Chapter Fifteen: The Communists and the LaFollette Movement (1922-1924)

15. The Communists and the LaFollette Movement (1922-1924)

Young William Foster was in the center of the
development of the early formation of the modern
Communist Party organization.  
The general resistance of the workers to the capitalist offensive in the years immediately following World War I crystallized in a big farmer-labor movement, and culminated in the independent candidacy in 1924 of Senator Robert M. LaFollette for the presidency of the United States. This was the biggest effort ever made, before or since, by the rank-and-file American workers and their class allies to set up an independent political organization in the face of official betrayal. The Workers Party, the Communist Party of the period, played a most important role in this significant development.

For the past century and a half one of the American capitalists' most powerful means of dominating the workers has been to keep them affiliated to, or under the domination of, the capitalist political parties. Since Civil War times this device of the capitalist rulers has manifested itself in the so-called two-party system. Throughout all these years the advanced workers repeatedly rebelled against this infamous political control by organizing labor parties, but these attempts did not succeed. Various reasons combined to bring about their failure. Basic among these were the following: the political immaturity ideologically and organizationally of the working class; its lack of homogeneity, made up as it was largely of great masses of workers with different languages, religions, and cultural backgrounds; the persistence of petty-bourgeois illusions among the workers; the stubborn opposition of the trade union bureaucracy since the rise of the A.F. of L.; and last, but not least, the lack of a clear lead from the Marxists, chiefly because of sectarian reasons. In the decades immediately following the Civil War, the early American Marxists, with the personal advice of Marx and Engels, did in general follow the sensible policy of participating in these elementary working class parties and of co-operating with the closely affiliated farmer political organizations, although not without making many sectarian and opportunist mistakes. Lenin wrote: "Marx and Engels taught the socialists to break at all costs with narrow sectarianism and affiliate with the labor movement, so as to rouse politically the proletariat, since the proletariat displayed almost no political independence either in England or America in the last third of the 19th century."1 From 1890 on, however, the sectarian De Leon put an end to this essentially correct mass policy, holding that the labor and farmer parties were basically reactionary and that the Socialist Labor Party alone sufficed as the party of the working class. The Socialist Party continued this narrow line, and it was not until as late as 1921 that it began to look upon the spontaneous labor party movement as anything but a rival. The Workers Party inherited from the Socialist Party the long-standing hostile attitude toward the labor party.

In 1922, however, the Workers 'Party broke sharply with the thirty-year-old anti-labor-party policy of the S.L.P. and the S.P. and took its place in the forefront of the growing struggle for a labor party. The Workers Party, through discussions at home and with European Marxists in Comintern sessions, understood that the political development of the working class in the United States was not following an identical pattern with that in Continental Europe. In Europe, where the trade unions were organized either after, or simultaneously with, the Socialist Party, this Party developed independently with an individual membership, a Social-Democratic program, and a recognized political leadership of the working class. On the other hand, in certain countries, owing to factors specifically retarding the political development of the workers, the trade unions came before the political party in the development of working-class organization. There the workers, seeking to wage a political as well as an industrial struggle, eventually came to set up a labor party based primarily upon the trade unions. This latter course has been true of Great Britain and its several dominions—Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa—and also of the United States. Here the general line of development is also toward a broad party based on the trade unions, but the tempo of its growth is far slower because the retarding political factors have been much greater. Further elaboration upon this point is to be found in Chapter 37. Over many years the American Marxists failed to understand the foregoing facts, finally pointed out by Stalin, about the general line of working class political development, and the role of the labor party in it.

By 1922 the Workers Party had come to understand the vital importance of supporting the labor party as a break on the part of the workers with the two-party system and bourgeois political domination. This was a big stride away from sectarianism and into broad mass work. At its second convention, held in New York City in December 1922, the delegates, therefore, confirmed the earlier decision by the Central Executive Committee in May 1922, and declared:2 The Workers Party favors the formation of a labor party-a working class political party, independent of, and opposed to, all capitalist political parties. It will make every effort to hasten the formation of such a party and to effect admittance to it as an autonomous section." It added: "A real labor party cannot be formed without the labor unions, and organizations of exploited farmers, tenant farmers, and farm laborers must be included."3

The political situation at this time was propitious for the formation of a labor party. The workers in the United States, passing through the bitterest offensive of big capital, had carried out a whole series of fierce strikes. They had been largely disillusioned by Wilson's "liberalism" and, of course, they had no use for Harding's brand of reaction. Besides, the Gompers leaders had been deeply discredited in the whole post-war struggle, and they were little able to stem the strong tide for independent working class political action. Also, for the first time in over 35 years the Marxists, in the Workers Party and the T.U.E.L., were making a real fight for a labor party. Consequently, the workers turned sharply toward independent political action.


Four main streams of mass political organization finally culminated in the movement behind the LaFollette presidential candidacy of 1924. These were: (a) The group of local labor parties that grew up during 1918-19 in Chicago, New York, Bridgeport, and other cities, with state parties in Illinois, Connecticut, Michigan, Utah, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. The Chicago Federation of Labor was the recognized leader of this movement, (b) The Nonpartisan League, founded in 1915 as a left wing in the Republican Party and headed by A. P. Townley, formerly an S.P. organizer. The N.P.L. claimed 188,365 members in 1918. It was centered in the Dakotas, and loosely grouped around it were a number of state farmer parties in the Middle West and Northwest, (c) The Committee of Forty-Eight, founded in 1918 and headed by J. A. H. Hopkins. This was an extensive petty-bourgeois liberal organization, (d) The Plumb Plan movement, which was organized in 1919. Its leaders were Warren S. Stone and William H. Johnston, the heads of the Locomotive Engineers and Machinists Unions respectively. It was based on the sixteen railroad unions and had a program calling for "government ownership and democratic operation of the railroads." The N.A.A.C.P. eventually also endorsed LaFollette.

In November 1919, the various state and local labor parties met in Chicago and combined into the National Labor Party. The pre-T.U.E.L. group in Chicago was active in this movement, and the national secretary of the National Labor Party, J. G. Brown, later became a member of the T.U.E.L. In 1920, again in Chicago, the National Labor Party took part in a merger of the Committee of Forty-Eight and a number of state farmer parties, emerging as the Farmer-Labor Party, again with Brown as secretary. The Chicago left-wingers were also very active in this convention—in fact, actually bringing about the amalgamation of the two main groups by rank-and-file action when their leaders vacillated. The F.L.P. sought LaFollette for its candidate in the 1920 elections; but its program was "too radical" for him and the "lefts" objected to LaFollette's white chauvinism. Parley Parker Christensen, who was comparatively unknown, was nominated and polled some 300,000 votes.

The next big step in the developing LaFollette movement was taken when the Plumb Plan movement, in February 1922, transformed itself into the Conference for Progressive Political Action (C.P.P.A.). Attending its founding meeting in Chicago, besides the representatives of the sixteen railroad unions, were representatives of the miners, needle trades, nine state federations of labor, and other union bodies, and also the National Farmer-Labor Party, Socialist Party, Nonpartisan League, various state labor parties, the National Catholic Welfare Council, Methodist Federation for Social Service, and so on. All told, about 2,500,000 were represented. Dodging the labor party issue, however, the conference decided that each state should use such plan of organized political action as it saw fit, working either as a minority within the old parties or as an independent political party. J. G. Brown and Morris Hillquit were members of the national organizing committee.

In December 1922, the C.P.P.A. held another conference in Cleveland. Here, however, the question of forming an independent labor party thrust itself forward and occupied the center of attention. The labor party resolution was finally voted down, 64 to 52; whereupon the Farmer Labor Party, led by Fitzpatrick, decided to withdraw from the C.P.P.A. The Communists advised against this action, 4 the Workers Party having sent two delegates to this Cleveland conference—Ruthenberg 5 and Foster. The Socialist Party, joining with the reactionaries, issued a statement demanding that the Workers Party be barred. 6 The whole Chicago Farmer-Labor group insisted that Ruthenberg and Foster be accepted as full participants. But the conference, controlled by conservative union leaders, voted not to admit the representatives of the Workers Party.


The Workers Party and the T.U.E.L. meanwhile were actively pushing among the masses their agitation for a labor party. The T.U.E.L.'s national referendum on the labor party was a big success. All over the country unions voted favorably upon the T.U.E.L.'s proposition to establish a labor party forthwith. The Labor Herald reported that "the unions now on record in the League vote extend over 40 states and 47 international unions. In the thousands of locals in which the issue has been raised we have been informed of less than a dozen which failed to approve of a labor party."7 The leaders of the Chicago Federation of Labor endorsed this referendum.

It was during this time, in April 1923, that the Communist Party, at a special convention, liquidated its "underground" phase. The Workers Party now became in fact, if not in name, the Communist Party. The Workers Party moved its headquarters from New York to Chicago in July. At its third convention, in December 1923, the Party reported a membership of 25,000.

Meanwhile, definite working relations were developing nationally between the Workers Party and the Fitzpatrick-Nockels-Brown group. The ten years of co-operation between the Federation leaders and the Chicago T.U.E.L. militants, which had resulted in so many constructive national campaigns, was now developing finally into a united front between the Workers Party and the Farmer-Labor Party.

By mutual agreement of the two parties, a call was issued by the Farmer-Labor Party for a general convention to take place in Chicago, on July 3, 1923, of "all economic and political organizations favoring the organization of a Farmer-Labor Party." The W.P. and F.L.P. leading committees agreed upon the basis of representation, the construction and the number of the future party's leading committee, and also upon certain resolutions to be proposed, including the recognition of Soviet Russia. They also agreed that if there were half a million workers represented at the convention the new party should be formed. The W.P. and the F.L.P. shared the costs of the sending out of the convention call. On the agreed upon basis invitations were extended nationally to all trade unions, local and state labor and farmer parties, and the Socialist, Socialist Labor, and Proletarian parties, in addition to the two sponsoring parties. 8 The S.P. declined the invitation, but the general response was excellent. The movement grew in many directions. 

As the July 3rd convention approached, however, the Fitzpatrick group began to waver and to grow visibly cool toward it. The A.F. of L. had cut off its subsidy to the Chicago Federation of Labor, and many LaFollette-inclined forces were trying to induce Fitzpatrick and his group to cut loose from the coming convention. The latter weakened under these pressures. Nevertheless, they went into the convention without openly repudiating their agreement with the Workers Party.


The convention of July 3, 1923, brought together an estimated 600,000 workers and farmers, represented by 650 delegates. Of these, the Communists made up but a very small minority. The enthusiasm for the proposed federated party swept the gathering, which was composed mostly of rank-and-filers. From the outset the Fitzpatrick group maneuvered against the convention's establishing a party. First, they tried to reject the credentials of the Workers Party, but this move was defeated almost unanimously by the convention. Then they sought, through an out-of-town delegate, to transform the convention into simply a consultative conference. This move was countered by an amendment to form the new party, made by Joseph Manley, a Workers Party member representing Local 40 of the Structural Iron Workers Union, and supported by Ruthenberg.

Only on the night of the third and last day of the convention did the confused Fitzpatrick group bring in a definite proposition as to what they wanted done. They then proposed that all the organizations present should affiliate to the Farmer Labor Party as autonomous units, except that the revolutionary elements, meaning the Workers Party, should be excluded. The F.L.P. proposal said "it would be suicide . . . to bring into such affiliation any organization which advocates other than lawful means to bring about political changes"—strange charges indeed coming from the radical Fitzpatrick group, which had invited the W.P. to this convention and which only a few months before had voted to seat Ruthenberg and Foster at the C.P.P.A. gathering in Cleveland. The convention rejected the Fitzpatrick proposition with a roar and decided by a vote of about 500 to 40 to organize the Federated Farmer Labor Party, which was done.9  As Fine says, the Fitzpatrick group wanted to bolt, "but they did not have enough of a following for that." 10 A representative group  of workers  and  farmers  were  then  elected as the Executive Committee. Joseph Manley was chosen secretary-treasurer, and the F.F.L.P. established its headquarters in Chicago.

The program of the F.F.L.P. proposed to "free the farm and industrial worker from the greedy exploitation of those who now rule this country and to win for them the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness which their exploiters deny them." The new party demanded "the nationalization of all public utilities and all social means of communication and transportation" and that these industries to be operated democratically, eventually by the economic organizations of the workers and farmers. For labor the demands were the eight-hour day, the abolition of child labor, and a federal minimum wage. For veterans, the bonus. For all city and rural workers, the establishment of a general federal system of social insurance, covering sickness and other disabling causes. For the farmers, the demand that the land be assured to the users, as well as the issue and control of all money by the government, the payment of war debts by an excess profits tax, and a moratorium on all farm debts. The program made no specific demands for the Negro people.11

The organizations which voted to form the Federated Farmer Labor Party on July 3rd, represented approximately 600,000 members—some 50,000 miners, 10,000 machinists, 100,000 needle workers, 7,000 carpenters, 10,000 metal workers, the West Virginia Federation of Labor with 87,000 members, the A.F. of L. central bodies of Detroit, Buffalo, Minneapolis, and Butte, with 140,000, 40,000, 20,000, and 10,000 affiliated members. The farmer-labor parties of Washington, Ohio, California, Illinois, Wisconsin, and elsewhere added many additional thousands. But when it came later on to actually affiliating with the F.F.L.P., only some 155,000 did so, and these were mostly the more advanced organizations.12 In short, the F.F.L.P. had failed to win the masses. The attraction of the C.P.P.A., plus the Fitzpatrick split—both with the help of the redbaiting capitalist press all over the country—succeeded in keeping the more conservative trade unions at the convention from joining up with the F.F.L.P. The latter organization gradually dwindled in strength.


Labor party sentiment continued strong, however, and a fresh attempt was made by the Workers Party to get such a party established on a broad basis. This new effort was organized in conjunction with the well-established Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party, with which the Workers Party had built up friendly relations.  A general convention was held in St. Paul,

Minnesota, on July 17, 1924, for the purpose of setting up a national farmer-labor party. This convention assembled 542 delegates from 29 states, representing largely farmers. After adopting a program similar to that of the F.F.L.P., it elected as its executive secretary C. A. Hathaway, an influential Minnesota Communist machinist. The convention chose as its candidates in the approaching national elections, for president, Duncan McDonald, former U.M.W.A. head in Illinois, and for vice-president, William Bouck, chief of the Western Progressive Farmers League of Washington.

At the St. Paul convention, despite the overwhelming decision to form the new Farmer-Labor Party, there was much sentiment for LaFollette, and proposals were carried for negotiations with the Conference for Progressive Political Action on the question of joint support for a LaFollette ticket. The Workers Party, looking askance at LaFollette as a petty-bourgeois reformist, declared to the St. Paul convention that "the only basis upon which the Workers Party will accept LaFollette as the candidate is that he agree to run as a Farmer Labor candidate, to accept the party's platform and its central control over the electoral campaign and campaign funds."13  LaFollette rejected these terms.

A couple of weeks after the St. Paul convention, on July 3rd, at Cleveland, the C.P.P.A. nominated Robert M. LaFollette and Burton K. Wheeler to run for president and vice-president. The convention represented at least four million organized workers, farmers, and middle class groupings. The A.F. of L., for the first time endorsing independent presidential candidates, gave the movement its official blessing. With the ultra-reactionaries Calvin Coolidge and John W. Davis, running as the Republican and Democratic candidates, the A.F. of L. could not withstand LaFollette pressure among its rank and file. Moreover, the Gompers-ites had a healthy respect for the railroad unions behind the C.P.P.A., as the latter had given them the worst licking in their career at the 1920 A.F. of L. convention in Montreal upon the issue of the Plumb Plan. But the Executive Council, in endorsing LaFollette, made it clear that this action was in no sense "a pledge of identification with an independent party movement or a third party."14

The strong mass sentiment for LaFollette had disastrous effects upon the Farmer-Labor Party just organized at St. Paul. Most of the participants at that convention later mounted the C.P.P.A. bandwagon. Consequently, the Executive Committee of the Farmer-Labor Party deemed it the part of wisdom to withdraw its candidates, McDonald and Bouck, thereby dissolving the F.L.P. as a party.  The Workers Party thereupon put up William Z. Foster, the leader of the 1919 steel strike, as its candidate for president. This was the first national Communist ticket, an event of prime historical importance in the life of the working class. The Party got on the ballot in 13 states, made a strong campaign, and polled for the national ticket, according to the unreliable official figures, some 33,316 votes.

In the presidential elections the LaFollette Progressive Independents polled 4,826,382 votes, or about 16.5 percent of the total vote cast. Undoubtedly, large numbers of votes were stolen from the LaFollette column. LaFollette's good election showing and the huge mass organizations behind the C.P.P.A. obviously provided a sufficient basis for a strong national party of workers and farmers; but this was the last thing wanted by the A.F. of L. and railroad union leaders, tied as they were to the two capitalist parties. Consequently, on February 21, 1925, they met in Chicago, and after rejecting proposals to form a labor party, informally dissolved the C.P.P.A. and went back to the old Gompers policy of "reward your friends and punish your enemies." Gompers died on December 13, 1924, shortly after the LaFollette campaign, but his anti-working class policies lived right on after him.

Despite the favorable political situation, the working class was not able, during the crucial period of 1922-24, to make a breakaway from the two capitalist parties and to establish an independent mass political party. This was because of the workers' prevalent ideological and organizational weaknesses mentioned above, the crass betrayal by the trade union leaders and the Hillquit S.P. leadership, and the fact that in 1923 the economic situation began to pick up substantially. The ensuing "prosperity" tended to re-create petty-bourgeois illusions among the masses, and it also strengthened the control over the unions by the reactionary leaders, sworn enemies of the labor party. Errors made by the left wing were also a factor in the failure to organize a labor party.


It is clear that in this complicated fight for a labor party the young Workers Party, in its eagerness to help the working class to break out of the deadly two-party trap and to establish a labor party, made some serious errors. The most basic of these was to permit itself to become separated from the broad movement of workers and farmers gathered behind LaFollette. Although the Party was barred from affiliating officially, nevertheless, through the mass organizations, it could have functioned as the left wing of the LaFollette movement, even at the cost of a qualified endorsement of its candidates.   The basic reason given by the Workers Party for not participating in the LaFollette movement—the fear that the small Party would be engulfed by this broad petty-bourgeois-led movement—was not a sound conclusion. The fact that the Party, at the time of this broad movement of workers and farmers, was compelled to put up its own candidates, was proof that a sectarian mistake had been made.

That there was, of course, some danger that the Party might be swamped ideologically by LaFollettism was to be seen right in the Workers Party itself. John Pepper, a Central Executive Committee member, put forward a highly opportunistic evaluation of the LaFollette movement. He called that movement "the third American revolution." Said he, "The revolution is here. World history stands before one of its great turning points—America faces her third revolution . . . the coming third revolution will not be a proletarian revolution. It will be a revolution of well-to-do and exploited farmers, small business men, and workers. ... It will contain elements of the great French revolution, and the Russian Kerensky revolution. In its ideology it will have elements of Jeffersonianism, Danish co-operatives, Ku Klux Klan, and Bolshevism."15 The danger of such trends was emphasized by the current petty-bourgeois illusions among the masses.

Of course, in any broad mass movement there will be different ideologies, some even reactionary, but to say, as Pepper did, that the labor-La-Follette movement represented a "third revolution," was not only to overestimate its social character and its strength, but also to give a wrong perspective on the nature of the social change which America faces in the future. The LaFollette movement represented a united front of workers, petty bourgeoisie, and farmers in the struggle against monopoly capital, with the petty bourgeoisie and labor leaders in control. Time, experience, and the work of the Communists were necessary to change that domination. But to withdraw from the movement, as the Communists did, was a political error. The Party should have gone along in critical support of the LaFollette movement. Thus, it could not only have carried on effective work among the masses in motion, but could also have avoided much of the Party's later relative isolation.

Another error, of the same general character, was the split with the Fitrpatrick group over the formation of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party on July 3, 1923. In view of the strong tendency among the masses to turn toward the C.P.P.A. and a LaFollette ticket, which was already then in prospect, and also in view of the vacillating attitude of the Fitz-patrick forces, it was unwise for the Communists to insist upon setting up the F.F.L.P. at that time, even though this was formally in accordance with the pre-convention agreement between the W.P. and the Fitzpatrick Farmer-Labor Party group. The Workers Party should have been able to realize that under these circumstances there was as yet no solid basis for the new labor party. The result of this mistake was the still-born Federated Farmer-Labor Party. The later formation of the Farmer-Labor Party at the June 17, 1924, convention in St. Paul, merely compounded the original error with another premature party, which had to be abandoned almost at once.

The W.P.-Fitzpatrick split on July 3, 1923, was particularly harmful in that it spread throughout the trade union movement. Eventually it largely divorced the Communists from their center group allies, breaking up the political combination which had carried through the amalgamation and labor party campaigns, not to mention, in its earlier days, the Mooney campaign, the meat-packing and steel organizing drives, and various other progressive movements. The left-center split on July 3rd was one of the basic reasons why the Gompers bureaucrats could ride roughshod over the left wing at the A.F. of L. convention a few months later.

From a policy standpoint what had happened was this: The Workers Party started out with the correct theory that the labor party had to be based on the broad trade union movement. But when its affiliation to the C.P.P.A. was denied, it mistakenly concluded that the left-center combination of the W.P. and the Fitzpatrick group would suffice to build the labor party. And finally, when the ill-advised split came with Fitzpatrick, the W.P. departed still further from its broad and correct labor party policy and undertook to organize the labor party itself, with only its closest allies. This narrowing line was quite futile, as both the July 3, 1923 and June 17, 1924, conventions demonstrated, and as was shown by the relative isolation of the Workers Party.


The labor party campaign of 1922-24 gave birth to a sharp factional struggle within the Workers Party, which was to continue, with greater or less intensity, until 1929. Grave inner-Party differences developed over the strategy and tactics to be pursued in the fight for the labor party. The Party was split into two major groups which, in the heat of the internal fight, came to act almost like two separate parties, with their specific caucuses and group disciplines. The Bittelman-Foster group, which controlled the majority at the Workers Party convention in 1924, having the support of the great bulk of the trade unionists in the Party, had a background of experience and training in the Socialist Party, the I-W.W., and the A.F. of L.   The Ruthenberg-Pepper minority group, on the other hand, came almost exclusively from the left wing of the Socialist Party and had Party and political experience but had done little or no practical trade union work. A number of its leaders were intellectuals, and there also were some intellectuals in the Bittelman-Foster group. The factional struggle was not entirely negative, however. What took place basically during the long internal fight from 1923 to 1929 was a slow process of gradually welding together these divergent Party groups into a united Marxist-Leninist leadership.

The Bittelman-Foster group, themselves not without blame for the July 3rd split, soon thereafter concluded that a serious error had been made in organizing the Federated Farmer-Labor Party, and they wanted to do away with the narrow labor party policy that had brought it about. They argued that this split with the progressive elements was isolating the Party in the trade unions, a situation which they, as active trade unionists, felt keenly. They also maintained that by keeping "left" labor parties in the field, which cost the Workers Party heavily in finances, personnel, and prestige, the Party was in fact tending to liquidate itself. They insisted that a labor party should be established only when this could be done on a broad trade union basis. But in maintaining that there was then no such broad basis for the labor party, the Bittelman-Foster group made the serious error of proposing that the labor party slogan be dropped, "at least for the time being." This would have had the effect of further isolating the Party from the labor party movement. The statement eventually cost the group the Party leadership.

The Ruthenberg-Pepper group, on the contrary, stoutly refused to admit that the July 3rd split and formation of the F.F.L.P. was a mistake. Instead, they defended the whole political line that had brought this about. Pepper, particularly, devised a set of opportunist theories to this effect. He argued that of necessity the labor party in its initial stages had to be a "left," or "class" party; that this "left" labor party would transform itself gradually into a mass Communist Party; that the trend was for the various labor groupings each to organize its own labor party —the progressive labor unionists, the Socialists, and the Communists each having a separate labor party or striving to build one; that the united front with the Fitzpatrick group was opportunistic anyhow and had to collapse eventually.16

The fight over labor party policy spread into all branches of Party work, involving also the national groups and the Young Workers League. A bitter struggle developed between the two factional groups for control of the Party. The issue was taken up in the Comintern. After a long discussion, a resolution was worked out, early in 1925, 17 to the effect, that the Bittelman-Foster group was wrong in proposing to drop the labor party slogan and that the Ruthenberg-Pepper group had placed the labor party question "somewhat too narrowly." It was characteristic of the existing factional situation that both groups claimed that their position had been sustained, and the struggle went right on.

The Bittelman-Foster group won a majority of the delegates at the fourth convention of the Workers Party, on August 21, 1925, in Chicago.

The factional fight in this convention was intense. Jay Lovestone, who later became a bitter enemy of communism, at one point tried to split the Party.  The Ruthenberg-Pepper group was holding a general meeting, while the waiting convention held up its sessions. Lovestone introduced a motion in the caucus, proposing that the minority should not return to the convention—a move which, if carried out, would have split the Party. But this splitting motion was defeated by one vote.

At this convention the Bittelman-Foster group gave up its majority on the Central Executive Committee (a mistake) because of criticism from Zinoviev, head of the Comintern. For making this criticism, which was flatly against the thoroughly democratic procedure of the Comintern, Zinoviev was later severely condemned. A "parity" Central Executive Committee was elected by the convention, which soon became a Ruthenberg-Pepper majority. And the factional fight continued. An important constructive measure of the 1925 convention was the expulsion of the small Lore group of right opportunists. The Party also added the word "Communist" to its name, becoming the Workers (Communist) Party.


On January 21, 1924, the peoples of the Soviet Union and the world suffered a tremendous loss by the death of the great Lenin, at the age of 54. Lenin, who stands in history as a peer of the brilliant Karl Marx, was extraordinarily gifted as a theoretician, organizer, and practical leader. Lenin developed the Marxist analysis to explain monopoly capitalism, imperialism, the final stage of the moribund capitalist system, and he expanded and applied in the actual building of socialism Marx's great conception of the hegemony of the working class in political struggles and °f the dictatorship of the proletariat. He fought against all the bourgeois idealist schools of thought. It was he, too, who worked out the basic principles for the organization of the resolute, disciplined, flexible Communist Party, the party of a new kind, dreaded the world over by the capitalists and their labor leader lackeys. It was Lenin, also, who taught the workers the indispensability of the peasants and the colonial peoples as revolutionary allies. To climax his innumerable achievements, theoretical and organizational, Lenin demonstrated the correctness of all his work by leading in person the great Russian Revolution to a shattering socialist victory over world capitalism. Lenin was the capable continuer and developer of the historic work of Marx and Engels. Stalin, the present brilliant head of the Soviet people, who has further enriched and expanded Marxism-Leninism, was the ablest pupil of Lenin. Lenin, a devoted son of the people, and a bold and indomitable leader, was the towering political genius of the twentieth century.

1 V. I. Lenin, Marx, Engels, Marxism, p. 108, N. Y., 1933. 
2 Charles E. Ruthenberg to  The Liberator, Feb.,  1923.
3 Bimba, History of the American Working Class, p. 318.
4 Proceedings  of  the   Third  National  Convention,   Workers Party,  December,  1923, p. 15, Chicago.
5 Ruthenberg, who had been in prison since early in 1921, was released in July 1922.
6 Fine, Labor and Farmer Parties in the U.S., p. 405.
7 Labor Herald, June 1923. 
8 Proceedings of the Third National Convention, Workers Party, pp. 15-17.
9 Proceedings of the Second Convention, Workers Party, 1923, p. 19 ; The Labor Herald, Aug. 1923.
10 Fine, Labor and Farmer Parties in the U.S., p. 431.
11 American Labor Year Book, 1923-24, p. 158.
12 Proceedings of the Third National Convention, Workers Party, p. 21.
13 The Liberator, July 1924.
14 Lorwin, The American Federation of Labor, p. 225.
15 The Liberator, Sept. 1923.
16 For the points of view of the two main factions in the labor party controversy, see The Workers Monthly, 1924-25, and Proceedings of the 1925 Convention of the Workers Party.
17 Daily Worker, May 29, 1925.

Chapter 16

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