Red Web - Blair Coan

Birds of a Feather

There can be no better place than right here to impress a point that is important in reaching an understanding of a relationship which the Left Wing of radicalism, that is to say the Moscow-managed faction marching unreservedly under the banner of the Third (Communist) Internationales, bears to the Right Wing. The Right Wing has the same objective but with a presumably less violent program for accomplishing it. There are factions, of course, within each of these so-called "wings,"—factions frequently at odds with one another both as to tactics and as to personnel of leadership,—but with these we need not be concerned, any more than we "are ever concerned with factions within either the Republican or Democratic parties when such factions remain faithful to the fundamental principles and precepts outlined in the respective party programs or platforms.

As the Socialist party of America, now professing to be the Right Wing, and therefore more or less viewed with contempt by the Left Wing, has always had its factional fights which have made national conventions of the party more or less tempestuous until one faction or another was able to mobilize support sufficient to obtain for it control of the party machinery, so also has the Left Wing, made up of the Communists, the I.W.W., the Socialist Labor Party and defections from the Socialist Party, had its series of factional fights since the ascendancy of Sovietism in Russia. Attention already has been called to the fact that the Comintern of Moscow has heretofore been obliged to take a hand in ironing out these factional troubles, and such is the case again as this is written.

The Communist organization that was unified during the political campaign of a year ago, 1924, has since split into two factions, one headed by William Z. Foster, and the other led by Charles Ruthenberg. While this is being written, there is in the United States an emissary of the Communist Internationale whose business it is to reunite these two factions and once more set the Communist U-Boat fleet upon a more definite course of destruction. But, notwithstanding factional controversies within either of the "wings" of the radical movement, and notwithstanding the differences existing between the two "wings," differences due as much to jealousy of power felt among leaders as to controversy over tactics,—what is important to understand is that the objective of both "wings" and of all factions of either of them is a common one.

There are two major political parties in the United States, the Republican party and the Democratic party. Fundamentally, the differences between these two parties are not great. Notwithstanding these differences, and whether great or negligible, the common objective of both of them is the administration of government in the United States in conformity to civilized standards of good order and in compliance with the provisions of the federal Constitution.

There are two principal minority organizations, to one or other of which a number of lesser ones adhere with a greater or less degree of loyalty. There are the Workers, or Communist, party (Left Wing) on the one hand, and the Socialist party (Right Wing) on the other. The differencts between the two are even less than the differences between the Republican and Democratic parties, and the objectives of each of them are the same as those of the other, namely, the overthrow of capitalism, and the destruction of the republican form of government provided by the federal constitution, the termination of private property rights, the "dictatorship of the proletariat" and the establishment of the international socialist commonwealth. These are statements of fact that are incontrovertible, statements of fact irrevocably established by socialist textbook explanations of socialism and by the entire history of the socialist movement since the "Communist Manifesto" of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Any avowed socialist, whether he be of the "Left Wing" or the "Right Wing," who disputes these statements of fact or attempts to equivocate concerning them in either a hypocrite and a liar or he is not a socialist by conviction and hasn't even a freshman's knowledge of socialist theory or of socialist history.

As set forth in a previous chapter, it was in the summer of 1921 that the Communists determined upon a change of tactics, decided to "come into the open" and participate in a parliamentary political program.

A gathering of the leaders of the Socialist party was held in April, 1921, in Chicago, at which meeting public announcement was made of the endorsement of the Third (Communist) Internationale and the soviet government of Russia by the socialists. The national convention of the socialist party was held in Detroit in June, of the same year, and at this convention there were stormy debates over the question of officially affiliating with the Comintern. The convention voted not to affiliate, but it refused to repudiate party members favorable to and giving their endorsement to the Comintern.

Morris Hillquit, of New York, who had been officially connected with the bolshevik "embassy" in New York under "Ambassador" Ludwig C.A.K. Martens, and who subsequently became one of the campaign managers for Senators La Follette and Wheeler in their campaign for the presidency and vice-presidency, introduced a resolution providing for the first step on the part of the socialist party toward a coalition of radical revolutionary forces for political action. The introduction of this resolution which was passed by the Detroit convention, was subsequent to the similar step taken by the Communists in contemplation of their program for political action. Whether this was mere coincidence, I am not prepared to say, but it seems a bit difficult to believe that minds bent upon achievement of an ultimate and common objective should run in very much the same direction, each entirely unconscious of the proximity of the other.

"The task of reconquering and maintaining our civil rights and liberties and securing substantial measures of economic relief can be accomplished only through the united and concerted action of all progressive, militant and class-conscious workers, industrial and agricultural, in the United States," said the Hillquit resolution as reprinted in the socialist newspaper, the New York Call, June 28, 1921.

"Be it Therefore Resolved, that the Incoming National Executive Committee be instructed to make a careful survey of all radical and labor organizations in the country, with a view of ascertaining their strength, disposition and readiness to cooperate with socialist movement upon a platform not inconsistent with that of the party and on a plan which will preserve the integrity and economy of the socialist party."

"Resolved, that the National Executive Committee report its findings with recommendations to the next annual convention of the socialist party."

The broad inclusiveness of the resolution—"All radical and labor organizations" denotes its scope—made it imperative that the National committee take into account the "Left Wing" organizations (Communists) as well as those of the "Right Wing." Had it then been intended not to cooperate with or not to seek cooperation from the communists, it would appear certain that the resolution should have given expression to exceptions to that effect.

At any rate, the "survey" by the National Executive Committee of the Socialist party presumably was made during the months following, for a coalescing of radical forces in conformity with the plan indicated by the Hillquit resolution soon took place. The representatives of "progressive, militant and class-conscious workers" of the "industrial" group assembled in Chicago in February, 1922, and almost simultaneously there assembled in Chicago also representatives of the "progressive, militant and class-conscious workers" of the "agricultural" group.

William H. Johnston, long known as a socialist and as a socialist candidate for political office, was there to mobilize the "industrial" group. He was and is president of the International Association of Machinists; had been a lecturer in the radical Rand School of Social Science, New York; was a member of the National Advisory Committee, National Labor Alliance for Trade Relations with the Recognition of Russia; was a member of the National Council, League of Industrial Democracy (formerly the Intercollegiate Socialist Society); was secretary and treasurer and a member of the executive committee of the La Follette People's Legislative Service; was vice-president of the People's Reconstruction League; was a member of the board of directors of the labor Publication Society; was a member of the Executive Committee of the American Civil Liberties Union, and was a soviet sympathizer who took an active part in the movement to obtain official recognition of "Ambassador" Martens by the United States and to prevent the deportation of the distinguished and officially designated representative of the soviet government.

The mobilization of the "agricultural group" was in the hands of Benjamin C. Marsh, Managing Director of the so-called Farmers' National Council; Managing Director of the People's Reconstruction League, and press agent for the Plumb Plan League.

While the "industrial" and "agricultural" groups were mobilized separately, when they had been assembled they combined and held their conference jointly. Leading spirits in the conference were "Comrades" Morris Hillquit, Victor Berger, Otto Bramstetter, Bertha Hale White and Daniel W. Hoan, all conspicuous personages in the socialist movement. The gathering was marked by a number of highly inflammatory speeches, denunciatory of the American government, and larded with fulsome praises for the virtues of the soviet regime in Russia. A political program was determined upon, providing, among other things, for a scheme of "boring from within" the Republican and Democratic parties, and avoiding as far as possible, for strategic reasons, too much use of the words socialist and socialism. It was a socialist program that was contemplated, but it was agreed that expediency demanded its being carried out under a different name.

Pending another conference to be held later, a committee of fifteen was named to carry on the affairs of the coalition. Besides Hillquit, Johnston, Marsh and others on the committee, there was Jay G. Brown, of Chicago, whose name is mentioned here particularly that it may be remembered by the reader when the communist connections of this committee-man are gone into later.

This was the termination of "isolated action" by the socialists and other red radicals. It was the beginning of the Conference for Progressive Political Action, of which we shall, of course, see and hear a great deal more in due time.

In the meantime, the Federal Department of Justice, under the generalship of Harry M. Daugherty, had further enraged the reds and stirred up the sympathetic protests of the pinks, first by instituting in February, 1922, an inquiry into the conduct of Russian famine relief, and second by issuing, in March, a warning against acts of violence instigated by the reds during the coal strike which was then in progress.

Evidence was developed by the investigation of Russian famine relief by the Department of Justice, and subsequently made a part of the record of the hearings of the sub-committee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Sixty-eighth Congress, purporting to reveal the true character of an organization known as "Friends of Soviet Russia," ostensibly organized to help finance relief for famine sufferers in Russia; but, in fact, according to the evidence uncovered by investigators, engaged mainly in financing and conducting bolshevik agitation and Propaganda in the United States.

It is, of course, beyond dispute that the soviet government of Russia and the Third Internationale were then and still are engaged in a very real and entirely manifest warfare upon the United States government, as upon many other governments, and that the purpose of this warfare is to overthrow the constituted government of this country and supplant it with a socialist government to be made a part of the contemplated international socialist federation under the dictatorship of the proletariat. So that, by its very name—Friends of Soviet Russia"—the organization in question was composed of individuals who were pro-soviet and, therefore, by the very nature of things, anti-American.

"Ambassador" Martens before his enforced departure from our shores, had established a publication called Soviet Russia, and this "house organ" of the bolshevik embassy in New York City became the subsidized organ of the Friends of Soviet Russia. Later the name was changed to Soviet Russia Pictorial. The publication became the official organ of the Friends of Soviet Russia in February, 1922, and has been the medium for probolshevik and anti-American propaganda ever since.

At the time of the investigation by the Department of Justice, the list of officers and directors of the Friends of Soviet Russia included such well known communists as Elmer T. Allinson, Dennis E. Batt, Ella Reeve Bloor, Jack Carney, William F. (Big Bill) Dunne, Max Eastman (recently excommunicated), J. Louis Engdahl, William Z. Foster, Caleb Harrison, Ludwig Lore, Alfred Wagenknecht (alias A. B. Martin), Robert Minor, Edgar Owen, Upton Sinclair, Rose Pastor Stokes, Hewlett M. Wells, H.M. Wicks, and Albert Rhys Williams. But in addition to these, others were J.O. Bentall, veteran of the Socialist party of America; Jay G. Brown, a member of the "committee of fifteen" previously referred to in connection with the formation of the Conference for Progressive Political Action; Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, notorious I.W.W. and socialist agitator; H.W.L. Dana, former Columbia University professor, active in the American Civil Liberties Union and the League for Industrial Democracy; Helen Keller, the deaf and blind woman, long a radical writer and agitator; Charles P. Steinmetz, "electrical wizard," long active as a socialist; Paxton Hibben, a captain in the Officers' Reserve Corps and secretary of American Relief Committee for Russian Children, and a well known admirer of Soviet Russia and a public advocate in its behalf and in its defense.

According to general report found among other documents bearing upon activities of the Communist party, of which the 'Friends of Soviet Russia' was, in fact, an arm, thousands of locals of all the important labor unions in the United States were officially affiliated with the Friends of Soviet Russia, and also affiliated with the central labor bodies—Central Labor Councils and Federations of Labor —in Chicago, Detroit, Seattle, Tacoma, Minneapolis, Portland, Ore., Trenton, N.J., Denver, Ogden, Utah, Mansfield, Ohio, Richmond, Va., Bedford, Conn., Binghampton, N.Y., Rockford, Ill, San Diego, Cal., New York City, and Washington, D.C.

The machinations of the avowed bolsheviks in the coal strike, their promotion of violence and the destruction of mining machinery, were exposed by investigations made by the Federal Department of Justice. The red campaign against the Department of Justice became more and more militant and defiant in character. The red campaign against this branch of the administration of government was not merely defended by the pinks and the new political coalition, originated by the Socialist party and brought into definite form as the Conference for Progressive Political Action, but it was applauded and echoed and helped in every manner possible. The program of violence, in which the Communists were the most active factors, had the moral support of the leading spirits in the "Right Wing" of the radical forces aligned against the government, and the political program of the "Right Wing" had the moral and active support of the leading spirits in the more inflammatory "Left Wing."

The reds were preparing to use the pinks for their own ends, and the pinks were only too willing to use the reds for theirs.

After the "coalition" of February, 1922, under the name "Conference for Progressive Political Action," in which radicals of many shades from deep red to ripe pink were marshalled, the "committee of fifteen" functioned with fine effect. First among the organizations to affiliate in this coalition were the "Big Four" Railroad Brotherhoods; the railroad crafts, including the United Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes and Railway Shop Laborers, the International Association of Machinists, the International Brotherhood of Blacksmiths and Ilelpers, the Steel Metal Workers, the Brotherhood of Railway Electrical Workers, the Brotherhood of Railway Car Men, the International Brotherhood of Boiler Makers, the Order of Railroad Telegraphers, the Brotherhood of Railway Clerks, the International Brotherhood of Stationary Firemen and Oilers, and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signal Men.

Other affiliations were from the United Mine Workers, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, the Farmers' National Council, the Non-Partisan League and elements of the Farm-Labor party which subsequently became the Federated Farm-Jabor party under almost complete dominance of communist leadership. A.C. Townley, the famous Non-Partisan leaguer, who was imprisoned in Minnesota for seditious utterances, was instrumental in obtaining the Non-Partisan League affiliation, and he was one of the prime movers in bringing about the "coalition." It was the Townley system of stealing party names and "boring from within" which the communist, William Z. Foster, borrowed and used with such good effect in the labor unions, that the Conference for Progressive Political Action adopted. The system was one of well known fruitfulness to Senator Robert M. La Follette in Wisconsin, and to the pink politicians of North Dakota and elsewhere.

An affiliation not to be overlooked was, of course, that of the People's Legislative Service, which Senator La Follette had organized and set up in Washington to be "On Guard for the People", as the motto of this pink institution for uplift expresses it. The director of this organization was and is one Basil M. Manly, a socialist and for years a radical lobbyist in Washington, and the author of literature sufficiently red to warrant circulation by the Rand School, New York City. Senator La Follette was the chairman of the executive committee; Congressman George Huddleston, of Alabama, the vice chairman; William H. Johnston, secretary-treasurer, and W. G. Lee, Warren S. Stone, Mabel C. Costigan, other members. This same William H. Johnston, as secretary-treasurer of the People's Legislative Service, and the president of the International Association of Machinists, was the one who took the job of "mobilizing" the "industrial" groups for the "coalition" of radical forces for political action in accordance with a program laid down by the Socialist party under the provisions of the Hillquit resolution of June, 1921. The versatility of William H. Johnston, as an office-holder in the radical groups, has already been indicated, but special attention to two or three of these official connections may well be directed at this time.

As a member of the National Committee of the American Civil Liberties Union "Comrade" Johnston was an associate and co-worker with such well known communists, socialists and reds as Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, William Z. Foster, Helen Keller, Scott Nearing, Seymour Stedman, Norman Thomas, and Roger M. Baldwin, the last named being the director of the "Union" and himself an ex-convict, having been convicted and imprisoned for draft-dodging during the war. As a member of the National Council of the League for Industrial Democracy, formerly the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, we find "Comrade" Johnston at work with as fine a collection of communists, socialists, reds and pinks as any one organization could wish to boast of, including the I.W.W. apologist and defender, Professor Paul E. Brissenden, heretofore quoted; Evans Clark, who had served as one of "Ambassador" Martens' press agents; Upton Sinclair, Morris Hillquist, Alexander Trachtenberg, Prince Hopkins, Norman Thomas, and the Hapgood Brothers, Norman and William.

As the Conference for Progressive Political Action controlled from beginning to end by socialists, and originating from the initiative of the socialist party, as expressed in the Hillquist resolution, was the direct link of alliance between the "Right Wing" reds and pinks of the La Follette organization, the People's Legislative Service, so the People's Legislative Service was the direct link of the radical "coalition" of the reds and the pinks with the Legislative branches of the United States government, the Senate and the House of Representatives. William H. Johnston, secretary-treasurer of the People's Legislative Service and co-worker with some of the country's best known communists and socialists in the American Civil Liberties Union and the League for Industial Democracy, became the directing head of the Conference for Progressive Political Action which was organized to carry out a Socialist party program in 1922, that by the oddest coincidence—if such it was—ran almost directly parallel with the program of altered tactics determined upon by the Moscow directed communists through the medium of their "legal" Workers' Party.

The People's Legislative Service supplied an imposing personnel of active workers within the Council of the Conference for Progressive Political Action, as put into operation in 1922. For, besides "Comrade" Johnston and "Comrade" Manly, there were Warren S. Stone, grand chief of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers; Joseph A. Franklin, president of the International Brotherhood of Boiler Makers, Iron Ship Builders and Helpers of America; former Congressman Edward Keating, editor of the extremely radical weekly paper, "Labor" published across the street from the Capitol in Washington; E.J. Manion, president of the Order of Railroad Telegraphers; Frederick C. Howe, President Wilson's radical immigration commissioner at New York and long known as a radical propagandist, I.W.W. defender and apologist, and a special writer for the daringly red news service, the Federated Press; and sundry others.

With Senator Joseph I. France's connection with the People's Legislative Service and his pro-soviet utterances, the reader is already familiar. At the time under discussion, Senator Wheeler and Senator Brookhart, later to become members of the Executive Committee of the People's Legislative Service, were not members of that organization, but Senator Ladd, of North Dakota, and Senator Norris, of Nebraska, were members of the National Council of the People's Legislative Service, as was Senator David I. Walsh of Massachusetts, and these members of Congress, Joseph D, Beck, Wisconsin; Edward E. Brown, Wisconsin; William J. Burke, Pennsylvania; Ross A. Collins, Mississippi; James A. Frear, Wisconsin; Oscar E. Keller, Minnesota; James M. Mead, New York; John M. Nelson, Wisconsin; Edward Voigt, Wisconsin.

It would be getting ahead of the story, somewhat, to discuss the Labor Defense Council now, an organization of communist origin, but it ought here to be mentioned—with further details held in reserve for a later chapter—because the chairman of the Executive Committee of the Conference for Progressive Political Action and secretary-treasurer of the People's Legislative Service, which organizations have just been under discussion, was so closely associated with the chief actors in the Labor Defense Council. For one thing, one of the members of the Executive Committee of the Conference for Progressive Political Action—none other than Jay G. Brown, twice mentioned heretofore—was chosen for the National Committee of the Labor Defense Council, serving with such other close associates of chairman Johnston in other organizations, as Roger Baldwin, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, and Paxton Hibben. Other members of the National Committee of the Labor Defense Council were Eugene V. Debs, later a highly distinguished figure in the Conference for Progressive Political Action, and the Detroit communist editor and writer, Dennis Batt; and cooperating with the Council were four leading communists, Earl R. Browder, William F. (Big Bill) Dunne, William Z. Foster and Charles E. Ruthenberg. The National Secretary of the Council was William Z. Foster, and cooperating, also, were some of the country's most justly renowned pinks and parlor reds, such as the Reverend John Haynes Holmes, the Reverend Percy Stickney Grant, the Reverend Norman Thomas, Mary Heaton Vorse, Francis Fisher Kane, etc., etc.

Verily, it doth seem strange that, if these birds were not of a feather, they should have flocked so frequently together.