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Full text of "From Propaganda Society to Communist Party: Pages from Party History, 1919-1925"

From Propaganda Society to Communist Party: 
Pages from Party History, 1919-1925 

by C.E. Ruthenberg 

First published in the October 1925 issue of Workers Monthly and subsequently as a pamphlet under the title 
From the Third Through the Fourth Convention of the Workers (Communist) Party of America. 



In his report to the Fifth Congress of the Commu- 
nist International, Comrade Zinoviev ' declared : 

"I think it is quite clear by now that the Communist 
International, in its earliest years, in a number of countries, 
was only a society for the propaganda of communism without 
being aware of this itself. At the beginning, we thought we 
were very strong, but as a matter of fact, in a number of 
countries at that time we did not have Communist Parties, 
but only great propaganda societies." 

Later on, in the same report, he declared: 

"In spite of all weaknesses, in spite of all shortcomings 
of our sections, we are now in a number of countries, no 
longer propaganda societies, but we have grown into a 
Communist Party and in part even into a mass Communist 
Party." 

Comrade Zinoviev made clear at the Fifth Congress, 
and this was emphasized still more strongly at the Enlarged 
Executive Committee of the Communist International, held 
last March, that there was still a third stage in the develop- 
ment of the Communist Parties, that is, the Bolshevization 
of the Communist Parties. 

The three stages of development — propaganda sects, 
Communist Parties, and Bolshevized Communist Parties 
— are also the stages of development of the Communist 
Party in this country. If we examine the history of the Com- 
munist Party in this country, we will come to the conclu- 
sion that our Party has definitely left behind the stage of 
development in which it was a propaganda sect and that it 
has created a firm foundation of policies and tactics for its 
development as a Communist Party — even as a mass Com- 
munist Party — and that it now stands before those great 
tasks which will make it really a Bolshevik Party. 

From the time of its organization in 1919, until the 
organization of the Workers Party at the end of 1921, was, 
roughly speaking, the period of existence of the Party as a 
propaganda sect; the period from the formation of the 
Workers Party until the Fourth National Convention which 
closed on the sixth anniversary of the formation of the Com- 



munist Party, was the period of the development and growth, 
with some setbacks, into a Communist Party; the Fourth 
National Convention can be said to have definitely crystal- 
lized the policies and tactics which make our Party a Com- 
munist Party and also to have laid down the beginning of 
the program through which the first steps will be taken for 
the Bolshevization of the Party 2 



The Period of the Propaganda Sect 

The purpose of this article is not to present a de- 
tailed history of the entire development of the Party, but 
rather to deal with that important phase of its development 
which took place between the Third and Fourth National 
Conventions and in the Fourth National Convention. It is 
necessary, however, briefly to sketch the earlier years of the 
Party development in order to lay the basis for discussion 
of the last twenty months of Party history, and also to clarify 
what are the characteristics of the three stages of develop- 
ment of a Communist Party pointed out above. 

The Communist Party came into existence in the 
United States, as elsewhere, in response to the ferment cause 
in the socialist parties by the Russian Revolution. It was the 
historical example, that is, the establishment of a proletar- 
ian state through an armed uprising of the working masses, 
the sweeping away of the old parliamentary form of gov- 
ernment, the establishment of the new workers' government 
upon the foundation of the Soviets, that drove into the so- 
cialist parties the wedge which split them into two sharply 
defined groups, those who pretended they could achieve a 
socialist society through forms wrung from the capitalist 
state and those who saw the only road to socialism, the 
overthrow of the capitalist state and the establishment of 
the proletarian state, the dictatorship of the proletariat. 

The Communist Party organized in the United States 
in September 1919, clearly stated this fundamental differ- 
ence in principle in the program it adopted. Its analysis of 
the development of the Socialist Party showed that reform- 



1 



From Propaganda Society to Communist Party 



ist socialism led to the betrayal of the workers and not to 
socialism. It considered the propaganda of this fundamen- 
tal difference between the Socialists and Communists its 
chief task. 

In the four months of existence as an open Commu- 
nist Party which our "American democracy" permitted it, 3 
the work of the Party consisted almost entirely of propa- 
ganda to drive home this difference between Socialists and 
Communists in the minds of the workers. The government 
persecution towards the end of 1919 and the beginning of 
1920 helped to accentuate this tendency on the part of the 
Party. The Party was attacked because it taught the workers 
that they could emancipate themselves from capitalism only 
through an armed uprising which would overthrow the capi- 
talist state and establish a soviet government. After it was 
driven underground, the party considered it all the more 
its duty to continue this propaganda. This would have been 
all very well if the Party had understood how to connect 
the proletarian revolution with the immediate struggles of 
the workers, but it did not understand how to do this. It 
had no connections with the masses of workers and their 
immediate struggles. The Party existed as something sepa- 
rate and apart from the life and struggles of the masses. 
The way which it showed the workers to their emancipa- 
tion was, to be sure, correct, but it had not learned how to 
cross the void between itself and the working masses and to 
lead them toward the way to which it pointed as leading to 
their emancipation. It had no program or policies for their 
immediate struggle. Its entire work consisted of pointing 
to the ultimate means of achieving the proletarian revolu- 
tion. It was purely a propaganda society and as long as it 
remained such a propaganda society it could not establish 
its leadership and influence among the masses. 

Development Toward a Communist Party 

The struggle for the formation of the Workers Party 
and adoption of the program for work within the existing 
unions marked the beginning of the second period in the 
growth of the Party. Not that the formation of an open 
party in itself would necessarily transform the Party from a 
propaganda sect to a Communist Party. An open party can 
just as easily fall into a sectarian policy — as later develop- 
ments of our Party show. The struggle for the open party, 
however, was an effort to create an instrument through 
which the Party could actually play a part in the everyday 
fights of the workers, establish its prestige and influence 
among them, and as such must be considered as one of the 
first steps away from the previous sectarian policy. 

The first real development from a propaganda sect 
into a Communist Party came during the year 1922. The 



Party members began to function of the trade union field 
as part of the Trade Union Educational League, and the 
influence of the Party began to develop in the struggles in 
the trade unions. The Party played its part in the miners' 
strikes and the railway shopmen's strike of that year. It 
learned to take up the immediate struggles of the workers 
and on the basis of these struggles to win support for its 
policies and to establish its leadership. It had learned that 
the workers' demands and struggles of the day are the start- 
ing point from which it must move them forward into more 
revolutionary action against the capitalist class and the capi- 
talist state. 

In June 1922, the Party formulated the statement of 
the application of the United Front tactic to the situation 
in the United States. It took up the slogan of the Labor 
Party which had developed a strong momentum among 
the workers and soon became the leader in the movement 
for the formation of a Labor Party. The Party made the 
attack upon the Bridgman Convention the means of wid- 
ening its influence among the workers by initiating a united 
front defense. 4 It met the government persecution of the 
foreign-born workers by the formation of Councils for the 
Protection of the Foreign-Born, thus extending its influ- 
ence among the workers. 

The fact that by July 1923, when the convention 
called by the Farmer-Labor Party for the formation of a 
Farmer-Labor Party was held, our Party could elect 200 
delegates to this convention, mostly from the trade unions, 
and could take the leadership of the 550 delegates, repre- 
senting over 600,000 workers, who were present at that 
convention — this fact was an indication of the progress 
the Party has made in establishing contact with the masses 
and becoming a Communist Party. 

At the end of 1923, when the Third National Con- 
vention was held, 5 the Party had seemingly cast off its sec- 
tarian past and was no longer what Comrade Zinoviev de- 
scribed as a propaganda society. It had sunk its roots deeply 
among the masses, it had won a place as the leader in the 
movement for a Labor Party. It had gained a strong influ- 
ence in the trade unions through its fight for amalgam- 
ation. It had learned to make itself part of the immediate 
struggles of the workers, as in the case of Councils for Pro- 
tection of the Foreign-Born. It was well on the road to be- 
coming a Communist Party in contradistinction to the pro- 
paganda society which it had been. 



The Third National Convention 

With this brief preliminary survey of the past his- 
tory of our Party in its struggle to become a Communist 



From Propaganda Society to Communist Party 



Party, the ground is cleared for consideration of the devel- 
opment between the Third and Fourth National Conven- 
tions of the Party. 

The Third National Convention adopted the policy 
submitted by the Party leadership which had guided the 
Party in its development along the correct Communist line. 
The theses and resolutions of the Third National Conven- 
tion laid the basis for further development of our Party as a 
Communist Party. In the light of this fact we may well ask 
how it came to be that the Party was compelled to go 
through a bitter factional struggle, lasting almost a year, to 
prevent the Party again becoming involved in the morass 
of sectarianism. 

The explanation is found in the grouping which de- 
veloped within the Party itself. The sectarianism of the pe- 
riod of the Party history up to 1922 was a left sectarianism. 
The new sectarianism which threatened the Party came from 
the right wing of the Party. 

The formation of the Workers Party at the end of 
1921 had brought into the organization a membership 
making up a majority of the Party which had not passed 
through the experiences of the previous years. This group 
had held aloof from the Communist Party at the time of its 
organization in 1921, remaining in the Socialist Party or 
maintaining a separate organizational existence. 

All of the Language Federations in the Socialist Party 
had been to a large degree national social organizations. 
Those Language Federations which joined the Commu- 
nist Party in 1919 lost through the government persecu- 
tions the major part of the element of its membership which 
had joined them as social organizations. At least two-thirds 
of the membership of the Federations which joined the 
Communist Party in 1919 dropped out of the Party after 
the government raids, leaving within the Party only the 
conscious Communist elements. 

This was not true of the Finnish Federation, the Ger- 
man Federation, part of the Jewish Federation, the Czecho- 
slovakian Federation, and the Scandinavian Federation, all 
of which came into the Party only after the formation of 
the Workers Party. This group of the membership was still 
strongly under the influence of the Socialist traditions. Their 
attitude toward the main tasks of the Party was that the 
Party should devote itself to propaganda and organizational 
work. The drawing of the Party into the mainstream of the 
struggles of the masses in this country was criticized as 
"adventurism" and "maneuvering." 

What has been said above was particularly true of 
the Finnish Federation, which composed at least one-third 
of the membership of our Party. Only a small part of this 
membership actually participates in the work of the Party 
in the class struggle. It has not yet broken with the pleasant 



unruffled existence as part of a socialist organization, free 
from the duties, burdens, and work which are the lot of a 
Communist who actually carries on a Communist struggle. 

At the Third National Convention, the Foster group, 
which had been part of the leadership of the Party and which 
had formed a separate group on the issue of our Labor Party 
policy after the Federated Farmer-Labor Party convention, 
secured a majority in the National Convention of the Party 
through the support of the right-wing sectarian elements 
described above. 

Thus, while the Third National Convention adopted 
correct principles and policies, it placed in the leadership 
of the Party the group which had its support in the right- 
wing of sectarian elements. The result of this combination 
soon became apparent on the first occasion that the Cen- 
tral Executive Committee was faced with the necessity of 
formulating a policy to meet a new situation. It fell into 
sectarian errors. The tendency of the Central Executive 
Committee to coalesce with it support in the Party was 
irresistible, and the Party as a consequence was thrown into 
a new struggle, the struggle against the right-wing sectar- 
ian tendency of the Foster group by the Central Executive 
minority, which fought to keep the Party on the correct 
lines of development as a Communist Party. 



The Issue of Trotskyism 

The first question on which the influence of the right 
wing of our Party made itself felt was the attitude of the 
Foster group in the Central Executive Committee on the 
question of Trotskyism. 6 Lore, who had been elected to the 
Central Executive Committee, telegraphed to the Volks- 
zeitung that "the Trotskyites have won the Party." 7 Lore was 
the leader of the extreme right of the Party. When the issue 
of endorsement of the Old Guard of the Communist Party 
of Russia came before the Central Executive Committee, 
the committee majority hesitated and vacillated. 7 It first 
refused to publish an article endorsing the Old Guard be- 
cause not sufficient information was at hand on the issues. 
It later voted down a motion submitted by the minority to 
endorse the Old Guard and adopted the proposal to print 
all material, and that the question of Trotskyism should 
not be made a factional issue in the Party. It was not until 
after the convention of the Russian Communist Party 
definitely condemned Trotskyism and after Comrade Fos- 
ter returned from Moscow that the Central Executive Com- 
mittee actually went on record endorsing the Old Guard 
against Trotsky. Even then Ludwig Lore voted against this 
endorsement. 

We have in this question the first indication of the 



4 



From Propaganda Society to Communist Party 



tendency of the Foster majority of the Central Executive 
Committee to make compromises in the direction of its 
right wing support in the Party. The vacillation and hesita- 
tion to place itself on record on the issues of Trotskyism 
was due to the fact that it was exactly those groups in the 
Party which supported it and which were its basis in the 
Party which were infected by Trotskyism. 



The Fight Against Loreism 

Lore has been in consistent opposition to the poli- 
cies of the Party from time of its organization. Even at the 
time of the formation of the Left Wing, Lore, together with 
Scott Nearing, 8 led an opposition in the Left Wing and 
finally broke with it. Lore opposed the underground Party 
at a time when it was not possible to preserve the Commu- 
nist movement organizationally in any other form than 
through an underground organization. Lore opposed the 
German Communist Party and the Communist Interna- 
tional on the question of Levi 9 and supported Serrati 10 of 
Italy against the Communist International. 

After the formation of the Workers Party, Lore op- 
posed those policies which had as their purpose to take the 
Party into the movement of the workers and to establish its 
prestige and leadership through fighting with them in their 
everyday struggles. Thus Lore opposed the adoption of the 
first statement of the United Front policy of the Party, which 
included the Labor Party policy. Lore was opposed to the 
Party sending delegates to the convention of the "Confer- 
ence for Progressive Political Action" in Cleveland in De- 
cember 1922, 11 which was one of the maneuvers through 
which the Party gained prestige in relation to the Labor 
Party movement. Within the Central Executive Commit- 
tee, Lore fought consistently to have the Labor Party built 
upon individual membership, thus making it a competing 
organization with the Workers Party and destroying it as 
an expression of the United Front. The views and policies 
advocated by Lore were Left Wing Socialist but not Com- 
munist views and policies. 

The errors of Lore as an individual had been fought 
by the Central Executive Committee prior to the Third 
National Convention. At the Third National Convention, 
through his opposition to the Labor Party-LaFollette alli- 
ance, which was proposed by the convention these submit- 
ted by the Central Executive Committee, Lore had crystal- 
lized around himself the opposition to this policy. There 
developed within the Party a definite Lore group, not only 
opposed to the Labor Party-LaFollette alliance, but which 
was in opposition to the United Front tactic and maneu- 
vering which the Central Executive Committee had applied 



prior to the convention in order to draw the Party into the 
mass struggles of the workers. 

The first test of the attitude of the new Central Ex- 
ecutive Committee majority on the question of Loreism 12 
came when Lore wrote an editorial on the Fifth Anniver- 
sary of the Communist International, distorting the entire 
history and policies of the Communist International. The 
Central Executive Committee minority demanded a state- 
ment from the Central Executive Committee repudiating 
this editorial. This the Central Executive Committee re- 
fused to do. This policy was in effect to protect Lore against 
the exposure and condemnation of his fallacious views. 

In the struggle which followed on the question of 
Loreism, the Central Executive Committee majority mani- 
fested the same tendency, even after the first decision of the 
Communist International. It repeatedly refused to adopt 
proposals of the minority of the Central Executive Com- 
mittee to expose Lore before the Party and to correct his 
erroneous policies. It was not until after the second deci- 
sion of the Communist International categorically con- 
demning Lore and directing his removal from the Central 
Executive Committee that the Central Executive Commit- 
tee majority, composed of the Foster group, took a stand 
against Loreism. 

This refusal to fight Loreism was another expression 
of the right-wing orientation of the Foster group, which 
could not take a stand against Lore because it was allied 
with Lore, particularly in New York City, where it depended 
upon the support of Lore for its support in the Party. 



Liquidation of the Labor Party Policy 

The decision of the Communist International against 
the proposed Labor Party-LaFollette alliance, while not 
based on the reasons for opposition to this policy on the 
part of the right wing Loreist group in our Party, strength- 
ened this group. The decision of the Communist Interna- 
tional was not based on opposition to such a maneuver in 
principle. In fact, the decision made clear that such ma- 
neuvers were permissible for Communist Parties. The de- 
cision of the Communist International was made on the 
basis of the situation of our Party, its degree of strength and 
ideological development, but not because the maneuver was 
incorrect in principle. However, the Lore group had op- 
posed this alliance, and the fact of the Communist Inter- 
national deciding against it strengthened the Lore group. 
Both the majority and the minority of the Central Execu- 
tive Committee had been declared in error on the Labor 
Party-LaFollette alliance and thus had burnt their fingers. 
This decision had the effect of driving the Foster Central 



From Propaganda Society to Communist Party 



Executive Committee majority closer to the Lore group. 
The reaction of the Foster majority was to adopt a position 
in opposition to further maneuver, that is, to take a right- 
wing sectarian policy, as the safest course. The difference 
between the majority of the Central Executive Committee 
and the minority group was then indicated in the fact that 
the decision on the question of the Labor Party-LaFollette 
alliance had no such effect upon the minority. 

With the defeat of the Party in the St. Paul Conven- 
tion, compelling the Party to nominate its own candidates 
in the Presidential elections, 13 came the test of the Central 
Executive majority. 

The decision made in October in relation to the drop- 
ping of the slogan for a Labor Party in the AF of L conven- 
tion, the statement on the results of the Presidential elec- 
tions, and finally the thesis of the majority declaring against 
the continuance of the Labor Party policy, were expressions 
of the new right-wing sectarianism in our Party in full 
bloom. 

The Foster group had declared that their policy was 
not opposition in principle to the Labor Party policy, but 
opposition under the then-existing conditions. It is true 
that the thesis of the Foster group contained the declara- 
tion: "We are not opposed to the Labor Party in principle." 
While this platonic declaration was made, the tone of the 
whole discussion in the Party was otherwise and the thesis 
itself declared in a section endeavoring to prove that advo- 
cacy of the Labor Party slogan was a right-wing deviation: 

"The position taken by the comrades of this tendency 
is that the only way to crystallize independent political action 
of workers and poor farmers is through a Farmer-Labor 
Party, forgetting the existence of the Workers Party as the 
political class Party of the workers and poor farmers. These 
comrades also take the position that the only want to build 
a mass Communist Party in America is through a Farmer- 
Labor Party, thus enunciating a new principle that the 
Workers Party can never become a mass Communist Party 
except through organizing and working within a Farmer- 
Labor Party." 

And further along in the same section we find a dec- 
laration that: 

"This non-Communist conception of the role of our Party 
manifest itself particularly in the tendency to resort to all 
kinds of new political organizations, substitutes for the 
Workers Party, whenever an opportunity presents itself to 
appeal to masses of workers on concrete issues of everyday 
life." 

These two quotations indicate clearly where the Fos- 
ter group was drifting. The latter quotation is in essence a 
declaration against the United Front tactic. For, what do 
we seek to do in the United Front maneuver but to unite 



existing workers' organizations for a common struggle on 
some particular issue? The declaration that the formation 
of such United Front organizations is creating substitutes 
for the Workers Party is of course pure sectarianism, for if 
the Workers Party carries on a correct Communist policy 
in relation to such United Front organizations, they will 
not be substituted for the Workers Party, but will be the 
means of building it, just as the Labor Party policy resulted 
in building up the Workers Party. 

That the sectarian error of the Labor Party was not 
an isolated mistake was indicated by the fact that the Fos- 
ter group made the same error in relation to work among 
women when it endeavored to liquidate the United Coun- 
cil of Workingclass Women as a competing organization to 
the Workers Party, and it made a similar sectarian error in 
proposing that the Party should make a nonpartisan relief 
organization a department of the Party itself. 

The struggle which developed in the Central Execu- 
tive Committee during the same period over the question 
of the Party's trade union work was part of the same gen- 
eral tendency of the Central Executive Committee major- 
ity. The struggles were over the questions of carrying on a 
campaign to win the trade unions ideologically for Com- 
munism at the same time that we carried on an election 
campaign, and against the overemphasis upon the election 
campaign. This issue arose in another form in relation to 
proposals to inject major political issues into certain trade 
union situations. The tendency of trade union work for 
the sake of trade union work and not for the purpose of 
building up the influence and prestige of the Communist 
Party goes with the right-wing sectarianism. 

Later in relation to the conferences of the "Confer- 
ence for Progressive Political Action" which were being held 
in various states and the national conference held in Febru- 
ary 1925, the Central Executive Committee majority raised 
the slogan, "Boycott the CPPA." 

Thus the circle was completed. We had been a pro- 
paganda society, we were again to be a propaganda society. 
We had fought our way from the status of propaganda so- 
ciety to that of a developing Communist Party playing its 
part in the struggles of the masses, entering into these 
struggles, and bringing leadership to them and direction 
along a Communist line. We had returned to the policy of 
"Boycott the CPPA," that is, boycott a mass movement of 
workers. 

The Central Executive Committee majority elected 
at the Third National Convention through the support of 
a right wing sectarian group in our Party had coalesced with 
the right-wing sectarian group and had adopted the policy 
of this group as the policy of the Party. The Party was in 
danger of losing all that it had gained in developing itself as 



From Propaganda Society to Communist Party 



a Communist Party. It was sliding down the road the So- 
cialist Labor Party had gone, to become a self-admiration 
society living its life apart from the actual struggles of the 
workers. 



The Struggle in the Party 

It was this issue, whether we should retrace our steps 
toward sectarianism, or go forward in developing our Party 
as a Communist Party, that was at the bottom of the fac- 
tional struggle in our Party during the past year. Happily, 
with the aid of the Communist International, the Party 
was returned to the right path. The decision of the Com- 
munist International swept away every shred of the sectari- 
anism which had developed in our Party. It made clear why 
the Labor Party policy must be a major policy of our Party. 
It declared against a sectarian attitude in regard to work 
among women. It directed the Party to the right tactic in 
relation to trade union work, took decisive measures against 
Loreism within the Party. The Central Executive Commit- 
tee minority, which had led the fight to develop the Party 
from a propaganda society to a Communist Party, suc- 
ceeded, with the aid of the Communist International, in 
preventing the Party from again degenerating into the pro- 
paganda society which it had been. 



The Fourth National Convention 

The Fourth National Convention marked the close 
of the period of struggle to prevent our Party again degen- 
erating into a propaganda society. It also marked the be- 
ginning of a new period in the history of the Party — the 
period of the Bolshevization of the Party. 

The situation in the convention presented an inter- 
esting contradiction. All the resolutions outlining the policy 
of the Party for the coming period were unanimously 
adopted in the Parity Commission which worked out these 
resolutions. Still, there was a sharp factional division in the 
convention and the ten days of debate marked one of the 
bitterest struggles in the history of our Party. 

The explanation of this situation is to be found in 
the year of factional struggle to keep our Party on the cor- 
rect Communist line. The policy of the Foster group had 
been corrected through the struggle of the minority in the 
Central Executive Committee and the decision of the Com- 
munist International. The resolutions presented to the 
Convention stressed this corrected policy. It again put the 
Party on the road to development as a Communist Party. 
The debate on these resolutions dealt with the policies con- 



tained in the resolutions as contrasted with the policies 
which the Foster group had presented previously. It was 
necessary to point out the errors of a sectarian character 
which had been made and to stamp these definitely before 
the Party in order that there might not exist a further pos- 
sibility that such errors would again find support in our 
Party. 

The relation of forces within the convention also 
contributed to sharpen the discussion and the factional 
alignment. 

An analysis of the decision of the Communist Inter- 
national makes clear the aims of the Communist Interna- 
tional in relation to our Party. This aim was to break the 
alliance which had existed between the Foster group in the 
Central Executive Committee and the right wing of the 
Party. This policy is clearly indicated in the sharp position 
taken by the Communist International against Lore and 
Loreism and its insistence on cooperation in the Party lead- 
ership between the two leading groups in the Party. 

A realization of this aim of the Communist Interna- 
tional has been seriously hampered by the tactics of the 
Foster group in the period between the return of the del- 
egation from Moscow and the National Convention and 
was made impossible by its alliance with the right wing of 
the Party in the struggle for control of the National Con- 
vention. 

The Foster group had suffered a defeat in the deci- 
sion of the Communist International. Its main line of policy 
was declared to be incorrect by the decision. While the de- 
cision criticized the minority in relation to the Labor Party 
policy, the main line of the minority in this respect was 
upheld. Facing this situation, the Foster group endeavored 
to divert the attention of the Party from the political issues 
before the Party. In place of creating the opportunity for a 
thoroughgoing understanding of the decision of the Com- 
munist International, which would have raised the theo- 
retical level of our Party, it sought to divert the whole 
struggle into a fight over petty organizational questions and 
sought to divert the attention of the Party from the mean- 
ing of the decision of the Communist International on 
Loreism through an effort to connect the minority, which 
had made a consistent fight against Loreism, with the Loreist 
group in the Party. 

These efforts of the Foster group took the form of 
sending to all the Party branches the "nine points" circular 
containing charges and defense in relation to factional ac- 
tions within the Party during the absence of the delegates 
in Moscow. It sent to the Party a statement in regard to the 
Needle Trades situation in which the minority group was 
attacked as supporters of the Loreist elements, and a simi- 
lar statement in reference to Comrade Poyntz. To all of 



From Propaganda Society to Communist Party 



these statements the minority group had been denied the 
opportunity to make a reply. 

These activities of the Foster group were, to say the 
least, acts of bad faith in relation to the decision of the 
Communist International. They were efforts to divert at- 
tention from that decision and prevented the realization of 
the aim of the Communist International as plainly indi- 
cated in the decision, the unification of the Party leader- 
ship in a struggle against the right wing in the Party. 

The election of delegates in the Party was another 
factor which laid the basis for a continuation of the struggle 
in the convention. The Foster group, as has been pointed 
out previously, gained this majority in the Third National 
Convention through the support of the right wing of the 
Party. The same situation developed in relation to the elec- 
tions for the Fourth Convention. It was exactly those ele- 
ments which are the right wing of our Party, the Finnish 
Federation, the Czechoslovak Federation, the Scandinavian 
Federation, part of the Jewish Federation, which formed 
the basis of the Foster group in the National Convention. 
In place of a unification of the leadership of the Party to 
fight for a correct Communist line 15 and the Bolsheviza- 
tion of the Party, the Foster group followed the policy of a 
fight against the minority which had supported the correct 
policies and used the elements in the right of our Party as 
the basis of this struggle against the minority. 

Formally, the Foster group won a majority of the 
delegates to the National Convention. In five districts, how- 
ever, which form the greater section of the Party — Bos- 
ton, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland 
— the minority had won a clear victory, for it claimed the 
districts on the basis of contests before the convention. The 
decision of the contested districts against the minority by 
the Foster group, the rejection of its proposal that in New 
York, Philadelphia, and Cleveland the parity principle 
should be applied, was, for the minority group, a rejection 
of the policy of the Communist International and an indi- 
cation that the Foster group would not bring about amal- 
gamation of the leading groups in the Party but would con- 
tinue an alliance with the right wing in the Party and as 
leader of this right wing would continue a struggle against 
the minority. It was this situation, the continuation of the 
alignment which had cause the sectarian errors and the fac- 
tional struggle of the past year, the beginning of a clear 
delineation of a struggle between right and left wing in the 
Party, which was the basis of the severe factional debate 
and struggle in the Convention. 

The intervention of the Communist International 
changed this situation and eliminated the danger of a con- 
solidated right wing leadership in our Party. This interven- 
tion took the form of a cablegram addressed to the chair- 



man of the Parity Commission, Comrade Green, 16 reading 
as follows: 

"Communist International decided under no 
circumstances should be allowed that Majority suppresses 
Ruthenberg Group because: 

FIRSTLY — It has finally become clear that the 
Ruthenberg Group is more loyal to decisions of the 
Communist International and stands closer to its views. 

SECONDLY — Because it has received in most 
important districts, the majority or an important minority. 

THIRDLY — Because Foster Group employs 
excessively mechanical and ultra-factional methods. 

Demands as minimum: 

FIRSTLY — Ruthenberg Group must get not less than 
40 percent of Central Executive Committee. 

SECONDLY — Demand as ultimatum from majority that 
Ruthenberg retains post of Secretary. 

THIRDLY — Categorically insist upon Lovestone's 
Central Executive Committee membership. 

FOURTHLY — Demand as ultimatum from majority 
refraining removals, replacements, dispersions against 
factional opponents. 

FIFTHLY — Demand retention by Ruthenberg Group 
of co-editorship of central organ. 

SIXTHLY — Demand maximum application of parity 
on all executive organs of Party. 

If majority does not accept these demands then declare 
that, in view of circumstances of elections, unclear who has 
real majority and that methods of majority raise danger of 
split and therefore Communist International proposes that 
now only a temporary Parity Central Executive Committee 
be elected with neutral chairman to call new Convention 
after passions have died down. Those who refuse to submit 
will be expelled. 

This cablegram resulted in a bitter struggle and divi- 
sion in the ranks of the Foster majority over the policy to 
be pursued in the face of this second decision of the Com- 
munist International. The Foster group finally decided al- 
though the cablegram permitted them to take a majority of 
the Central Executive Committee, that in the face of a dec- 
laration by the Communist International that the Ruthen- 
berg group was more loyal to the Communist International 
and nearer to its views, it could not take over the leadership 
of the Party. It proposed that a Central Executive Commit- 
tee of an equal number of representatives from both groups 
in the convention be elected and this proposal was adopted. 

At the first meeting of the Central Executive Com- 
mittee, Comrade Green, the chairman of the Parity Com- 
mission, made the following declaration: 

"Of course we have now a parity CEC, but it is not 
exactly a parity CEC. With the decision of the Communist 
International on the question of the groups in the American 
party there go parallel instructions to the CI Representative 
to support that group which was the former minority. If the 
CI continues to support this policy, that will always be the 



8 



From Propaganda Society to Communist Party 



case, that is, the CI Representative will be supporting that 
group and therefore although we have a nearly parity CEC, 
we have a majority and a minority in the CEC." 

With the support of the Representative of the Com- 
munist International, the majority of the leading commit- 
tee of the Party was given to the Ruthenberg group. Thus 
again responsibility for the leadership of the Party was placed 
upon that group which had carried on the struggle against 
sectarianism and to develop our Party from a propaganda 
society into a Communist Party, and which during the past 
twenty months has carried on the struggle against the Party's 
again degenerating into a sectarian organization. This out- 
come of the National Convention is a guarantee to the Party 
that the struggle against sectarian errors has been finally 
won and that our Party will, with the support of the Com- 
munist International, go forward to new achievement in 
developing itself as a mass Communist Party. 



Convention Resolutions 

The resolutions adopted by the Fourth National 
Convention lay the foundation for such a development of 
the Party. In these resolutions, formulated in the Parity 
Commission under the chairmanship of the Representa- 
tive of the Communist International, there is not a scintilla 
of sectarianism. 

These convention resolutions must be studied by our 
whole Party, and the Party must be mobilized to transform 
the resolutions into actual living things in the work of the 
Party. 

The major resolutions are those dealing with the gen- 
eral tasks of the Party, the Labor Party, and the trade union 
work of the Party. The Labor Party campaign must again 
become a major activity of the Party. It is not only to be a 
propaganda campaign, but the Party must again stir into 
life and movement the working masses in the direction of 
actual organization of the Labor Party. The mobilization of 
the workers for a political struggle for their class interests is 
the first requirement of the situation of the working-class 
movement in the United States. If our Party can aid in stir- 
ring into life and can crystallize as an organization a move- 
ment of hundreds of thousands of workers to enter the lists 
to fight against the capitalist parties, then we have made 
the first great step forward in the development of the Ameri- 
can working-class and at the same time toward our Party 
becoming a mass Communist Party. 

Closely connected with the Labor Party campaign is 
the work in the trade unions. Our Party was able to make 
substantial progress in this field in the past, but it never 
mobilized its whole strength for the trade union work. The 



records show that only one-third of the Party membership 
are members of the trade unions. This situation must be 
remedied. It will be one of the first tasks of the Party to 
bring into the trade unions its whole membership and to 
mobilize it for action there. The trade unions are the great- 
est organized mass of workers in this country and offers the 
greatest possibility for Communist propaganda. Our work 
in the trade unions, under the slogans of the Labor Party, 
amalgamation, trade union unity, will create a solid foun- 
dation of Party influence among the masses. 

In relation to the trade union work, the convention 
resolutions emphasize the part that organization of the 
unorganized will play in establishing Communist influence 
among the organized workers. Our Party must take up the 
task and make at least a beginning in the organization of 
unorganized workers. These workers will be largely the 
unskilled workers, most susceptible to Communist influ- 
ence, and will form in the American Federation of Labor 
the counterweight to the aristocracy of labor which today 
dominates that organization. 

The program for the struggle against imperialism, 
for work among the farmers, work among the Negro work- 
ers, and work among women, all outline concretely the tasks 
of the Party in special fields which have not previously re- 
ceived sufficient attention and which must from now on 
be taken up aggressively by the Party as part of its work 
going to the masses. 



Bolshevization: The New Period of Development 

The Fourth Convention has not only given our Party 
a program for its development as a mass Communist Party, 
but it has taken the initiative and laid the foundation for 
the Bolshevization of our Party. 

The resolutions outlining programs for work among 
the masses are, of course, an important part of the program 
of Bolshevization. A Bolshevik Party is a mass party — a 
party which has its roots deep among the masses and influ- 
ence their struggles, leading them into ever more aggressive 
fights against the capitalist class and the capitalist state 
power. A sectarian party cannot be a Bolshevik Party. The 
fight against sectarianism is therefore a fight for 
Bolshevization. In definitely cleaning its house of all sec- 
tarianism, the Party has cleared the way for Bolshevization. 

The resolution of the National Convention for the 
liquidation of Loreism, which means a fight against all right- 
wing opportunist tendencies in our Party, represents an- 
other phase of the task of Bolshevization. In expelling Lore 
from the Party, in its disciplinary action against Comrade 
Askeli, 17 in its declaration in reference to Comrade Poyntz, 



From Propaganda Society to Communist Party 



the convention gave an expression of its earnestness and 
determination that the fight against Loreism is not a mere 
temporary struggle, but is to be carried on until every ves- 
tige of such tendencies is liquidated in the Party. In the 
attitude adopted by the new leading majority in the Jewish 
section convention in relation to the Loreist elements there 
is further indication that there will be no compromise on 
this issue. The Bolshevik Party must carry on a ceaseless 
struggle against opportunism, and this the Party will do. 

The best guarantee that sectarianism will not again 
gain a foothold in the Party, and also a guarantee against 
opportunism of the Lore type, is the raising of the theoreti- 
cal level of the Party. The work of educating the member- 
ship of the Party in Marxism and Leninism 18 therefore be- 
comes a vital part of the work of Bolshevization. The Na- 
tional convention has adopted a program for this work and 
the Central Executive Committee has already established 
an Agitprop Department so that this work will be given 
systematic attention in the future. 

The reorganization of our Party on the basis of shop 
nuclei and street nuclei (international branches) is for the 
Party the greatest immediate transformation in the work of 
Bolshevization. We cannot become a Bolshevik Party as long 
as our Party is decentralized into eighteen language groups 
and exists in the form of language and territorial branches. 
The reorganization on the basis of shop nuclei is the basis 
of our becoming a mass party. 

The existing Party organization belongs to the past. 
It was a Party organization existing outside of the working 
class in place of inside as part of it. The new Party organiza- 



tion will create the organ for carrying out our program for 
work among the masses. The reorganization is the sine qua 
non without which we cannot make even the first step to- 
ward the Bolshevization of the Party. With the reorganiza- 
tion, a new Party will come into existence — a Party in 
close contact with the workers in the factories through its 
shop nuclei, a Party with fractions in every trade union and 
benefit society and cooperative — in a work, a Party that is 
so deeply embedded among the workers and the organiza- 
tions of the workers that there is no power which can sepa- 
rate it from the working masses and prevent its influence 
and leadership from growing powerful among these masses. 

Thus, through these actions of the Fourth Conven- 
tion, there has opened the new phase of Party development, 
the period of Bolshevization. Our Party stands before tre- 
mendous tasks and great opportunities. In order that these 
tasks may be accomplished and to take advantage of the 
opportunities before it, the Party must be united for the 
work it has on hand. 

The party has a correct program of activity. It has a 
leadership which has the stamp of approval of the commu- 
nist International as being the group closest to the views of 
the Communist International in our Party. We must now 
through actual work, through actual struggle, make our 
program a reality. The immediate future requires of every 
member of the Party greater sacrifice, greater service to the 
Party than ever before in its history. We have achieved the 
correct program, our Party leadership has shown in the past 
that it can put our program into action. Now the Party 
must work. • 



Footnotes: 

1. Grigori Zinoviev (1883-1936), member of the RSDRP from 
1907 and of the Central Committee from 1912 until his re- 
moval in the faction fight of 1927, was at this time the Chair- 
man of the Executive Committee of the Communist 
Internatonal (ECCI). He also, along with Iosif Stalin and Lev 
Kamenev, was one of the leading three decision-makers in So- 
viet Russia following Lenin's death in January 1924. The 5th 
Congress of the Comintern, at which Zinoviev delivered the 
keynote address, was held from June 17 to July 8, 1924. 

2. The 4th National Convention of the Workers (Communist) 
Party of America was held in Chicago from August 21-30, 
1925. Lhis convention returned the reins of the American 
Commuist Party to the Ruthenberg/Pepper/Lovestone faction 
from the Foster/Canon/Bittelman faction. 

3. Reference is to the coordinated mass raids which took place 
the night of January 1/2, 1920, resulting in several thousand 
arrests and the seizure of party offices and the records they 
contained. Denied the use of headquarters or the mails, war- 
rants pending for the arrest of their leading cadres, the Com- 



munist Party of America and Communist Labor Party of 
America were forced underground in the aftermath. 

4. The 2nd Convention of the unified Communist Party of 
America, held in Bridgman, Michigan in mid-August 1922, 
was penetrated by a police spy and then raided by the authori- 
ties for alleged violation of state "Criminal Syndicalism" stat- 
utes. Court cases tied to the affair dragged on for years. 

5. Reference to the "Third Convention" in this article relates to 
the 3rd National Convention of the Workers Party of America, 
which was held in Chicago, Dec. 30, 1923 to Jan. 2, 1924. A 
3rd (and final) Convention of the underground Commuist 
Party of America had previously been held in April of 1923. 

6. "Trotskyism" as an ideological construction was a product of 
the faction fight in the Russian Communist Party from the 
time of Lenin's death. It was a tool used by the Zinoviev/Sta- 
lin/Kamenev troika to isolate and defeat their leading com- 
petitor for the helm of the Soviet state. The ideological con- 
cept of "Leninism" dates from this same period. 

6. Ludwig Lore (1875-1942) was a German-born textile worker 



10 



From Propaganda Society to Communist Party 



who came to the United States in 1903. A life-long Socialist, 
Lore served as the Secretary of the German Federation of the 
Socialist Party up to the 1919 split and as well as editor of the 
venerable New Yorker Volkszeitung. In 1920, Lore was a mem- 
ber of the 3 member Editorial Board of the CLP publications 
Voice of Labor and Communist Labor. Later in 1920, Lore was 
sentenced to 5 years in prison as part of mass trial of the CLP 
leadership held in Chicago; he was freed by a pardon of the 
Governor after serving 1 days in prison. Lore later served as 
the National Executive Secretary of the German Federation of 
the Workers Party from 1922, and was elected to the Central 
Executive Committee of the WPA by the 3rd Convention. 
Lore was expelled from the Party for alleged right wing devia- 
tion in 1925, purportedly the leading exponent of an alien 
ideology called "Loreism." He wrote periodically for the lib- 
eral and left wing press after his expulsion from the Commu- 
nist Party. Lore translated Hitler's Mein Kampffor an unex- 
purgated American edition in 1939. 

7. By "Old Guard" of the Russian Communist Party is meant 
Zinoviev, Stalin, and Kamenev in their faction struggle against 
Trotsky. 

8. Scott Nearing (1883-1983) was a well-known left wing econo- 
mist and writer who lectured at the Socialist Party's Rand 
School of Social Science from 1916-1923. He was a member 
of the Communist Party only briefly, first admitted in 1927. 
In his later years Nearing wrote a regular column for the non- 
party Marxist theoretical journal Monthly Review. 

9. Paul Levi (1883-1930) was a left wing German lawyer who 
came over to the Communist Party of Germany in 1919. He 
was for a time the German representative in the ECCI before 
being expelled from the German Party for opposition to its 
political line. After his expulsion, Levi returned to the Social 
Democratic Party of Germany. He ultimately ended his life 
by his own hand. 

10. Giacomo M. Serrati (1874-1926) was a prominent leader of 
the Italian Socialist Party and editor of its organ Avanti from 
1914-1922. In 1924 he joined the Italian Communist Party 
owing to a split of the Italian Socialist Party. 

1 1 . The Conference for Progressive Political Action grew out of a 
call issued by a committee representing the heads of the 16 
railway unions. The organization sought to unite all progres- 
sive labor, farmer, and cooperative political forces of the country 
to elect progressives to Congress and the various state legisla- 
tures. The group held two Conferences in 1922, including 
the December gathering mentioned here. A major role was 
played in the organization by Morris Hillquit and other lead- 
ers of the Socialist Party. The group terminated itself in 1925. 

12. Note the similarity to the tactics used in Soviet Russia against 
Trotsky at this same time — the arbitrary creation of a loosely 
defined but thoroughly alien "-ism" to be used as an extreme 
epithet against factional opponents. 

13. Sen. Robert LaFollette (1855-1925) was a progressive Re- 



publican from Wisconsin who ran an independent progres- 
sive campaign for President of the United States in 1924. His 
entry into the race removed any chance for a new Labor Party 
to gain political "traction" in that year. The Socialist Party did 
not run a candidate for President in 1924, instead endorsing 
and working for the election of LaFollette. LaFollette and the 
Communists were bitterly at odds, however, making use of a 
similar tactic unthinkable. A somewhat inept attempt was made 
at establishing a (Communist-dominated) Farmer-Labor Party 
at a convention held in St. Paul, Minnesota in June of 1924. 
Utterly isolated, that group's nominee abruptly dropped out 
of the race after only a month and the Workers Party felt itself 
obligated to run its own nominee instead for President in- 
stead. William Z. Foster was the nominee of the WPA in 1924. 

14. Juliet S. Poyntz (1886-1937?), was the Nebraska-born daugh- 
ter of a lawyer. Poyntz gained a Masters Degree from Colum- 
bia University and later served as Educational Director of the 
International Ladies Garment Workers Union, 1915-19 as well 
as a researcher for the Rand School of Social Science. She joined 
the Communist movement in 1921; at the end of 1923 she 
was a delegate to the 3rd Convention of the WPA from the 
New York district. She was censured by name by the 4th Con- 
vention for having "persistently followed the policy of Lore- 
ism, which is a right wing deviation away from the line of the 
Communist International." The Convention Resolution de- 
manded that Poyntz immediate cease supporting Lore. Poyntz 
later went on to work for Soviet espionage in the 1930s. She 
reputedly disappeared under mysterious circumstances dur- 
ing the Ezhovshchina in the USSR, 1937. 

15. Note Ruthenberg's use of the concept of a single correct "line" 
here, several years before the ubiquitous use of the term "Gen- 
eral Line" in the Soviet Union in association with the indus- 
trialization campaign of the first Five Year Plan. 

16. "P. Green" was Sergei Gusev (1874-1933), the Representa- 
tive of the Communist International to the American Party. 
Gusev (born Ia.D. Drabkhin) was a member of the RSDRP 
from 1896 and in 1923-25 was the Secretary of the Central 
Committee of the Russian Communist Party. Sent to the 
United States as CI Rep in 1925, Gusev worked for the rest of 
his life as a functionary in the Comintern, winding up as the 
head of the Anglo-American Secretariat of the ECCI. 

17. Askeli was a member of the editorial staff of the Finnish Com- 
munist paper Tyomies, based in Superior, Wisconsin. The 4th 
National Convention of the WPA in August 1925 unani- 
mously passed a resolution blaming the "opportunist" ten- 
dencies of Tyomies on the "influence of Comrade Askeli," who 
was characterized as being "the consistent exponent of Loreist 
tendencies." Askeli was removed from his post on the edito- 
rial staff upon the direct orders of the Convention. 

18. Note early use of the term "Leninism," an ideological con- 
struct emerging as a byproduct of the faction fight within the 
Russian Communist Party after the death of Lenin. 



Footnotes compiled by Tim Davenport, who also edited the text. 
© 1000 Flowers Publishing, Corvallis, OR, 2004. • Free reproduction permitted. 



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