Chapter Twelve: The Formation of the Communist Party (1919-1921)

12. The Formation of the Communist Party  (1919-1921)

William Z. Foster, founder of the T.U.E.L. read Lenin
during this time and along with other advanced workers
from the I.W.W., joined the nascent Communist Party.
The Socialist Party convention opened on August 30, 1919, in Machinists' Hall, 113 South Ashland Boulevard, Chicago. The Hillquit clique had complete control of the Party apparatus, and from the outset they used this control drastically. Their Contest Committee, passing on challenged credentials, refused seats to delegates of the left wing from a dozen states. When John Reed and other left-wingers nevertheless tried to take their seats, Executive Secretary Germer called in the police to expel them. At this outrage the left-wing delegates walked out. The long-brewing division between the right and left wings had now reached the final stage of an open, organizational split.1


Meanwhile, the two Communist groups went ahead with organizing their separate conventions. Sharp criticisms were flying back and forth between the factions. The Reed-Wagenknecht group, after their expulsion from the S.P. convention, at first claimed to be the legitimate S.P., but on the day following, August 31st, they went to the I.W.W. hall, on Throop Street, and formed themselves into the Communist Labor Party of America. A day later, on September 1st, at 1221 Blue Island Avenue, the Michigan-federations group organized the Communist Party of America. 2

The C.P., containing the federations, was much the larger of the two new parties. It had 128 regular and fraternal delegates and claimed a membership of 58,000. The C.L.P. had 92 delegates at its convention. It issued no figures as to membership, which was mainly American-born, but it was obviously very much smaller than the C.P. The C.P. asserted that the C.L.P. had about 10,000 members. Efforts were made to unite he two conventions, especially by Ruthenberg, but without success. The C.P. criticized the C.L.P. as centrist, and declared that if the latter wanted unity the C.L.P. delegates could come over to the C.P. convention and participate there as fraternal delegates. This proposition, of course, the C.L.P. scorned.

Meanwhile, the Michigan group at the C.P. convention, led by Batt and Kcracher, took exception to the strong control exercised by the federation leaders and refused to vote for the C.P. program. This group was expelled on December 2nd, after which in June 1920, they organized themselves as the Proletarian Party, a wisp of a party which still exists. Ruthenberg was elected executive secretary of the C.P. and Wagenknecht was chosen for the same position in the C.L.P. The Communist became the organ of the C.P., and The Toiler (formerly the Socialist News) the journal of the C.L.P. The C.P. set up its headquarters in Chicago and the C.L.P. moved to Cleveland. The C.P. had 12 publications in its "language" federations.

Both U.S. Communist Parties extended their organization into Canada. In June 1921, however, the two groups were fused into one Communist Party, which was born "underground."3 The Workers Party of Canada was founded in February 1922. In June 1943 the C.P. of Canada was reorganized into the present Labor-Progressive Party.


The programs of the two parties were essentially the same. 4 Their strengths and weaknesses were those of the Left Wing Manifesto, upon which they were based and which we analyzed in the preceding chapter. That is, they developed a basically correct Marxist-Leninist position on such general questions as the state, imperialism, the war, and proletarian dictatorship; but they failed in applying Marxist-Leninist principles to the concrete American situation. In the latter respect, they largely remained clamped in the traditional sectarianism and "leftism."

Thus, on the trade union question, dualism expressed itself in both parties. The C.P., for example, proposed the formation of a "general industrial union organization embracing the I.W.W., W.I.I.U., 5 independent and secession unions, militant unions of the A.F. of L., and the unorganized workers, on the basis of the revolutionary class struggle. The C.L.P. also took a dual union line. The C.L.P. did not mention the Negro question at all, and the C.P. outlined the incorrect, but generally-held   opinion in the  word-for-word De Leonite formula that "The racial expression of the Negro is simply the expression of his economic bondage and oppression, each intensifying die other. This complicates the Negro problem, but does not alter its proletarian character." 6

Both parties proposed to have nothing to do with partial, immediate political demands. The C.P. said that its parliamentary representatives "shall not introduce or support reform measures," and the C.L.P. declared that its platform "can contain only one demand: the establishment of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat." Parliamentary action was thus reduced to a question of agitation of revolutionary formulas.

The parties' platforms were also incorrect in their approach to the question of the workers' potential united front allies in the class struggle. For example, said the C.P.: "The Communist Party, accordingly, in campaigns and elections, and in all its other activities, shall not cooperate with groups or parties not committed to the revolutionary class struggle, such as the Socialist Party, Labor Party, Non-partisan League, People's Council, Municipal Leaguers, etc." The C.L.P. was no less "leftist."

Both parties declared for affiliation to the Communist International. Both also stressed the leading role of the Party, but this they did in an abstract manner, failing to realize that the Party had to be the leader not only in periods of revolutionary struggle but also in every day-today issue of the working class, no matter how small.

The political basis of the "leftism" that prevailed in both parties was a wrong estimate of the general political situation in the United States. The tacit assumption of both parties was that the country was approaching a revolutionary crisis. Thus, the C.L.P. program "realizes that the time for parleying and compromise has passed; and that now it is only the question whether all power remains in the hands of die capitalists or is taken by the working class." The C.P. program expressed a similar spirit of revolutionary urgency. Little analysis was developed at the time of this key proposition, however.

Much of Europe then was in a revolutionary situation. Moreover, die revolution in Germany, had it not been betrayed by the Social-Democrats, could have spread widely, thereby directly affecting the United States. It was therefore quite correct for the American Communist Parties to have a general Socialist perspective. Their mistake was in conceiving this in an altogether too immediate sense and in a mechanical fashion. They failed to make a clear distinction between a Europe devastated by the war and the scene of active revolutionary struggle, and a capitalist America enriched by the war and by no means ready for socialism. This faulty analysis contributed directly to the young Communist parties' underestimation and neglect of the daily struggles of the workers for partial demands. Raising the slogan of Soviets for the United States was a serious political error, indicating the political immaturity of the Party. 

The two conventions, between them, laid the organizational and political foundations for the eventual Communist Party of the United States. But many urgent tasks confronted this young and split movement. The first and most important of these was to bring about unity between the two Communist parties. There were also very many left-wing elements still to be assembled, including sections remaining in the S.P., the more advanced I.W.W. members, the militants in the A.F. of L., and other groupings moving toward Marxist socialism. Above all, there was the necessity of securing a better grasp upon the great theoretical principles of Marxism-Leninism so newly come to the knowledge of the American left wing. But before these urgent tasks could be done the movement was to undergo its first test by fire.


The Communist Party of the United States was born in the midst of sharp economic and political struggles, both abroad and at home. The Russian Revolution was surging ahead, smashing the armies of the counter-revolutionary interventionists, and Germany and all of central and eastern Europe were stirring with revolutionary spirit. In the United States the workers, reflecting something of the revolutionary mood of the working class in many countries, were fighting on the offensive. The historic Seattle and Winnipeg general strikes were still fresh in memory, and the great steel strike, a thrust by over a third of a million workers at the very heart of the open-shop industries, was just beginning. In this situation came the formation of the Party, the most advanced expression of the workers' militancy and fighting spirit.

The capitalists, frightened at all these threatening developments, were beginning their intense post-war offensive to give the workers another bitter taste of the "democracy" they had saved by winning the war. They arbitrarily used the state power for the illegal suppression of the people's rights. This growing employers' offensive hit the Communist parties with full force in the infamous Palmer raids at the end of 1919.

On October 16th of that year the police pushed into the C.L.P. headquarters in Cleveland and arrested the Party leadership, and on November 8th, in New York, 700 police invaded mass meetings celebrating the anniversary of the Russian Revolution, seizing several hundred workers.  But these raids were only dress rehearsals for the big outrages yet to come. Suddenly, during the night of January 2, 1920, the Department of Justice struck nationally in 70 cities, dragging workers from their homes, slugging them, and throwing them into crowded jails, often without proper food and toilet facilities. These monstrous raids, authorized by the "liberal" President Wilson, were carried out by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer and his hatchet man, J. Edgar Hoover. Allegedly, the country was on the brink of a revolution and this was the way to save it, regardless of law and constitutional rights.

An estimated 10,000 were arrested. 7 Most of the two Communist parties' leaders were in jail, 39 of the officials of the C.L.P. being indicted. Eventually, Ruthenberg, Larkin, Winitsky, Whitney, and others, arrested during the period of the raids, were sentenced to long terms in the penitentiary. The government struck hardest at the foreign-born workers, whom it considered the most dangerously revolutionary. Under the Wartime Deportation Act over 500 aliens were summarily deported. On the steamer Buford, sailing from New York, there were 249 deportees, including Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman. In the prevailing hysteria Victor Berger, although regularly elected, was refused a seat in the House of Representatives, and five Socialist Assemblymen were denied their places in the New York State Legislature. 8

This terrorist attack, accompanied by rulings of the Department of Labor that foreign-born members of the Communist movement were deportable as such, deprived the two Communist Parties of their basic rights of free speech and free assembly. It forced them to close their national headquarters and to take other elementary steps to protect their members, branches, press, and leading committees from arbitrary raids and terrorist victimization. That is, faced by illegal attacks designed to outlaw the Communist movement and to drive it underground, the two Parties reacted as various other labor and progressive movements before them had done in American history when facing similar persecution. They adopted protective measures and pursued their legitimate activities as best they could under the circumstances. No constructive political movement will allow itself to be destroyed by police persecution.

The term "underground," in relation to the Parties' position during these years of persecution, was greatly exaggerated and distorted in the press. The fact was, however, that A. Mitchell Palmer, J. Edgar Hoover, and the others carrying out the offensive against the Communists did not succeed in stopping completely the open and public activities of the Communist movement, which persisted in spite of the government's efforts to drive it underground. Despite violence, threats of violence, vigilante action, and similar illegal policies, either practiced directly or condoned by the authorities, the Parties openly published various journals, such as The Toiler of the U.C.P. and Der Kampf, the first Jewish Communist paper in the United States. Books and pamphlets were also sold openly, and the "language federations," for the most part, managed to operate their "homes" and keep their papers going. The Workers Council also functioned openly and published its paper.

The term "illegal," as applied to the status of the two Parties during this period, was a misnomer. In reality, the advocacy of the Parties' programs and the practice of their general activities were legal, in that they were entirely within the Constitution, but because of the prevailing violent and illegal suppression the Party was unable to exercise these democratic rights openly. Proof of the correctness of this analysis was to be seen in the fact that once the Palmer terror was over and the Communist Parties had succeeded in practice in establishing their democratic rights, the legal status of the Communist Party was not challenged by the national government for 25 years; that is, until a new governmental terrorism was launched as an integral part of Wall Street's present drive to master the world.

During the following months the Communist Parties, both of which had moved to New York, were busily occupied reorganizing themselves—their branches, papers, and leading committees—in accordance with the new situation. When, later on, in their 1920 conventions the parties took stock of their membership, they found that they had held together only about 10,000 out of the approximately 60,000, who had earlier flocked to the standard of the left wing. The Palmer raids had seriously weakened the parties' numerical strength, but had by no means broken their backs. They were now reduced to the hard core of resolute Communist fighters. Their reduction in size after the government's ruthless onslaught was not surprising. During the terror following the 1905 Revolution in Russia, for example, the Bolshevik Party was greatly reduced in numbers. Similar shrinking in size, but not in revolutionary spirit, was later to be observed of the Communist Party of China under Chiang Kai-shek's terror, and also of the parties in many European countries under the ruthless fascist regimes. The 50,000 or so of erstwhile members who dropped out of the Communist parties in the United States under the Palmer terror generally became non-member supporters and sympathizers of the Party.


Obviously, Party unity in the United States was a burning necessity. The leaders of the Communist Labor Party, from the time of the conventions, pressed for a consolidation of the two parties; but the federation leaders in the Communist Party were reluctant. Their unity proposition to the C.L.P. was, in substance, that the latter should join up with the C.P. as individuals and locals. "Unity with the C.L.P. as a party of centrists," said they, "was impossible." 9 The federation leaders raised two definite issues, which stood in the way of unity. First, they charged that the C.L.P. leaders were opportunists, holding that their own members, mostly foreign-born, were imbued with a more revolutionary spirit than the predominantly American-born C.L.P. membership. Second, they feared that the C.L.P. leaders, underestimating the role of the foreign-born generally in the class struggle, would destroy the "language federations," not realizing what a powerful means these were for organizing the foreign-born workers of the respective national groups, most of whom at that time did not speak English. A further general bar to unity was the fact that, since they were in the process of grasping the great body of Marxist-Leninist thought, there was a tendency in both parties to magnify the importance of every detail of difference, to dispute over minor points with rigidity, and to apply Marxism-Leninism to the United States in a blueprint fashion, rather than upon the basis of actual American conditions. This sectarian attitude led to secondary splits in the parties during this formative period.

Notwithstanding these differences the two parties, early in 1920, began unity negotiations. 10 Ruthenberg, executive secretary of the C.P., was an ardent advocate of Party unity in that body. Despite these efforts, the unity proceedings dragged on without any results, with each side voting down the proposals of the other. Finally, the C.P. itself split over the unity question, with a large section of that organization, led by Ruthenberg, joining up with the C.L.P. Segments broke off from several of the federations, and the bulk of the Jewish Federation, led by Alexander Bittelman, disaffiliated from the C.P. and joined the C.L.P. A unity convention was held at Bridgman, Michigan, in May 1920. As a result, the United Communist Party of America was born. Ruthenberg was elected executive secretary, and the new Central Executive Committee was made up of five members from the C.P. and five from the C.L.P.

The U.C.P. made no important changes in political policy from that of the C.L.P. and C.P. The big question at issue in the convention was the role of the federations. The C.P. was practically a "federation of federations"; these bodies had a high degree of autonomy, holding their own conventions, electing their officials, and having the power (used upon occasion), if they saw fit, to withdraw from the Party. The U.C.P., on the other hand, was opposed to this loose system. While authorizing federations, the U.C.P. declared that these would hold national conferences, not conventions, and that their decisions, activities, officials, and journals were all to be under the direct control of the Central Executive Committee. The basic Party unit was set by the convention at not more than ten or less than five members.

The C.P., in turn, held its convention of 34 delegates (also "underground") in July 1920, in New York City. There was much bitterness over the recent "unity" proceedings, which had split the C.P., and the new U.C.P. was dubbed the "United Centrist Party." No important programmatic changes were made by the C.P. Incorrectly, however, the U.C.P. was accused of giving undue prominence to the Negro question in its convention by considering it as a separate item. Reports to the C.P. convention showed that whereas the total dues payments of the C.P. for the last three months of 1919 averaged 23,744 per month, the number was down to 5,584 for the first four months of 1920. The estimated membership at convention time was 8,500. It was reported that 18 percent of the membership had been lost to the U.C.P. in the "unity" proceedings. Charles Dirba was elected executive secretary of the C.P.


Founded in March 1919, the Comintern, by the time of its second congress in July 1920, 11 was actively functioning. Henceforth, during the next twenty years, the American Communist movement was to have the invaluable advantage of the advice and experience of the Marxist-Leninists of the world in the development of Communist policy in the United States. This was of great importance because the American left had been practically isolated from the left wing in other countries since the death of Engels in 1895.

The Communist International, made up in its congresses and leading committees of worker delegates from all over the world, was a highly democratic organization—far more so, in fact, than the Second International had ever been. No decisions were arrived at without the most thorough discussions with the delegations directly concerned. Charges by Social-Democrats and other capitalist agents that the Comintern issued arbitrary orders and directives to its affiliates were only so many examples of the current anti-Communist slander campaign. Stalin, years ago, answered this calumny: "The assumption that the American Communists work under orders from Moscow is absolutely untrue. There are no Communists in the world who would agree to work 'under orders' from outside against their own convictions and will and contrary to the requirements of the situation. Even if there wrere such Communists they would not be worth a cent."12 The Comintern was a disciplined organization, and international capitalism dreaded its decisive action; but its Leninist discipline was based upon a profound democracy throughout its entire structure.

Enemies of communism also made many fantastic charges about the Comintern sending its "agents" to various countries, including the United States. These delegates were painted in an especially sinister fashion. In reality, however, with respect to its representatives traveling to various countries, the Comintern functioned much like any other international labor body. Such representatives, members of brother Communist parties, simply undertook to give the parties concerned the benefit of their own particular experience in the light of the general policies and decisions of the Comintern.

Stupid and baseless also was the charge that the existence of the Communist International (and now of the respective Communist parties, since the Comintern was liquidated) constituted interference by the Soviet Union in the internal affairs of other countries. The Comintern was a movement, based on the Communist parties of all the major countries in the world and growing out of the Socialist movement, which had been developing for at least 75 years before the U.S.S.R. was born.

Among its many general decisions, the second congress of the Comintern, in July 1920, formulated three of special importance. These were the well-known "21 points," the colonial resolution, and the development of the policies laid down in Lenin's famous pamphlet, "Left-Wing' Communism, an Infantile Disorder.

The "21 points" laid down the working principles of the Communist movement, both on a national and international scale, in the intense revolutionary situation then existing. The points provided for a revolutionary Party—in regard to its membership, leadership, policy, press, and discipline. Their primary purpose was to establish what a Communist Party should be in order to lead the masses in the revolutionary struggle then rapidly developing in Europe. The "points" were guides, not inflexible rules.   In the practice of the various Communist parties they were widely varied. At this time the two American Communist Parties were only in fraternal affiliation with the Comintern, and the Communist movement of the United States, after its eventual unity, never officially endorsed the 21 points.

If the "21 points" were a devastating blow against the right, Lenin's "Left-Wing" Communism, an Infantile Disorder was no less sharp an attack against the "ultra-left." It was a slashing assault upon sectarianism among Communists, in all its forms. In this great booklet Lenin especially demolished the illusion of dual Socialist unionism, using among other illustrations the experience in this matter in the United States. Lenin also cracked down on such virulent forms of "leftism" as non-participation in bourgeois parliaments, refusal to fight for partial demands, failure to develop fighting alliances with labor's small farmer and other allies, tendencies to try to apply the Russian experience mechanically in other countries, and the like.

The colonial resolution, written by Lenin, was of major importance. It explained the relations between the struggle of the working class in the imperialist countries and those of the colonial peoples fighting for national independence. It clearly forecast the immense revolutionary struggles now shaking the whole colonial world.


Despite the failure of the U.C.P. convention of May 1920 to establish Party unity, strong rank-and-file pressure continued in that direction. The U.C.P. leadership also redoubled its unity agitation. A Communist Unity Committee, headed by Alexander Bittelman, member of the U.C.P., criticized the leadership of both parties and insisted upon immediate Party unification. Moreover, the Comintern lent its influence. The C.P. federation leaders yielded under the strong unity urge in the Party.
Consequently, unity negotiations were begun shortly after the first U.C.P. convention, but they dragged along slowly, deadlocks occurring over the matter of representation at the proposed unity convention. The C.P. also insisted upon autonomy for the federations, asserting besides that the U.C.P. was "not sufficiently revolutionary." The separate conventions of the U.C.P. in January, and of the C.P. in February 1921 (both held without any open publicity) gave new strength to the movement for unity. Finally, after much negotiation, the general convention to unify the C.P. and U.C.P. took place in May, at Woodstock, New York.13

Each Party was represented by 30 delegates. The convention lasted for two weeks. The U.C.P. reported 5,700 members, organized into 667 groups, and 35 publications. The C.P. reported a dues-paying membership of 6,328 and 19 newspapers. Each Party stated that it had issued some two million copies of leaflets during the past few months.

The debates at the convention, although heated, brought forth no important political differences between the two groups. The main discussions turned around questions of tactics, especially on how to break the parties' isolation and how to apply the principles of Marxism-Leninism in the sharp class struggles then going on. On this question the influence of Lenin's writings, particularly his "Left-Wing" Communism, an Infantile Disorder, was in evidence. The most important change in policy adopted by the convention was the abandonment of the historic left-wing policy of dual unionism. In this respect, the convention declared that "The policy of the I.VV.W. and similar organizations of artificially creating new industrial unions has been shown by experience to be mistaken." And "The Communist Party condemns the policy of the revolutionary elements leaving the existing unions."

This stand against dual unionism constituted a heavy blow against sectarianism. But the Party was not yet prepared to draw the full implications from its new tactical line, particularly as expressed in Lenin's pamphlet against leftism. While endorsing the principle of partial demands, it developed no program of such demands. The Party also, in its Unity Convention, while speaking for co-operation with the exploited rural masses, worked out no practical united front policies for so doing. Nor was it, as yet, prepared to endorse the labor party movement. And as for the Negro question, little or no progress was made on this. The matter was not included in the Party's program, but was referred to the manifesto. Despite these many shortcomings, however, the convention's proceedings, above all in the abandonment of dual unionism, went far toward the elaboration of a sound Marxist-Leninist mass policy for the United States.

A serious dispute at the U.C.P.-C.P. Unity Convention took place over Party structure. The role of the federations was the principal bone of contention. Finally, a compromise was arrived at which held the federations under general Party control, while allowing them considerable autonomy. Henceforth, the federations would hold conferences, not conventions; they would be subject to general supervision of the Central Executive Committee; and their members would have to pay their dues directly to the Party. The fused organization was called the Communist Party of America, and its headquarters was established in New York. Ruthenberg was elected executive secretary.   The Central Executive Committee, instead of the proposed nine members, had to be enlarged to ten—five from each constituent party.

It was a joyous delegation that completed the arduous work of this long and decisive convention. Amid the general enthusiasm of the convention, "Party lines melted away. Comrades, who had been separated for years, embraced each other; hands clasped hands; the delegates sang the International with as much energy as could be mustered after the trying 48-hour continuous sessions."14


Meanwhile, as the former left wing of the Socialist Party, now crystallized into the Communist Party, went ahead unifying itself and developing an American Marxist-Leninist program, it was also absorbing strength from other militant currents. First, there was the I.W.W. From the outset, the Communists exerted great effort to win over members of this fighting organization. In January 1920, the Comintern addressed a special letter to the I.W.W., polemizing against its syndicalist illusions and offering it "the hand of brotherhood." Many of its outstanding leaders turned to the Party, including William D. Haywood, George Hardy, Art Shields, and Roy Brown. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who joined the Party some years later, also came from the I.W.W. Haywood declared, "As soon as the consolidation of the Communist Party in the United States was effected, I became a member." 15 He died in Moscow in 1928, where, a sick man, he had gone to avoid a 20-year prison sentence for his anti-war stand.

In 1920 the I.W.W. General Executive Board formally endorsed the Communist International. However, because most of the I.W.W. leaders were nevertheless opposed to communism, they finally succeeded in driving a wedge between the I.W.W. and the Communist Party. In the spring of 1921 the I.W.W. sent a delegate to the first congress of the Red International of Labor Unions in Moscow. But upon receiving an unfavorable (highly biased) report from its delegate, George Williams, on what had happened there, the I.W.W. decided not to affiliate to the new labor international. Like a number of other syndicalist organizations in Europe and Latin America, the I.W.W. oriented toward the so-called Berlin syndicalist international, which was being organized at the time. Despite the I.W.W.'s strong syndicalist trend, however, considerable numbers of its members became Communists.   Gambs says,  "Possibly the I.W.W. have lost as many as 2,000 members to  the Communist Party."16

The Socialist Labor Party furnished but few members to the Communist Party—Boris Reinstein, Caleb Harrison, and some others. The S.L.P., immersed in the sectarian dogmas of De Leon, was totally unable to understand the Russian Revolution and its profound implications for the world labor movement. It condemned the Revolution as "premature" and ridiculed the C.I. as "only a circus stunt."17 The S.L.P. soon degenerated into a frenzied redbaiting and Soviet-hating sect.

An important development of this period, signalizing the beginning of one of the—eventually—most important of all the membership sources of the Communist Party, was the growth of the Communist movement among the Negroes, in New York. This took place chiefly around the journal, The Messenger. This paper, of which we shall have more to say in a later chapter, was established in 1917 by a group of Negro intellectuals and trade unionists, including A. Philip Randolph, Chandler Owen, Richard B. Moore, and Cyril Briggs.

The Messenger, which had the backing of many Socialist-led trade unions, followed an essentially left line. It opposed the war, supported the Russian Revolution, and was in favor of an active fighting policy for labor and the Negro people. During the period of the S.P. 1919 split, the editorial board of The Messenger was divided, the lefts, Briggs and Moore, resigning. Randolph, hanging onto the paper, transformed it into a typical right-wing Socialist journal. Eventually, in 1925, it became the official organ of the newly-organized Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Out of The Messenger group came several pioneer Communists.

The youth were also a source of strength for the gathering Communist forces. The profound events which had resulted in the split in the Socialist Party and the organization of the Communist Party naturally had its repercussions among the Socialist young people. The S.P., in April 1913, after several years of preliminary work of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, had constituted the Young People's Socialist League. The Y.P.S.L. in 1916 consisted of 150 clubs and 4,000 members. It published The Young Socialist and carried on educational and social work. 18 During the war the organization, leftward-inclined, held many anti-war meetings and made much agitation against conscription.

The treacherous attitude of the Social-Democratic leaders of the Second International, toward the Russian Revolution and the war, produced profound repercussions in the Y.P.S.L., as in other sections of the American Socialist movement. At the Y.P.S.L.'s first national convention, held in May 1919, this left spirit in the organization found expression. The convention passed resolutions condemning the Second International and supporting the Third International. In December 1919, after the Socialist Party had split in September, the Y.P.S.L. held a special convention, in response to left-wing demands. It thus set itself up as an independent organization, declaring for the Young Socialist International, which was then in the process of transforming itself into the Young Communist International. When the Palmer raids against the labor and Communist movement took place, the independent Y.P.S.L. disintegrated as a national organization, although some of its sections remained in existence. Wm. F. Kruse, the head of the Y.P.S.L., joined the Workers Party at its formation in December 1921, and many former Y.P.S.L. members also took part in forming the Young Communist League. The Y.C.L. came into existence, at a convention in April 1922, in "underground" conditions. The Young Workers League was organized in May 1922, 19 out of the numerous youth groups then existing. Among its leaders were Harry Gannes and John Williamson.

In the breakdown of the Socialist Party and the formation of the Communist Party in 1919, women Socialist fighters also played an important role. Most of them went over to the new party, or became active sympathizers. At the founding convention of the C.P. and C.L.P., there were several women delegates. Among the most outstanding of the pioneer women Communists may be mentioned Ella Reeve Bloor, Anita Whitney, Margaret Prevey, Kate Sadler Greenhalgh, Rose Pastor Stokes, Hortense Allison, Sadie Van Veen, Jeannette Pearl, Rose Wortis, Margaret Krumbein, Rose Baron, Becky Buhay, Dora Lifshitz, Clara Bodian.

Another important source of recruits for the Communist Party was the Trade Union Educational League. The T.U.E.L., the successor to the old Syndicalist League and International Trade Union Educational League, was founded in Chicago, in November 1920. After the loss of the big national steel strike, the group of Chicago militants who were behind that movement more than ever felt the need to organize the "militant minority" in the trade unions. The organization also included trade unionists in Canada.

The T.U.E.L. was not so definitely syndicalist as its predecessors, the S.L.N.A. and I.T.U.E.L., had been. Its members and leaders were decisively influenced by the lessons of the great Russian Revolution and by the writings of Lenin.   The Chicago syndicalist group was a revolt not only against Gompersism in trade unionism, but also against the right opportunism of the Socialist Party; hence the works of Lenin had a tremendous impact upon it, even as upon all other sections of militant workers. The group's anti-politicalism was breaking down, and it had played an important part in the labor party movement which centered nationally in Chicago. It was rapidly moving toward Marxism-Leninism. In 1920 the chief remaining barrier between the T.U.E.L. militants and the Communist Party was their difference over the trade union question, the T.U.E.L. being unshakably opposed to dual unionism, which the Communists still supported. This obstacle, however, was removed when Lenin's pamphlet, "Left-Wing' Communism, an Infantile Disorder, appeared in the United States in January 1921. From then on dual unionism was finished as Communist policy. William Z. Foster, the head of the T.U.E.L., whose thinking had been revolutionized by Lenin, was invited to come to Moscow for the first congress of the Red International of Labor Unions, held on July 3, 1921. There the R.I.L.U. definitely repudiated dual unionism. In the summer of 1921 Foster and other T.U.E.L. militants joined the Party. This brought in a considerable group of active and experienced trade unionists, among them Jack Johnstone, Jay Fox, Joseph Manley, David Coutts, Sam Hammersmark, and many others. The T.U.E.L., however, remained an independent, broad united front organization, made up of left-wingers and progressives generally.

1 The Communist, Sept. 27, 1919.
2 In Canada, the Communist Party was also born in two sections at the same general time and for the same general reasons.
3 Tim Buck, 30 Years, the Story of the Communist Movement in Canada, pp. 21-23, Toronto, 1952.,
4 For both programs, see Trachtenberg, ed., American Labor Year Book, 1919-1920, pp. 414-19.
5 Socialist Labor Party, The Workers International Industrial Union.
6 Trachtenberg, ed., American Labor Year Book, 1919-1920, p. 419.
7 Senator T. J. Walsh in Congressional Record, 67th Congress, Fourth Session, p. 3005. 
8 Dunn, ed., The Palmer Raids.
9  The Communist, Aug. 1, 1920.
10 Communist Labor  (official organ of the C.L.P.), May 15, 1920.
11 John Reed, a delegate, died shortly after this congress, on October 11th, in Moscow.
12 Joseph Stalin, Interview with the First American Trade Union Delegation to Russia, N.Y., 1937.
13 For convention proceedings, see the July 1921 issue of The Communist.
14  The Communist, July 1921.
15 J. G. Gambs, The Decline of the I.W.W., p. 75, Denver, Colo., 1932.
16  Gambs, The Decline of the I.W.W., p. 89.
17 The S.L.P. and the Third International, N. Y., 1926.
18 Trachtenberg, ed., American Labor Year Book, 1916.
19  Helen Allison and Carl Winter, unpublished manuscript.

Chapter 13

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