Chapter Eleven: The Split in the Socialist Party (1919)

11. The Split in the Socialist Party (1919)

John Reed split off the left wing of the
Socialist Party and went on to help found
the early Communist Party in the US.
The split in the Socialist Party, which gave birth to the Communist Party, came to a head in the fall of 1919. It had its origin in the long struggle between the right and left which had gone on in the Party, with constantly greater intensity, ever since the foundation of the organization in 1901. Historically, this struggle had turned around many issues, covering practically every phase of the Party's program, its every-day activities, and its composition. It was the struggle of the militant proletarian left of the Party, striving to make the Socialist Party into the fighting Party of the working class, against the opportunist right which wanted to make it into a Party of petty-bourgeois reforms. That these two incompatible groups should eventually find themselves in separate parties was inevitable.


In the present history we have already briefly reviewed some of the outstanding features of this long and ever-growing struggle within the S.P. Among these were the persistent fights against the control of the Party by petty-bourgeois opportunists; the many years' battle against Berger's "Milwaukee socialism"; the struggle against pro-Gompersism in the Party leadership; the persistent effort of the left to make the Socialists active workers in strikes, labor defense cases, and other working class battles; the struggle against white chauvinism and the oppression of the Negro people; the fight for the organization of the unorganized into trade unions; the endless battle over industrial unionism; the struggle for a strong anti-war policy; and the attempt to give the Party a sound position on the Russian Revolution. It was a continuous battle against an insolent and aggressive Bernsteinism, a corrupt Gompers-ism, and a tricky Kautskyism, by a militant left wing working to create a fighting Marxist policy and party.

Toward the end of World War I the dominant Party leadership had crystallized into two opportunist groups. One, the extreme right, the outright Bernsteinians, although weakened by the right-wing split on the war, were typified by Berger, Cahan, Germer, Hayes, Van Lear, Stit Wilson, Harriman, and the like. The other group, the centrists—Kautskyans, who were long on revolutionary phrases and short on revolutionary deeds—was typified by Hillquit, Oneal, and Lee. As the struggle against the left developed, these two groups tended to merge into one general right wing, resolved at all costs to prevent the Party from becoming a fighting Socialist organization.

The constant internal struggle led, through the years, as we have seen, to a number of heavy political-organizational collisions between the right and the left. During the earlier days of the Party there were sharp local struggles in many cities and states—Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and especially Washington in igog. Then came the big national battle at the 1912 convention in Indianapolis over the moot question of the Party's rejection of the use of sabotage in the class struggle. Next, there followed the struggle at the 1917 St. Louis Emergency Convention and afterward, with the Party's anti-war policy as the main bone of contention. And finally, there came the decisive 1919 Chicago convention, when the whole life and line of the Party were at stake.

During this long struggle the left wing, although not able to control the Party, had been growing in political strength and maturity. While still largely a prey to "left" sectarianism, it had nevertheless clarified itself on many questions. It was also developing organizationally. Its growing consolidation as a definite national force was seen in its strong grouping in pre-war days around the International Socialist Review. And, after the Review had been destroyed during the war, around the Socialist Propaganda League, which had been launched in Boston in November 1916, with S. J. Rutgers (who later returned to his homeland, Holland) as its leader. Finally, in Chicago, in September 1919, the left wing could and did establish its own independent political organization. This was an historical political necessity. The American Communist movement, fundamentally the product of a long evolution in the intense class struggle of the United States, had at last reached its natural goal by becoming an independent party.


Various powerful political forces combined to bring about the split in the Socialist Party at the precise time it occurred. Fundamentally, these were products of World War I and the Russian Revolution. The United States, under its own specific conditions, felt the terrific shock of these basic events which were undermining the whole structure of world capitalism. Among the manifestations of this shock were the break-up of the Socialist Party and the birth of the Communist Party.

A major immediate factor leading to the split within the Party was the acute discontent among the rank and file at the way the opportunist party leadership had met the issue of the war. This was directed not only at the seceding pro-war leaders of the right, but also at the Hillquit group. There had been great enthusiasm after the St. Louis convention, with its militant anti-war resolution—even the left wing being more or less taken in by Hillquit's anti-war demagogy. But soon thereafter disillusionment set in among the lefts, because many of the Party leaders who had voted for the St. Louis resolution either failed to back it up in practice or came out in open support of the war. This course deeply outraged the proletarian membership, who ardently wanted the Party to conduct a militant struggle against the imperialist war.

Added to this rank-and-file discontent was an even greater resentment of the left-minded membership at the compromising manner in which the right-centrist Hillquit leadership handled the central question of the Russian Revolution. The militant membership of the Party rightly looked upon the Revolution as a supreme Socialist triumph of the Russian working class, and they were determined to give it all the support and protection they could against the armed intervention and other attacks being made upon it by the capitalists of the United States. Consequently, the proletarian members of the Party were not slow to understand that the Hillquit leaders of the Party, with their weasel-worded, opportunistic endorsements of the Soviet government and their feeble protests against American intervention in Soviet Russia, were in reality enemies of the Russian Revolution.

Additional fuel was added to the fire of Party discord by the specific controversy over the question of the international affiliation of the Party. This began to take shape during the war in connection with the wartime conferences in Zimmerwald and Kienthal, with the left wing pressing for active support of Lenin's fight for a sound international working class policy. It became even more acute when in Moscow, under Lenin's direct leadership, on March 2-6, 1919, nineteen left-wing groups and parties established the Third, or Communist, International.1 This was an indispensable development, growing out of the whole international situation —with the Second International broken down by the war treason of its leaders and the revolutionary workers of Europe on the march, demanding a new international organization.

The left wing of the American Socialist Party insisted that the Party affiliate to the Communist International. But again the slippery Hillquit leadership, while speaking softly about the new organization, took an active initiative in trying to put the shattered Second International back on its feet. The latter elected delegates to the proposed Stockholm conference of 1917 (which never assembled), and they also supported the Berne conference of September 1918—both of which were designed to disinter the dead Second International. These actions caused deep resentment in the Socialist Party of the United States.

Still another factor intensifying the inner-Party tension was the urgent need to develop a fighting program to support the current big struggles of the workers and to counter the post-war offensive of the employers. This was the time of the Seattle general strike (January 1919), of the Winnipeg general strike (April 1919), and of the great steel strike (September 1919). Many other strikes were looming on the horizon. On all sides, too, the employers were obviously preparing for an aggressive anti-labor drive. The opportunist Hillquit leadership, to the deep discontent of the rank and file, was quite incapable of developing a program of militant action which would place the Party in the vanguard of the tremendous class struggles which were then in the process of taking place.


The left wing of the Party was in a strong position in the growing internal fight. Its supporters had been basically educated in the fight against the war, and they were also profoundly inspired by the great Russian Revolution. Most important in strengthening the ideology of the left wing during this critical situation was the initial publication in the United States during 1918 and 1919 of such fundamental documents of Lenin's as A Letter to American Workers, The Soviets at Work, State and Revolution, and Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism.

The left clearly had behind it a majority of the Party membership. It drew its strength from all sections of the Party, but its main strongholds were in New York, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Massachusetts, and especially in the "language federations." Of these organizations, the Russian Socialist Federation, with about 8,000 members, was the largest and most militant. The Party membership had gone up from 80,379 in 1917 to 104,822 in the first months of 1919, and most of these new members, workers who had been recruited by the federations, were definitely left in their thinking.

Regarding the Party press, the right-wing leadership eventually managed to hang onto control of the New York Call and most of the other English-speaking organs. The non-English press, however, with the. notable exception of the Jewish Daily Forward, almost solidly supported the left wing. During the struggle the left wing created several new English-language papers, the most important of which were The Class Struggle (1917) and The Communist (1919) in New York; The Revolutionary Age (1918) in Boston; The Proletarian (1918) and The Communist (1919) in Chicago; and The Socialist News in Cleveland. The Revolutionary Age served as the central organ of the S.P. left-wing movement.

During the previous few years the left wing had also been building up many new leaders. Outstanding among these were Charles E. Ruthenberg of Cleveland and John Reed of New York. These new leaders could be depended upon to fight for a sound program. While the old left-wing leader, Debs, spoke militantly against the war and for the Russian Revolution and also supported other policies of the left, he nevertheless refused to carry on the indispensable struggle against the right-wing opportunists who held the leading posts in the Party. Haywood, outside of the Party, belonged to the I.W.W.

The right wing in the Party, in contrast to the left, was in a very difficult situation. It was definitely in the minority, and besides, it had lost many of its ablest writers and speakers through the wartime defection of these pro-war elements. But what the rights lacked in numbers and ability they hoped to make up in a ruthless use of their key posts in the Party. As reactionaries always do in such situations, they decided to defeat the democratic will of the membership by violence, and to hold on to the party leadership at all costs.

To achieve their own program, the left wing sought, as the fight grew, to function through the democratic workings of the Party. But the Hillquit-Berger leadership, with their desperate policies, would have none of Party democracy under these conditions. The Revolutionary Age expressed the situation thus: "The slogan of the moderates is: Split the Party for moderate Socialism! The slogan of the Left-Wing is: Conquer the Party for revolutionary Socialism—for the Communist International."2 Along these lines the fight was conducted. In view of the right wing's complete suppression of Party democracy the split was inevitable.


With the beginning of the fateful year, 1919, the internal Party struggle became more and more intense. By then the central issues between the two major Party groupings had become clearly crystallized—class struggle against class collaboration, proletarian internationalism against national chauvinism, proletarian dictatorship against bourgeois democracy, the Third International against the Second International.

In New York the left wing was making rapid headway in winning locals, only to have them immediately reorganized and screened under right-wing leadership by the Party bosses. Nevertheless, the Party branches in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens quickly came under left-wing leadership. On February 15, 1919, when the Central Committee of the Greater New York locals of the Socialist Party, dominated by Julius Gerber, refused to censure the local Socialist aldermen for supporting the war, the representatives of twenty left-wing locals from various parts of the city came together in a conference to take action. After listening to talks by John Reed, Jim Larkin, Rose Pastor Stokes, and by representatives of various federations, the conference organized itself as the Left-Wing Section of the Socialist Party and elected officers. The conference also decided to publish a Manifesto, 3 and to issue a paper, which appeared on April 19, 1919, as the New York Communist, with John Reed as editor. The left wing can be said to have come into being as an organized force at this date. Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, and other centers, taking the New York Manifesto as their basis of policy, soon followed New York's example.

Meanwhile, important events quickly followed one another in the national sphere. For one thing, in answer to the call for a conference in March in Moscow to organize the Communist International, the left wing had submitted to the S.P. in good time a referendum proposal to the effect "That the Socialist Party should participate in an international congress or conference called by or in which participate the Communist Party of Russia, and the Communist Party (Spartacus) of Germany." The referendum carried by a huge majority, but the wily Hill-quit held up the returns until May, two months after the founding conference of the Comintern had been held.

Then came the national elections within the Party, which were also, as usual, conducted by referendum vote. Held early in the spring of 1919, the elections resulted in a sweeping victory for the left wing. Even such outstanding right-wing leaders as Hillquit and Berger went down to ignominious defeat. But Hillquit, with his rule-or-ruin policy, refused to make public the unfavorable returns. The election figures, as finally authenticated by the left wing, showed that for the post of international secretary Hillquit had received only 4,775 votes, as against 13,262 for Kate Richards O'Hare; and for the Second International representative, Berger had been swamped by John Reed to the tune of 17,235 votes to 4,871. The left wing also elected 12 of the 15 members of the National Executive Committee. Ruthenberg and Wagenknecht were elected to the National Executive Committee with over 10,000 votes each, or from three to five times as many as the corresponding right-wing candidates.


The significance of these events was not lost upon the Party's official leaders. They saw clearly that if inner democracy were to be continued, the left wing would surely win national control of the Party. Therefore, resolved to hold on come what might, they embarked upon a policy of expulsions which had never been equaled, even by the ultra-reactionary A.F. of L. leadership. The expelled members and organizations were given no semblance of trials, nor were formal charges even preferred against them.

The National Executive Committee, in its May 24-30, 1919, meeting, arbitrarily expelled the Michigan state organization with 6,000 members, and it suspended (expelled) the Russian, Lithuanian, Polish, Lettish, Hungarian, Ukrainian, and South Slav federations, with a total of over 40,000 members.4 The right-wing leadership especially wanted to get rid of the rapidly growing federations, whose militant spirit, based on abominable conditions in American industry, also largely reflected the revolutionary situations in their respective native countries.

In the succeeding weeks the state organizations of Massachusetts and Ohio were also expelled, 5 and along with them the Party organization in Chicago and whole groups of locals in New York and in various other centers. In all these sections of the Party the left held large majorities. Finally, a total of at least 55,000 members had been dicta-torially driven out of the Party. At the same notorious May meeting the National Executive Committee set aside the results of the national election referendum and transferred the entire property of the Party to a corporation of seven members.

The men who committed this crime against Party unity and democracy were A. Shiplacoff, James Oneal, G. H. Goebel, Fred Krafft, Seymour Stedman, 6 Dan Hogan, John M. Work, and M. Holt. The two left-wing members present at this infamous meeting—Alfred Wagenknecht and L- E. Katterfeld—were powerless to halt the outrageous proceedings. Five National Executive Committee members were absent. 7 Hillquit, then sick in the hospital, engineered the whole shameful business.

Meanwhile, on May 5th, a call had gone forth summoning a national conference of the left wing to take action in the Party crisis. It was signed by Local Boston, Local Cleveland, and the Left Wing Section of the S.P. of New York.  The call aroused tremendous enthusiasm within the Socialist ranks, and the membership rallied to support it. The wholesale expulsions perpetrated by the National Executive Committee majority served to intensify the conflict.


The National Conference of the Left Wing met in New York, at Manhattan Lyceum, on June 21, 1919. Present were 94 delegates from 20 cities, including New York, Boston, Buffalo, Cleveland, Rochester, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Hartford, Minneapolis, Duluth, St. Paul, Detroit, Kansas City, Denver, and Oakland. The delegates represented the bulk of the membership of the Socialist Party.

The main purposes of the gathering, as stated in the call under which the conference had assembled, were "to formulate a national declaration of Left Wing principles, form a national unified expression of the Left Wing (a sort of general council—not a separate organization) and concentrate our forces to conquer the Party for revolutionary Socialism." 8 Hardly had the conference gotten under way, however, when a serious division took place within it. This was caused by a statement by Dennis E. Batt of Detroit (later a renegade) to the effect that immediate steps were being taken by his group to form a Communist Party on September first in Chicago, and proposing that this be the line of the conference. Behind Batt's proposition stood the Michigan District and the seven ousted federations. This was the beginning of a deep split in American Communist ranks which took two and a half years to heal.

Those who advocated forming a Communist Party at once took the position that there was little or no prospect of capturing the S.P. special convention, scheduled for Chicago on August 30th; that the right-wing officials would hang onto control despite all attempts  to oust them; that it was useless to capture a completely discredited Party; and that the historic moment had now struck to form the Communist Party. The opposing group, which included such as John Reed, Charles E. Ruthen-berg, Alfred Wagenknecht, Alexander Bittelman, W. W. Weinstone, and Charles Krumbein, maintained, on the contrary, that the present tactic of fighting to secure control of the S.P., in the name of the Party majority, was winning the support of the mass of the rank and file; that it was exposing the Hillquit leaders, with their ruthless expulsions, as the real splitters; and that, in order to win over the still wavering groups in the Party, this policy should be continued up to the August 30th convention.  The latter, undoubtedly the more flexible and more correct position, was calculated to win the greatest body of supporters for the new party.

The dispute over tactics occupied the main attention of the left-wing national conference. After three days of deliberation, Batt's proposal to quit the struggle inside the S.P. and to proceed directly to launch the C.P. was voted down, 55 to 38. The majority decided that "This conference shall organize as the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party and shall have as its object the capturing of the Socialist Party for revolutionary Socialism." This was carried by a vote of 43 to 14, with 14 abstaining. The Conference, as part of its general tactical line, also decided that it would elect Left Wing delegates, including the expelled organizations, to the S.P. convention; that it would seek to have the S.P. convention adopt the Left Wing Manifesto as the basis of its program; that it would fight for affiliation of the S.P. to the Communist International; that the results of the national election referendum should be accepted; and that, if through the courts and the police, the right-wing leaders should maintain control of the convention, then the Communist Party should be formed at once.

The Michigan-federation group refused to abide by these decisions. They let it be known to the conference that, regardless of that body's decisions, they were going to abandon work within the S.P. and in any event would orient themselves toward launching the Communist Party in Chicago on September first. The Communist ranks were deeply split.

The National Left Wing Conference provided for the publication of a manifesto and program. It also established headquarters in New York and made The Revolutionary Age its official organ. The conference selected a National Council of Nine. Among these were Charles E. Ruthenberg, John Ballam, I. E. Ferguson, James Larkin, and Eadmonn MacAlpine. Ferguson was chosen national secretary. The conference also issued a call for a convention in Chicago, on September first, of all revolutionary elements that would unite with a revolutionary Socialist Party or with a new Communist Party.

The S.P. leaders, as the date of their Chicago convention approached, intensified the expulsion campaign, and the left wing also busily mobilized its forces. Meanwhile, on July 26-27, the left-wing National Executive Committee members who had been elected in the national referendum, but not recognized by the S.P. controlling clique, held a meeting in Chicago. This meeting claimed to be the legitimate National Executive Committee of the S.P., and it elected L. E. Katterfeld Party chairman, and Alfred Wagenknecht, national secretary. Adolph Germer. S.P. executive secretary, was removed and instructed to turn over the effects of the Party to Wagenknecht.  But this line of policy was not aggressively pushed, and the new left-wing National Executive Committee of the S.P. played little part in the big struggle now rushing fast to a climax. 9

In an effort to heal the breach in the Communist ranks, a conference of both Communist factions was held in August. This meeting, by a vote of seven to two, decided to support the proposition of launching the C.P. on September first, Ruthenberg and other Council leaders, in the meantime, having gone over to the Michigan-federations policy. Therefore, a joint call for a Communist Party convention on September first was issued, signed by the National Left Wing Council and the National Organizing Committee (Michigan-federations group).10 But the National Council minority, headed by John Reed and Alfred Wagenknecht, refused to accept this decision and continued with the original policy of the Council, to try to win control of the S.P. Unity had not been achieved, and the two Communist factions continued to work at cross purposes.


At this point it may be well for us to make a brief analysis of the National Council's Left Wing Manifesto, upon the basis of which the American Communist movement was being organized. This Manifesto, differing little from the original New York Left Wing Manifesto, eventually served also, with only minor changes, as the basis for the programs of the two Communist Parties soon to be born. 11

The Manifesto correctly condemned the whole political line, root and branch, of the right-wing S.P. leadership. It accused Hillquit and company of basing the Party program upon the petty bourgeoisie and the skilled aristocracy of labor; of failing to support industrial unionism and the workers' economic struggles; of surrendering to Gompersism; of carrying on an opportunist parliamentary policy; of sabotaging the struggle against the war; of opposing the Russian Revolution; of accepting a Wilsonian peace; of supporting the decayed Second International; and of generally carrying on a policy of reform which led, not to socialism, but to the perpetuation of capitalism.

As against this policy of reformism and class collaboration, the Left Wing Manifesto outlined a policy of militant struggle in both the industrial and political fields. It proposed basing the Party and its program upon the proletariat; full support of industrial unionism; relentless war against Gompersism; revolutionary parliamentarism; support of the Russian Revolution; affiliation to the Communist International; and a program aimed at the abolition of the capitalist system and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The Manifesto registered a long stride by the Left Wing toward a Marxist-Leninist policy. It was an enormous qualitative advance over pre-war programs of the left, such as the "Industrial Socialism," Haywood-Bohn platform of 1911. The previous left line had been saturated with sectarianism and syndicalism, whereas the 1919 program was predominantly Marxist-Leninist. Among its good points, the Manifesto presented an essentially sound analysis of American imperialism, a lack of which in years past had been a grave weakness of the left. The Manifesto also made a clear analysis of the recent imperialist war, which was also a vast improvement over the pacifist conceptions that had hitherto prevailed in the Party, even in its left wing. Another big step forward in the Manifesto was its Marxist analysis of the state, both in its capitalist and socialist forms. In particular, its presentation of the dictatorship of the proletariat, while exhibiting some hangovers of De Leonism, was a marked advance over the previously prevailing syndicalist ideas of a labor union state. The program of organized mass action, as the way to socialism, showed the left wing was beginning to free itself of De Leonite illusions about "locking out the capitalists," folded arms general strikes, and other fantasies. The Manifesto also laid great stress upon the leading role of the Party, as against a gross underestimation of the Party in the past.

That is to say, the Manifesto (aside from such theoretical weaknesses as its failure to analyze Social-Democracy correctly) marked real progress toward grasping the general theoretical principles of Marxism-Leninism, in the broad sense indicated above. On the negative side, however, the Manifesto showed little skill in applying these correct fundamentals to the specific situation in the United States. The American Communists had gotten a first grasp upon the powerful. weapon of Marxist-Leninist analysis, but they had not yet learned how to use it correctly. They were still far from having mastered Lenin's great lesson that Marxism is not a dogma, but a guide to action—a weakness that was to plague the Party for many years. Particularly with regard to the basic question of the road to the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of socialism, there was a tendency to overlook specific American conditions and to think mechanically in terms of the experience of the Russian Revolution. This weakness made for political rigidity, and it tended to stimulate long-

The Manifesto, in its theoretical approach, dealt decisive blows against the opportunist right wing and also against sectarian errors of the left in the past; but on its practical side it did not even partially liquidate the "leftist" sectarianism which had always been a heavy handicap to the American Marxist movement, especially since the theoretical predominance of De Leon after 1890, by blocking broad united coalition action on immediate political, economic, and legislative issues.

The Left Wing Manifesto, in fact, fairly reeked with this traditional sectarianism in practice. It continued the incorrect line of attempting to desert the old trade unions and to replace them with ideally conceived, dual industrial unions. It also took a narrow position toward the labor party, repudiating it as a danger to the working class. It likewise failed completely to develop a program of united front action with labor's natural allies, especially the Negro people and the farmers, considering the anti-capitalist struggle to be one for the working class alone. It ignored generally the basic Negro question. It also left the matter of partial demands completely out of the picture, and it reduced its parliamentary activity simply to one of agitation. The conception of an immediate, as well as an ultimate, program did not enter into the document. As Alexander Bittelman says, "The Left Wing did not seem to realize that revolutionary mass action grows out only of the real living issues of the class struggle, as it develops day by day."12

Thus, it will be seen from the Manifesto that the Communist Party (in its two sections) was born while in the midst of absorbing the great meaning of the Russian Revolution and of learning the basic essentials of Marxism-Leninism. 13 This indefinite position was a handicap to it and was basically responsible for the Party's later struggles to heal the split and to achieve a more correct, broad mass program. Ruthenberg noted this fact, 14 remarking that most of the European Communist parties were organized at later periods than ours—to their advantage. Whereas the American Communist Party was born in September 1919, the dates of other Communist parties were: England, August 1920; Germany, early in 1921; France, January 1921; Italy, 1921. By their later dates of birth these parties were far better prepared ideologically to take up the tasks of independent parties than was the case in the United States. But the general situation in the United States, as we have seen, conditioned irresistibly the birth of the Communist Party at the time it actually took place; it could not have been delayed.


The split, now so rapidly coming to a crisis, was to prove disastrous to the Socialist Party. After the break the membership dropped swiftly from 104,822 in 1919 to but 26,766 in 1920. The decline continued, until it had sunk to 7,425 in 1927. At the present time, in 1952, the S.P. has probably not over 4,000 members. The Party's mass influence also tobogganed; it became a prey to internal dissensions, and finally splitting in 1936, it gave birth to the bourgeois Social-Democratic Federation. Moreover, the S.P. has degenerated politically to the extent that, as we shall see, it has become an unblushing supporter of warlike American imperialism.

The Socialist Party came into existence as a sound reaction against the sectarian dogmatism of the Socialist Labor Party. After twenty-five years of existence the latter had remained a skeleton organization, made up mainly of foreign-born workers, propagating socialism abstractly, and carrying on few activities related to the everyday problems of the American working class. The S.L.P.'s chronic failure to measure up to the needs of the period became especially glaring as the United States entered the stage of imperialism and the working class embarked upon broad mass struggles. Manifestly, the S.L.P. could not be the vanguard party of the working class in this situation; hence the flag of Socialist leadership passed to the Socialist Party.

In its earlier stages the Socialist Party displayed great activity in the class struggle. In the innumerable strikes of the period the Socialist workers were most active. Large numbers of trade unions were organized by Socialists, and Party members were always prominent in unionizing campaigns, labor defense cases, farmers' struggles, and the like. For many years the Party, which was composed overwhelmingly of workers, fought the corrupt and reactionary Gompers machine. The Party also carried on much valuable anti-capitalist propaganda among the workers. This is why it grew so rapidly and became an important political factor in the country. The healthy aspects of these accomplishments were the work primarily of the Party's proletarian left wing.

ftut, as we have seen, the Socialist Party, despite its considerable early achievements, also failed to live up to the tasks placed upon it by history, specifically by the era of imperialism into which it was born." was not the needed "party of a new type," but was patterned after the opportunist-dominated Social-Democratic Party of Germany. From the outset it was crippled by a petty-bourgeois leadership and afflicted with a bourgeois ideology rather than that of Marxist socialism. The reformist Party leaders proved incapable of giving the necessary economic and political leadership to the working class. The Party also suffered from strong sectarian and syndicalist tendencies in its left wing, which greatly hindered its development.

The failure of the Party, under opportunist leadership, to act as the vanguard of the working class inevitably produced within it the development of a strong left wing, fighting for a real class struggle policy. The growth of this left wing was the gestation of the Communist Party. The new Party finally and inevitably came to birth in the fire of World War I and the Russian Revolution. The S.P. opportunist petty-bourgeois leadership had especially failed to understand the political lessons of these great events; but, in meeting them it definitely exposed itself instead as an enemy of the Socialist system that had just been established. The leadership of the Socialist movement in the United States, therefore, had to and did pass from the Socialist Party to a new organization, one truly Socialist in character, the Communist Party.

1 Boris Reinstein was the unofficial representative at this conference.
2 The Revolutionary Age, May 24, 1919.
3 James Oneal, American Communism, p. 375, N. Y., 1947.
4 The Revolutionary Age, June 7, 1919. 
5 Fine, Labor and Farmer Parties in the U.S., p. 344.
6 Siedman joined the C.P. several years later.
7 The Revolutionary Age, June 7, 1919.
8  The Revolutionary Age, June 26, 1919.
9 The Revolutionary Age, Aug. 2, 1919.
10 The Revolutionary Age, Aug. 23, 1919.
11 For the text of these two manifestoes, see Revolutionary Radicalism  (Report of Lusk Committee), Part 1, pp. 706-38, Albany, 1920.
12 Bittelman, Milestones in the History of the Communist Party, p. 42.
13 The first installment of Lenin's State and Revolution was not published until two months before the Left Wing National Conference (The Communist, February 1919) and Lenin's famous "Left-Wing" Communism, an Infantile Disorder, with its devastating attack upon all forms of sectarianism, was not published until 1920, almost a year after the 1919 Party convention.
14 Charles E. Ruthenberg in The Communist, July 1921.

Chapter 12

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