future of the organization and it's mission of a broad, producing class reform government. The convention of the ailing organization is divided between two hostile camps. The “Left Populists,” consisting of Farmer-Labor and rural worker groups, endorse socialism and industrial unionism, and wish to enter the Socialist Labor Party led worker's movement. The “Right Populists” wish to maintain electoral independence, and stay steadfastly opposed to collaboration with other groups. At the end of the day, the “Left Populists” carry the day, and begin the process of affiliation with the SLP. “Right Populist” sections leave the organization, and vow to carry on the true Populist spirit in a new organization.
May 1: SLP activist and novelist Jack London begins serializing his novel White Fang in The Outing Magazine.
May 8: National Steel purchases it's largest competitor, Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company. Renamed the United States Steel Corporation,1 the J.P. Morgan backed steel trust controls nearly 3/4ths of American steel production. The corporation's aggressive expansion is paved by innovation, combined with the nullification of American anti-trust statutes.
June 1: With the near total eradication of the Amalgamated Iron Workers' union, the STLA forms a Steelworkers' Organizing Committee, to begin making cautious inroads into forming a steelworker's industrial union. Other proposals for industrial oil workers' and telephone workers are considered as well, but rejected in the interim to concentrate the STLA's resources on the large steel industry.
June 18: House Speaker Joseph Cannon (R-IL) meets with a delegation of Democratic Party leaders, including several Southern state governors, the Minority Leader John Sharp Williams (D-MS) and Minority Whip Woodrow Wilson (D-NJ), to discuss a compromise agreement on the Congressional Government Amendment. The eventual agreement balances populist issues with trusts, a key Democratic constituency and something looked down upon even by Bourbon Democrat hardliners, as well as Democratic isolationism. In exchange for Southern state support for the amendment, a Cannon led Congressional government will push for means to regulate and control trusts and improve wages for workers, hoping to shore up dwindling Democratic support among the industrial working class.
July 11: Seven Southern states ratify the Congressional Government Amendment, intensifying the conflict between the President and the Congress. However, hopes of getting the Amendment ratified before the 1906 election seem wildly optimistic.
August 1: President Fairbanks deploys the US Army to Cuba, to contain a Cuban rebellion that the puppet government has been incapable of putting down. The intervention quashes moderate Cuban leaders hopes of slow moves to independence.
August 14: With the mid-term elections looming on the horizon, the GOP heavyweights in the lock horns with one another over the future of the party. While the growing consensus is towards Legalist Progressivism, the balancing the wishes of the electorate with the powerful business constituency in the Republican Party is difficult. While corporate interests can back the governmental reform of the Congressional Government Amendment, other proposals, such as an “anti-trust” amendment to the Constitution are unable to gain traction.
September 1: An electoral fusion alliance is negotiated in Wisconsin, with a number of Progressive Republicans running on Victor Berger's Social Democratic Party ticket as well.
October 11: The Steelworkers' Organizing Committee begins the first part of its unionization push, starting in the smaller foundries of the Pennsylvania based Bethlehem Steel Corporation.
November 6: Midterm elections in the United States: The Republican Party gains an increased majority in both the House and the Senate. The Social Democrats and the Socialist Labor Party make their first entry into the US House of Representatives, as well as significant gains in state legislatures across the country.(2)
December 2: After failing to obtain court injunctions or state aid against Steelworkers' Organizing Committee actions at a number of plants, the Bethlehem Steel Corporation reluctantly recognizes the union. Bethlehem Steel stock prices fall, and orders for steel steadily shift to its monolithic competitor, US Steel.
Congressional Results, 1906
House of Representatives_______Seats________Change
Social Democratic Party_________2____________+2
Socialist Labor Party____________1____________+1
Social Democratic Party*_________2___________2
* SDP Senators elected on fusion tickets with state Progressive Republican groups in Wisconsin and Washington
January 1: Daniel J. Tobin becomes president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
February 11: Progressive Republican controlled states begin ratifying the Congressional Government Amendment, with Wisconsin leading the charge.
February 28: The American Federation of Labor receives a major blow, as the rail based craft unions vote to leave the Federation, citing its inability to challenge the declining benefits for union members. The effectiveness of the industrial American Railway Union's actions lead many members, and the entire Brotherhoods of Locomotive Engineers and Railroad Signalmen, to decide to join the ARU.
March 4: With the opening of the new Congressional term, freshman Congressman Victor Berger (SD-WI) delivers a scathing criticism of President Fairbank's failed leadership of the nation, reaching across the aisle to Progressive Republicans to curb the excesses of plutocracy in the US.
March 12: The Autoworker's Organizing Committee is founded in Detroit, Michigan, by delegates of the STLA and workers from the Ford Motor Company. Almost immediately, Henry Ford attempts to destroy the fledgling union. The tide begins to turn in the Labor Wars.
March 30: The Agriculture Worker' Organization reaches a membership of almost 100,000 workers.
April 4: Republican politician and figure of the Progressive movement Theodore Roosevelt delivers a major speech at an organization of Northeastern Republicans. Roosevelt criticizes the failed hardline policies of the GOP center, represented by the current president, charging them with ignoring the growing class war in the country.
April 18: The battleship USS Kansas (BB-21) is commissioned, the first of the American dreadnought type all-big gun battleships.
June 6: The Lumber Workers' Industrial Union organizes in the Pacific Northwest and South from a coalition of smaller local unions and craft union locals representing workers in the lumber industry. The Lumber Strike begins almost immediately.
July 8: The ailing AF of L begins a National Conference, with the hopes of finding a solution to its plummeting membership and distressed financial situation. While Gompers puts on a brave front, and his Voluntarist faction carries the day, behind closed doors it is grimmer than many had feared. The AF of L strike fund is nearly depleted, and a number of affiliates are on the verge of total bankruptcy.
August 1: The Aeronautical Division is established within the US Army Signal Corps.
August 14: The Seventh Congress of the Second International begins in Stuttgart, Germany. The Congress opens with the welcoming of a large slate of delegates from the fast growing Socialist Labor Party of America.
August 31: Count Alexander Izvolsky and Sir Arthur Nicolson sign the St. Petersburg Convention, which results in the establishment of the Triple Entente.
September 6: The Anaconda Copper Company, joined by a group of investors led by John D. Rockefeller, purchase a majority stake in the United Copper Company. The new cartel, which will become the US Copper Corporation, will soon control almost three-fourths of the American copper market.
November 16: The Oklahoma and Indian Territories are combined, entering the union as the 46th State.
December 6: Monongah Mining Disaster: A coal mine explosion kills 362 workers in Monongah, West Virginia.
December 11: The Great White Fleet departs from Hampton Roads, Virginia, as a display of growing American military might.
December 19: An explosion in a coal mine in Jacobs Creek, Pennsylvania kills 239. The second major coal mining disaster in a month, the central committee of the United Mineworkers vote to begin broad strike in the coal mining industry to protest the lack of safety precautions. This time the unionists enter the battle from a position of strength, with major public sympathy on their side.
January 1: The first ball drops in Times Square on New Year's Day, beginning a long tradition.
January 6: The Amalgamated Coal Company reaches an agreement with the United Mineworkers, beginning a serious investigation by a joint company-union task force on mine safety, and agreeing to the Mineworker's wage increase demands. This successful coup ensures that Amalgamated Coal will be the only sure supply of coal this winter.
January 12: The American Railway Union and the Steelworkers' Organizing Committee begin sympathy actions to support the United Mineworkers. ARU organized locomotives and railyards refuse to deliver coal from mines owned by companies still under strike, and Steelworkers strike at factories that buy coal from said mines.
February 1: The Lumber Strike ends, a major success for the Lumber Workers. Sustained by graft, lumber camp occupation, and generous donations from other working-class organizations, the Lumber Workers gain total recognition by much of the industry.
February 12: Following rumors that the West Virginia Governor will deploy the National Guard to end the strike, coal miners arm themselves and begin an occupation of many of the rural coal pits. This escalation leads to the federal mobilization of the National Guard, and of the US Army by the president, to suppress the strike.
February 15: Speaker of the House Joseph Cannon openly defies the President's command authority of the military, invoking the Posse Comitatus Act. A Congressional Joint-Resolution, condemning the president's violation of the Act (which prohibits the use of the military or National Guard under federal control for law enforcement within the borders of the US except when authorized by the Congress or the Constitution), and subtly threatening impeachment should he continue, passes both houses of Congress by a 2/3rds majority, gaining the support of nearly the entire Democratic Caucus as well as sufficient factions of the Republican Party.
March 1: Following the President's retreat, and the refusal of state governors to intervene on behalf of mine-owners, shares of affected companies, and notably, the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, plummet at the New York Stock Exchange.
March 15: Negotiations begin to end the largest strike in American history. Congressional leaders agree to mediate the negotiations between STLA leaders and the coal industry.
April 1: US Steel begins a hostile takeover of the ailing Bethlehem Steel Corporation, cornering the plummeting stock of the corporation. If the deal is allowed to be completed, US Steel will hold a near total monopoly on the US Steel industry. Public outcry against the move is strong but impotent.
April 5: The Coal Strike ends, following a successful settlement. The massively press coverage of the strike make the United Mineworkers and the STLA's victory a virtual propaganda coup. The Labor Wars effectively end.
April 27: The IV Olympiad begins in London, England.
May 26: At Masjid-al-Salaman in Southwestern Persia, the first major oil discovery in the Middle-East is made. The rights are quickly acquired by the United Kingdom, following a cryptic telegram delivered to the Home Office: “See Psalm 104, Verse 15, Line 3”(3)
June 16: The Republican National Convention begins in Chicago, Illinois. Following a series of ballots, the Legalist Progressive aligned delegates succeed in their coup, nominating William Howard Taft for President.
June 30: The Tunguska Event occurs in Siberia.
July 1: The Socialist Labor Party National Convention begins in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Party ratifies a new platform, and endorses a large slate of representatives, some running on fusion tickets. The new platform specifies a minimum and maximum programme for the first time.
July 3: The Young Turk Revolution begins in the Ottoman Empire.
July 18: As the election draws near, delegates of the SDP and the SLP meet to finalize an electoral cooperation agreement. Congressional candidates for both parties will not run against each other, with hopes of maximizing the left vote, and paving a road to reconciliation between the two groups.
August 12: The United Teamsters of America form a successful “dual-union”, effectively breaking the International Brotherhood of Teamsters craft-union policies, and IBT president Daniel J. Tobin's stranglehold on the organization.
September 16: William C. Durant founds the predecessor to the General Motors Corporation.
September 25: The first Ford Model T is produced.
October 6: The Bosnia Crisis begins as the Austro-Hungarian Empire annexes Bosnia-Herznegovina.
October 15: The International Union of Brewery Workmen of America votes to leave the AF of L and join the STLA.
November 3: The 1908 US General Election. William Howard Taft is elected President of the United States, but the Republican Party faces a major defeat in Congressional elections as well as control of State Legislatures.
December 2: Child Emperor Pu-Yi ascends to the Chinese throne at the age of two.
General election, 1908
Presidential candidate_____Party______________Popular Vote_____Percentage______Electoral Count
William H. Taft_____________Republican Party______6,032,171_______42.59%________321
Alton B. Parker_____________Democratic Party_____4,987,123________35.21%________140
Eugene Debs_______________Socialist Labor Party___1,632,400__________11.52%________0
William Jennings Bryan______Populist Democratic___1,512,011_____10.68%________0
House of Representatives_______Seats________Change
Socialist Labor Party*___________20___________+17
Socialist Labor Party_____________2___________0
* Socialist Labor Party and Social Democratic Party joint candidates
January 1: Drilling begins on the Lakeview Gusher
January 5: Columbia recognizes the “independence” of Panama.
February 4: The long string of AF of L defections and takeovers continue, with the syndicalist takeover of the mostly immigrant Journeyman International Barber's Union. The new Revolutionary Barbers' International federates with the STLA.
February 22: The Great White Fleet returns to Hampton Roads, Virginia.
March 4: William Howard Taft succeeds Charles Fairbanks as President of the United States.
March 31: Serbia accepts Austro-Hungarian control of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
April 1: The Bricklayers', Masons and Plasterers' International Union adopts an industrial unionist platform, beginning a power struggle in the AF of L between Gomper's Voluntarists and the still AF of L loyalist Bricklayers,
April 19: The Anglo-Persian Oil Company is founded.
May 6: The US Senate ratifies a treaty allowing co-recognition of corporations between the US and the Russian Empire.
May 14: Following the completion of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, the parent company is acquired by the Northern Securities Company, granting the new Enterprise Railroad Corporation a near monopoly on transcontinental travel in the north of the country.
June 16: President William Howard Taft recomends to Congress to vote to propose an amendment to the US Constitution to permit the federal government to levy an income tax upon persons and corporations, as well as clarify the meaning of the commerce clause.
July 13: STLA union workers, affiliated with the ARU, begin a walk out at the Pressed Steel Car Company in Pennsylvania. Nearly three quarters of the six thousand employees of the company, which mass produces rail cars via assembly line methods, join the strike action. An attack by Pinkertons as well as the Pennsylvania State Police are unable to bring an early resolution to the strike.
July 18: With 36 states ratifying the Congressional Government Amendment, the Sixteenth Amendment becomes the supreme law of the land. Democratic Party Majority Leader Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey successfully forms a coalition government with Republican Progressives and the Social Democrats.(5)
July 30: President Taft welcomes the new First Secretary Woodrow Wilson to the White House, where the two hammer out a political agreement. The first “cohabitation” government appears to be a success, as talks are cordial, and a fair division of powers is achieved. The President will cede initiative in domestic affairs to the Cabinet, while the Cabinet assures the President's initiative in foreign and judicial affairs.
August 2: The US Army Signal Corps purchases its first airplane.
August 8: With Gompers' demands left unheeded, the AF of L votes to expel the Bricklayers from the Federation. Stung by this bitter betrayal, the Bricklayers naturally drift into the STLA.
August 14: First Secretary Wilson's coalition government obtains its first legislative victory, steering the passage of the Mann-Elkins Act, expanding the authority of the Interstate Commerce Commission to include communications, and also strengthening regulation of railroads, mines and the steel industry.
September 12: Emiliano Zapata begins his revolutionary career, when the city leaders of San Miguel Anenecuilco select him to recover lands owned by the village.
September 18: The Pressed Steel Car Strike ends, with the strikers winning company recognition of the Industrial Assemblers' Union, as well as significant wage increases.
September 20: The Union of South Africa is created, following legislation in the British parliament.
October 4: The Industrial Assemblers' Union begins its first national congress. The congress is attended by representatives of the Autoworkers' Union, the Boot and Shoeworkers' Union, the Boilmakers and Iron Shipbuilders' Union, the Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Ironworkers' Union, the Iron, Tin and Steel Workers', and the International Association of Machinists. Attending unions are immediately suspended from the AF of L.
November 11: The US Navy founds a navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
December 17: King Albert I of Belgium succeeds his uncle, Leopold II, to the throne.
January 17: By voice vote, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approves a bill calling for statehood for the territories of Arizona and New Mexico.
February 4: The Boy Scouts of America youth organization is incorporated.
February 7: France joins the naval arms race, with the passage of a bill calling for the construction of 28 battleships and 94 submarines over a 10 year period.
March 8: A battle begins for control of the Carpenters' Union. One of the key organizations of the AF of L, it's large membership constitutes the majority of current deflated AF of L membership. Gompers' allies squash proposals to build a political program, or open the union up to racial minorities. “Outside agitators” linked with the STLA begin agitating for the union to quit the AF of L and join the STLA.
April 18: The White-Slavery Act, also known as the Mann Act, passes with strong majorities in the House and Senate.
May 11: The US Congress authorizes the creation of the United States Bureau of Mines.
June 1: The American Civil Service Act of 1910 is steered through the House by First Secretary Wilson. The popular bill, aimed at improving efficiency and fighting corruption in the Executive Departments, greatly expands the existing Civil Service system to large numbers of positions within the government. The Act also establishes a temporary commission to weed out corrupt federal employees within the government.
July 8: Social Democratic/Socialist Labor members of Wilson's reform coalition meet with the First Secretary today to discuss collective bargaining and safety standards. With the passage of the Commerce Amendment a near foregone conclusion at this point, Wilson confidently assures progress on mediating between capital and labor.
August 22: The Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty is signed.
August 28: The Eighth International Congress of the Second International begins in the socialist-governed city of Copenhagen, to considerable fanfare. With over a thousand delegates from thirty-three countries, the Congress strengthens previous commitments against war, and entertains the American delegations draft proposals for a socialist trade union international, modeled off the American Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance.
October 7: The Seventeenth Amendment of the Constitution is ratified.
October 18: First Secretary Wilson introduces three bills on the floor of the House of Representatives. The first would establish a small progressive income tax to generate revenue for the federal government. The second would establish a new federal department, the Department of Industrial Coordination, to serve as the Cabinet's oversight over the regulatory arms of government and to manage the increasingly tense conflict between labor and capital. The third would establish a central bank to regulate the American money supply and bring stability to the country's chaotic financial institutions.
November 8: Midterm Senate elections begin. By the time the arcane process is done, the Democrats pick up five Senate seats, and the Socialist Labor Party picks up one, bringing the totals in the Senate to 45 Democrats, 44 Republicans, and 3 Socialist Laborites.
November 20: The Mexican Revolution of 1910 begins, as Francisco I. Madero declares the elections of 1910 are null and void, calling for an armed revolution against the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz.
December 12: President Taft signs First Secretary Wilson's “Progressive Slate” into law, following the lightning passage of the three bills. As per the previous agreement with the First Secretary, Taft submits his new Cabinet appointments to the House of Representatives: James R. Mann (R-IL) as Secretary for Industrial Coordination, and Victor Berger (SD-WI) for Secretary of Labor.
January 31: At a special congress of the Social Democratic Party, the party votes to formally weld the party-apparatus to that of the larger Socialist Labor Party. The merger is expected to be confirmed by an early Summer special conference of the SLP.
March 4: Congress returns from recess to face a growing crisis of confidence among the American people over the role of big business in society. The events of the year will not do much to help that confidence.
March 8: The first installment of Frederick Taylor's monograph, The Principles of Scientific Management, appears in The American Magazine. The three month run gives a tremendous boost to the growing proto-corporatist movement among American Progressives.
March 29: The M1911 .45 caliber pistol is adopted by the United States Army.
May 1: The publicly owned central bank of the United States, the Bank of the Republic, begins formal operation today, with the appointment of economist Irving Fisher as Chairman of the Bank of the Republic.
May 15: Standard Oil achieves monopoly status in the oil industry, with greater than 99 percent control of the American domestic oil market. This news is met with great apprehension throughout much of the country. Two massive monopolies are now entrenched in the US market, and have been hostile to both organized labor as well as progressive government attempts to regulate them.
May 31: The RMS Titanic is launched. As the White Star Line's new flagship, she promises to be the most luxurious ocean liner in the world.
June 14: A national seamen's strike begins in Britain.
June 20: The National Executive of the SLP authorizes the mass enrollment of the Social Democratic Party into the SLP. The move is unpopular with Daniel DeLeon, but Eugene Debs remains hopeful that the reformist wing can be won over to a revolutionary position.
July 1: The creation of a special committee to investigate the Monopoly Capital situation is announced by First Secretary Wilson. A joint creature of the Cabinet and the Commerce Committee, the commitee's chairman, James Mann, makes broad sweeping subpoenas to begin its task.
August 8: Public 62-6 sets the number of representatives in the House of Representatives at 435.
August 21: SLP National Secretary Daniel DeLeon passes away of a sudden stroke in the early hours of the morning. The powerful leader and brilliant Marxist theoretician will be sorely missed in the SLP. His funeral is attended by the First Secretary and the Speaker of the House. Future historians will remember DeLeon's funeral as the last of the halcyon days of broad progressive reform.
September 8: Infighting begins in Wilson's coalition government over the preliminary reports of Mann's special committee. While the findings of capital concentration and it's potentially dangerous effects on the health of the Republic, the preliminary report's cautiously pro-capital policy recommendations draw fire from the left-wing members of the coalition.
October 10: The Wuchang Uprising starts the Xinhai Revolution.
October 18: Revolutionaries under Sun Yat-sen overthrow China's Qing Dynasty, founding a provisional government that would become the Republic of China.
November 14: Just before the end year recess, a preliminary policy agreement is reached by the Wilson Cabinet. A new antitrust law, narrowly tailored under the new Seventeenth Amendment and the Court's interpretation of the takings clause from the case of Northern Securities Co. v. US, the new act would chiefly prevent vertical integration and collusions between trusts from different industries. The bill is chiefly aimed at separating the various parts of the J.P. Morgan and Rockefeller empires.
December 8: The Carpenter's Union votes to quit the AF of L, and join the STLA, basically signally the death knell of the American Federation of Labor as a viable union federation.
December 31: Sun Yat-sen becomes the first President of the Republic of China
January 5: The Russial Social Democratic Labour Party splits into two separate organizations along the Bolshevik/Menshevik divide.
January 18: Forty thousand workers walk out of textile mills in Lawrence, Massachussetts, beginning the Bread and Roses strike.
February 14: The now bankrupt American Federation of Labor capitulates to the industrial unionist STLA. The AF of L President Samuel Gompers accepts STLA President Big Bill Haywood's offer for a “general Congress of American labor” to handle the organizational task for merging the two union federations.
March 14: The Bread and Roses strike ends, with the combined forces of the craft-union United Textile Workers and the mostly woman, immigrant Revolutionary Textile Workers winning a forty hour work week, better pay, and a collective bargaining agreement.
April 17: The RMS Titanic arrives in New York harbor, having bested the White Star Line's previous Atlantic crossing record. The White Star Line flagship's smashing success is a major coup for the International Mercantile Marine Company, the transnational cartel that holds a near monopoly on trans-Atlantic shipping.
May 1: The streets of Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York are paralyzed by May Day demonstrations organized by the Socialist Labor Party. The march this year is unique, making women's suffrage a center issue alongside traditional labor issues.
May 5: The V Olympiad begins in Stockholm, Sweden. It is the first of the Olympic Games to have participants from all five continents.
May 16: Gomper's and Haywood's “general Congress of American labor” meets in Chicago. The Congress, attended by representatives of every major trade union in America, would lead to the merger of the AF of L and the STLA into a new trade union federation, the International Workers' Solidarity Union. The new union would serve as a prototype for the international union federation endorsed by American delegates to the Second International.
June 6: The Socialist Labor Party National Convention begins in Toledo, Ohio. The motley convention, representing a broad spectrum from Western miner syndicalists and prarie socialist yeoman farmers, to dissident intellectual progressives from the Republican Party, ratifies what would later be known as the Toledo Programme, endorsing industrial unionism, revolutionary socialism, and fierce anti-imperialism.
June 18: The Republican Party renominates William Howard Taft for the presidency, almost completely unopposed.
June 25: The Democratic Party nominates William Jennings Bryan for President, healing the potential split between his Populist Democratic insurgents and the rest of the party apparatus.
July 3: The Socialist Labor Party and the International Workers' Solidarity Union ratify a joint-constitution, welding the two organizations together while preserving union independence from the party.
August 6: Following pay-cuts dictated by the US Steel Corporation's central management, the Steelworkers' Organizing Committee votes to organize a walkout, to both win union recognition and push back the declining wages among steelworkers.
August 21: Membership in the Steelworkers' Organizing Committee grows substantially, as the strike spreads like wildfire. The largest corporation in America is nearly paralyzed by striking workers. The only thing preventing a direct armed confrontation between the strikers and US Steel's allies in state governments and private mercenary organizations is the direct intervention by Wilson's coalition government to prevent such a catastrophe.
October 7: The Eighteenth Amendment, guaranteeing the right to vote for women, and supporting the principal of electoral fusion and free association, is ratified, though not quickly enough to come into full effect for the general election less than a month away.
November 5: William Howard Taft is narrowly re-elected President, while the Republican Party makes considerable gains in the House of Representatives. Negotiations soon begin between House Speaker Cannon and the incumbent First Secretary Wilson over whether the current cross-party coalition government will persist.
November 7: US Steel settles with the steelworkers, recognizing the organization and rolling back the paycuts. However, the union was unable to win pay increases or shorter hours.
November 24: An extraordinary congress of the Second International is convened in Basel to address the rapidly escalating tensions between Austrians and Serbs and the growing fear that a general European war was on the horizon. The congress reiterates the International's “war on war”, and called on all member parties to resist national war movements in their countries.
General election, 1912
The defection of large sectors of the Republican Party to support Woodrow Wilson's trans-party reform coalition following the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment would prove to be a wake up call for the party establishment. In spite of infighting in the coalition, Wilson governed effectively, and enjoyed broad support amongst the electorate, regardless of party affiliation. Neither could the stalwarts of the party ignore the growing class-war issue.
With the 1912 Republican Convention, these divisions were healed. The conservative, pro-business faction moved to the center to placate dissident Republicans. For the first time, the growing concentration of capital, and the formation of large monopoly trusts in steel, oil, transatlantic trade, transcontinental railroad, and even sugar, was addressed in a sober manner.
To the chagrin of the Populist Progressives, the Republicans would not go any further than mediating the class war, and regulating away its excesses through the application of a corporatist economic doctrine. The tacit endorsement of Legalist Progressivism by the Convention's Platform Committee was made explicit by Taft's renomination acceptance speech. Thus, in the 1912 election, two ostensibly “Progressive” political parties would battle for control of the national political economy. Unfortunately for Wilson's Democrats, the existence of a growing mass-based socialist party undermined the very point of Democratic Progressivism in electoral politics. The decline of the Northern working-class vote for the Democratic Party would prove fatal to the party's prospects as a national political party. Only thanks to the socialists sapping away large portions of formerly Republican voting electorates was the party able to mount an effective national campaign in 1912.
For the Socialist Labor Party, 1912 seemed like the entrance into the big leagues. The growth of the party showed no signs of stopping or even slowing, and it seemed it would soon take power, perhaps by the end of the decade. So long as the party kept growing, the unresolved issues of reform vs. revolution could be put off for a later date. But even with the total capture of the formerly Democratic aligned northern working-class vote, and a significant further influx of Republican defectors, it was simply not likely that the party could crack the powerful Republican ideological dominance in many of the Northern states.
Regardless, the 1912 election is a particularly interesting one for historians, due to how close the electoral count ultimately was. The shift of a few thousands votes in just one of the several Midwest industrial states, such as Illinois, Indiana, or Ohio, would have given the state's entire elector slate to the Democrats, and put William Jennings Bryan in the White House. In spite of almost a twenty-percent lead over Bryan, Taft was very nearly defeated in the election.
Presidential candidate_____Party______________Popular Vote_____Percentage______Electoral Count
William H. Taft_____________Republican Party______6,801,565_______48.45%________277
Alton B. Parker_____________Democratic Party_____4,122,721________29.37%________254
Eugene Debs_______________Socialist Labor Party___3,115,015__________22.19%________0
House of Representatives_______Seats________Change
Socialist Labor Party*___________40___________+20
Socialist Labor Party_____________3___________0
Amendments to the US Constitution, 1905-1913
Sixteenth Amendment (Ratified July 18th, 1909)
§ One: The executive power shall be vested in the President of the United States; and in the Cabinet of the United States, consisting of the various Secretaries in charge of the executive departments, the First Secretary, and such other officers of the House of Representatives as determined by law.
The First Secretary and Secretaries of the Cabinet shall be elected by the House of Representatives without debate on the proposal of the President. The person who receives the majority vote of the House of Representatives shall be appointed by the President.
Members of the Cabinet may serve concurrently as members of the House of Representatives.
§ Two: The House of Representatives may express its lack of confidence in the Cabinet only by electing successors by majority vote of the members and requesting the President to dismiss the Cabinet. The President must comply with this request and appoint the successors.
If a motion of the First Secretary for a vote of confidence is not supported by a majority of members of the House of Representatives, the President may dissolve the House of Representatives, and order new elections to occur within twenty one days of dissolution.
§ Three: Save the following provisions, the House of Representatives shall be elected for four years. Its term shall end when a new House convenes. New elections shall be held no sooner than forty-six months and no later than forty-eight months after the electoral term begins. If the House be dissolved, new elections shall be held within sixty days.
The House of Representatives shall convene no later than thirty days following election.
Seventeenth Amendment (Ratified October 7th, 1910)
§ One:The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
§ Two: The Congress shall have the power to regulate Commerce within the United States; specifically with respect to the fair standards of safe labor, the regulation of the operations of trusts, corporations, cartels, trade unions and other such commercial combinations.
§ Three: The Congress shall have the power to establish a national bank.
Eighteenth Amendment (Ratified October 7th, 1912)
§ One: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
§ Two: The right of citizens to form associations within and between political parties shall not be infringed. Neither the United States, nor any State, shall prohibit electoral fusion as a matter of free association in all elections.
§ Three: Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Excerpt from The Socialist Tradition in America: An Interpretation of American Political Thought Through Both Revolutions, by Louis Hartz (Harcourt: Brace Publishers, 1955)(6)
...The socialist tradition’s triumph among the American proletariat was not, as it might appear, the Red May Revolution of 1933. Such a victory, bold and obvious as it is, would be entirely impossible without a far more subtle but ultimately more earth-shattering development. That small but vital turning point can be found with the eclipse of Samuel Gompers and the AF of L, and the rise of “Big Bill” Haywood and Solidarity.
1912 would prove to be a year of revolutionary importance in the American socialist movement. February would bring Gompers’ capitulation, and the final abandonment of class-collaborationist “craft-union” strategies in American organized labor. The commitment to revolutionary industrial unionism among the American proletariat would serve to provide the organizational bedrock upon which the class could be mobilized to seize political power. For now, that was still largely confined within the norms of Fabian Socialism, but important deviations from the traditional Bernstein-Kautskyian line of the Second International were also embraced by the Socialist Labor Party.
As the chief intellectual theorist of the early Socialist Labor Party, Daniel DeLeon build the fundamental theoretical doctrine that would serve to distinguish the American movement from the parallel movements across Europe. For all of their zeal and scholarship, the European “Marxist” intellectuals of that era were almost without exception a sort of liberal reformer dressed in worker's clothing. The leaders of the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD) led the international workers' movement due to their mass organization and, on paper, powerful influence withing the German Reich. However, the liberal whiggery of Erfurt era SPD confined the influence of the German working class to the narrow avenues provided by the bourgeois state. The left-wing dissidents of the SPD such as Luxemburg notwithstanding, the whole of the party was as bourgeois to the core as any of the other German parties.
The German reformists conceived of the class-struggle within the narrow confines of the bourgeois halls of government. In doing so, they neglected the very clear understanding that Marx and Engels had cultivated in their works for over three decades: the economic base of society is prior to and more fundamental than its superstructure.
The class struggle is a battle fought within the economic base of society between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. As such, it is also fought in all of the manifestations of the superstructure, of which the tiny parliament is but one of the many institutions of state, and the state in turn only one of many components of the social superstructure. These “Marxists” handily neglected the primary mode of the class-struggle, and the trade unions that had formed as a direct consequence of the class struggle. The trade union wasn't just denied revolutionary potential; it was totally disregarded and placed as a secondary institution to the party's parliamentary designs on power.
Even while the Socialist Labor Party made gestures to bourgeois respectability during the period immediately prior to the First World War, the party never abandoned its revolutionary orientation. The political struggle of the working class was properly understood to be broader than just elections. Elections would only be one aspect of the emerging vanguard's function within the proletariat. In many ways, the experience of the Socialist Labor Party would serve as a prototype to Lenin's writings on the nature of the revolutionary vanguard following the October Revolution.
As the vanguard party, the SLP would serve as the “university of the working class,” educating the the proletariat in the theory of revolution, and providing the organization tools to teach the working class a means of resisting capital. In doing so, it would coordinate the totality of politics, and its intersection with social life. The vanguard party's apparatus would provide an authentically proletarian alternative to the organized corruption of the city machines, offering the means of subsistence, and most importantly, dignity and self-respect as a worker. As a rule of American politics, wherever the machiens retreated or were dissolved, the vanguard party quickly advanced to fill the vacuum. The Republican campaigns against the corrupt Democratic Party machines prior to the 1912 General Election, and which only barely ensured victory for the Republicans, would leave a fallow field for working class organization to grow in.
...The SLP's and the Solidarity union's policy with regards to small freeholders and rural farm workers was another important revolutionary deviation with the whiggish orthodoxy of the European Lasalleans. The unique absence of feudal legacies, especially serfdom and religious absolutism, in American history created a vital difference in American class dynamics. Unlike in Europe, the rural farmer was not a peasant. The whole of the rural areas of America were not populated with a vast reactionary mass; instead, the rural worker and the freeholder were members of and natural allies of the urban proletariat respectively.
The 1912 General Election demonstrated this abundantly to the ruling classes, as vast sections of the rural Midwest and Western states turned out to support the Socialist Labor Party. Almost half of the Socialist caucus in the House of Representatives would come from predominantly rural western states, and these states had large slates of Socialists in their own state legislatures.
Excerpts from Sean Hannity, A History of the Worker's Vanguard in America, 1876-1946, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999)
The period from the mid 1890s to the start of the First World War is often described by historians of the left as the Rise of Monopoly Capital. This pithy phrase, while apt, unfortunately cannot capture the full terror of this era. Never before in history had the economic power of society been constituted and consolidated into so few hands. These robber barons, men like John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Charles Schwab and Henry Morrison Flagler, often massed fortunes literally one million times greater than the wealth of the average worker.
Through entirely legal machinations, the cartels of this era centralized ever greater sections of capital into united combines called “trusts”. As they expanded, they plowed their lesser competitors under by the score.
The reasons for this expansion of capital have been well understood by modern political economy. The tendency of the rate of profit to fall in a capitalist society, first elucidated by Marx in Vol. 3 of Capital, is the inexorable historical force that drives the concentration of capital. As he noted, within the capitalist epoch “it is thereby proved a logical necessity that in its development the general average rate of surplus-value must express itself in a falling general rate of profit.” As the value of past labor, capital, increases exponentially with accumulation, the volume of current labor shrinks in proportion. Thus:
“...it follows that the portion of living labour, unpaid and congealed in surplus-value, must also be continually on the decrease compared to the amount of value represented by the invested total capital. Since the ratio of the mass of surplus-value to the value of the invested total capital forms the rate of profit, this rate must constantly fall.”As the rate of profit fell, the very nature of capitalist market competition drove consolidation. It was no longer enough to be content with dozens of competitors in a given commodity market. But the size of the market for goods simply could not expand fast enough to keep in pace with the falling rate of profit. Without consolidation, each passing year would bring ever diminishing returns to capital, and thus stagnation. The successful firms, chiefed by the most ruthless and unscrupulous, acted first. They destroyed their competitors by whatever means they could, and absorbed their empires into their own. They colluded with one another to form cartels to maintain profits for themselves and their shareholders. And through the consolidation of power in the monopoly trust, they came to dominate political power within the state.
It was simply no longer the case that the state was “the executive committee to manage the common affairs of the bourgeoisie.” The state became the executive committee of the national bourgeoisie. The final logic of moribund capitalism was the corporatist state, in its liberal and fascist forms.
As part of the centralization drive, the trusts turned themselves to the seemingly largest champion of labor, and brought the full force of their might upon it. They crushed the American Federation of Labor, in spite of the pathetic class-collaborationist organization's sycophantic attitude towards capital. True to the inexorable dialectic of history, every action taken to preserve capital only dug its grave deeper. Through their machinations, the trusts worked harder than any activist to build the Socialist Labor Party and the Solidarity industrial union. Only too late would they realize that they had created their personal undertaker and reaper.
The Socialist Labor Party as a national party: Primary Documents, circa 1912
National PlatformThe Socialist Labor Party of the United States of America in National Convention assembled in Toledo on June 7th, 1912, re-affirming its previous platform pronouncements, and in accord with the International Socialist Movement, declares:
Socialist Labor Party of America
Adopted by the Thirteenth National Convention, Toledo, June 1912
And approved by a general vote of the party’s membership.
Social conditions, as illustrated by the events that crowded into the last four years, have ripened so fast that each and all the principles, hitherto proclaimed by the Socialist Labor Party, and all and each the methods that the Socialist Labor Party has hitherto advocated, stand to-day most
The Capitalist Social System has wrought its own destruction. Its leading exponents, the present incumbent in the Presidential Chair, and his counterpart in the First Secretariat, however seemingly at war with each other on principles, cannot conceal the identity of their political views. The oligarchy proclaimed by the tenets of the one, the monarchy proclaimed by the tenets of the other, jointly proclaim the conviction of the foremost men in the Ruling Class that the Republic of Capital is at the end of its tether. True to the economic laws from which Socialism proceeds, dominant wealth has to such an extent concentrated into the hands of a select few, the Plutocracy, that the lower layers of the Capitalist Class feel driven to the ragged edge, while the large majority of the people, the Working Class, are being submerged.
True to the sociologic laws, by the light of which Socialism reads its forecasts, the Plutocracy is breaking through its republic-democratic shell and is stretching out its hands towards Absolutism in government; the property-holding layers below it are turning at bay; the proletariat is awakening to its consciousness of class, and thereby to the perception of its historic mission. In the midst of this hurly, all the colors of the rainbow are being projected upon the social mists from the prevalent confusion of thought. From the lower layers of the Capitalist Class the bolder, yet foolhardy, portion bluntly demands that “the Trust be contained.”
Even if the Trust could, it should not be contained; even if it should it cannot. The law of social progress pushes towards a system of production that shall crown the efforts of man, without arduous toil, with an abundance of the necessaries for material existence, to the end of allowing leisure for mental and spiritual expansion. The Trust is a mechanical contrivance wherewith to solve the problem. To smash the contrivance were to re- introduce the days of small-fry competition, and set back the hands of the dial of Time. The mere thought is foolhardy. He who undertakes the feat might as well brace himself against the cascade of Niagara. The cascade of Social Evolution would whelm him.
The less bold among the smaller property-holding element proposes to “curb” the Trust with a variety of schemes. The very forces of social evolution that propel the development of the Trust stamp the “curbing” schemes, whether political or economic, as childish. They are attempts to hold back a runaway horse by the tail. The laws by which the attempt has been tried strew the path of the runaway. They are splintered to pieces with its kicks, and serve only to furnish a livelihood for the Corporation and the Anti- Corporation lawyer.
From still lower layers of the same property-holding class, social layers that have sniffed the breath of Socialism and imagine themselves Socialists, comes the iridescent theory of capturing the Trust for the people by the ballot only. The “capture of the Trust for the people” implies the Social Revolution. To imply the Social Revolution with the ballot only, without the means to enforce the ballot’s fiat, in case of Reaction’s attempt to override it, is to fire blank cartridges at a foe. It is worse. It is to threaten his existence without the means to carry out the threat. Threats of revolution, without provisions to carry them out result in one of two things only—either the leaders are bought out, or the revolutionary class, to which the leaders appeal and which they succeed in drawing after themselves, are led like cattle to the shambles. The Commune disaster of France stands a monumental warning against the blunder.
An equally iridescent hue of the rainbow is projected from a still lower layer, a layer that lies almost wholly within the submerged class—the theory of capturing the Trust for the Working Class with the fist only. The capture of the Trust for the people implies something else, besides revolution. It implies revolution carried on by the masses. For reasons parallel to those that decree the day of small-fry competition gone by, mass-revolutionary conspiracy is, to-day, an impossibility. The Trust-holding Plutocracy may successfully put through a conspiracy of physical force. The smallness of its numbers makes a successful conspiracy possible on its part. The hugeness of the numbers requisite for a revolution against the Trust-holding Plutocracy excludes Conspiracy from the arsenal of the Revolution. The idea of capturing the Trust with physical force only is a wild chimera.
Only two programs—the program of the Plutocracy and the program of the Socialist Labor Party—grasp the situation. The Political State, another name for the Class State, is worn out in this, the leading capitalist Nation of the world, most prominently. The Industrial or Socialist State is
throbbing for birth. The Political State, being a Class State, is government separate and apart from the productive energies of the people; it is government mainly for holding the ruled class in subjection. The Industrial or Socialist State, being the denial of the Class State, is government that is part and parcel of the productive energies of the people. As their functions are different, so are the structures of the two States
The structure of the Political State contemplates territorial “representation” only; the structure of the Industrial State contemplates representation of industries, of useful occupations only. The economic or industrial evolution has reached that point where the Political State no longer can maintain itself under the forms of democracy. While the Plutocracy has relatively shrunk, the enemies it has raised against itself have become too numerous to be dallied with. What is still worse, obedient to the law of its own existence the Political State has been forced not merely to multiply enemies against itself; it has been forced to recruit and group the bulk of these enemies, the revolutionary bulk, at that.
The Working Class of the land, the historically revolutionary element, is grouped by the leading occupations, agricultural as well as industrial, in such manner that the “autonomous craft union,” one time the palladium of the workers, has become a harmless scare-crow upon which the capitalist birds roost at ease, while the Industrial Unions cast ahead of them the constituencies of the government of the future, and, jointly, point to the Industrial State. It should be of no surprise to anyone that the harmless scare-crow has been cast aside by the class-conscious Working Class.
Nor yet is this all. Not only has the Political State raised its own enemies; not only has itself multiplied them; not only has itself recruited and drilled them; not only has itself grouped them into shape and form to succeed it; it is, furthermore, driven by its inherent necessities, prodding on the Revolutionary Class by digging ever more fiercely into its flanks the harpoon of exploitation.
With the purchasing power of wages sinking to ever lower depths; with certainty of work hanging on ever slenderer threads; with an ever more gigantically swelling army of the unemployed; with the needs of profits pressing the Plutocracy harder and harder recklessly to squander the workers’ limbs and life; what with all this and the parallel process of merging the workers of all industries into one interdependent solid mass, the final break-up is rendered inevitable, and at hand. No wild schemes and no rainbow-chasing will stead in the approaching emergency. The Plutocracy knows this—and so does the Socialist Labor Party—and logical is the program of each.
The program of the Plutocracy is feudalic Autocracy, translated into Capitalism. Where a Social Revolution is pending, and, for whatever reason, is not enforced, REACTION is the alternative.
The program of the Socialist Labor Party is REVOLUTION—the Industrial or Socialist Republic, the Social Order where the Political State is overthrown; where the Congress of the land consists of the representatives of the useful occupations of the land; where, accordingly, a government is an essential factor in production; where the blessings to man that the Trust is instinct with are freed from the trammels of the private ownership that now turn the potential blessings into a curse; where, accordingly, abundance can be the patrimony of all who work; and the shackles of wage slavery are no more. In keeping with the goals of the different programs are the means of their execution. The means in contemplation by REACTION is the bayonet. To this end REACTION is seeking, by means of the police spy and other agencies, to lash the proletariat into acts of violence that may give a color to the resort to the bayonet.
By its manoeuvres, it is egging the Working Class on to deeds of fury. The capitalist press echoes the policy, while the pure and simple political Socialist party press, generally, is snared into the trap. On the contrary, the means firmly adhered to by the Socialist Labor Party is the constitutional method of political action, backed by the industrially and class-consciously organized proletariat, to the exclusion of Anarchy, and all that thereby hangs. At such a critical period in the Nation’s existence the Socialist Labor Party calls upon the Working Class of America, more deliberately serious than ever before, to rally at the polls under the Party’s banner. And the Party also calls upon all intelligent citizens to place themselves squarely upon the ground of Working Class interests, and join us in this mighty and noble work of human emancipation, so that we may put summary end to the existing barbarous class conflict by placing the land and all the means of production, transportation and distribution into the hands of the people as a collective body, and substituting for the present state of planless production, industrial war and social disorder, the Socialist or Industrial Commonwealth—a commonwealth in which every worker shall have the free exercise and full benefit of his faculties, multiplied by all the modern factories.
The Toledo Programme
Ratified June 15th, in National Convention assembled.
The Socialist Labor Party declares that the capitalist system has outgrown its historical function, and has become utterly incapable of meeting the problems now confronting society. We denounce this outgrown system as incompetent and corrupt and the source of unspeakable misery and suffering to the whole working class.
Under this system the industrial equipment of the nation has passed into the absolute control of a plutocracy which exacts an annual tribute of hundreds of millions of dollars from the producers. Unafraid of any organized resistance, it stretches out its greedy hands over the still undeveloped re- sources of the nation-the land, the mines, the forests and the water powers of every State of the Union.
In spite of the multiplication of labor-saving machines and improved methods in industry which cheapen the cost of production, the share of the producers grows ever less, and the prices of all the necessities of life steadily increase. The boasted prosperity of this nation is for the owning class alone. To the rest it means only greater hardship and misery. The high cost of living is felt in every home. Millions of wage-workers have seen the purchasing power of their wages decrease until life has become a desperate battle for mere existence.
Multitudes of unemployed walk the streets of our cities or trudge from State to State awaiting the will of the masters to move the wheels of industry. The farmers in every state are plundered by the increasing prices exacted for tools and machinery and by extortionate rents, freight rates and storage charges.
Capitalist concentration is mercilessly crushing the class of small business men and driving its members into the ranks of propertyless wage-workers. The overwhelming majority of the people of America are being forced under a yoke of bondage by this soulless industrial despotism.
It is this capitalist system that is responsible for the increasing burden of armaments, the poverty, slums, child labor, most of the insanity, crime and prostitution, and much of the disease that afflicts mankind.
Under this system the working class is exposed to poisonous conditions, to frightful, and needless perils to life and limb, is walled around with court decisions, injunctions and unjust laws, and is preyed upon incessantly for the benefit of the controlling oligarchy of wealth. Under it also, the children of the working class are doomed to ignorance, drudging toil and darkened lives.
In the face of these evils, so manifest that all thoughtful observers are appalled at them, the legislative representatives of the Republican and Dernocratic parties remain the faithful servants of the oppressors.
The Minimum Programme
As measures calculated to strengthen the working class in its fight for the realization of its ultimate aim, the co-operative commonwealth, and to increase its power against capitalist oppression, we advocate and pledge ourselves and our elected officers to the following program:
1.) The collective ownership and democratic management of railroads, wire and wireless telegraphs and telephones, express service, steamboat lines, and all other social means of transportation and communication and of all large scale industries.
2.) The immediate acquirement by the municipalities, the states or the federal government of all grain elevators, stock yards, storage warehouses, and other distributing agencies, in order to reduce the present extortionate cost of living.
3.) The extension of the public domain to include mines, quarries, oil wells, forests and water power.
4.) The further conservation and development of natural resources for the use and benefit of all the people: . . .
5.) The collective ownership of land wherever practicable, and in cases where such ownership is impractical, the appropriation by taxation of the annual rental value of all the land held for speculation and exploitation.
6.) The collective ownership and democratic management of the banking and currency system, administered through the Bank of the Republic.
The immediate government relief of the unemployed by the extension of all useful public works. All persons employed on such works t be engaged directly by the government under a work day of not more than eight hours and at not less than the prevailing union wages. The government also to establish employment bureaus; to lend money to states and municipalities without interest for the purpose of carrying on public works, and to take such other measures within its power as will lessen the widespread misery of the workers caused by the misrule of the capitalist class.
The conservation of human resources, particularly of the lives and well-being of the workers and their families:
1. By shortening the work day in keeping with the increased productiveness of machinery.
2. By securing for every worker a rest period of not less than a day and a half in each week.
3. By securing a more effective inspection of workshops, factories and mines.
1. The absolute freedom of press, speech and assemblage.
2. The adoption of a graduated income tax and the extension of in- heritance taxes, graduated in proportion to the value of the estate and to nearness of kin-the proceeds of these taxes to be employed in the socialization of industry.
3. The abolition of the monopoly ownership of patents and the substitution of collective ownership, with direct reward to inventors by premiums or royalties.
4. Unrestricted and equal suffrage for men and women.
5. The adoption of the initiative, referendum and recall and of proportional representation, nationally as well as locally.
6. The abolition of the Senate and of the veto power of the President.
7. The election of the President and Vice-President by direct vote of the people.
8. The abolition of the power usurped by the Supreme Court of the United States to pass upon the constitutionality of the legislation enacted by Congress. National laws to be repealed only by act of Congress or by a referendum vote of the whole people.
9. Abolition of the present restrictions upon the amendment of the constitution, so that instrument may be made amendable by a majority of the voters in a majority of the States.
10. The granting of the right of suffrage in the District of Columbia with representation in Congress and a democratic form of municipal government for purely local affairs.
11. The extension of democratic government to all United States territory.
12. The enactment of further measures for the conservation of health. The creation of an independent bureau of health, with such restrictions as will secure full liberty to all schools of practice.
13. The enactment of further measures for general education and particularly for vocational education in useful pursuits. The Bureau of Education to be made a department.
14. Abolition of all federal districts courts and the United States circuit court of appeals. State courts to have jurisdiction in all cases arising between citizens of several states and foreign corporations. The election of all judges for short terms.
15. The immediate curbing of the power of the courts to issue injunctions.
16. The free administration of the law.
14. The calling of a convention for the revision of the constitution of the US.
Such measures of relief as we may be able to force from capitalism are but a preparation of the workers to seize the whole powers of government, in order that they may thereby lay hold of the whole system of socialized industry and thus come to their rightful inheritance.
On August 1st, 1912, Solidarity and the Socialist Labor Party of America adopted an official lyrical translation of the French socialist anthem “L’Internationale”. In time, the Internationale would come to be not only the anthem of working-class struggles across the nation, but would eventually be enshrined in the 1934 Basic Law of the Union of American Socialist Republics as “the national anthem of the American workers, in solidarity with the workers of the world”.
The adopted lyrics represent a compromise between different traditions and nationalities within the American working class. Immigrants from European countries, especially Ireland or Scotland, were much more familiar with the British English version of the anthem, translated anonymously near the end of the 19th Century. However, native born Anglo-Americans tended to favor Charles H. Kerr’s translation made famous by the Wobblies’ Little Red Songbook. Naturally, the eventual compromise needed to strike a balance between the many ethnic groups within the American working class.
Arise, ye workers, from your slumbers
Arise, ye prisoners of want
For reason in revolt now thunders
And at last ends the age of cant.
Away with all your superstitions
Servile masses, arise, arise
We’ll change henceforth the old tradition
And spurn the dust to win the prize.
Refrain:Behold them seated in their glory
The kings of mine and rail and soil!
What have you read in all their story,
But how they plundered toil?
The fruits of the workers’ toil are buried
In strongholds of the idle few
In fighting for their restitution
The people only claim their due.
RefrainNo more deluded by reaction
On tyrants only we’ll make war
The soldiers too will take strike action
They’ll break ranks and fight no more
And if those cannibals keep trying
To sacrifice us to their pride
They soon shall hear the bullets flying
We’ll shoot the generals on our own side.
RefrainNo savior from on high delivers
No faith have we in prince or peer
Our own right hand the chains must shiver
Chains of hatred, greed and fear
E’er the thieves will out with their booty
And give to all a happier lot.
Each at the forge must do their duty
And we’ll strike while the iron is hot.
The Great Crusade (Reds! Part 3)
The First World War
Prologue: Like the Snows of Yesteryear…
President Taft’s 1914 State of the Union address talked of “peace and prosperity in our time”, and promised that his administration’s policies would be directed towards promoting those ends for the nation. As the thunderous applause in the halls of Congress died down, the grim execution of this promise lay but a few months away.
On 28 June, a group of Serbian nationalists carried out an ill-planned and ill-conceived assassination in the streets of Sarajevo. Their target, Austro-Hungarian heir apparent Franz Ferdinand, was fatally shot that afternoon by the young Serb Gavrileau Princips. Austria’s rapid mobilization to punish independent Serbia soon triggered a Russian mobilization. France soon followed, calling up reserves in preparation for a general European war.
Germany, the growing titan of central Europe, mobilized in response to the threats against her ally Austria. Diplomatic efforts to halt the plunge towards war soon became mere token formalities given the nature of the revanchist regime in France, and as ultimatums were left unheeded a general state of war across the whole of Europe followed. The European parties of the Second Internationale, in spite of their commitments in the 1912 extraordinary world congress, all capitulated within days, voting for war credits.
Germany soon invaded the Low Countries as part of the later infamous Schlieffen Plan. Their aim was to move mass columns of troops across France’s undefended Belgian border to outflank French static defenses, followed by a deep salient penetration to capture Paris and end the war in the west. The violation of Belgian neutrality provoked Britain to declare war on Germany. The Schlieffen Plan would also export this European war across the Atlantic, to Canada and even the United States, which hitherto had always committed itself to general neutrality to European affairs.
According to the 1912 Toronto Treaty, passed in a closed session of the U.S. Senate, the United States would stand in solidarity with the UK if ever the neutrality of a British ally was violated resulting in a state of invasion or occupation. While the clauses of this treaty allowed the U.S. to remain neutral in most possible European conflagrations, the language of the treaty clearly applied to the Belgian question. President Taft, in a speech to a joint session of Congress, argued that the terms of the treaty made the U.S. at a de facto state of war with the German Reich.
A resolution formalizing the state of war was soon passed, with the Socialist Labor Party standing in firm opposition along with a few dissident members of the Democratic Party as well as the last remainder of the populist-progressive wing of the Republican Party. The vote for war mobilization soon followed, this time with the Socialist Labor Party standing alone in opposition to committing to the imperialist slaughter.
The Schlieffen Plan required that the French military be committed elsewhere to ensure its resolution. In a rare coincidence, French war planners obliged their German counterparts with General War Plan XVII. Under the mobilization scheme of the plan, the French military would concentrate on the narrow frontier between Germany and France and begin an assault into Alsace-Lorraine, under German occupation since 1871.
By the end of the year, neither France nor Germany succeeded in accomplishing their primary objectives. The Schlieffen Plan, for all of its precision, was logistically impossible. In spite of the efforts of the best logisticians the world had to offer, there simply were not enough roads and rail to move troops and supplies fast enough to exploit the breach. Both sides had fundamentally underestimated the ferocity of modern warfare. When the lines stabilized in the Winter of 1914-5, both the French and the Germans had completely exhausted prewar ammunition stockpiles, especially for the increasingly vital artillery.
In spite of noted successes in the Lorraine campaign, French troops were by and large stuck back in the massive frontier fortifications. On the left flank of the growing trench line, the Germany military was camped uncomfortably close to Paris, and large portions of French industry were now in German hands.
The days of wars decided by brilliant leaders and decisive battles were as dead as the one million soldiers killed in the Frontier battles. In spite of the stigma of incompetence given to WWI generals, both the Allies and the Central Powers displayed a level of professionalism in stark contrast to the experience of previous wars. It could even be argued that on the whole, both sides did the best they could with the resources they had.
Stabilization of the Frontier, Winter 1914-5, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and the History Department of the United States Military Academy.
Some Things Never Change...
It is a sweltering September day on the Kent State University campus, as hungover and exhausted college students gratefully retreat into the air-conditioned confines of Norman Thomas Hall. Noon is far too early to be discussing modern history, they collectively mumble; but it’s better than being outside, and the comfy chairs in the lecture hall will make napping easy.
For the professor, today is another great day in the academy, only slightly spoiled by ungrateful students. Dr. Demetriades quickly hangs up his fedora on the coat rack before scrawling on the white board in bold “WORLD WAR I”. There’s a murmur of groans from the lecture hall; World War I was so last century. The professor turns to the class and jokes, “I’m sure I can confidently assume that you’ve all read Chapter 14 of Zinn’s People’s History and the first three chapters of Hobshawn’s Age of Extremes that I assigned on Friday..."
It’s a tough crowd for the professor-cum-comedian. He points out at random to one of the students, and asks “Can you tell me at least one of the principal causes of World War I?”
The spiky haired youth scoffs, “Shit no. This stuff is boring, reading about ‘historical matrimony’ and stuff.”
“Historical materialism,” the professor corrects him. “It may be boring to you, but these events aren’t just dusty pages in a book—they actually happened, and they continue to affect where we are today.”
The youth shrugs, clearly not caring.
“Okay then, what would you rather be learning about, then?”
“I dunno, something exciting, like when General Patton led the Bonus Army to take DeLeon-Debs, D.C. during the Revolution. Something like that, you’know.”
The professor resists the urge to correct the young man about how Patton was only a Lieutenant Colonel at the time, and that the ‘Bonus Army’ and the many volunteers, militiamen and deserters that marched with them had restyled themselves as the Red Army months before, and that DeLeon-Debs, D.C. was still called Washington at the time. Instead, he points out the fact that should be so obvious: “But without his experiences in the trenches of the First World War, Patton would have just been any other career military officer. He’d have been with MacArthur shooting the strikers in Pennsylvania, not defending them. We’re reading his war diaries later this week—it’s all right on the syllabus.
“We study history because it tells us about how we got where we are today. This is why I can say that the German Reich’s decision to build a railroad from Berlin to Baghdad is just as important to American history as the Second Revolution was. The millions of American soldiers who died in the mud of Northern France from 1914 to 1918 radicalized American workers at home and vindicated the Socialists’ opposition to the war. That is why I’m asking you, humbly, to please pay attention in my class. College education may be free in this country, unlike in the Anglo-French Union, but that doesn’t mean you should waste this opportunity.”
The professor stepped off his soapbox, and turned to the whiteboard, and busily sketched down some important bullet points.
Excerpts from Howard Zinn, A People's History of America, (San Francisco: Black Flag Press, 1982)
"War is the health of the state," the radical writer Randolph Bourne said, in the midst of the First World War. Indeed, as the nations of Europe went to war in 1914, the governments flourished, patriotism bloomed, class struggle was stilled, and young men died in frightful numbers on the battlefields-often for a hundred yards of land, a line of trenches.
In the old United States, not yet in the war, there was worry about the health of the state. Socialism was growing. The IWSU seemed to be everywhere. Class conflict was intense. In the summer of 1914, during a Preparedness Day parade in San Francisco, a bomb exploded, killing nine people; two local radicals, Tom Mooney and Warren Billings, were arrested and would spend twenty years in prison. Shortly after that Senator James Wadsworth of New York suggested compulsory military training for all males to avert the danger that "these people of ours shall be divided into classes." Rather: "We must let our young men know that they owe some responsibility to this country."
The supreme fulfillment of that responsibility was taking place in Europe. Ten million were to die on the battlefield; 20 million were to die of hunger and disease related to the war. And no one since that day has been able to show that the war brought any gain for humanity that would be worth one human life. The rhetoric of the socialists, that it was an "imperialist war," now seems moderate and hardly arguable. The advanced capitalist countries of Europe were fighting over boundaries, colonies, spheres of influence; they were competing for Alsace-Lorraine, the Balkans, Africa, the Middle East.
The war came shortly after the opening of the twentieth century, in the midst of exultation (perhaps only among the elite in the Western world) about progress and modernization. One day after the English declared war, Henry James wrote to a friend: "The plunge of civilization into this abyss of blood and darkness ... is a thing that so gives away the whole long age during which we have supposed the world to be ... gradually bettering." In the first Battle of the Maine, the British and French succeeded in blocking the German advance on Paris. Each side had 500,000 casualties.
The killing started very fast, and on a large scale. In August 1914, a volunteer for the British army had to be 5 feet 8 inches to enlist. By October, the requirement was lowered to 5 feet 5 inches. That month there were thirty thousand casualties, and then one could be 5 feet 3. In the first three months of war, almost the entire original British army was wiped out.
Into this pit of death and deception came the United States, in the spring of 1915. President William Howard Taft had promised American intervention in the fall of the previous year, citing the mutual defense treaty with the British Empire. “The violation of Belgian neutrality,” he said in his address before the Congress, “is an unparalleled act of barbarism. The German Empire seeks to subjugate all of Europe under its jackboot. The freedom of all peoples is imperiled by the Hunnic hordes.”
As Richard Hofstadter points out (The American Political Tradition): "This was rationalization of the flimsiest sort.. . ." The war would be a principled defense of Belgian neutrality, while the plucky Belgians themselves were defending Congolese ivory and rubber from the native people they subjugated, or from the Germans who sought to relieve them of their spoils. The French and the British too had unleashed unparalleled savagery in their own colonies. Hofstadter says Taft "was forced to find moral reasons for policies that were based not upon morality but upon the balance of power and economic necessities."
Hofstadter wrote of "economic necessities" behind Taft's and later Wilson's war policy. In 1914 a serious recession had begun in the United States. J. P. Morgan later testified: "The war opened during a period of hard times. ... Business throughout the country was depressed, farm prices were deflated, unemployment was serious, the heavy industries were working far below capacity and bank clearings were off." But by 1915, war orders for the Allies (mostly England) had stimulated the economy, and by April 1917 more than $2 billion worth of goods had been sold to the Allies. American mobilization for war would bring additional billions more in orders to the stagnant industries. As Hofstadter says: "America became bound up with the Allies in a fateful union of war and prosperity."
Prosperity depended much on foreign markets, it was believed by the leaders of the country. In 1897, the private foreign investments of the United States amounted to $700 million dollars. By 1914 they were $3 billion. The industrialists and the political leaders talked of prosperity as if it were classless, as if everyone gained from Morgan's loans. True, the war meant more production, more employment, hut did the workers in the steel plants gain as much as U.S. Steel, which made $618 million in profit in 1915 alone? When the United States entered the war, it was the rich who took even more direct charge of the economy. Financier Bernard Baruch headed the War Industries Board, the most powerful of the wartime government agencies. Bankers, railroad men, and industrialists dominated these agencies.
… In spite the rousing words of National Unity Government's First Secretary Wilson about a war "to end all wars" and "to make the world safe for democracy," Americans did not rush to enlist. Millions of men were needed, hut in the first six weeks after the declaration of war only 45,000 volunteered. Congress voted overwhelmingly for a draft.
George Creel, a veteran newspaperman, became the government's official propagandist for the war; he set up a Committee on Public Information to persuade Americans the war was right. It sponsored 75,000 speakers, who gave 750,000 four-minute speeches in five thousand American cities and towns. It was a massive effort to excite a reluctant public. At the beginning of 1915, a member of the National Civic Federation had complained that "neither workingmen nor farmers" were taking "any part or interest in the efforts of the security or defense leagues or other movements for national preparedness."
The day after Congress declared war, the Socialist Labor Party met in emergency convention in St. Louis and called the declaration "a crime against the people of the United States." In the winter of 1914-5, Socialist antiwar meetings in Minnesota drew large crowds-twenty thousand, thirty thousand thousand, fifty thousand farmers-protesting the war, the draft, profiteering. A local newspaper in Wisconsin, the Plymouth Review, said that probably no party ever gained more rapidly in strength than the Socialist party just at the present time." It reported that "thousands assemble to hear Socialist speakers in places where ordinarily a few hundred are considered large assemblages." The Akron Beacon-Journal, a conservative newspaper in Ohio, said there was "scarcely a political observer ... but what will admit that were an election to come now a mighty tide of socialism would inundate the Middle West." It said the country had "never embarked upon a more unpopular war." In the municipal elections of 1914-5, against the tide of propaganda and patriotism, the Socialists made remarkable gains. Thirty Socialists were elected to the New York State legislature. In Chicago, the party vote went from 18.6 percent in 1913 to 48.1 percent in 1915. In Buffalo, it went from 9.6 percent to 38.2 percent.
Excerpt from James P. Cannon, Days in Red: A Memoir, (Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, Chicago, 1969).
...The vote on [President] Taft’s mobilization bill was scheduled for the second day of new Congressional term. Fresh from his party’s election victory, he expected [House Speaker] Champ Clark to comply with his bill with no debate and at all due haste. Of course, we had other plans. Solidarity’s Central Committee voted unanimously to call for a nationwide general strike of all of the affiliates the week before the opening of the new Congress. I can still remember being on the picket lines in front of the steel mills that day.Excerpts from Patton’s War Diaries, 1915-1919, by Martin Bluemenson, Ed. (Washington State University Press, 1972).
August 3, 19141. Text excerpted and altered from original, as originally presented in Chapter 14: War is the Health of the State. Copyrighted material borrowed in a spirit of socialist brotherhood. Rest in peace, Howard
2. Patton refers here to the violation of Belgian neutrality by the German military. Allied propaganda heavily played up alleged German atrocities in Belgium, many of them completely fabricated.
3. American Expeditionary Force; originally a single division (1st Infantry), rushed to France to bolster Allied morale, but would later be expanded to incorporate the bulk of the deployed American Army.
The Great Crusade (Reds! Part 3)
Nineteen-Fifteen: Into the Maelstrom
Excerpts from John Keegan, The First World War, (London: Hutchinson, 1998) 500 pages
...Following her induction into the Entente, the United States embarked upon a rapid drive to full wartime mobilisation. America's new parliamentary institutions were strengthened; First Secretary Joseph Cannon, a member of the President's Republican Party, stepped down, and Taft duly appointed Woodrow Wilson to his second tenure as chief of government. Though Wilson was a Democrat, he was the one man with the experience necessary to lead the state in the crucial affair of a national unity government. Wilson's Cabinet, for its part, wasted no time in making itself the focal institution for managing the war effort. Taft's newly created “War Cabinet” was quickly and decisively wrested under the control of the Wilson-Gillett diumvirate.
...The government's political difficulties were, however, immense, in spite of its commanding control of the United States Congress. While the coalition of dissenters, led by the Socialist Labor Party, controlled perhaps, at best, the votes of about 80 representatives and eight senators, the anti-war faction had tapped into massive public support outside the councils of government. Following the successful vote for war credits and military mobilization in early December of 1914, America's radicalized labour federation, the International Workers' Solidarity Union (IWSU) voted to walk out en masse.
The government's reaction to the anti-war strike was swift and brutal. Wilson, for lack of legal options, invoked the state of exception. The federal government quickly assumed extraordinary and extralegal powers to crush the strike. Habeas corpus was suspended, militia and police forces around the country were nationalised, and the army itself was mobilized without regard to Posse comitatus.(1) Order was soon restored, but at a bloody cost. The American rail workers had paralyzed the nations' commerce for almost three weeks, and industrial production nearly stopped altogether in many of the nation's industrial cities.
As part of the state of exception, the increasingly corporatist state assumed a greater role in directing the national economy. American dirigisme quickly crystallised, and the full might of the American economy was quickly marshaled towards war production. The Congress itself, long a target of derision for its rampant infighting, quickly assumed the role of a rubber stamp to the War Cabinet's directives. A slew of new laws, granting new powers to the state over both economic and personal life, were adopted: the Espionage and Sedition Acts, the Rationing Act, the Selective Service Act, the Industry and Commerce Act.
All this and more would be necessary. The United States entered the First World War with an army comprised of five infantry and two cavalry divisions, with scarcely 100,00 men in the whole of the active army. In spite of the massive public diplomacy campaigns to support the mobilization for war, less than ninety thousand young men volunteered for service within three weeks of the declaration of war. Drafts would be necessary to sustain the war effort...
...The mobilisation of industry, proved complicated as well. While the magnates of big business were enthusiastic at the commercial opportunities that the war effort and the powerful War Industries Committee in the Department of Industry would allow, organized labor remained militantly opposed throughout the war. While the major strikes quickly petered out in the face of state repression, small wildcat strikes, work stoppages, “work to code” slowdowns, and absenteeism plagued the mobilized industries. Unions also organized oppositions to recruitment, rationing and state repression of free speech.
Excerpt: A selection of posts from the alternatehistory.com discussion titled “Writing a TL – How do I get a Central Powers victory in WW1?”
On January 12, 1915, the American heavy cruiser USS Montana (ACR-13) was attacked by a German U-boat approximately 100 kilometers off the Azore Islands. The 14,000 tonne ship, returning from a training cruise, was ambushed just after dawn. She quickly took two torpedoes on her port side. Taking on water rapidly, the Montana began to list heavily. In spite of this, her crew mustered to general quarters, and launched several salvoes from her complement of sixteen 5 inch guns. However, she could not hit the small target presented by the U-Boat's periscope. While the third torpedo missed, a fourth struck her just aft of midships, flooding the main-engineering spaces. She suffered a catastrophic boiler implosion, and quickly foundered. At 10:23 A.M., she slipped under the waves. Less than one quarter of her 859 man complement were rescued.
The naval war against Germany began long before the American Expeditionary Force set foot in France. With Germany's naval blockade of Britain, both economic and military considerations required that the Kaiserliche Marine be driven out of the North Atlantic. It would not do, either for the War Cabinet or American corporate interests to see millions of dollars of war material end at the bottom of the Atlantic.
The naval arms building began in earnest. U.S. Steel, chafing under the depressed state of the steel market, soon found an influx of orders for steel to sustain the massive expansion of the American Navy: fifteen new battleships in three classes, all built around an all-or-nothing armor scheme, four main turrets, and top speed of 21 knots, twenty new light cruisers, starting with the Omaha-class, and close to forty new destroyers spread across six classes of “thousand tonner” ships. Taken together with the growing losses of ship tonnage to German submarine warfare, ensured that the steel industry would remain profitable throughout the war. The beginning of the naval building campaign saw U.S. Steel acquiring a large stake in the Atlantic shipbuilding industry. Naturally, this proved to be quite profitable to the shareholders in the steel cartel.
In February of 1915, the US Navy sortied four of her coal-firing dreadnoughts to Scapa Flow, as a token of American involvement in the war effort. While the four ships were obsolete compared to the fast, oil burning super-dreadnoughts that were the pride of the Home Fleet, they were reliable, and even twelve-inch guns are deadly enough for most purposes. However, it was the symbolism of the act that was most important: the American Navy would stand with the British in defending their home island. And most importantly, the coal-fired ships wouldn't cut into Britain's scarce oil supplies.
The War Cabinet first met on January 14, 1915. The first item on the agenda was not unexpected, but still controversial. In spite of their general agreement among the assembled leaders of the Democratic and Republican Parties about the need to give the war effort the full resources of the United States, most had reservations about taking the despotic measures against the right to property that would be necessary to mobilize the economy.
The American military itself was tiny and woefully unprepared. Preliminary estimates delivered by the War Department recommended a full twenty-fold expansion of the US Army; the current volunteer rates would not come close to meeting that. The lack of enthusiasm also betrayed a greater problem in the public's lack of confidence in the motivations for war. The Wilson government agreed early on to solve the problem from two fronts. The beginnings of what would be the National Service Act of 1915 were laid down in this first meeting. Under the act, all able bodied males between the ages of 19 and 31 would be registered for potential service. Exemptions were made for those men who were working in vital war industries. The target set by the War Cabinet in January was to have just under one-million men inducted into the US Army by the end of the year, with a further two million drafted or volunteered by the end of 1916.
New bureaucracies were created to instill a sense of enthusiasm in the effort into the public. The most powerful of these would be a new Committee for Public Information and its ancillary agencies. Chaired by the journalism magnate George Creel, and including among its members the Secretaries of State, War and Commerce, as well as media moguls such as William Randolph Hearst, the CPI would become a permanent fixture of the American state.
Every form of mass media available, from newspapers and radio, to the burgeoning movie industry, to even dime-store novels, became mobilized for the purpose of dragging an unwilling public into the war effort. The face of Progressivism, upon which most members of the second Wilson government has built their political careers, had changed. Progressivism had been shaped into something gaudy and lethal; equal in militancy to the “Jack-booted Huns” the nation was being mobilized to fight.
For now, the campaigns bore their bitter fruit. The CPI was instrumental in halting the advance of Socialist Labor Party-led anti-war coalition, and for a time, managed to turn the tide of public opinion back, against the SLP. The Army and Navy would have their warm bodies to fill their ranks.
But warm bodies were not enough to fight a war, especially a modern one. As the American Expeditionary Force found in its first series of engagements in May-June of 1915, the American Army was woefully unprepared for the tenacity of trench warfare. While the 1st Infantry Division was well trained, and entered with high spirits, the unit entered combat under-equipped in both machine guns and artillery support. Lacking in both number of guns as well as ammunition stocks, 1st Infantry faired poorly in the first engagements in support of the French attacks near Artois.
In all, there was a tremendous burden placed on American industry to support the war effort. By winter of 1914, the federal arsenal at Springfield, Massachusetts had produced some two-hundred thousand of the Model 1903 bolt-action rifle, chambered in the 30-06 cartridge. The Army would need millions more.
Everything from trench knives to boots, mess kits to artillery guns, would need to be mass-produced in short order to support a modern army that would quickly number in the millions. Mistakes were bound to be made along the way. Production problems, work stoppages, and confusing orders would plague the war industries throughout the war, but most acutely during the crucial first months. While the Army was able to eventually scrape together enough British and French surplus machine guns to supply the six lead divisions of the AEF adequately, the tide of new soldiers coming in the winter and next spring would need an American built alternative capable of using the same round as the standard battle rifle if the logistic system was to have any chance of coping.
The Browning Model 1915 machine gun was an excellent design, lighter and more reliable than the British Vickers or Maxim guns. However, its production, subcontracted to multiple manufacturers, was plagued by problems in the first runs. Most of the first run, serial numbers 1000 to 27000, faced considerable jamming problems due to tolerance problems, and had to be completely remachined. Other orders were delayed due to machining and assembly line problems.
Production orders with private arms manufacturers such as Colt and Winchester for the M1903 Springfield rifle were further complicated by the British Army's order for several hundred thousand of the Springfield rifles rechambered in the .303 British cartridge. During initial production runs, the receivers were not stamped effectively enough to differentiate the American and British models, and often times, large orders of the British model would wind up in the hands of American units and vice-versa.
In spite of the complications, the Department of Industrial Coordination's ever expanding bureaucracy proved efficient in coordinating the war effort and managing the collective affairs of the increasingly top-heavy cartels that dominated the American economy.
Major offensives of 1915 and 1916, courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons and the History Department of the United States Military Academy, uchronically edited by Jello_Biafra
The Entente Offensives
At the beginning of 1915, the German Heer occupied a large swath of Northeastern France. Large sections of French industry were under German occupation, and the frontlines themselves were perilously close to Paris. With the French General Staff and government fearing the possibility of a disastrous German breakout, and large portions of the country's warmaking capacity occupied or threatened, it became both politically and militarily imperative to push the Germans back.
In spite of mass strikes and war resistance, a steady stream of American reinforcements began starting in April. While 1st Infantry saw some fighting during June and July, the bulk of the AEF was held in reserve for a fall combined Entente offensive. In late July, the British Army renewed its offensives at the Loos. In August, the French began attacks at Vimy in the North and from the great fortress of Verdun in the South. The AEF joined the offensives at Champagne, with twelve divisions of American infantry, supported by a rag-tag collection of French artillery units, and American units utilizing scrounged British and French field guns as well as American guns.
In terms of the cost, in both manpower and equipment, they were staggering failures. The attempts to close the St. Mihil salient south of Verdun received devastating casualties tfrom German artillery and machine guns as they went over the wall into no-mans land. While they succeeded in taking German forward positions by the dawn of the third day, the French army was soon overwhelmed by German counterattacks, which soon pushed into the French front-line trenches and then into the rear. By the time the operation was cancelled in late October, the French Army had suffered over 90,000 casualities against 60,000 German casualties, gaining at best a few meters of ground here and there.
Up North, the British and German offensives, continuations of previous spring offensives, were similarly futile. Tens of thousands of men were lost for no appreciable gain. Neither side seemed capable of breaking the stalemate of trench warfare. The only appreciable progress in the whole of 1915 was in the combined Franco-American offensive at Champagne. In twelve weeks of desperate fighting, the AEF and the French Army pushed the frontlines forward approximately nine kilometers.
American soldiers in particular felt the brunt of the losses. They were literally being killed as fast as reinforcements arrived from across the Atlantic. The attack, beginning with ~110,000 men in twelve divisions, cost the lives of 180,000 American and 45,000 French soldiers. The attack, under the command of French Marshal Joffre, was a political disaster for Franco-American relations. American units, previously under French general command, would be separated in the fallout. American General John Pershing would be placed in command of American forces in Europe. On December 7, the United States Congress authorized the creation of new flag ranks for the Army and Navy, to give American flag officers parity with their Entente counterparts. Pershing would be the first promoted to the rank of Field Marshal.
1. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prohibits the use of federal uniformed services such as the Army or Navy in a law enforcement role on US soil except where expressly directed by the Constitution or the Congress. While the War Cabinet could have obtained a joint-resolution authorizing the mobilization of the army against the strikers, Wilson dispensed with this formality, creating the precedent for the state of exception.
The Great Crusade (Reds! Part 3)
Nineteen-Sixteen: Red Blood, Black Earth
Excerpt from Henry A. Wallace, Salt of the Earth (Nashville, TN: Pathfinder Press, 1963)
The war, I think, changed everything. I am candidly certain that had not over one million young American boys bled the soil of France red, then life as we know it today would be radically different. I’m sure it is the peculiar navel-gazing of old men and historians to ask what would have happened if some important event were to have been undone, but I cannot help to succumb to the temptation. One thing I do know for sure is that my own part in the war changed my life forever. The deaths of my comrades in the trenches of France and the militarization of society at home are an irrevocable part of me, and without them, I do believe I would have remained a simple farmer, happy with the smell of good tilled earth. I’m sure I would have been happier for it.Excerpt from Barry Goldwater, The Last Days of the Republic (Havana: Freedom Press, 1961)
It became very clear by 1916 that the Republic that our Founding Fathers had labored so hard to build, placing all the best hopes for humanity in, was entering its twilight years. A great proletarian mass from below, driven by immigrant anarchists, foreign agitators and home-grown demagogues, had come to reject the Enlightenment liberal values of the nation. Set against them, the great captains of industry had too forgotten what had made America great. Caught in between the great tides of Communism and Corporatism, the Constitution could not long endure.
Eugene Debs delivers an anti-war speech in Canton, Ohio, on June 4, 1916, to a crowd numbering in the thousands.
Excerpts from a speech by Eugene Debs, delivered in Canton, OH, on June 4, 1916
No wonder Sam Johnson declared that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” He must have had this Wall Street gentry in mind, or at least their prototypes, for in every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the people.
A familiar scene: the American section of the IWW, the International Workers' Solidarity Union, organizes an anti-war protest
Excerpt from Alan Smithy, The Twilight of the Law: The Legal Degeneration of the Old Republic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975)
In 1916, Charles Schenck was General Secretary of the Socialist Labor Party of America. As part of his political duties, Schenck was responsible for printing distributing and mailing party literature, in this case, leaflets advocating that American proletarians refuse to submit to conscription to fight in the First World War. Because of its principled opposition to the First World War, the party had found unprecedented growth, tapping into a powerful popular discontent with what was viewed as an imperialist war.The War on the Front
It was a badly hidden secret that all the various armies on the Western Front were in bad shape by 1916. The front-line divisions of all of the belligerents had been ground into dust months ago; the French Army held on with poorly trained reservists and new call-ups. The British Army's entire professional core was gone; either dead or incapacitated or watered down to provide NCOs for the waves of the recently conscripted. The American Army faired no better. The professional core had been pulverized, and while the new waves of conscripts were better equipped with machine guns and artillery than they had in 1915, morale had plummetted.
To help bridge the gap between the naval aviators and army pilots fighting in France, the combined air groups that had limped through 1915 were sheered off, and formed into a separate, independent Air Force by May of 1916.
That same month, the French Army began its costly attempt to breakout from the fortress town of Verdun. The German Heer, predictably, gave ground stubbornly and at great cost to the French. The German commanders, having lost the initiative in the West, were determined to wage a battle of attrition against the Entente.
The main action of the year, however, would be the bloodiest single battle of the war: the Somme. On June 1, the American and French armies began a joint offensive, supported by the largest artillery bombardment yet seen. It would not be enough. While the American and French units were better equipped with artillery and ammunition, they lacked a sufficient number of heavy guns to destroy the well prepared German bunkers. Further, the gunners lacked sufficient accuracy to drop shells to maximum effect on the front.
In spite of an average of fifty tonnes of explosives and shrapnel being dropped on each kilometer of front, many of the frontline soldiers survived the barrage in their deep dug-outs, and savaged the infantry in no-man's-land as soon as the barrage lifted. In spite of the outright failures of the initial attacks, the assaults continued until November, with the Heer giving ground slowly and at great cost.
In late July, the British Army under General Haig joined the battle on the northern flank, hoping to provide the extra push necessary to collapse the German defenses. Unfortunately for the Entente, the British proved no more effective then their American or French allies, and were similarly savaged. While the British Army fielded its wonder weapon, the tank, in September, this proved to be entirely underwhelming, and had very little effect on the outcome of the battle. Many of the tanks broke down before they reached the starting line, and those that did begin the assault could not sustain the offensive. But, in spite of this, the tank proved to be an effective terror weapon, and the proof of concept had been made.
Both the American and French armies soon formed their own tank corps. However, the bodies continued to pile up at the Somme. By the time the offensives ceased in early November, there were over 900,000 casualties for the Entente, and perhaps 600,000 for the Germans. Little more than 13 km at the deepest penetration, the Somme was a catastrophic debacle. However, the German army could little afford the causalities either. The Somme truly represented the attritional phase the war had entered.
The State of Exception on the Home Front
By September, it was abundantly clear to the War Cabinet that the political costs of the war had become astronomical. The upcoming general election would likely result in a disastrous political defeat for the National Unity Government. With the continuing bloody nose at the Somme, the debacle at Jutland, and the seething unrest at home, the government was faced with politically catastrophic consequences.
Thus Wilson did what had been previously unthinkable: dozens of opposition Congressional candidates were arrested and held without trial by federal and state police. Patriotic citizen groups brutalized Socialist Labor Party gatherings, and attempted to suppress the vote in November. And the truly unheard of happened: Democrats and Republicans did not stand for election against each other.
Such brutal, unconstitutional exercises of power were justified, as always, to defend the Constitution and the state against a clear and present danger.
However, as always, there was skullduggery afoot, even within the National Unity government. President Taft declined Wilson's proposal that he run for a third term as president. In a seeming gesture of goodwill, Taft instead offered for the Republican Party to not run a candidate in the 1916 election, and instead back prominent Democrat Thomas R. Marshall on a unity ticket, with a Republican as his running mate.
While the resulting deals would give the Democratic Party its first taste of power in ages, it would also place the political cost of the war firmly at the feet of the Democratic Party. The Republican Party would quickly capitalize on this after the conclusion of the war, victorious or otherwise, and place the entire blame for the war on the Democrats.
General Election, 1916
Presidential candidate_____Party_______________Popular Vote_____Percentage______Electoral Count
Thomas R. Marshall________Democratic Party______15,650,045_______65.92%________515
Allen L. Benson____________Socialist Labor Party___8,090,135________34.08%________20
Map courtesy of Jackson
House of Representatives_________Seats________Change
Socialist Labor Party____________63___________+23
Socialist Labor Party_____________8____________+8
The Great Crusade (Reds! Part 3)
Last edited by Jello_Biafra; April 10th, 2011 at 06:11 AM..
Nineteen-Seventeen: The Year of Disasters
Excerpt from E.E. Schattschneider, “Party Government in Crisis” in American Political Science Review, Vol. 32, No. 1, February 1938.
Predictably, the rise of the Socialist Labor Party as a third force in American party politics created dramatic consequences for party-government in the Congress. The work of previous theorists of the party in government demonstrated the effects of certain facets of the revolution in party politics more than adequately. Notably, the work of Fenwick et al. have theorized the enormous upheavals that the existence of three parties in Congress (particularly the House) have caused in the American constitutional system. Demonstrably, the existence of a sharply defined separation of powers within the government was a system that reflected the strongly non-partisan preferences of Founders such as Washington and Madison, and has adapted poorly to a regime of two powerful political organizations competing for control of the apparatus of government.President Thomas R. Marshall's Cabinet
Vice-President: Charles Evans Hughes (R-NY)
First Secretary: Woodrow Wilson (D-NJ)
Deputy First Secretary: James Mann (R-IL)
Secretary of State: Robert Lansing (D-NY)
Secretary of Treasury: Joseoph Fordney (R-MI)
Secretary of War: Leonard Wood (R-MA)
Attorney General: Thomas W. Gregory (D-TX)
Postmaster General: Albert S. Burelson (D-TX)
Secretary of the Navy: Theodore Roosevelt (I-NY)
Secretary of the Interior: Knute Nelson (R-MN)
Secretary of Agriculture: Gilbert N. Haugen (R-IA)
Secretary of Commerce: Joshua W. Alexander (D-MO)
Secretary of Industrial Coordination: William S. Vare (R-PA)
Leader of the House of Representatives: Champ Clark (D-MO)
Senate Majority Leader: Jacob H. Gallagher (R-NH)
The Russian Revolution
The day after Thomas Marshall was inaugurated as President of the United States, workers at the Pulitov factory, Petrograd's largest industrial plant, announced a wildcat strike. While there were limited clashes with Tsarist forces, there were few industries on the opening day. The strikers were fired, some shops closed, and arrests were made at the plant. However, the strike continued to fester.
By the 7th, a series of meeting that had originally been held for International Women's Day quickly evolved into economic and political gatherings. Demonstrations were organized to demand bread, which quickly spread among the factories. The strikes themselves grew, and by the 10th, virtually every industrial enterprise in Petrograd had been shut down, along with most commercial and service enterprises. The general strike brought together industrial workers, white-collar professionals, students and teachers. The red banners were flying.
Close to two-hundred thousand soldiers were mobilized by the Tsar to quell the uprising. However, they were poorly trained, with high numbers of injured and sick within the ranks. At best, some ten thousand could be counted as reliable, but even they were reluctant to put down the riots. By the 11th, they began to mutiny en masse.
With the bulk of the Petrograd garrison mutinying, and the city virtually under the control of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, representing the various worker councils and factory committees set up in the revolt, the beating heart of the Tsarist empire was gone. On March 15th, Tsar Nikolay II abdicated the throne to his brother, Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich. The Grand Duke wisely declined the crown.
The following day, there was a spirit of elation all over Petrograd. A provisional government was announced, representing a diverse liberal coalition, and chaired by Prince Georgy Lvov, a liberal aristocrat and member of the Kadets. However, the Provisional Government would face competition from the Petrograd Soviet, which chiefly involved the industrial workers and the political left.
For now, they cooperated, but the Provisional Government was forced to concede de facto supremacy to the Petrograd Soviet, which held democratic legitimacy, while the Provisional Government was a self-selected committee from the former Duma. For now, the Russian war effort continued mostly unabaded against the German Reich, but it did ease some political issues for the Entente, especially for the American war government. President Marshall quickly recognized the Provisional Government, and welcomed the transition to democracy in the Russian Empire. These events would later be known as the February Revolution in Russia.
The Nivelle Offensive
In late 1916, French Marshal Joffre was replaced by General Robert Nivelle as Commander-in-Chief of the French Army. Nivelle immediately put forward a bold plan for combined offensive. The British Army, supplemented by American divisions, would begin an attack near Arras in early April as a diversion. Meanwhile, the French Army, and the bulk of the American Expeditionary Force would prepare for an attack at Chemin des Dames ridge.
Nivelle's plan was bold and foolhardy. He expected a breakthrough and encirclement of the German Army within 48 hours, followed by a quick end of the war. For the offensive, the Entente assembled an immense force of nearly one and a half million men, close to 8,000 guns and three-hundred-fifty tanks.
The British offensive at Arras began on April 3rd. The Entente committed four armies to the offensive: the British First, third and Fifth Armies, and the American Third Army. Since October of the year before, the British Royal Engineers had been working underground, digging tunnels in the chalky soil around Arras. Besides logistical tunnels, to bring troops and ammunition to the front safely, and allow the safe evacuation of casualties, the Royal Engineers also dug assault tunnels, stopping a few meters short of the German lines to be blown on Zero-Day. In addition, mines were laid under the front-line, to be blown during the assault.
For the assault itself, a “creeping barrage” was planned, protecting attacking troops with a veil of artillery fire advancing one hundred meters ahead of the advance. Counter-battery fire was planned, and the crews drilled diligently in the weeks prior to make the most of the assault. On Zero-Day, over 80% of German heavy guns in the sector were neutralized.
Z-day proceeded surprisingly well. By chance, the sudden snow-storm of the day came at the assaulting troop's backs, blinding the German defenders with sleet. Many were caught unaware, captured half-dressed coming out of their dugouts.By the standards of the Western front, the gains of the first two days were nothing short of spectacular. A great deal of ground was gained for relatively few casualties and a number of strategically significant points were captured, notably Vimy Ridge. Additionally, the offensive succeeded in drawing German troops away from the French offensive in the Aisne sector.
The assault at Chemin des Dames, however, proved to be much more difficult. Beginning on April 13th, twenty-seven divisions from the French Fifth and Sixth Armies and the American First Army attacked the German line along an 80 km stretch from Soissons to Reims. Following a massive, but ineffective artillery barrage, French and American infantry, supported by French Schneider CA1 and American copies of the British Mark IV tank, crossed no-man's-land to face an average of one machine-gun every ten meters. German troops, safe in the underground quarries of the region, emerged to savage the attackers.
Coupled with an ineffective creeping barrage, and the poor showing of the French CA1 tanks, and the first day of th e assault was near disastrous. On the first day of battle, the French suffered close to 40,000 casualties and lost over one hundred tanks. The Americans faired slightly better, suffering twelve thousand casualties and the loss of twenty tanks to enemy fire.
The British faced their own share of setbacks in the week following the French offensive as the Aisne. German counterattacks wore down the British attackers, and the Franco-American attack only made ground through sheer weight and dogged determination. Thanks to the tankers of the American Tank Corps, and the dogged determination of the French and American infantry, the offensive proceeded.
Finally, on April 19th, the French and American troops achieved a breakthrough at Chemin de Dames. The British army continued to push foward steadily, and in spite of setbacks, the Entente pushed forward to the planned linkup at Hirson, near the Belgian border.
The luck was not to last. The continued artillery bombardments have leveled literally everything above ground on the axis of advance, and transformed the terrain into a cratered moonscape. The logistical problem would prove to be insurmountable. Moving ammunition and food to the front became nearly impossible in the conditions created by trench warfare. Thanks to this, and German tactical poise, the British and French assaults both ground to a halt by the 1st of May.
Men continued to be fed into the meat-grinder, in one last reckless hope of finishing the operation. The German army has already evacuated its forward positions, rendering the threat of encirclement moot. Nivelle ended the offensive on May 25th, giving the Entente a victory, though a Pyhrric one at that.
Victory would cost the Entente over seven hundred thousand casualties, compared to little over three-hundred-fifty thousand casualties for the German Army. The victory was so costly that mutiny began in the French Army, and the American Army found itself perilously close to mutiny.
Results of the Nivelle offensive. Dotted line = furthest extent of Entente advance. Blue line = lines at the close of the battle
The October Revolution
The young Russian Republic was in great social, political and economic crisis from the moment of its birth. Disorder in industry and transport continued to increase, and gross industrial production in 1917 had decreased by over forty percent from what it had been in 1916. Faced with a war it could not win, the economy also was on the verge of total collapse, with mass unemployment in the Urals, the Donbas and other industrial regions, massively increased cost of living, and the depression of real wages by almost 50 percent.
In September and October 1917, there were strikes by the Moscow and Petrograd workers, the miners of the Donbas, the metalworkers of the Urals, the oil workers of Baku, the textile workers of the Central Industrial Region, and the railroad workers on 44 different railway lines. In these months alone more than a million workers took part in mass strike action. Workers established control over production and distribution in many factories and plants in a social revolution.
The Provisional Government's authority continued to erode, especially after the Kornilov Affair. Facing an attempted coup, only the armies own poor morale, and the belligerence of the forces under the control of the Petrograd Soviet saved the Provisional Government during the August affair. Bolshevik popularity soared over the affair, and Vladimir Lenin continued to gain influence within the party.
On the 23rd of October, the Central Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks) voted 10-2 in favor of a resolution saying that "an armed uprising is inevitable, and that the time for it is fully ripe". It became clear that it would only be a matter of time before the Provisional Government fell, whether to reaction or revolution.
The Bolshevik coup began in the early hours of the morning of November 6th. Bolshevik operatives quickly took control of all major government offices and centers of power in Petrograd without firing a shot. At 9:45 p.m., Vladimir Lenin launched an assault upon the Winter Palace, guarded only by a few Cossacks, military cadets, and a Women's Battalion. It was taken at about 2 a.m., bloodlessly, and the tattered remnants of the Provisional Government were soon arrested.
The following day, on the floor of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, the Bolshevik leaders announced a decree transferring all powers to the Congress of Soviets. The resolution was ratified, with a strong majority of around 400 of the Congress' 670 elected delegates. While the Bolsheviks and the Left faction of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party (a peasant left-wing nationalist party) had supported the overthrow, the Right faction of the SRs and the Mensheviks had opposed it, charging that the Bolsheviks had illegally seized power. They soon walked out, effectively handing power to the Bolsheviks. As they left, Leon Trotsky taunted them “Go out where you belong—into the ash heap of history.”
On November 8th, the Congress of Soviets elected a Council of People's Commissars to serve as the basis of Soviet government until a Constituent Assembly could be assembled to ratify a new constitution. The Revolution would be a disaster for the Entente. The new government of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic made its intention to withdraw from the war abundantly clear.
The Great Crusade (Reds! Part 3)
Nineteen-Eighteen: A Year Draped in Red
Excerpt from Howard Zinn, Taking City Hall: The Growth of Workers' Power in New York City, (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1971)
The morning of January 1, 1918, was bitterly cold. The freezing rain, however, could not contain the boiling passion in the city's populace that day. Today would be a day of two mayors, and all of the city would soon be up in arms.
Excerpts from C. Wright Mills, “Reflections on the Bienno Rosso: Fifty Years Later” in The Daily Worker, May 1, 1968.
Morris Hilquit, Mayor-elect of New York City
(Left)Lady garment workers on strike during the Hylan-Hilquit Affair (Right) The NYC soviet congress meets in Union Square
You've head this before, probably more than once, in history classes or on PBS specials. Nevertheless, it is true. The Bienno Rosso is the defining period of American revolutionary socialism, and it shaped the character of our national political consciousness ever since.Red flags, red flags everywhere
The National Executive of the Socialist Labor Party made its first official statement on the Hylan-Hilquit Affair on the 13th of January, shortly after the official announcements from the Cabinet on martial law in New York. They denounced the president's mobilization of the National Guard as an abuse of power “more befitting a Prussian Junker than a leader of the American Republic,” and denounced the assumption of further emergency powers by the government to “wage war against the American proletariat.”
Though strong in its condemnation, the party wished to avoid offering any course of action, lest it be targeted for further official repression. The IWSU's central executive council was not so reserved. The union, finally having got it's ass in gear, announced a nationwide general strike.
Abandoning it's previous hostile anti-war rhetoric, the unions made clear that the general strike was against the tyrant Marshall and the dictatorial powers being used on the home front.
Tone didn't matter, and the government's counterattack treated all such behavior as treasonous. Following the previous days' cabinet reshuffle, on the 15th, the new Attorney-General A. Mitchell Palmer announced arrest warrants for leaders of the SLP and IWSU. The charges being leveled were a grave escalation of previous repressions. Participation in the general strike would be regarded by the Justice Department as treason.
The US Marshals and US Secret Service quickly made good on the Attorney-General's promise. Socialist Labor MCs were arrested and detained without habeas corpus. While the proletarian organizations were already “underground,” a number of leaders of IWSU were arrested and formally charged with treason, including “Big Bill” Haywood, and Joe Hill.
If anything, the problems were only made worse. Rail workers stopped nearly all transcontinental rail traffic. Dockworkers refused to load ships, especially those bound for France or Great Britain. Factories making war materiel were occupied, and the arsenals they were producing were seized and distributed to workers militias.
They strikers were not battling with any clear revolutionary purpose in mind. Indeed, most felt, quite correctly, that a full revolution would only lead to disaster. Instead, they played a dangerous gamble, further threatening the war effort to bring the government to the negotiation table, and arouse the senses of cooler heads within the bourgeois government.
On February 1, they got their windfall. The United States Supreme Court issued an injunction on the federal government, requiring the immediate release of MCs being held in violation of their congressional immunity. Following the government's reluctant compliance, the SLP's delegation in the House of Representatives began negotiations, behind closed doors, with backbenchers from the Republican Party to begin a no-confidence motion on the Wilson government, and install a replacement that would negotiate an end to the general strike
Many Republicans, and northern Democrats were alarmed, both at the government's repressive policies, and how they seemed to only spread revolutionary discontent, understood the need to bring the situation back under control. The National Guard's attempts to bring New York City back to heel had all failed by February 6, and the whole of the City, as well as Long Island, were more or less under the control of the New York Commune. Chicago's revolutionary commune had taken over the city, as had the strike committees in Baltimore, Boston, Butte, Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and Toledo. The rot was spreading, with no end in sight.
At the opening of the emergency session on Monday, February 11, self-styled “independent Republican” Theodore Roosevelt (I-NY) presented a motion of no-confidence on the House floor as part of the morning's procedural issues. The motion presented a new cabinet, negotiated hastily that weekend, and included official censure of the current government for it's failure to resolve the matter of the nation being afflicted by a plague of red flags. While the floor-leadership tried to block the vote, the rules made this feat impossible, and after the lunch recess, the motion was presented again with the signatures of a full majority of MCs present. Wilson's government fell in the resulting vote 255-100. As a stroke of genius, the Constitution's requirement for motions of no-confidence to be constructive (i.e., propose a new cabinet) was subverted by naming placeholder candidates, many of whom would hold the office only on paper, being replaced by a permanent successor before the caretaker ministry's term ended.
Dutifully, the Cabinet presented their resignations, and President Marshall accepted the setback as best he could. By the end of the month, the new Cabinet was seated, and formal negotiations began to end the general strike. As part of the no-confidence deal, the SLP convinced the unions to suspend all activities that threatened the transfer of war materiel. The crisis in New York and other communes was settled with unilateral recognition, in exchange for an end to all strike activity and the disbanding of all workers' militias.
The Department of Justice, in exchange, suspended it's treason prosecution, and rescinded orders that had effectively made the IWSU and the SLP into outlaw institutions. However, the state of exception in itself did not end.
SLP/IWSU recruitment drive during the heyday of the Seattle Commune, March 1918
On January 21, 1918, the governments of the Central Powers and the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic agreed to terms for peace on the Eastern Front. The Central Powers, led in the negotiations by the German Reich's foreign secretary Richard von Kühlmann, entered the negotiation tables a month prior motivated by a pressing need to end hostilities in East, and shift those resources against the increasingly successful Western Entente.
Because of this, the Bolshevik delegation was able to bargain from a position of strength in spite of the fragility of its own position. The growing revolt of reactionaries and others discontented with the October Revolution at home gave the negotiations, led by foreign commissar Leon Trotsky, a certain urgency as well. The agreement hammered out over the month was not satisfactory to either party. The Bolsheviks were able to ensure a complete withdrawal of Central Power forces from territory of the former Russian Empire, at the cost of self-determination and official neutrality for the territories that would become Finland, Estonia, Lativa, Lithuania, Byelorussia, and the Ukraine.
There was much fanfare and toasting, lauding that the stalwartly conservative Central Powers and the revolutionary Bolsheviks came to a “historic agreement” for “peace and self-determination.” Such rhetoric, however, was nothing but a facade, concealing both parties cynical goals. Neither the Bolsheviks nor Germany ever intended to maintain the treaty permanently. As Trotsky himself would put it:
“I met with this sort of people for the first time. It is unnecessary to emphasize that I had no illusions about them. But I admit that I had expected the level to be higher. The impression of my first meeting could be summarized in the following statement: These people do not have a high estimation of their counterparts, but they also do not have a high estimation of themselves.”These territories could be taken out of play, temporarily, while the Bolsheviks dealt with internal dissenters and the Germans fought the Entente to the peace table. Both still had clear designs on the ostensibly neutral buffer states carved from the Russian Empire. Ultimately, though, it was the Bolsheviks who gained the most in the end. In ten months, the German Reich would be forced to seek armistice and unfavorable peace terms with the Western Allies, resulting in the total dissolution of its imperial ambitions.
As German troops boarded trains for the Western Front, the Bolsheviks were already moving by proxy to fill the power vacuum. Native Bolsheviks made a strong presence in constituent assembly elections across the board. Friction between varying groups vying for control soon broke out into political violence and civil war.
Though Finland and the Baltic states were able to quickly counter native Reds and crush their insurrections, Byelorussia and Ukraine's civil wars were trending in favor of the Bolsheviks. In Byelorussia, the Congress of Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies dissolved the National Assembly in late February, and declared the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. The uneasy alliance between dyed-in-the-wool reactionaries, and liberal reformers formed the Byelorussian National Republic in the western territories of the country, and set themselves to organizing a civil war against the Reds with whatever meager aid the Germans could spare.
The Russian SFSR “dutifully” supported self-determination of the Byelorussian people against the German puppet state squatting in the Pripyat Marshes and near the German border, and formed an alliance with the Byelorussian SSR, providing troops and aid.
Ukraine was in a more complicated situation. The Central Rada in Kiev had already been captured by a Bolshevik-Left SR alliance. But by the moment the Treaty was signed, Kiev and other Red controlled areas of the country found themselves under assault by a German supported cadre of Ukrainian Cossacks styling themselves the “Ukrainian State” (Ukrayins’ka derzhava), under the self-appointed Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky, himself a former general in the Tsarist army.
Self-appointed Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky, arch-reactionary monarch of Ukraine
Though the Hetmanate was looked upon quite widely by the workers and peasantry as a pint-sized pretender to Tsardom's glory, their regime was competent in administration and militarily successful, and succeeded in taking Kiev in March of 1918. The leadership of the Ukrainian People's Republic were forced to evacuate to Kharkiv, dependent on Russian aid for survival. The coup d'état sparked a spontaneous uprising among Ukrainian peasants in the south-east, overthrowing the local Cossacks and declaring a “Free Territory” under anarchist principles. Black Ukraine and Red Ukraine soon found themselves allied against the common enemy, though their relationship, even in the early honeymoon era, was far from rosy.
Still, the “father figure” of the insurrection, Nestor Makhno, was welcoming of a Red-Black alliance against reaction, even while being quite skeptical of the Bolsheviks' intentions towards their allies once the Soviet Revolutionary War was through and the reactionaries crushed.
Operation Michael and the Road to Armistice
On March 1, 1918, the German Heer played it's ace in the hole. Divisions surging from the Eastern Front supported a massive, simultaneous offensive thrust at the Allied lines from Cambrai to Aefthel. The Heer sunk all of its available resources, including considerable numbers of home produced and captured tanks, into breaking the Allied lines and forcing a peace settlement on favorable terms.
By any account, the initial breakthrough was nothing short of spectacular. The Germans concentrated their assaults in the American sectors of the front-lines. Already less-inclined to fight than their British and French compatriots, American soldiers were further disillusioned with the cause thanks to trouble back home and the utter bankruptcy for the justifications for their being in France. Coupled with the damaged logistical situation due to the mass strikes at the beginning of the Biennio Rosso, this made the American Expeditionary Force the weakest link in the chain. The Germans exploited this as ruthlessly as possible.
Marshal Pershing, interrupted from staff meeting in Paris, hurriedly rode to the front to manage the damage in the VII and IX Corps personally. In spite of his acumen, Pershing on more than one occasion found himself far too close to the fighting, and nearly encircled with his troops by German spearheads.
Nevertheless, the Americans, supported by British reserves, managed to rally quite gallantly, spurred on by a tough, battle-seasoned core of junior officers and NCOs, who stemmed the flagging morale in what later French and British historians would consider a “uniquely American manner”, repeating the same slogan near universally: “Hold the line, comrades. Make it through this, and be sure to save a bullet for our own generals.”
This has euphemistically been referred to as a “constructive mutiny” by Red Army historians, with the thoroughly radicalized lower echelons of the army “finishing the job” that the brass and their robber baron masters started but were too incompetent to carry through. Though the normal chain of command would be restored by the end of the crisis, in those critical early moments the only thing keeping the AEF from erupting in total mutiny was the clear and present danger presented by the Germans, whose officers would quite gladly shoot any Red they found.
Still, the German “stormtrooper tactics” caught the whole front off-guard, with elite troops effectively infiltrating Allied positions and hitting supply depots while accurate, measured artillery bombardment suppressed the machine-guns and mortars of the defenders.
In all, the Germans advanced an average of 70 kilometers on the front in a little less than a month, before being halted and decisively reversed. By the time the lines returned to the pre-Michael positions in late May, the Germans and Allies both had lost near three-hundred thousand troops. The operation's brilliant early tactical successes came at an all too high of a price, and in the end, the Heer utterly failed to separate the Allied armies.
Bolstered by British reinforcements streaming from the closing of the Middle-Eastern Front, the Allies soon mounted their own riposte starting in June. With a core of hundreds of improved tanks, the British, French and American armies push forward. The massed tanks finally prove effective, punching effective holes in German lines, forcing the Heer into an orderly but demoralizing “advance in a rearward direction;” a fighting retreat that signals the death knell of the dreams for a favorable peace settlement.
By August, the whole of the Western Front is collapsing under it's own weight. General Eric von Ludendorf orders a total retreat to beyond the Belgian-French Border, fearing an imminent total collapse of the army in the field. The Allies halt their offensives in late August, after taking the much vaunted Hindenburg Line at the Belgian border. They are unable to sustain the logistics to even adequately feed frontline troops, let alone supply ammunition to machine-guns and artillery across the many kilometers of criss-crossing trenches, shell craters and mud in Northern France. For the first time since 1914, the guns fall silent.
The Kaiser forms a liberal government under Chancellor Max von Baden, and by early September sues for peace. Soon, mass mutinies begin in the German Army and Navy, and vast worker strikes break out in Germany, prompting the Kaiser to abdicate to live out a life in exile, joining his cousin and former foe Nicholas II in Sweden. An armistice agreement is soon reached, and negotiations for a peace treaty begin, with the German provisional government helmed by the SPD. The War to End All Wars Ends.
A footnote to the year: US Senate elections
Due to widespread class war and civil unrest, many state legislatures have returned to selecting their state's senators by legislative selection instead of popular vote, reversing the trend begun under the Populists.
1. “Two Red Years” in Italian.
2. Marshall's second cabinet:
Vice-President: Charles Evans Hughes (R-NY)
First Secretary: Woodrow Wilson (D-NJ)
Deputy First Secretary: James Mann (R-IL)
Secretary of State: Robert Lansing (D-NY)
Secretary of Treasury: Joseoph Fordney (R-MI)
Secretary of War: Leonard Wood (R-MA)
Attorney General: A. Mitchel Palmer (D-PA)
Postmaster General: Albert S. Burelson (D-TX)
Secretary of the Navy: Edwin Denby (R-MI)
Secretary of the Interior: Knute Nelson (R-MN)
Secretary of Agriculture: Gilbert N. Haugen (R-IA)
Secretary of Commerce: Joshua W. Alexander (D-MO)
Secretary of Industrial Coordination: William S. Vare (R-PA)
Leader of the House of Representatives: Champ Clark (D-MO)
Senate Majority Leader: Jacob H. Gallagher (R-NH)
3. Marshall's third cabinet, once the dust settled
Vice-President: Charles Evans Hughes (R-NY)
First Secretary: James Mann (R-IL)
Deputy First Secretary: Champ Clark (D-MO)
Secretary of State: Theodore Roosevelt (I-NY)
Secretary of Treasury: David F. Houston (D-NC)
Secretary of War: Leonard Wood (R-MA)
Attorney General: A. Mitchel Palmer (D-PA)
Postmaster General: Albert S. Burelson (D-TX)
Secretary of the Navy: Edwin Denby (R-MI)
Secretary of the Interior: Knute Nelson (R-MN)
Secretary of Agriculture: Gilbert N. Haugen (R-IA)
Secretary of Commerce: Joshua W. Alexander (D-MO)
Secretary of Industrial Coordination: William S. Vare (R-PA)
Leader of the House of Representatives: Champ Clark (D-MO)
Senate Majority Leader: Jacob H. Gallagher (R-NH)
4. A more academically accepted name for the Russian Civil War, especially in Comintern nations.
5. A direct reference to the lyrics of "The Internationale"
6. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, formed in early 1919 by dissident Democrats chafing under the Bourbon dominance in the party. They're grouped separately here, because the split was real, though not formalized, by election time.
Next update: The Biennio Rosso, or No War But the Class War
The Great Crusade (Reds! Part 3)
Last edited by Jello_Biafra; March 8th, 2012 at 08:08 AM..
Nineteen-Nineteen: The Biennio Rosso
No War But the Class War
Excerpts from David McCullough, Soldier, Statesmen & Progressive: A Biography of Leonard Wood, (Topeka: Common Ground, 1985).
Leonard Wood, worn out from four years of public service as Secretary of War, delivered his resignation to the Cabinet and President Marshall on 30 March. Though he delivered a written statement of his intentions, he also delivered them orally at the Cabinet meeting that morning. He thanked his colleagues for the opportunity to serve his country, but felt that he had no more to give, now that the War in Europe had come to a close.
In hindsight, this could be easily seen as a somewhat opportunistic move. Demobilization would be coming soon, and being in government at the time would prove to be quite harmful to a man's political prospects. However, in light of Wood’s political activities in the following year, and examinations of his personal correspondence, instead we find a sort of bourgeois social patriotism guiding him. Upon returning to his Massachusetts estate early in June, Wood dispatched a number of telegrams and letters to important political figures in the state, including prominent leaders of the Boston Republican machine.
While the Battle of Boston during the Civil War and the subsequent looting has destroyed a large amount of his personal papers, there remains enough to provide a picture of his activities during the Biennio Rosso. In one letter he dispatched to the recently ousted former Governor of the state, Samuel W. McCall, Wood described his fears for the state of politics in the republic:
“The Socialists have on their banners the loathesome phrase ‘No war but the class war,’ and it seems like the current administration has been more than content to give that to them. With the War in Europe now concluded, there is nothing to distract citizens from the violence at home. Every act taken by the police or the National Guard at the behest of capital has only further deepened the dislocation in our union. Bringing the unionists to heel cannot be done by treating every American worker like a potential saboteur […] I know that you are a Christian man of great Progressive sympathies. This was made clear when you opposed the Party’s call for savage reprisals against bread rioters. You understand, as do I, that men who cannot give their children bread cannot be expected to remain civil. Socialism can only breed in circumstances where there is injustice and suffering. It is a mark of a Great Nation to make this possible for its citizens. Nations that fail succumb to revolution, as the Bourbon dynasty of France did. As the Romanov dynasty of Russia has more recently.…Ultimately, Wood sought to strike a blow at the powerful establishment of the Republican Party. Either they would heed reason, and allow a new path to be taken in realigning the party, or they would be dragged kicking and screaming to their own salvation. Ultimately, it mattered little to Wood and his allies.
Excerpts from Eric Hobsbawn, ed., Harvest of Sorrow: The Social Dynamic of Demobilisation, (London: Routledge, 1970)
In the summer of 1919, amidst the chaos of the Biennio Rosso, a perfect storm of different factors hit the economy of the United States. War orders had abruptly dried up, and the stream of demobilized soldiers and government laborers soon entered the job market without any steady income. The economy, which had been running at full wartime mobilization for almost five years at this point, could not rapidly shift production towards consumer products. Consequently, many firms slipped into the red. Creditors found themselves in a crunch, while the sharp increase in interest rates by the Bank of the Republic drove a deflationary recession that sapped the vitality left in the economy.
The attempts to balance the books led only to further deflationary reactions such as mass firings. Labor, already in confrontation with capital, faced a sharp counterattack made possible by demobilized loyalist soldiers. The use of extralegal violence to solve labor disputes, and enforce the company’s dictates proved counterproductive. Radicalized American soldiers took their rifles and their military training to the picket lines in solidarity with their fellow workers. These armed bands of workers organized their own adjunct organization to the Solidarity trade union, dubbing themselves the Spartacus League. The Spartacists eventually became a paramilitary wing of the Socialist Labor Party, and they found themselves in numerous engagements, often bloody, with the police, Pinkerton thugs, or right-wing vigilante groups. They kept the peace in rough working class neighborhoods as well as during factory occupations and other industrial actions.
During that summer, a total of five million American workers were involved in factory occupations of various lengths, the average lasting approximately a month. The longest factory occupations turned into worker takeovers of abandoned factories, with the owners ultimately cutting their losses after finding that the mainly rural courts they had sought legal injunctions against the unions so they could place their assets in receivership would all too often steadfastly refuse to turn on their neighbors.
While there were notable victories in lumber milling and other small scale industries, on the whole most labor actions only ended up returning to a status quo ante bellum. Rather than acquiesce to the slashing of payrolls, most union locals with depleted strike funds would simply enforce what they euphemistically referred to as “alternate compliance.” In this form of mutual aid, the union would require all of its members to work fewer shifts, dividing the balance among workers who had been terminated. Union members or sympathizers in payroll would ensure that all accounts were settled. If that proved impossible, the union would re-balance the payroll itself.
Excerpts from Albert E. Kahn, Storming the Gates of Heaven: A History of the Comintern, (Cambridge, MA: Progress, 1962).
Amidst the din of the Soviet Revolutionary War, delegates from across the industrialized world meet in Moscow at the Kremlin’s Court of Justice. Though Allied blockade and intervention made travel difficult for the delegates to the Founding Congress of the Communist International, close to one hundred-twenty delegates arrived by mid-March. Lenin had hoped to begin the congress over a month earlier in Berlin, but with Freidrich Ebert’s SPD in the midst of a Thermidorean Reaction, this proved to be impossible. The hostility of the “moderate socialist” government in Germany was considered proof-positive of the necessity of third revolutionary international.
The warning time proved to be almost too little. In particular, the official delegates from the American Socialist Labor Party arrived several days late, and only a few unofficial delegates from British socialist and labour organizations were able to attend. With the congress’s limitations, it was initially decided to hold only a preparatory conference, to give invited organizations several more months to prepare for an official founding conference, but this decision was quickly reversed on Leon Trotsky’s insistence. Instead, important functions such as drafting rules and setting up permanent institutions within the international would be held off until the 2nd World Congress.
Due to the limited number of delegates and the largely ad hoc nature of the congress, the Founding Congress was largely limited to discussion and deliberation. The key topic of discussion was the necessity for revolutionary parties to reject bourgeois “democracy” for the dictatorship of the proletariat and soviet government.
Bolshevik Leader Vladimir Lenin (Left) and Swiss Communist Fritz Platten (Right) at the Comintern Founding Congress
…The Comintern’s executive committee, led by Grigory Zinoviev, used the period following the first congress to aggressively promote a common strategy among communists across Europe and North America, albeit with very limited resources. Lenin’s estimation that the developed world was in the midst of a revolutionary upsurge essentially guided First Period Comintern policy. In particular, the de facto head of the Bolsheviks considered the events of the American Biennio Rosso to hold particularly great promise.
He sent an open letter to the Socialist Labor Party in June of 1919, praising the diligent internationalism of the party and its members. The trials faced in confrontation with the bourgeois state “are a refining fire, purifying your steel and tempering your party into a great revolutionary instrument.” Throughout the letter, he urged the American socialists to stay the course, with the hour of the revolution so near. While his highest hopes were dashed, the Americans’ resolute internationalism, and enduring strength of the revolutionary party earned them a position as the favored son among the communist parties.
The Soviet Revolutionary War: An Overview
At the beginning of 1919, the tempo of the war was shifting towards the Bolshevik’s favor. While the Right-SRs and the Mensheviks still remained defiant to the Soviet government from their bases of power in Central Asia and the Caucasus respectively, Lenin’s regime had successfully ensured that the Left faction of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party would fold into the Bolsheviks. With decisive control of the All-Russian Constituent Assembly, the party promulgated a new constitution with popular legitimacy.
In the field, the reactionary Whites still controlled nearly all of Siberia, but all of their attempts to take Vladivostok failed. Since the Bolsheviks still controlled Archangelsk, and there was no line of communication from British-controlled Murmansk to any of the White strongholds, the reactionaries could not count on much in the way of foreign support.
In spite of support from the German, Polish and Lithuanian governments, the bourgeois-nationalist forces in Western Byelorussia ultimately capitulated on 12 January 1919. In spite of the great successes in Byelorussia though, the Bolshevik situation in Ukraine was much more tenuous. The Red-Black alliance has been unable to significantly advance against the Ukrainian Hetmanate.
On 21 February, Soviet General Mikhail Tukhachevsky led the Soviet 4th Army in attack on the counterrevolutionary Don Cossacks. Better trained and supplied than in the previous year’s campaigns, the Red Army was able to inflict several demoralizing defeats on Pyotr Krasnov’s forces. Using cavalry forces disrupt the enemy’s rear areas, Tukhachevsky was able to outmatch the Don Cossacks and force engagements on his terms.
Krasnov himself was captured by Red Army cavalry forces during the encirclement of the Don Cossack capital of Novocherkassk as he attempted to escape on 14 March. With news of his capture, the city soon surrendered, and was mercifully spared liquidation. Continued resistance in the collapsing Don Host was met with Red Terror and Chekists, and by late April the region was considered more or less pacified.
Krasnov himself was executed on the order of a Bolshevik people’s tribunal soon after the close of active combat operations. The decisive Bolshevik victory over the Don Cossack Host proved to be a demoralizing blow to the White forces, and to the “Supreme Ruler” Aleksandr Kolchak personally, one that many historians consider crucial in his flight from Russia later that year.
With the conclusion of the Don campaign, the Bolsheviks began their campaign to liberate Ukraine from the Whites. The alliance with the Black Army was strengthened, though not without Makhno grumbling about the creeping Bolshevization of his strongholds. Nevertheless, a joint military expedition under the overall command of Bolshevik General Mikhail Frunze began moving against the alliance between the Ukrainian Hetmanate and the Tsarist General Anton Deniken. In spite of heavy casualties, and miscommunication between Red and Black forces, the Bolshevik alliance succeeded in taking Kherson, dividing their foes in two. Frunze then pressed his advantage against Deniken in the Crimea while Makho’s own forces crossed the Dnieper at Zaporhizia.
The initial phase of the Dnieper campaign concluded in late June, with the fall of Yelisavetgrad, and the beginning of the Siege of Sevastopol. Frunze’s forces would be locked down out of exhaustion for the remainder of the year, but the damage they had inflicted in the Ukrainian Whites had proven fatal. The second phase began on 4 July, when Bolshevik forces from Byelorussia marched south. Outnumbered and outgunned, Hetman Skoropadsky was forced to evacuate his government from Kiev to Odessa, allowing the Bolsheviks to recover the city almost unopposed.
Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, soon after joining his former sovereign Nikolay II in exile in Sweden.
While their drive did not make it much further South, the tide of battle had finally swung in Ukraine, yielding another significant propaganda victory for the Bolshevik government. While Siberia proved resilient in the first half of the year, by July it had become clear that a Bolshevik victory was almost inevitable. With Kolchack’s retreat into exile in August, leaving the “Supreme Governor” of the White movement to his subordinate Yudenich, the White movement’s fate was sealed. Troop mutinies soon handed several important cities along the Transiberian Railway to the Bolsheviks, along with General Yudenich. By November, it became clear that victory would only be a matter of time.
The Treaty of Versailles: A Summary
On 30 May 1919, peace talks between the Allies and the German Reich concluded, with all delegates signing the resulting treaty. The resulting treaty, however, was not satisfactory to any of the victors, let alone the defeated party.
British Aims: The government of Prime Minister David Lloyd George considered a demilitarized German republic to be an important trading partner, and thus considered reparations a potential threat to the British economy. The British government was similarly concerned with the American proposal—originally by Woodrow Wilson but subsequently supported by the Marshall-Mann diumvirate—for “self-determination” among the peoples of the Central Powers, which could pose a threat to Britain’s own colonial empire.Territorial Changes
Alsace and Lorraine: Returned to France without plebiscite.Reparations
The Treaty assigned war guilt to Germany, forcing the country assume responsibility for all “loss and damage” suffered by the Allies during the war. Much of the treaty regulated the means of assigning the exact monetary cost to be determined by an Inter-Allied Reparations Commission. France was awarded the lion’s share of the reparations, but the UK and United States also received significant direct reparations.Impositions on Germany
The former Kaiser Wilhelm II was assigned the “supreme offense against international morality”, and is authorized to be tried as a war criminal, along with many other German citizens. The Rhineland is to be occupied by the Allies for a period of up to 20 years.Ratification
Overall, the Allies are divided on whether the Treaty was too vindictive or insufficiently harsh on Germany. Many officials in the American and British government consider it to be greedy, though the French military establishment and perhaps the public considered the treaty to be far too lenient. The United States ratifies the treaty in spite of significant opposition by the Socialist Labor Party, and “Irreconcilables” among the Republican Party.Demographic Shifts
America’s entrance into the First World War spurred a series of immense demographic changes. America’s conscript army was raised primarily from city dwellers, predominantly recent immigrants. With several million young hands removed from the factories to be sent to France, the manpower shortages in America’s cities spurred the beginning of a great exodus of young men from the farmlands of the West and Midwest back to the very cities their fathers and grandfathers had fled from.
In part, this exodus was made possible by relatively good harvests in the period from 1912 to 1918, and the increasing mechanization on some farms. Young men, used to the self-managed rhythms of farm labor, unaccustomed to collective solidarity and generally firm believers in the virtues of hard labor, threatened to break the urban labor movement in the early years of the War.
The arrival of a tide of rural workers to the industrial cities was absolutely crucial to breaking the February-March general strikes organized by Solidarity in opposition to the declaration of war and subsequent mobilization. These young natives, often intensely xenophobic, were the perfect scabs.
But the backlash that would result was inevitable. By the fall of 1919, recent migrants from the rural areas of the United States were more highly represented in the labor movement than immigrants. The very reason that made them the best scabs available in 1915 was also the very reason why they would make the quickest converts to communism.
The régime of industrial management was entirely alien to them. Having been raised with the expectation of self-regulated labor, which they would benefit from the fruit of, industrial capitalism became quickly intolerable. Working under a sadistic foreman for long days for very little gain, a slave to the tempo of the machines and the pattern of the clock, these young men (and women too, though in smaller numbers), found their way into the labor movement, heading to the hard left with greater propensity and frequency than other groups.
This trend would continue well into the 1920s, as their younger brothers joined them in the nation’s great industrial cities during what would later be called “The Roaring 20s”.
The Great Crusade (Reds! Part 3)
Excerpts from Albert E. Kahn, Storming the Gates of Heaven: A History of the Comintern, (Cambridge, MA: Progress Publishers, 1962).
The High Tide
The Second World Congress of the Comintern laid out the basic doctrine of the international communist movement from early July to late August of 1920. To the modern eye, the decisions made at the Second Congress seem frightfully premature. While Lenin sent his 21 Conditions for approval by the Congress, he and his comrades were still bitterly engaged in the Soviet Revolutionary War. Yet the delegates prefaced their speeches with talk of the imminent world revolution, while all of the major capitalist powers had encircled Rossiya with bayonets, and threatened to strangle that very revolution in the cradle. Still, the deputies at the Congress maintained sufficient foresight to at least tackle the issues of the future of the movement.
...The severity of the 21 Conditions would prove too much for most delegations. While the inability to compromise on certain areas of doctrine, such as the strict adoption of democratic centralism, or the requirement for the complete expulsion of members deemed to be reformist, would deepen the already disastrous rift in the international Left, the splits caused by the question of reform or revolution revealed ultimately how degenerated the workers’ international had become. The conceits made by the reformist parties of the Second International had put them within reach of taking office in the bourgeois states of Europe, yet these ostensibly socialist parties would find themselves managing the instruments of a capitalist state to alleviate the crises of capital. This short-sighted Faustian gambit demonstrated the barely skin-deep penetration of Marx’s class analysis and historical materialism among the self-described Marxist intellectuals.
The Lassallean vulgar conceit had attained a tactical victory over Marxian social science. The unfortunate nature of reality, though, is that it does not care whether you agree with it or not. The Fabians’ failure to seize the moment in the decay of the capitalist world system following the First World War would prove to be ruinous in the long run. When Ebert turned the guns of Freikorps reactionaries on the revolutionary workers of Berlin, the parties of the dead Second International moved to expel their revolutionary sections, the Lasalleans condemned Europe to the worst bloodletting in known history. Many of them paid for their hubris with their lives in the storm of fascism. Unfortunately, their hubris claimed the lives of millions of others. But ultimately, every fascism is an index of a failed revolution.
This is not to say that the parties of the Comintern were at all blameless. The failure of the revolutionary upsurge left the communists hung out to dry. In the period immediately after, the consolidation of the Bolshevik state caused almost irreparable harm to the international communist movement. The Comintern itself was increasingly an arm of Stalinist foreign policy, using Lenin’s conditions to create insidious weapons for internal witch-hunts and factional squabbles.
...The American delegation to the Comintern faced the same unenviable choice as the French Section. While the use of state terror during the war years and the massive revolutionary surge during the Biennio Rosso had destroyed much of the Socialist Labor Party’s moderate faction, either by pushing them to the Left or out of the movement altogether, even many on the Left were hesitant to completely endorse the 21 Conditions. While many conditions were rather agreeable, the second, seventh and seventeenth conditions proved particularly worrisome. The party was simply in no shape for the internal purge necessary to put “tested communists” in every important decision. Similarly, a drastic restyling of the party was most unsavory at a time when the existing party name was finally gaining strength among the proletariat.
...In the end, the American delegation gave their unanimous recommendation to adopt the 21 Conditions and join the Comintern as a full member. However, that decision would ultimately be put to the test at the Socialist Labor Party National Convention, to be held in the Chicago Commune in January of 1921. The debate would be heated, and threatened to split the party in two. The rump of the reformist faction, severely depleted of delegates and speakers, clustered around president of the former Typographical Union Max S. Hayes, and vehemently opposed joining the Comintern.
The Left, which comprised of the vast majority of the party, was divided as well. The past year had seen a split among the pro-Bolshevik membership into groups usually referred to as the Left and Ultra-Left. The growing Ultra-Left faction instead attacked the state of the Comintern and the Bolshevik Revolution from the left, and was arguably more committed to revolutionary socialism than the Bolsheviks. Hence their many reservations with the 21 Conditions. They centered on the leadership of famed academician Walter Lippmann, and the young and brilliant son of Daniel DeLeon, Solon.
…John Reed, the boyish face of the future, personally presented Leon Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin’s personal remarks to the American proletariat, offering their reasons in favor of the Comintern and the conditions it imposed. He ended his speech with his own reflections of his time in Rossiya during the revolution, and the decisive moment the question of whether to strike in Petrograd was considered. “This decision,” he argued, “will be no less momentous than that fateful decision by the workers of the Pulitov Plant, in Petrograd, to consider their shivering and starving children’s plight, throw caution to the winds and a spanner in the Pulitov works. That one decision [...] set off the chain of events that toppled an Emperor, ended a war, and established the first workers’ republic. Fortune favors the bold, my comrades.”
...It was Solon DeLeon who spoke after Big Bill Haywood. While he congratulated the stout Wobbly on his work organizing the industrial unions and fighting against the imperialist game of the First World War, he offered his own annotations to the late German communist Karl Liebknecht’s criticism of the excesses of the Bolsheviks, relating them directly to the matter of the Comintern’s conditions. DeLeon accused the Bolsheviks of an errant, right-wing deviation from the fundamentals of Marxism.
In his critique, DeLeon accused the Bolsheviks of playing an adventurist gamble, supported not by dialectical materialism, but the “fiction of the utopian society supplanting the capitalist nation.” This old fiction, long held by maligned petit-bourgeois, had simply found its latest form in Bolshevism. Bolshevism had merely militarized the Lasallean “People’s State” and Kautskyan “educational dictatorship” modes of parliamentary party organization:
“Leninist-Kautskyist staatsozialismus has produced, instead of the taking of political power by the workers in the dictatorship of the proletariat, a self-perpetuating political autocracy of a self-declared ‘communist’ party over a state capitalist monopoly. Lenin’s red bureaucracy is just as sinister, and just as opposed to the political rule of the working class, as the old bourgeois bureaucracy.”...Ultimately, what stole the show and sealed the decision were some fashionably late arrivals, and a speech by the most unlikely of party members. Both Eugene Debs and Former Senator LaFollette arrived at the convention fashionably late, excusably so. Having booth been recently pardoned on the recommendation of the Cabinet and President-elect Wood for conviction under the Sedition Act, the former Republican and moderate fellow traveler of socialism came to the convention barely in time for the close of the debate.
Debs hadn’t let his stint in federal prison hold him back, and had headed the party’s presidential ticket while in prison in an act of revolutionary defiance. While he sympathized with the Ultra-Left’s critique, he countered by arguing the necessity of an international working class movement in opposition to international capitalism. The Comintern, while imperfect, was the best tool for that job.
Freshly divorced, penniless, and emaciated from his stay in federal prison, LaFollette proved to be another strange convert to the Left. He spoke of how his trust in the American dream had been shattered by the events of the last six years, half-cursing the naivete of his past. As a pariah now, he accepted his fate handed down from on high, but did not shrink from fighting against. Shocking everyone, he spoke in favor of the Comintern and endorsed the 21 Conditions. In the end, the Left prevailed. The Ultra-Left agreed to ratify the conditions, though they urged solidarity and fairness in their application. And the majority of the Right, though they voted against acceptance of the 21 Conditions, agreed to abide by them and to not quit the party. On February 15th, 1921, newly rechristened Workers’ Party of America formally joined the Communist International.
Some excerpts from the alternatehistory.com thread titled “Revolution in the Biennio Rosso?”
January 12: The governments of the Russian Federative Soviet Socialist Republic, the Byelorussian Soviet Republic, and the Ukrainian People’s Republic sign a treaty establishing a unified command structure for their allied armed forces, as well as important economic cooperation measures.
January 20: Faced with collapsing demand due to demobilization, the Amalgamated Coal Corporation (a trust controlling 88% of American coal production) announces harsh pay cuts for its workforce as well as mass terminations.
January 24: The State of South Carolina becomes the first to ratify an amendment to the US Constitution to ban the production, sale and consumption of alcohol, having become a dry state the previous year.
February 5: The Republican Party, now the second place party in the House thanks to a slew of resignations, and a few untimely deaths, votes to leave the national coalition. The Democratic minority government places Champ Clark in the First Secretary chair.
February 12: In Mingo County, West Virginia, a group of coal miners associated with the fledgling SLP local call a wildcat strike. The powder keg explodes, and soon the strike is spreading like a wildfire across West Virginia coal country.
February 18: British troops withdraw from Murmansk and Central Asia, ending foreign intervention in the Soviet Revolutionary War.
February 21: The first meeting of the League of Nations begins in Great Britain.
February 24: State police and hired goons attempting to put down strikers in Matewan, West Virginia are routed by armed miners led by WWI veterans. The tragic death of several of the miner’s families in the pitched battle shocks even the bourgeois press.
March 3: The United Mineworkers announce a general strike in sympathy with their comrades in West Virginia. Intended to be a peaceful downing of tools, a combination of revolutionary fervor and anger at management result in occupations at most major mines.
March 9: General Wood takes over the Massachusetts Republican Party, beginning negotiations with the SLP and union locals to restore the rule of law. As part of his bid to stem the class war, he promises the introduction of new reforms, including workplace safety and powersharing with unions.
March 14: In response to spreading rumors of a renewed federal and state crackdown on the forces of organized labor, workers and farmers begin a new wave of en masse strikes. The ranks of the armed paramilitary Spartacus League swell, as many yeoman farmers and proletarians take up arms. Inspired by developments in Russia, soviet councils and congresses begin to form across the areas in uprising.
April 1: As police and National Guard sporadically clash with Spartacists across the Midwest and Midatlantic regions, the Clark government declares martial law on the home front. The invocation of Posse Comitatus barely passes, thanks to surprising resistance among the Wood faction of the Republican Party.
April 9: The revolutionary wave reaches the West coast, as insurrectionary soviets take control of the cities of Seattle, San Francisco and Portland. In the Mountain West, the revolutionary fervor is dampened by Republican reform governments.
April 17: The Socialist Labor Party’s Emergency National Congress meets in the union controlled city of Chicago. In spite of being behind the bandwagon, the Party decisively adopts a revolutionary platform, supporting the wave of uprisings.
April 25: While soviets and factory committees form begin forming in New England, compared to revolutionary insurrections of much of the industrial heart of America, the local Socialist Labor groups decide to pursue more modest reform programs. Compared to the rest of the country, New England is surprisingly passive.
May 4: While the American Railway Union’s general strike has stopped many efforts to restore order in insurrectionary centers, they lack the strength or the will to decisively seize control. Consequently, most revolutionary centers are isolated, and while rural areas have supported insurrectionary actions in some places, they are considerably less organized, motivated and supported compared to urban counterparts. In Chicago, the heart of the revolutionary surge, the mayor and other city leaders return to negotiate an end to the uprising.
May 12: The Bolshevik campaign to take the Caucasus ends after long, grueling months of fighting. The Mensheviks governments of the area capitulate against the overwhelming might of the Red Army.
June 1: The First National Congress of Soviets meets, with considerable difficulty, in the high tide of the Biennio Rosso. Even as the delegations are meeting in Chicago, many groups across the country are losing steam and turning to the negotiation table.
June 11: Congress officially censures President Marshall and First Secretary Clark for their disastrous handling of the national crisis. The Democratic Party is in shambles, and the minority government is sustained only due to the imminence of the election and the need for someone to hold the reins until then.
July 4: Most of the Midwest has returned to normalcy, following the end of the ARU’s general strike.
July 15: The Second World Congress of the Communist International takes place in Petrograd.
July 30: Amidst the crumbling of the revolutionary wave, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party begins its national convention. They adopt a program mixing the tradition of American populism with reformist socialism.
August 2: The Republican National Convention meets much later than expected. Leonard Wood, having become somewhat of a hero to both the establishment and reformers, wins the nomination on the first ballot. The more conservative Calvin Coolidge is nominated as his running mate.
August 10: Following a series of agreements of reform agreements, the exhausted workers in the coal fields agree to return to work, having long since depleted their strike funds. The next day, order is restored in New York. By the end of the week, the guns mostly fall silent. As part of the agreement, the trials of Italian immigrant labor organizers Nikola Sacco and Bartolommeo Vanzetti are allowed to proceed. With the guarantees made by the New York state government, the personal contributions of even some establishment figures to their defense, Sacco and Vanzetti are likely to be the first Italians to ever get a fair trial in the United States.
August 18: Talks to form an American professional football association end in failure, thanks to insufficient commitment from investors. The unreformed sport is perceived to be too savage to make a commercial endeavor in violent times.
September 5: In the VII Olympiad, the US rugby union team takes home the gold medal amidst much fanfare.
September 18: Through a combination of superior organization, subterfuge, and outright chicanery, Ukrainian Bolsheviks take total control of the government of the Ukrainian People’s Republic following soviet elections. Nestor Makhno is placed under house arrest while the Black Army is disarmed.
October 3: The Treaty of Warsaw is signed, ending hostilities between the Republic of Poland and Soviet Russia. The border is finalized, resulting in the a large area of predominantly polish speakers along the Lithuanian border being annexed into Byelorussia, while a Ukrainian speaking tract along the Czechoslovakian border is retained by Poland.
November 2: General Leonard Wood is elected President of the United States (details below) in the first national election broadcast by radio.
November 30: With the Soviet Revolutionary War almost concluded, with no prospect for a revolutionary advance forthcoming in Europe, General Secretary Josef Stalin details his proposal for “building socialism in one country” to the Politburo of the Russian Communist Party.
1920 General Election Results
Presidential Election Map
The Great Crusade (Reds! Part 3)
Last edited by Jello_Biafra; October 4th, 2012 at 11:38 PM..
The Roaring Twenties
Excerpts from Oliver Lark, George Patton: Proletarian Soldier (London: Doubleday, 1977).(1)
Of one thing there is no doubt, and that is the simple fact that George Patton lived an extraordinary life. Born into an aristocratic conservative family in California on 11 November 1885, Patton would go on to serve with distinction in the First World War, advancing to the rank of Colonel in the American Expeditionary Force. While serving, he helped pioneer the use of armoured warfare, innovating tactics and strategies would later become staples in the American military. Facing the hardships and horrors of life in the trenches, Patton, like so many others of his generation, came home a changed man. He soon renounced his birthright, became estranged with his wife and family, and joined the Workers’ Party of America, all within a few short months of returning from France in 1919. Patton, along with his close comrade David Eisenhower, had set the pattern for so many World War veterans. They went off to war committed to their nation’s cause, and came home subversives.
...The sheer number of career military officers in the United States Army who professed belief in Socialism after the Great War is simply astounding. While no reliable figures can be found to establish the exact percentage, estimates range from fifteen percent to as high as twenty-eight percent! Whatever the rate, it is clear just how much the American polity and her military were rotting by 1920. Patton was hardly alone in his beliefs in the army, and as his letter’s show, he formed a discussion club among trusted comrades from the army to correspond on politics.
...In one such letter, Patton writes to Eisenhower, confessing about his experiences in the Great War. “Dear Ike,” he writes:
It was at Chemin-de-Dames that it hit me with the force of revelation. Our Mk. IVs had bogged down in the German auxillary trench, and the Jerries soon came down on us with artillery, followed by an infantry attack. We soon ran out of ammunition for our tank’s machine guns, and we had to fend off the last of their assault hand to hand, with knives and bayonets. The kids we bayonetted, they couldn’t have been older than sixteen or seventeen. I felt old, and worn out. And as relief came, and we finally had a moment of peace, I suddenly realized I had no idea why I was here, or why I was butchering young German boys, or why they were doing the same to us. I didn’t know whether I could believe in my country anymore, or even believe in God.While the exact details of Patton’s conversion from Christian soldier to atheist communist remain to the imagination, the documentary evidence suggests that it occurred shortly after the end of the Chemin-de-Dames campaign, while Patton was on a three-day pass in Paris. Patton’s letters, and own recollections preserved on archival film suggest that during that time, Patton met up with a French socialist group. One of the few details that are known is that the group was composed of some number of dissident intellectuals, as well as a number of veterans of the French army, discharged as amputees. Patton, now semi-fluent in French, conversed with this group about the political issues of the war and economics for from anywhere from a few hours to whole evening, depending on the account.
Upon returning to the front in early June of 1917, Patton spent the next few months in command of an infantry battalion in the 17th Infantry Division. Morale was dismally poor, and the troops were under provisioned. Though he had been a stern taskmaster before, he was twice reprimanded by superior officers for fraternization in this period. Thanks to the pressing manpower situation, and his exemplary record, there was no official disciplinary action.
His own memoirs mention an event during this period. A group of NCOs threatened mutiny in response to their orders to go over the wall, unprepared, and attack German lines as part of an upcoming offensive. This conspiracy happened within earshot of a junior officer, who promptly reported it to Patton. Rather than follow standard army protocol and arraign the ringleaders before courts-martial as examples to other potential mutineers, Patton spoke with the conspirators personally. The conversation that followed was downright treasonous: Patton suggested they keep their heads down, and not find themselves in front of a firing squad now so that they could survive the war, and turn their guns on the ones responsible for putting the army in this situation.
...The first self-reference of socialist belief would not come until a diary entry nearly a month later. He writes tepidly in favour of socialism and its “brotherhood of man,” and suggests at an imperial nature in the First World War, impugning the motives the national leaders of the Allies as well as the Central Powers. In perhaps the strongest language seen from this previously gentlemanly character, he calls the current president, Woodrow Wilson, a “pompous old jackass” and “a capitalist running-dog.” Where he picked up such an obviously German construction is impossible to tell.
...Like many radicals of his generation, it was the Bolshevik Revolution that ultimately steeled his convictions in socialism. His correspondence after the war contains many recollections and conversations about the aforementioned event. One such letter was written to John Reed, praising his work on Ten Days That Shook the World, and propositioning a collaborative history of the Soviet Revolutionary Wars, a project that later became the infamous three volume history compendium, written with Reed and Leon Trotsky, the charismatic exile from the very regime he helped build. A History of the Soviet Union, from Birth to Betrayal is perhaps the most oft-cited history of the early Soviet period, and became one of Patton’s fixations from 1928 to its first publishing in late 1935.
...From the end of the First World War until the beginning of the Revolution, Patton found himself living a double life. His loyalties were ambiguous after a few incidents, but thanks to some personal recommendations from General MacArthur, the Army’s internal affairs division considered him to be still a reliable officer in spite of his socialist sympathies. This mistaken impression was made possible by the turmoil of founding of the Comintern. When the Socialist Labor Party restyled itself as a Comintern Party, records of Patton’s membership in the party disappeared. Patton himself portrayed it as a matter of leaving the party over its radicalism.
Because of his knowledge, and the strong vouchers for his reliability to the army, the unorthodox officer was considered to be the best candidate to investigate and infiltrate subversive groups within the Army, and to spy on domestic political groups. While on paper he was part of the near defunct Armor Corps of the US Army, in practice Patton served as an important officer for Army Intelligence’s domestic spying, both on civilians and in the military.
Unbeknownst to his superiors, Patton had never left the party. Instead, he had joined the underground party apparatus, and spent much of the 1920s and early 30s working as a double agent within Army Intelligence. The outcome of his deception would ultimately prove disastrous for the Army, and the coup he’d made against Army intelligence with the network of radicals he had clandestinely shielded in the Army would prove a decisive factor in the coming civil war.
Patton was certainly not the only party member to have turned espionage on its head. Indeed, several other important figures in state police organizations, the US Marshals Service and the National Bureau of Investigation are now known to have been, or suspected to have been party members in the 1920s. Some have spun such a web of lies and half-truths that the real story will never be untangled. The uncertain loyalties of the infamous Public Safety chief J. Edgar Hoover are a staple of crime and mystery fiction to this day. But arguably, the central role that Army played in the civil war, and the crucial role that Patton and his comrades played in the Red victory make Patton’s game of smoke and mirrors the most important.
The following excerpts were from the chapter “Political Realignment in the ‘Long 20s’” from a generic high school American history textbook. (Co-written by Illuminatus_Primus)
…Political realignment in Late Capitalism, brought on by parliamentary constitutional reform and the growth of workers’ power, resulted in an increasing inability of the liberal bourgeoisie to maintain control of the old Republicans and Democrats in the tug of war between conciliatory reformists and far-right reactionaries and radical populists. Party society fragmented dramatically in the Long 20s.
By 1930, the Democratic Party and Republican Party together accounted for only 50% of all votes counted. The highly regressive electoral system of the U.S. Constitution, though highly weakened by the increasing marginalization of the Senate upper-chamber and the introduction of bourgeois responsible executive government in the popular chamber, remained intense. The old gerrymandered single-member plurality congressional districts were highly disproportional. Therefore, victory counts for the major parties and for choice fusionist tickets often belied the total votes casted for marginal parties and schismatic groups.
The WP and DFLP accounted for more than their votes suggested, even via united fronts and fusionism with local and small sect groups, though not to the hegemonic extent of the major bourgeois parties, due to rampant fraud and continuing repression and gerrymandering…
It is important to remember that before the revolution, one of the major controls of popular democracy was the redistricting system. The lower house of the Old Republic had seats apportioned to the states on the basis of population. But these seats were all single-member constituencies, which are a rarity post-revolution. Because of this, the boundaries of the districts greatly affect the outcome. Furthermore, there was no constitutional requirement that the districts contain the same number of residents. Districting was controlled by state legislatures. Consequently, in the Northern states, the Republican Party could ensure that it had an advantage in federal elections through its reliable control of state legislatures, which were also gerrymandered the same way as House of Representative seats. Southern states were essentially single-party states, dominated by the Democratic Party, and so could reliably produce a disproportionate number of seats for that party in the House.
This was done by two general ways. First, urban districts, which leaned more strongly towards the Workers Party in many states usually had considerably more residents, diluting their vote. Since there were more rural and suburban districts, the Republican Party had a disproportionate number of seats.
In South, there was the additional tools of voter disenfranchisement, which kept large numbers of blacks and poor whites from even being able to vote at all. But the system couldn’t last forever under the strain.
Additionally, after the fallout from the 1920 general election, states began changing how they selected electors to the Electoral College, who selected the president. Prior to 1924, nearly all states had their electors chosen in a slate. Whichever candidate won the state’s popular vote got all of the state’s electors. This had been criticized by Progressives as grossly disproportionate and unfair.
The compromise reached in the 1920s was to have each elector be tied to a congressional district, along with two electors tied to the states vote (the Electoral College consisted of one elector for each member of the House of Representatives in each state, and a number of electors equal to the number of Senators). This naturally had to the bonus of tying electoral votes to gerrymandered congressional districts, helping maintain the Republican Party’s grip on the presidency.
When coalitions between the revolutionary Workers’ Party and the reformist Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party took control of a number of crucial state legislatures in the 1930 election year, they gained a considerable amount of control over the redistricting process. In other states, governments were forced to bow to general strikes protesting the gerrymandering, and adopt fairer redistricting. This would be crucial in ensuring that the large swing towards the Workers’ Party and the DFLP wasn’t totally impotent in the 1932 general election.
…A proliferation of would-be centrist, nationalist-populist, reactionary, quasi-fascist and fascist, as well as religious revivalist, Christian and alternative socialist, labor nationalist, and reformist as well as ultra-left party-sects and groups and figures proliferated. So did the expansion of American class-strugglist anarchism, particularly fresh from its class-renown radicalism, courage, and defiance of the state in the Biennio Rosso. The Spartacist paramilitaries, formed from veterans of the elite formations in the First World War, grew in strength considerably with the restart of the class war following Black Friday. Its anarcho-syndicalist sections particularly proliferated in the relative party-independence of Solidarity
…In his seminal work, The Class Anatomy of Fascism, Robert Paxton identifies several qualities of fascism. While his work was based on his study of the French collaborationist regime, Mussolini’s Italian Fascism, and German “National Socialism,” several groups began to adopt these qualities, what Paxton identifies in supplementary works as “failed fascisms”.
Firstly, the various ethnic-fascist solidarity groups, the quasi-authoritarian-nationalist, semi-Nazi-sympathizing (especially by 1930) German-American Bund, and the Italian Fascisti Americani in close sympathy with the National Fascist Party of Mussolini’s Italy. For the most part, these groups were relatively weak compared with the other fascists on the American far-right, but they made up with their limited numbers with a strong level of fanaticism, tight organization, and a higher propensity to violence.
Their presence was very common in ethnic neighborhoods, and they were constantly engaged in a sort of gang-warfare with both the Spartacus League as was as the communist affiliated Jewish-American Labor Bund. They were often sustained by patronage from large conglomerates and wealthy sympathizers, who used them as hired muscle against labor groups.
There was Father Rev. Coughlin’s predominantly-Irish (though with some significant exceptions) Unity Party. Though often considered an ethnic fascism, the Coughlinites styled themselves as a more general fascism, as American as apple pie. The Unity Party developed a rhetoric and propaganda along the lines of the British Union of Fascists, presenting itself as a strong, nationalist antidote to the twin evils of capitalist excess and communist revolution.
Finally, there were the auxiliary fascisms, who were largely controlled by state groups and tended to provide muscle to whatever right-wing cause du jour was important. Chief among these was the American Legion, chartered by the Republican post-war Majority Government House of Representatives charted the American Legion. Styling itself as a veteran’s association similar to the First Civil War’s Grand Army of the Republic, in practice they were a non-sectarian far-right muscle group, and derisively nicknamed “the American Stahlhelm,” by left-wing groups.
Excerpts from “Review: Towards a Permanent Republican Majority” by George Catlin, in American Political Science Review, Vol. 24, No. 1, February 1930.
Nathan Fines’ recent study of American political trends gives us a bold prediction: as a direct consequence of political dynamics, demographic trends and most of all economic cycles, the American Republican Party will be uniquely situated to dominate American political life for the foreseeable future. Fines’ thesis is bold indeed, and while the Republican Party’s landslide general election victory and the political success of the Hoover-Longworth Administration’s(3) political programme may seem to the pedestrian observer to be proof positive, we must be more cautious in evaluating the strength of such a profound claim. Nevertheless, Fines has come prepared, marshalling an impressive range of evidence with remarkable clarity.
...One of the strongest planks of Fines’ thesis is his analysis of the Republican Party’s successful strategy of co-opting both the political programmes and organization methods of their adversaries at the polls. Since the 1920 general election, the Republican Party’s chief adversary has been the communist Workers’ Party. As Fines so eloquently put it, “the socialist opposition has been the most able and thorough schoolmaster in the art of mass politics in the entirety of the Grand Old Party’s existence.” Indeed, the Republicans have made able use of their education. The modern Republican Party, organizationally, is the mirror image of the mass-based membership Workers’ Party(4). The Republicans’ impressive resources have allowed for the mobilization of an impressive membership group, and a powerful electoral apparatus to mobilize support for the party on Election Day.
The Republicans have done more than learn new organizational methods from the opposition, though. While many high-profile attempts at political realignment failed under the Wood presidency, the Republican Party has spent most of the ’20s experimenting with adopting facets of the Workers’ Party’s “Minimal Programme”. Hoover’s first term led to limited success on that front, adopting landmark workplace safety legislation; it was ultimately First Secretary Longworth’s decisive reorganization of the parliamentary Republican membership leading up to and after the 1928 election victory that have allowed the social democratic reforms of the past year. Hoover’s controversial election platform, which called for the nationalisation of the railroads and comprehensive federal disaster relief programmes, are, as Fines’ polling data demonstrates, a key factor to winning over many Midwestern and Southern farmers to the Republican Party. In spite of high profile opposition within the party, both measures passed under Longworth’s strong parliamentary leadership.
...However, there remain some problems with Fines’ thesis. A permanent Republican majority rests on extrapolating current economic and demographic trends. A dramatic increase in the rate of urbanisation, or a weakening of economic standard of living growth, could very easily upset the Republican Party’s prospects for the future. Similarly, Fines’ prediction of the total demise of the Democratic Party within the next decade is beset with reasonable doubts. Identification with the Democratic Party is still very strong in the American South, in spite of the success of both the Republican and Workers’ Parties’ penetration of the electorate in the last election. The Republicans’ Southern auxiliary, the Patriotic League, simply may not have the staying power to uproot such an enduring tradition.
Workers’ Party of America
At National Convention
New York City
24-6 December 1921
The Great War has brought untold misery and chaos in its wake. Millions of workers have been maimed and slaughtered in the conflict of the imperialist governments. Capitalist society is face to face with social and industrial collapse; Kingdoms and empires have disappeared; but republics, ruled by an exploiting class more powerful and more unscrupulous than the kings and emperors, have taken their place.
National hatred rules the world. In spite of peace treaties and international conferences, the relations between the nations are more strained than ever. Intense commercial rivalry, and the resentment of the weak and vanquished nations against their victorious oppressors are a constant menace to world peace. The capitalists, dismayed at the chaos, and yet unable to understand it or even to contemplate its economic causes, are blindly steering the world towards new wars.
In Germany and Austria, the masses are being bled to meet the exorbitant war indemnities. In England France and Italy, an impoverished proletariat is paying for armaments on a larger and more stupendous scale than ever before. Every gun that is made, every battleship that is launched and every shell that is manufactured, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, to add to the profits the exploiters and increases the poverty of the wage slaves.
Even before this war social legislation met only inadequately the needs of a proletariat condemned to uncertainties of existence under capitalism. Today it is a farce. No lasting improvement of the condition of the workingman under capitalism is any longer dream dreamed of. More than ever before, hunger and' want are rife among the workers. And the violent uprisings that result are met with merciless suppression by the master class. All capitalist governments are openly fighting the battle the employers. The legislatures, courts and the executive powers stand behind them. The struggle of the workers for the most elementary necessities of life is met with ruthless persecution, and tend to become a fight for political power—a revolutionary struggle.
The Workers’ party will base its policies on the international nature of this struggle. It will strive to make the American labor movement an integral part of the revolutionary movement of the workers of the world. The Workers’ Party will expose the Second International, which is continually splitting the ranks of labor and betraying the working masses to the enemy. It will also warn and guard the workers against the attempt of the so-called Two-and-a-Half International to mislead them.
Disillusioned by the cowardly and traitorous conduct of their own leaders, and inspired by the proletarian revolution in Russia, the workers of the world have organized the Communist International. Despite the bitter opposition of the Capitalists and their Progressive lieutenants, the Communist International is growing rapidly, it has become a world power, the citadel and hope of the workers of every country.
Even America, the bulwark of world capitalism, is suffering acutely from the general disorganization. Its economic and financial life has been caught in the violent, swirling maelstrom of war. Because of the catastrophic appreciation of European currency it can find no outlet for the products of its industry. Its foreign trade has declined approximately fifty per cent. Armies of unemployed crowd the cities. Millions are out of work. War prosperity is ended. The bread lines have come. Capitalism is totally unable to cope with the situation. Its utter helplessness was revealed at the recent Government Unemployment Conference, Nowhere is there a serious effort to ameliorate this condition. On the contrary, the employers are using it to increase their power of exploitation and oppression. The steel trusts, the oil monopoly, the railroads, the meat-packing and textile industries have already made heavy cuts in the workers’ pay. A powerful anti-worker campaign is being waged by the Employer’s Association. Even the soldiers who have givent heir all in the fight for capitalist “democracy,” are now clubbed and jailed at the first sign of protest against the destitution forced upon them by this same “democracy,” which is in fact a dictatorship of the exploitating class. Everywhere it is robbing the workers of the small gains they have won through many years of struggle.
For generations the workers have been producing a surplus over and above what they have received in wages. A part of this surplus the capitalists have invested in the development and exploitation of the industrially backward countries of Asia, Africa and South America. These countries have been cowed into submission as colonies or “spheres of influence.” In order to safeguard their investments in these countries, European and American capitalists have seized control of the local governments and oppressed and terrorized the native populations. Today these exploited and oppressed people, inspired by the Russian Revolution, demanding freedom. In China, in India and Egypt, in Haiti, in the Philippines, in South America, in Mexico and South Africa—everywhere the spirit of revolt is awakening with new strength and momentum.
In the United States, the master class has not only been culpable for immense atrocities, both to foreign peoples and to its own sons it sends overseas to protect the plunder of rich men at home, but has also been complicit in the crimes of the other imperialist powers.
The Workers’ Party is the only party opposed to the despoliation and plunder of the peoples of the world to serve the interests of capital. As in our own struggles against our domestic oppressors, we recognize an organic solidarity with all of the oppressed peoples of the world, and that an injury to one is an injury to all.
It is the program of the Workers’ Party to oppose all foreign imperialist adventures. We demand that no more blood be spilt for plundered riches. We will not stand idly by while humanity is placed on a cross of gold. With the establishment of a Workers’ Republic in the United States, the Party shall ally itself with the forces of liberation across the world.
The Class Struggle
The whole capitalist system of production rests upon the robbery and enslavement of the workers. In the United States, the Morgans, the Rockefellers, the Schwabs, the railroad junkers, the coal barons, the industrial magnates, own the means of production and the workers cannot secure work without their consent. They are unable to earn the means of buying food, clothing, and homes to live in without the permissions of these financial and industrial kings. The owners of capital are so many czars and Kaisers, each with a group of workers ranging from a few hundreds to tens of thousands whose right to life they hold in their hands through their control of the workers’ opportunity to earn a living.
The conditions on which the workers are permitted to work is the enrichment of the capitalists. They must prostrate themselves, and work for wages which will leave in their masters’ hands the lions’ share of what they produce. They much add more millions to Rockefeller’s billions, they must create new hundreds of millions for Morgan, they must add to the swollen fortunes of the financial and industrial lords of the country.
In the Declaration of Independence, a document underlying the institutions of the country, it was laid down as a principle that all men are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and “that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
These rights do not exist for the thirty million American wage workers and their families. The workers of this country are industrial slaves. They cannot work and earn a living without the consent of the capitalists.
The struggle against these conditions is continually breaking out in strikes. The history of this country during the last half century is full of examples of the rebellion of the workers. This class struggle for enough bread to feed their families has always been met with violence by the kings of industry.
The mass power of the exploited class is its strongest weapon in the struggle against the capitalists. And the capitalists are aware of this, and rightly fear the power of a band of working men. The capitalists seek to divide the workers against each other, through patronage to skilled laborers, a class of enforcers on their payroll, and by setting native workers against immigrants, and White workers against their Negro, Chicano and Chinese brothers.
By hook or crook, the masters have maintained their power. But the successes of the Workers’ Party, and of the International Worker Solidarity Union have testified to the ultimate historical inevitability of socialism. The power of the capitalist state, and its armies, police, prisons and propaganda apparatus have not been sufficient to defeat the simple resistance of ordinary workers across the country. The powers they wield are great, but the power held by the workers, organized as a class to fulfill the interests of class is greater than the might of any army.
The task of the Workers’ Party in this era of revolutionary upsurge is to continue this struggle. The Workers Party shall serve as the university of the working class. Through its union federation, the party shall fight the day to day struggles for better conditions, organizing resources to ensure the maximal defense of the immediate interests of the working class. The Party has committed itself to fight every struggle for workers’ power, and to unite ever greater numbers of workers into the class struggle.
The workers’ struggle has also been a struggle against the capitalist state, for the state is the instrument of class rule. Recent events have testified all too well to this inescapable truth; far too many mothers have buried their sons thanks to the relentless brutality of the capitalists’ cronies. The parties of the establishment are in actuality a single capitalist party, united against the Workers’ Party.
In the struggle against the imperialist war, the Democrats and Republicans, who claim to be foes and irreconcilably opposed to one another, had no problem collaborating to bring the army and police to bear against workers who did not wish to see their sons die for Morgan’s gold. This repression has continued even after the capitalists triumphed, and began to feast upon the corpses of their foes.
The workers cannot wage a successful struggle against capitalist exploitation and oppression while the government remains in control of the capitalists. The Workers’ Party is prepared to fight the political struggle of the class war; a struggle for the workers to at last take control of the government and direct their own lives.
To this end, the Workers Party will use all the tools at its disposal to fight this political struggle, including elections. The Workers’ Party will not foster the illusion, has is done by the yellow Socialists, that the workers can achieve their emancipation through election alone. The institutions of the country have been designed to prevent exactly that.
The so-called democracy of the United States is a sham. The constitution makes it impossible for a majority antagonistic to the ruling class to make its will effective. The merchants, bankers and landlords of 1787 wrote the constitution to protect the interests of their class. A majority of people cannot change the constitution. The votes of two-thirds of the members of the legislators of three-fourts of the states is required to pass a constitutional amendment. One-fourth of the states, in which there may live only one-fortieth of the population, can prevent any change to the law of the land.
The House of Representatives and the President are elected every four years, while the Senate is elected by the state legislators every two years for six year terms. The Senate may block the actions of the House of Representatives, and the President may veto the actions of both bodies. And over and above them stands the Supreme Court, which can nullify laws which all three unite in passing.
In addition to these protections, millions of workers are further disenfranchised through naturalization laws. Hundreds of thousands cannot vote because of residential qualifications, which through the necessity of earning a living wage make it impossible for them to comply with. The capitalists control thousands of newspapers through which they seek to shape the ideas of the masses in their interests. They control the schools, the colleges, the pulpits, the moving picture theatres, all of which are part of the machinery through which the capitalists seek to dominate the workers.
Under these conditions, talk of democracy is to throw sand in the eyes of the workers. This democracy is a sham. And yet the masters call the people to pay their reverence to this nation’s “greatness” every Fourth of July. What to the American worker, is the Fourth of July, and all its pageantry for freedom and “democracy”? We, the Workers’ Party, answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, this celebration is a sham; the boasted liberty, an unholy license; the national greatness, swelling vanity; the sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; the denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; the shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; the prayers and hymns, sermons and thanksgivings, with all the religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.
There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the capitalists of the United States, at this very hour. The scale of the brutalities unleashed upon the American workers horrifies even the reactionaries of British and French Empire. The pages of The Times of London are filled with accounts of the atrocities committed to maintain order in the United States, which are read with horrified fascination by the establishment, unaware that the storm of class warfare that grips the United States will one day engulf the whole of the world.
Under conditions such as these, the Workers Party recognizes the impossibility of winning emancipation through the use of the machinery of the existing government. Nevertheless, the Workers Party realizes the importance of election campaigns in developing the political consciousness of the working class, and that independent political action within the existing government is necessary for revolutionary political action. Therefore, the Workers Party will participate in elections and use them for propaganda and agitation, while holding to the fundamental truth, long forgotten and heard only in whispers, that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish governments detrimental to their interests.
The Workers’ Republic
The program of the Workers’ Party is a revolutionary one, no less monumental than the American or French Revolution. The Workers’ Party seeks to transform the institutions of administration in the United States based upon the experience of the revolutionary workers in Russia, Hungary and Bavaria. The soviets, or workers’ councils, of these revolutionary surges are the proper organizations of the workers’ power in times of crisis, arising naturally out of previous struggles and the experiences of workers.
The federations of councils, experimented in the great revolutionary upsurge in the United States under the leadership of the Workers’ Party, have proven to be the most effective weapon for democratic liberation by the workers. The Workers’ Party shall make the soviets the basis of the future revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.
The existing capitalist government is a dictatorship of the capitalists. Today in the United States a comparatively small group of capitalist-financial and industrial kings control the government of the United States, of the states and municipalities.
The Workers’ Party rejects the hollow mockery that is the bourgeois dictatorship of capitalism and its sham democracy. Through the institution of the true democracy of workers’ power, the working class will maintain its dominance against its enemies, taking hold of the direction of society. The working class as a whole can finally control its own destiny.
The revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat shall at once take from the capitalists their plundered wealth, in the form of the control and ownership of the raw materials and machinery of production which the workers are dependent upon for their life, liberty and happiness, and establish collective ownership.
Together with this collective ownership the Workers’ Republic will as quickly as possible develop the system of self-management of the industries by the workers. Through the establishment of the socialist system of industry the exploited and oppression of the workers will be ended. As the power of the capitalists in industry wanes and the lower stage of communism is established the struggle between the classes will disappear. Through the development of technology and the productive powers of industry, each individual will finally have the freedom to develop his talents to the furthest. And so shall the free development of each be the condition for the free development of all.
The Workers’ Party accepts the principle that the class struggle for the emancipation of the working class is an international struggle. The workers of Russia have been obliged to fight against the whole capitalist world in order to maintain their Soviet government and to win the opportunity of rebuilding their system of production on a socialist basis. In this struggle they have had the support of the organized workers of every country.
The future struggles against capitalism will take the same character. In order to win the final victory in the struggle against world capitalism the working class of the world must be united under one leadership.
The leadership in the international struggle which inspires hope in the hearts of the workers of the world and arouses fear in the capitalists of all nations is the leadership of the Communist International, the fraternal organization of Workers’ parties around the world.
The Workers Party declares once again its sympathy with the principles of the Communist International, and enters the struggle against American capitalism, the most powerful of the national groups, and in doing so it takes up the vanguard of the world struggle against capitalism.
Timeline of the Roaring 20s
January 28: The Italian Communist Party (PCI) is founded in Livorno, as part of the growing split in international socialism.
February 1: In the ongoing Russian Civil War, Bolshevik troops occupy Tblisi. The Menshevik government of the Georgian Democratic Republic is captured, but sporadic fighting continues around the capital and in the countryside.
February 8: Sailors at the Bolshevik controlled Russian naval fort of Kronstadt mutiny. They deliver a list of demands to the Bolshevik government that include increased restrictions on the Cheka secret police, a return to soviet democracy, and free elections, among others.
February 18: The Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic is officially declared in Tiblisi. In reality, the government is a puppet of Moscow.
March 4: Leonard Wood is inaugurated president of the United States in Washington DC. Wood is quick to enforce party discipline on the Republicans in the House. His allies in the Cabinet force the resignation of several prominent members of the House Republican Caucus over their opposition to the party’s reform agenda.
March 14: The Kronstadt mutiny is crushed by a force of loyal Cheka volunteers and Red Army officer cadets, demonstrating the severe instability of the Bolshevik government at this point. In Moscow, the Council of People's Commissars formally implements the New Economic Policy.
March 28: The Budgeting and Accounting Act of 1921 is formally ratified by the US government.
April 2: The reparations commission of the League of Nations orders Germany to pay a sum of 130 billion gold marks, in annual installments of 2.5 billion.
April 11: In Britain, the miners, railway, and transportation unions announce the beginning of a strike. The government threatens to suppress the strike with military force.
April 28: Moderate members of Sinn Féin walk out, establishing a new party, Cumann na nGaedheal. As leaders of the Irish business community, and of the current provisional government, they had become alienated with the growing tide of communist radicalism within Sinn Féin.
May 1: In a symbolic act of national reconciliation, President Wood issues a general amnesty to all radicals convicted or deported over violations of the Espionage or Sedition Acts. Eugene Debs, released in an earlier pardon deal, meets with President Wood at the White House to "cordially discuss the national affairs of the United States." Wood's attempts at reconciliation prove to be deeply unpopular within his party.
May 7: With the crushing of the occupying White Army in Mongolia, and the establishment of the Mongolian People’s Republic, the Soviet Revolutionary Wars are over. Sporadic fighting continues, but organized, effective resistance to the Soviet government ceases.
May 19: First Secretary James Mann passes away from a sudden stroke. President Wood seizes the opportunity to strengthen his hold on the Republican Party by reshuffling the Cabinet, placing noted liberal Leonidas C. Dyer in the position of head of government. In addition, the diumvirate removes William Vare, Secretary of Industrial Coordination, and Charles Hughes, Secretary of State, in favor of James J. Davis and Frank B. Kellog, respectively.
June 4: President Wood formally signs a joint-resolution officially ending the formal state of war between the United States and Germany, Austria and Hungary.
June 18: The Third World Congress of the Comintern begins in Moscow.
July 4: A truce agreement is reached between Britain and the Irish Provisional Government.
July 12: First Secretary Dyer kills Albert Johnson’s Emergency Immigration Act, after consultation with the Cabinet and major business leaders. Restricting immigration at this time, it is felt, would unduly increase the bargaining power of organized labor. Furthermore, the threat of immigrant radicalism is muted by the strength of native radicalism. With continued immigration, native workers may turn against immigrant workers in competition for jobs.
July 29: In Germany, a lowly formal corporal from the German Army signal corps is elected leader of the so-called National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP).
August 12: Italian immigrant anarcho-syndicalist organizers Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are found guilty of first degree murder and sedition by a Massachusetts jury. Sacco and Vanzetti’s defense accuse the trial of being a kangaroo court, with nothing but circumstantial evidence to support the conviction.
October 1: A peace conference between the United Kingdom and Éire begins in London.
November 7: The National Fascist Party is established in Italy.
December 1: The Irish-British peace conference concludes. Sinn Féin, excluded from the process, immediately condemn the establishment of the Irish Free State as a dominion of the British Empire, incorporating 26 of the 32 counties in Ireland.
January 18: The London Naval Conference begins, hoping to arrest the potential arms race between Britain, America, France and Japan.
March 11: In Mumbai, a young Indian lawyer and independence leader named Mohandas Gandhi is arrested for Sedition.
March 20: The USS Langley (CV-1) is commissioned as the first aircraft carrier in the US Navy.
May 1: In another inroad to reconciliation, President Wood and First Secretary Dyer sign legislation formally declaring May 1st to be a federal holiday, dubbed "International Labor Day". Later that day, Dyer lays out a progressive legislative agenda before the House. The platform contains legislation establishing a fifty-hour standard work week with guaranteed overtime pay, nationalizing the majority of country's railroads, establishing a first ever progressive income tax, creating a national health service and a cabinet level Department of Health, establishing cabinet Departments of Education and Labor, and a law recognizing the right of labor unions to organize. The platform is controversial and ambitious, and a crisis of leadership soon erupts.
May 17: New York becomes the first of five states this year to enact measures changing the apportionment of presidential electors from winner-take-all to a congressional district system.
June 11: President Wood gives the first ever national radio address. In his speech, he urges moderation and reform to fight the tide of class warfare and militancy within the country. In his words, "the choice is reform or revolution; the rascals in on Wall Street would sooner see revolution before tear away their claws from their acquired power."
July 8: The Fordney-McCumber Tarriff act passes the Senate with a 2/3rds majority, completely undercutting President Wood's threatened veto. In an attempt to compromise and push forward his agenda, First Secretary Dyer steers the act through the House.
July 18: The first Republican Party Conference begins in Philadelphia. The party conference drafts a party constitution establishing the Republican Party of the United States of America as a membership organization of state Republican Parties, affiliated political clubs, and the Congressional Republican Party. A standing National Executive Committee is elected at the close of the conference, with President Wood serving as Chairman and First Secretary Dyer as Party Leader.
August 16: A limited version of Dyer's "Progress Platform" is enacted by the US House. It contains provisions establishing a cabinet Department of Education and Labor, regulates food and drug standards via the Department of Industrial Coordination, and establishes a 50 hour standard work week.
October 1: Public Law 67-89 is enacted by the US federal government, opening all federal offices to women.
October 28: The Italian Fascists stage their "March on Rome", steering Benito Mussolini to power. The Constitution is soon suspended, as a general terror campaign begins on enemies of the Fascists. Elsewhere, the Red Army occupies Vladivostok, signalling an end to major fighting in the Russian Civil War.
November 1: UK General elections occur, precipitated by Conservative withdrawal from the National Coalition. The Conservatives win a razor thin majority government.
December 28: Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Transcaucasia sign a treaty of union, creating the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
January 3: At the beginning of the new Senate term, the pro-administration Republicans push through a major revision of the US Senate procedures, reinstating the rules to move the previous question, cutting off the possibility of unlimited debate.
January 8: The US Senate ratifies the London Naval Treaty. The revised treaty places no restrictions on the size or armaments of new capital ships under construction. While no moratorium is placed on production, the treaty successfully limits the total tonnage available for capital ship fleets of the signatories, on a ratio of 5:5:4:2:2 between the US, the UK, Japan, France and Italy respectively. Consequently, US capital ship construction continues as planned in 1920, with 6 Lexington-class battlecruisers joining 6 South Dakota-class battleships in various stages of construction.
February 22: Time magazine debuts in the United States.
March 6: Vladimir Lenin suffers his third stroke, and subsequently retires as Chair of Soviet Government.
March 18: First Secretary Dyer's pet law, making lynching a federal crime punishable by death manages to pass over a Senate filibuster attempt, thanks to Vice-President Calvin Coolidge's deft use of parliamentary tactics to outmanuever Democratic opposition. In the House, the law passes in spite of major opposition within the House Republicans, thanks to the unanimous support of the law by the Worker's Party. Dyer and Wood both agree that this is perhaps the first green shoots of their reform policy.
April 4: The United States recognizes the Republic of Turkey following the ratification of the Treaty of Lausanne, establishing the countries modern borders and bringing the (legal) end of the Ottoman Empire.
May 8: The World War Adjusted Compensation Act, AKA the Bonus Bill, is signed into law.
June 1: The National Forests are significantly enlarged by the Clarke-McNary Act.
August 2: Warren G. Harding, US Senator, passes away of an apparent heart-attack. With one of the more powerful-conservative voices in the Senate absent, the Wood faction of the Republican Party neuters the ability of the Senate to hamstring the Cabinet.
October 30: British Prime Minister Bonar Law dies in office from an upper GI tract infection, later revealed to be a complication from throat cancer. He is succeeded by Stanley Baldwin.
November 8: Adolf Hitler begins the ultimately unsuccessful Beer-Hall Putsch.
January 21: Vladimir Lenin passes away, leaving an immense leadership vacuum within the Bolshevik Party.
January 27: Petrograd is renamed Leningrad; Lenin's body is embalmed and interred in a mausoleum against his explicit wishes.
February 16: The United Kingdom formally recognizes the USSR. The US, under President Wood's directive, soon follows suit.
March 8: The Castle Gate mine disaster in kills over one hundred miners in Utah, prompting major outcries for mine-safety across the US. Across the US, the National Guard is called out to suppress miner's strikes.
March 20: As Eugene Debs, in ailing health, steps down from his position as General Secretary of the Workers’ Party, the Politburo places C.E. Ruthenberg as the provisional head of the party until the next National Convention.
April 1: Adolf Hitler is sentenced to 5 years in jail for his participation in the Beer Hall Putsch. He serves only 9 months.
April 7: In a rigged election, the Italian Fascists cement a 2/3rds control of the Italian Parliament.
May 8: Debate begins in the US Congress over the formation of a national investigatory police.
July 1: The National Bureau of Investigation is founded. J. Edgar Hoover is appointed the head of the undersized, underfunded institution with investigatory authority only over the distribution of subversive literature, condoms and pornography across state lines.
August 6: An act of Congress is passed, granting all Native Americans within the territorial boundaries of the United States full citizenship rights.
October 27: The Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic formally joins the USSR.
November 4: United States General Election: President Wood is re-elected by a comfortable margin, while a Republican government is returned in the House of Representatives.
December 11: Sun Yat-sen’s Goumindang allies with the Comintern and the Communist Party of China.
January 8: Benito Mussolini assumes dictatorial powers in Italy.
February 18: The Worker's Party sponsored national newspaper, The Daily Worker, reaches parity with The New York Times in circulation.
March 4: President Wood is inaugurated President for his second term.
March 8: The American section of the Young Communist International, the Young Communist League of America, holds its first national convention in New York. Essentially a political, urban Boy Scouts, the group becomes an important facet of inner city life quickly after its founding.
April 8: F. Scott Fitzgerald publishes his (eventually) famous novel, Under Red, White and Blue, to mixed critical reception and moderate commercial success.
May 1: Turn out at annual May Day parades and demonstrations is a disappointment this year. The steadily growing economy and reduced unemployment have in many ways deflated militancy on the Left. The Worker's Party and the Solidarity labor union face the first decline in total membership after almost two decades of steady growth in membership.
May 17: National news suddenly turns to a small town in Iowa, over a teacher's defiance of state's anti-evolution law. The impending trial is expected to have national ramifications.
July 4: Independence Day celebrations across the country suddenly turn very somber, as news spreads of an assassination attempt on President Wood. The lone gunmen is killed while attempting escape. Wood, already in poor health, is gravely wounded by two shots to the chest from the assassin's revolver.
July 11: Herbert Hoover is sworn in as President. Due to a miscommunication about President Wood's death, Hoover is accidently sworn in almost a full hour before the President's passing. Due to this, and other unsightly coincidences in the affair, conspiracy theories begin to form around the assassination in later years.
August 1: The National Revenue Act of 1925 is signed into law by President Hoover. The Act greatly reduced federal income taxes across the board, especially on higher incomes. The federal government still maintains a modest surplus after the tax reductions, allowing the government to continue retiring some of the war debt from the First World War.
August 18: In the USSR, Leon Trotsky resigns his position in Sovnarkom as the People's Commissar for War, under mounting criticism within the party over, among other things, his earlier criticism of Zinoviev and Kamanev as well as his thesis on permanent revolution.
October 3: A Congressional joint resolution authorizing a constitutional amendment to ban the production, sale and distribution of alcohol is soundly defeated. The Prohibition movement begins a long, slow death in American politics, lingering in some areas for decades but losing most if not all of the former national attention it had received.
October 25: Walter Francis White, Executive Secretary of the NAACP, cautiously endorses the Workers Party's new emphasis on anti-segregation and anti-racism. W.E.B. Du Bois, Publications Director for the NAACP, is not so tepid. He begins publishing a series of essays in Crisis, the NAACP journal, championing an alliance between "the forces of labor liberation and the forces of Negroe liberation"
December 11: At the Fourteenth Party Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, the Troika between Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev disintegrates. Zinoviev and Kamanev criticize Stalin over the increasingly dictatorial nature of his leadership of the Party. Stalin, now allied with Bukharin, Molotov and Kalinin, begins strengthening his grip on the Politburo.
January 16: A BBC radio play about a worker's revolution causes a panic in London, dramatically revealing the great tension between labor and capital in the UK.
February 4: Eugene Debs, five time presidential candidate and spiritual leader of the American socialist movement, passes away in his sleep. With the unifying force of Debs gone, many fear that the Workers Party will soon splinter.
April 28: A coal miner's strike begins in Britain. The conflict soon boils over into a full general strike. While the labor's taking to the streets is far short of a revolution in progress, the quick degeneration of the situation proves that fears of labor uprising are not totally without merit.
May 14: The British general strike ends with a negotiated settlement.
July 17: The Automobile Worker's Union is founded in Detroit, Michigan.
August 1: President Hoover cautiously endorses First Secretary Gilett's proposal for legislation that would, in effect, legitimate the existence of industrial unions and enforce collective bargaining contracts. With unions entrenched in every major American industry, the need for arbitration becomes manifestly apparent.
October 11: A decree issued by Mussolini's government in Italy orders the arrest of all parliamentary deputies of the Italian Communist Party.
October 14: The Labor Standards Act, legitimating industrial unionism, passes the U.S. House 287-111. However, the legislation faces an uncertain fate in the more aristocratic Senate.
December 1: Compromise deals over the Labor Standards Act fail, resulting in the defeat of the Act 36-58 in the Senate. In response, the House votes on a constitutional amendment resolution to strip powers from the US Senate. Gilett hopes that the controversy, and the threat of a constitutional convention called by the states, might give the Senate reason to reconsider. Ultimately, the controversy goes nowhere.
February 1: Norman Thomas, a former Presbyterian minister and New York City councilman, is elected to the US House in a by-election. A powerful orator and an enthusiastic activist, he quickly becomes a powerful figure in New York labor politics.
May 17: Charles Lindbergh, a daring airmail pilot, is pronounced missing and presumed dead, after his plane fails to arrive in Great Britain. An attempt at the first solo flight across the Atlantic will not be made again for several months.
June 1: In the USSR, Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev, former adversaries, form a United Opposition against Stalin's growing hegemony in the Communist Party.
June 8: Actor William Haines, the number one box office draw of the year, openly discusses his homosexuality and his relationship with his partner Jimmie Shields in an interview with the Daily Worker. The national news attention following is more one of curiosity than condemnation.
July 16: American troops are deployed to China to protect vital American commercial interests.
October 6: The silent film era ends with the release of The Jazz Singer.
November 8: Leon Trotsky and Grigory Zinoviev are formally expelled from the Communist Party. Trotsky and his associates refuse to capitulate, and soon face the prospect of internal exile.
December 6: The Soviet Communist Party, at its Fifteenth Congress, issues an official edict condemning all deviation from the party line. Josef Stalin is effectively undisputed master of the Soviet state.
January 30: Leon Trotsky is arrested by State Security. He assumes a state of passive resistence, and is exiled to Alma Ata in the following month.
March 2: In accordance with "Third Period" Comintern policies, the Workers Party of America adopts the name "Workers’ Communist Party".
April 4: Max Eastman, editor of the Daily Worker, publishes an article in the paper in support of Leon Trotsky, and heavily criticizes Josef Stalin's growing leadership cult. Calls by the Comintern for his expulsion from the party begin almost immediately.
May 4: Aviatrix Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to successfully fly across the Atlantic.
June 18: American troops stationed in China begin a general withdrawal.
July 2: A papal edict is issued, aimed at the growing involvement of US Catholics with the socialist movement. It harshly condemns socialism and laborism, and instead encourages humility and charity as an alternative. Known members of the Workers Party are to be explicitly denied communion.
August 6: First Secretary Gilett publicly announces his retirement from leadership of the Republican Party and from politics in general. Majority Leader Nicholas Longworth is elected to head the government for the remainder of the Congress.
November 6: US general election. President Hoover is reelected to a second term, and Republican Party returns a solid majority in the House of Representatives. Cooperation between the President and the First Secretary is expected to be high.
December 18: In one of its last acts, the lameduck 68th Congress approves construction of a hydroelectric dam in the Boulder Canyon on the Colorado River.
February 11: Leon Trotsky, along with his wife and son, is expelled from the USSR, to Istanbul, Turkey.
March 4: Herbert Hoover is sworn into his second term as President. Nicholas Longworth forms a Republican majority government.
1. One of the great things about writing in character is that you can explore the interactions of various points of view. In this case, the (fictional) writer, a British author with no sympathy for socialism or revolution, is mischaracterizing Patton, who was no proletarian by any stretch of the imagination. But hey, it’s a snappy title, likely to sell lots of copies among military buffs in the Franco-British Union.
The Great Crusade (Reds! Part 3)
The Great Depression
"...the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it..." - Oscar Wilde
“Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.”
The Roaring Twenties, as they’d been called, had been revered as a new Golden Age of Civilization. The growth of science, the arts, education and standards of living across Europe and the United States had been unprecedented in history. The Weimar Republic, in spite of difficulties imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, had presided over an age of tolerance, humanism and culture envied the world over. Britain and France had recovered much of their strength, depleted from the trenches of the First World War. The colonies remained mostly docile. And the United States, the continued revolutions in the arts promised to transform the dull drudgery of daily life for all time. Radio and cinema became the new universal language, and new developments in a strange scientific contraption called a “television” promised to bring the cinema to the home within a decade or two.
But the Golden Age was not to last. It would soon collapse under its own internal stresses. The dreamers of the Roaring Twenties were abruptly woken up on Thursday, February 6th, 1930. What had seemed like a normal business cycle abruptly accelerated. In the panic on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, a record 14 million shares were traded on Black Thursday.
Though the actions of a few high profile investors had temporarily averted panic that day, the news of the growing crisis continued to spread across the United States. The panic could not be contained. The following Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost almost 45 points (12 percent). The panic only continued the next day, losing a further 14 percent that Tuesday.
The Stock Market Crash of 1930 would become the opening act of what would be known the world over as “The Great Depression”. The Great Depression would herald a decade of despair and revolution. Empires and republics alike would topple under the weight of the economic collapse. Fascism rise to power in Europe, ravaging the world with horrors never matched in all of human history.
Governments would soon scramble to contain the crisis. In the United States, a controversial tariff, the Smoot-Hawley Act, was reluctantly signed into law by President Hoover in June of 1930. The Act not only contained the largest increases in tariffs ever proposed, but also contained measures effectively outlawing trade unions, which had been tolerated but never fully endorsed by the federal government since the First World War. International trade would soon grind to a near halt, and the act further inflamed the seething tensions between capital and labor.
August of 1930 would see a wave of major bank failures in the United States. The faltering of credit and finance was followed quickly by deflation. The Federal Reserve and the Longworth Government were unable and unwilling to abandon the Gold Standard, and through a combination of ill-advised action by the former and inaction by the latter, the money supply would only further contract in 1931. The ensuing deflationary spiral and new waves of bank failures deepened the crisis.
The crisis originated in the United States, and ultimately the U.S. was among the nations hardest hit by the Great Depression. By the time the Depression reached its nadir in June of 1933, industrial production had fallen by almost 50 percent. Half of the 25,000 banks in the United States had failed. GDP fell by 40.2 percent. Total unemployment reached a high of 28 percent, and non-farm employment unreached 43 percent. Over 1 million families lost their farms, and average family income fell by almost half.
The nadir of the Great Depression would coincide with the fall of Washington D.C. during the brief Second American Civil War and the rise of the Nazis to absolute power in Germany.
The preceding excerpt was from the introduction of a chapter titled “The Great Depression and the Revolution” from a generic high school American history textbook, circa 1988.
Excerpts from Mike Macnair, The Seizure of state power by the American proletariat, (Glasgow, UK: Morning Star, 1997). (Illuminatus Primus)
The nature of the communist revolution, as explained by Marx and Engels, requires: first that the workers form themselves into a party, distinct from and independent of, all other classes and their parties, and that this class party wage an unceasing struggle to conquer political power for the working class. The working-class, of course, is both product and part of the development of the capitalist mode of production, and thus exists at the level of the world-market and world-history of capital first and foremost. The struggle of the world-proletariat against world-capital necessarily resolves in the dictatorship of the world-proletariat over and against world-capital, and the subsequent abolition of all classes. The beginning of the end of the class war was unleashed with the end of the First World War, the earliest sign of the death agony of capitalism. The first battles of the class war of manœuvre were inclusive, even Pyrrhic struggles. But with the insurrection of North America's workers, the first decisive victories in the war of manœuvre were won, and the first beachheads secured.
This is a short overview of that process.
The workers’ class party in America was composed of revolutionary maximalist sections of the parliamentary Workers’ (Communist) Party of America, the so-called “direct unionist” wing of the International Workers’ Solidarity Union, and a number of ad hoc and subsidiary “spontaneist” movements, such as the factory council/shop-steward movement and the so-called “standing strike committees” and “ward committees of workers’ defense” which formed the prototype of the revolutionary soviets and community assemblies. Since the end of World War I, the formalist parliamentarian party-movements associated with the Second International and founded in pattern after the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands...
The division of the party by faction in the 1920s had nearly led to its splitting. The Reform-Coalitionists (known as Revisionist Right by the Left) nearly split the party in the election of 1928. Such a split might have been inevitable, that the only major country without a social democratic party would finally get one. But barely a year after the election, the already troubled state of the American proletariat turned precarious when stock market crash in 1930 heralded a new age of crisis. This all-but-repudiated short-term opportunism.
The greatest capitalisers on the new wave of discontent were the DeLeonist-Debsist or so-called Orthodox (called Center by the Left) faction, who supported party unity and party heterogeneity over all, as well as an open parliamentary road. Nonetheless, the DeLeonist-Communist (also called the Left) and the Ultra-Left (which maintained an ambiguous relationship with the party institutions—they often could and did participate in district and factory party cells and conferences, but opposed most of the apparatus and its parliamentary designs) built informal but it would turn out, extremely important factory-floor and neighborhood networks of revolutionary militants, and arguably in the nadir of 1931-32 of the crash, were the second most influential party faction.
In terms of international affinity, the Right sympathized most closely with the Vienna International and left social democratic parties, while the Center sympathized with the Bukharinist Right, the Left with the Trotskyist Left, and the Ultra-Left with the council communists and Italian communist left expelled from the Comintern (though they justified their partial entryism in the W(C)PA with reference to the unique form of the American party and peculiar American conditions).
The period following 1927 was that of greatest alienation from the Comintern leadership, where the American party, in all its factions, had essentially rejected the Third Period policy or judged it not relevant to the American conditions (for instance, no proper social democratic party existed with the reabsorption of the left-wing of the Independent Socialist Labor Party when the WPA belatedly adopted the United Front tactic in 1925; the former ISLP formed the core of the Right). In spite of all odds and circumstances, the American parliamentary party remained true to the Debsian “united front party” constitution he had originally built between the Kautskyian/municipal socialist pan-left and DeLeon’s impossibilists, with the latter in programmatic, organizational, and agitational command, and the former tasked with party-building, filling out local elective office, and building a parliamentary faction.
The ultra-left period of 1931 saw factory occupations and the beginning of strike-committee movements. The ‘councilist’ wing of the Ultra-Left and ‘Luxembourgist’ wing of the Left began circulating agitation for forming a government of workers’ councils. Ultimately the strike waves subsided slightly, and fearing repression, the Right and Center formed a pact to organize for parliamentary victory at a tactic of first resort, and Rightists begin secret negotiations with members of the ISLP Right and the reformists in the Democratic and Republican Parties, the fruit of which is the Non-Partisan League and Farmer-Labor fusionist and populist formations. The Right is determined to avoid an insurrection, which they regard as putschist and disastrous for the movement, and fear the possibility of provoking a repression like that of the Two Red Years of 1917-1919 in light of their seeming resurrection in 1930-31.
In its negotiations, the Right sought military, juridical, and industry support for the possibility of a W(C)PA victory in the election of 1932. It promised that the Cabinet will seat reformist Democrats and Republicans (albeit with no promises in the key departments), that major legislation will have to have tri-partisan support, and that they will not support attempts to purge the senior state bureaucracy or officer corps or federal courts, or pack the Supreme Court. As a carrot, the Right revolted against the W(C)PA’s attempt to filibuster the confirmation of MacArthur as Secretary of War, demonstrating that in the event of a parliamentary victory, they expected to be able to command at least simple majority support of the full-time cadre and bureaucrats in the IWSU and Party apparat, and were demonstrating in principle their respect for the division of power within the bourgeois republic.
This led nearly to a revolt by the Left, but once more the Center holds. The line of battle is drawn though, with the Left faction making it clear they will split the party, electoral victory or not, should the leadership betray the party charter that the party shall not enter government unless it possesses decisive majority political support from the working-class and tacit support from a plurality of the population for implementing the minimum program; this was a sticking point, given that the Right had in principle essentially promised to do exactly that, and the Center seemed possibly prepared to put party-unity in the abstract over all other principles. 1932 was a period of suppressed conflict in the W(C)PA, as the party got into gear as a single force to win the election with a majority. The Ultra-Left at this point declared that the party was not a reliable instrument of working-class power, but its factional organization could not coalesce clearly around slogans of split, abstention, critical support for the W(C)PA electoral campaign, or otherwise. This political paralysis on programmatic grounds was juxtaposed with their deepening roots in the multiplicity of factory, ward, urban, and ad hoc workers’ organizations which had matured and developed organically since mid-1930.
The Left and Ultra-Left concentrated on a nascent movement of “Workers’ conferences,” uniting Solidarity “direct unionists,” the shop-steward and factory council movements in several industries, and the “ward committees of workers’ defense.” In contrast, the party apparat sought to bureaucratize and centralize the shells of the 1931 pan-urban general strike committees into “standing strike committees,” ostensibly pro-soviet but in essence conceived as a means to be a conveyer belt from shopfloor and street militancy to canalization in party institutions. However, these organizations would be fatefully transformed in the strike waves of late 1932 and early 1933.
As 1932 rolls on, the party appeared ever more hegemonic, but paradoxically at the expense of unity. More and more the party tendentially bifurcates into a formative left social democratic, Kautskyist formation, and on the other hand, something of a fusion between orthodox DeLeonist impossibilism and the Kommunistische Arbeiter-Partie Deutschlands (KAPD) in the Germany in the early 1920s.
The Ultra-Left used the early electoral signs as a signal to prepare for insurrection, and a number of factory occupations, marches, and strikes instigated erupt in Dec-Jan 1932-3. The lame-duck government responded by criminalizing insurrectionary speech, which shores up the Right and Center while driving the Left and particularly Ultra-Left underground and into local organization. The Right forces through party elections in January right after the repression of insurrectionary speech, allowing it to take a commanding plurality over party offices.
 An schematic concept from Antonio Gramsci distinguishing the actual adjoining of active class war in the heat of a revolutionary situation with the long-term ‘party-building’ and ‘strategy of patience’ during relative class peace, the “war of position.”
The right-wing of the ISLPA itself collapsed into three strands, all sects—the party-builders attempt to build a left social democratic party independent and against the Comintern party, rather unsuccessfully. The other two are those who entry into the conciliationist left-wing of the Republican Party as a pressure group, focusing on parliamentary reforms. The other entries into the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party but focused less on expecting to draw out parliamentary reformism through the Democratic splinterists in the short-term than hoping to aid the destruction of the reactionary Democratic core in the long-term and committing itself to “pure and simple unionism.”
This is an analogue to Salvador Allende, leader of the Unidad Popular and President in Chile, who actually ironically appointed Pinochet as Chief of Staff of the Army, and sought to avoid the arming of workers prior to the putsch by his own appointee resulting in his death.
The Great Crusade (Reds! Part 3)
Last edited by Jello_Biafra; June 17th, 2013 at 08:03 PM..
The Calm Before the Storm“The Golden Path is dangerous...it is the choice I couldn't make, the desert storm that cannot be stopped. You will become that storm...the whirlwind. And nothing will be able to stop you. Not even yourself.”
~Muad'ib, Children of Dune
A review of the 18th National Convention of the Workers' Communist Party
The last pre-revolution party congress began on 29 April 1932. In that raining spring day, delegates from across the United States gathered in New York City's Madison Square Garden. As one of the few venues large enough to host the convention, this brought the party's organizers into very capitalist business negotiations with the Garden's very conservative owners. Only after lengthy negotiations, and due to the fact that the Depression had gutted the Garden's business was the venue secured for a reasonable rate.
The exercise of mass party democracy had overwhelmed the efforts of the “Big Names” to really control the agenda. 1928's party congress had been subdued, almost bourgeois. But in the intervening four years, where workers had endured Depression conditions even before the stock markets went tumbling down, no one was left with much desire to remain respectable.
Gone were the suits and ties. The centrists and rightists in the party locals had been sternly rebuked. The rank and file of the party now filled the delegate slate, ten thousand workers from all walks of life hopped trains, hitch-hiked or car-pooled their way to the Big Apple.
The slogan on the convention floor was quickly becoming “Strike while the iron is hot”. The mood was revolutionary, and many felt that the party's victory in the November elections would only be one part of an all-out assault against capitalism. The party's membership rolls had practically exploded in the past few years, and organizers had done an incredible job proselytizing. New locals from all across America, even in the Deep South, had been chartered and sent delegates to the convention.
Still, there were numerous issues to be settled. The slate of Congressional candidates had to be approved, the party platform adopted, and most importantly, the leadership candidates would have to be selected. The most important of which would be the man who would run for president; he may very well be the party's first president, and if a peaceful, democratic changing of the guard was to occur, the right man for the job would need to be selected.
Numerous organizational fights filled the first days. The credentials committee was waylaid by a fierce row over delegates sent by the recently reabsorbed locals of the former Independent Socialist Labor Party. Haywood, the fiery national chairman of the party-affiliated Solidarity trade union federation, led a campaign to exclude key members from the “social fascist” grouping from taking part in the convention, though his own private letters reveal that this tactic was less earnest and more a bid to stall for time to ensure that all the members of his ultra-left faction would arrive for the convention. Nevertheless, there was a real anxiety about letting even left social democrats of the Vienna International into a revolutionary workers' party.
The real business did not begin until the morning of 5 May. The various factions were well organized by this time, and the few unaffiliated delegates had been gobbled up into one camp or another. The first real debates was over the party's stance going into the election. The ultra-left sought to immediately begin a transition to a government of workers' councils, focusing all of the party's efforts leading up to and after the election for imminent social revolution. They submitted a draft for the party programme that was clearly calculated to be impossible to implement without revolution. The state would be reorganized along syndicalist lines, all property would be nationalized for redistribution, and whatever was left of the state, if you could even call it that after they were done with it, would be the provision of an extensive cradle-to-the-grave welfare state.
The left, to many's surprise, had shifted it's camp to endorse much of the revolutionary confrontation rhetoric coming out of Haywood, Mattick and Marcantonio's camp. John Reed, whose own revolutionary credentials were impeccable, give a four hour speech outlining a maximalist approach, a more “tempered” version of revolution. Though the electoral victory would primarily be a shield to the real revolutionary thrust in the streets, the maximalist vision began and ended by quoting Abraham Lincoln: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
In effect, the left chose a careful balance between revolutionary practice and reconciliation. A “Nelson Mandela approach” to social revolution, if you will. They united around a set of proven leaders: Reed the charismatic leader, Upton Sinclair the elder statesmen, Haim Kantorovich the theoretician, and William Z. Foster the pragmatic enforcer.
The center, Moscow's favorite and reeling from the continued rebuke of total adherence to Comintern general doctrine, took a much more passive role in the convention. The groups former leader, the ex-General Secreatary C.E. Ruthenberg, had recently been forced into resignation for being Stalin's errand boy, and though the center still in theory held the national leadership through Earl Browder, in practice they had been heavily compromised. The party's rebuke of the Comintern's Third Period policy of confrontation to other left-wing forces had heavily damaged the center, and under Browder's leadership their position nuanced. In a country where there were no large “social fascist” groupings, such confrontation would be irrelevant.
The center adopted, with modifications, the left's call for a “united front” of all working-class political groups in the upcoming political contests. With muted protest from the ultra-left, the party established an electoral grouping called “the Popular Front” in preparation for the November elections. Though European leftists would adopt the nomenclature later, in practice these later popular fronts had very different internal dynamics. The European fronts were largely defensive anti-fascist coalitions, composed of left-liberals, social democrats, and socialists/communists, and in practice the revolutionary parties held a junior role, and were often excluded from major decision-making.
The American Popular Front in 1932, however, placed the revolutionary workers' party in a commanding role. The reformists of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party joined a junior role, as did the various Non-Partisan Leagues in some of the states. The Popular Front would run a single presidential ticket, and organize a slate of legislative and gubernatorial candidates to maximize the potential control of the US Congress and of the state governments.
With this in mind, the party would compromise. In the balloting for the Presidential nomination, the obvious candidates (Haywood, Sinclair, Browder) were pushed to the way side by the party whips, and the dark-horse candidacy of Norman Thomas came out with a strong majority on the seventh ballot.
Norman Thomas was an atypical party member. As a Presbyterian minister, he stood out immensely in a mass party where even the rank and file were increasingly professing atheism (whatever their private thoughts on God were). Thomas was also an atypical Marxist (or not a Marxist at all, as his opponents accused), turning less to scientific socialism for inspiration than the potential revolutionary humanism of Marx's early writings and the great promises of the early, heady days of the Bolshevik Revolution. He sought inclusivity, avoiding the bitterness of factional debates in favor of a common revolutionary program that could appeal even to social democrats and disaffected liberals.
In that sense, he was the perfect man to rally behind, a veritable second coming of the late Grandfather Debs, and someone who friend and foe alike could agree that he was absolutely earnest in professing a belief in universal Christian love of neighbor and foe alike.
A revolution with Thomas at the head would be the perfect campaign of American exceptionalism, a velvet revolution that succeeded through love and compassion, accomplished at the ballot box and negotiation table, not at the barricades and battlefields.
That moment of unity started to sour quite early after the triumphant end of the national convention. Everyone did some sobering up, and returned to advancing their factional agendas, though at a clearly reduced pace and visibility. The right and center quietly reached across the aisle to the Republicans and Democrats who were increasingly sure of an incredible shellacking at the polls that there would be a place for them in the brave new world of socialism. The left soured at their increasingly loss of control over the party's Congressional caucus, and sought to prepare an eventual revolt of the backbenchers should the new revolutionary government make too many compromises, and the ultra-left made preparations for direct action in the face of a reactionary counterattack they were sure would come.
The other parties
Heading into the 1932 election, the Republican Party was in total crisis. The thought of defeat, let alone a crushing one, had hitherto been unthinkable. Now it was a dangerous possibility. The Great Depression presented them with a calamity they could neither understand nor resolve. Though the Republican Party under the late Leonard Wood had striven to become an ersatz social democratic party, distributing reforms and welfare to the poor in times of plenty, they had done so in a tenuous, reactionary manner. All reaction and no theory, and this led them astray following a conventional wisdom that no longer had any bearing on reality.
Though Hoover had delivered on a few key promises, like ending child labor, improving workplace safety, and nationalizing the long exploitative railroads, his policy towards the crisis was startlingly conventional. Counter-cyclical policy was a position quickly yielded by his party to the Communists, and by the time he tried to take it back, it was half-measures that were too little, too late.
The Republican congressional majority and Cabinet remained committed to balanced budgets, and a monetary orthodoxy of "sound money." They had provided the conditions for the Depression with a decade of wage depression and financial speculation, and continued to ensure the rot spread.
Bank failure and contractionary monetary policy led to a deflationary spiral in which every act by debtors to reduce their debt would perversely only lead to the real value of their debt burden increasing, crushing business confidence. Attempts to restore business confidence through economic nationalism only ignited trade wars that sapped away the few early gains provided by protectionism. And the continual balancing of the budget, by raising taxes, cutting expenses, or selling federal assets (including part of the recently nationalized rail system) further weakened aggregate demand and sabotaged business confidence further.
Early inaction conceded the initiative to the Workers' Party opposition. The half-hearted and hamfisted later responses further confirmed, in the eyes of the public at large and in particular disillusioned rank and file Republicans, that the Communists were on to something that the establishment was just too stupid and rigid to see.
So amongst the chaos of a party losing touch with reality and tearing itself apart, the leadership clamped down on dissent and clung to orthodoxy. Hoover was renominated, and each coming week, as the lines of the unemployed and the Hoovervilles grew, the Republicans proclaimed that the end of the Depression was “just around the corner.”
In the Democratic Party camp, similar turmoil had set in. The Democrats had been disastrously weakened by the total loss of the Northern vote to the Workers' Party, and split of the populists into the DFL. The Democrats had essentially ended as a national political force, and it looked like even in their home territory of the South, they were going to be hunted to extinction by Republican backed splinter parties, the DFL threatening to take control of the Democratic base, and the communists slowly organizing the black and industrial worker vote.
Only the timely arrival of the Great Depression had put this process on hold. The Republican aligned Patriotic League had collapsed into bankruptcy after the 1930 state level elections, giving welcome breathing room. However, this would only yield greater troubles, as this brief respite threw the future of the party into question.
Enter Huey Long, the charismatic Governor of Louisiana. Huey Long was, at first glance, an ordinary if populist leaning Democrat, but he quickly shattered all expectations. He turned on the Bourbon establishment in his own state, cooperating with the DFL and even the Communists to bring his populist agenda to bear fruit. Over the reluctance of his own core supporters, he pushed an end to voting restrictions in his own state, yielding a core of black communist voters willing to compromise on the state level agenda.
With the coming of the Depression, he successfully weathered the storm, continuing to build roads, bridges, and public schools in his own state. And in 1932, he sought to correct the Democratic Party's greatest mistake, a slide into Bourbon orthodoxy that resulted in the split. He would settle for nothing less than a total conquest of whatever was left of the Democratic Party. And at the raucous national convention in Atlanta, his delegates and some keen opportunists handed the Democratic Party nomination for President.
Long's candidacy would further decimate Republican hopes as his campaign expanded out of the South. The Democratic Party, which had lost ballot access in most Northern states after 1920, returned with what seemed like a vengeance. Lauded by new converts as the last, best hope to prevent a communist takeover, in practice Long succeeded in only peeling off voters from the Republican Party in the North.
Republicans, who had already lost decisive control of redistricting in 1930's state elections, would be forced to contest an election that was no longer weighted in their favor, hemorrhaging voters to both other parties, and with depressed turnout in its core ranks.
Vote Early, and Vote Often: The Election
The 1932 general election campaign was the longest and most intense campaign season for both major parties yet recorded. Everyone knew how much was at stake for both camps, and without accurate polling data, the prospect of victory was uncertain for either camps.
Assuredly, The Daily Worker predicted landslide victories for Thomas as often as The New York Times predicted landslide victories for Hoover. Sometimes, they even cited surveys to support their predictions, but doubtlessly, such surveys would be laughed at by any modern statistician.
Hoover, at any rate, knew how much trouble he and his party were in. His back door plea to controversial Democratic Party presidential nominee Huey Long to drop out of the race to avoid splitting the anti-communist vote was met with Long's explicit indifference to whether capitalism or socialism was the order of the day in the United States.
Thomas and Sinclair toured the country by train, delivering speeches to unemployed (and workers desperately hanging onto their jobs) in every state. It was the first ray of hope in what had been a very long night. Everywhere, they preached the gospel of worker control of the means of production, full-employment, universal pensions, and a planned economy. And this was not a program of empty hope, for the early victories in 1930 in Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota had implemented a limited version of the general program on the state level, to considerable success.
The Great Crusade (Reds! Part 3)