Reds in America - Richard M. Whitney

Work Among Women's Organizations

In a document found at Bridgman at the time of the raid of the illegal convention of Communists was one on Work Among Women, in which it is set forth that "the famine appeal is the most practical means for penetrating women's clubs, leagues, etc." And already work has been directed by the Communists to win support of their cause among women's organizations of all classes. An elaborate program for this work was adopted at the Bridgman convention, going into such detail as the canvassing of cities, block by block, and block organizations for the Communists. The thesis adopted Teads as follows:

"The interest of the working class demands the recruiting of women into the ranks of the proletariat fighting for Communism.

"Wherever the question of the conquest of power arises, the Communist parties must consider not only the great source of weakness to the proletarian struggle of an uninformed mass of housewives, farmers' wives and women workers in the industrial field, but also the fact that on the other hand, proletarian women once awakened are among the most tenacious fighting elements in the class struggle.

"The experiences of the Russian Soviet Republic proved in practice the importance of the participation of women workers and peasants in defence of the Republic as well as in other activities of Soviet construction. This alone must serve as a lesson in all countries; while here in America we have recently had several thrilling examples; notably in the part working-class women played in the Chicago packing strike and the miners' struggle in Kansas, in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

"Communism, which alone affords women economic and social equality, and the necessary conditions for motherhood without conflicting with woman's social obligations or hindering her creative work for the benefit of society, should be the aim of all women fighting for emancipation. But Communism is also the final aim of the entire proletariat. Consequently, the struggle of the proletariat woman must be carried on in the interests of both the men and the women of the proletariat under a united leadership 'one and indivisible' to the entire proletarian movement.

"With Karl Marx we affirm that there is no specific women's question and no specific women's movement. But in present day society there are hundreds of thousands of working-class women in separate women's organizations and millions of workers' and farmers' wives with a lower status than a wage slave's, isolated from the general stream of organized endeavor who must be reached and drawn into the struggle for Communism by specific methods of approach.

"It is therefore imperative that women's committees be created to devise and carry into practice the specific methods that will win the women of the working class to the Communist ideal and that will unite them for and link them up with the general proletarian struggle.

"Women's work that immediately presents itself may roughly be classified in four categories.

  • "Work among the women organized in trade unions or organizations affiliated with trade unions.
  • "Work among unorganized women.
  • "Work in women's organizations other than trade unions; mothers' clubs, housewives' leagues, cooperatives, nationalist groups, whether social or cultural, etc.
  • "Emergency work, such as work among strikers' wives, etc.

"In this field the most important work presents itself. The Women's Trade Union League proposes to reorganize the former 'Women's Auxiliaries' of the wives of trade unionists into industrial housewives' leagues.

"The Women's Trade Union League is at present jogging along. With the introduction of new blood it could be made a powerful weapon. Much of our first activities should be directed to this work wherever possible. Were we to carry on a successful campaign, eventually capturing the leadership, we would be in a peculiarly strategic position for furthering women's work of all kinds, including emergency work.

"Some of our best women are fortunately already very active in the organization.

"In order intelligently to lay the ground-work in trade unions and other categories of women's organizations the questionnaire prepared by the Women's National Committee should be filled out with care and thoroughness.

"The famine in Russia places not alone a solemn duty upon us but also offers us an unparalleled opportunity to reach the great unorganized masses of proletarian women; to crystallize their sentiment and win them for the proletarian struggle.

"To realize permanent gains from the use of this opportunity the block system is proposed for adoption for all women's committees. The following is offered as a method upon which to proceed:

  1. "Organize a women's block committee of no less than three.
  2. "Select a block for activity, operating in one block at a time upon the follow-up plan.
  3. "Secure a small hall or store soliciting its free use for relief work.
  4. "Print simple, attractive tickets admitting two to hear stories and see pictures of Russia, promising also other entertainment.
  5. "Make house-to-house canvass several consecutive days before meeting, discovering the women sympathizers and leaving one or two tickets in exchange for a promise to use them.
  6. "In the course of the canvass discover block talent in children or grown folks. Arrange to utilize it, no matter how crude or untrained, in the block meetings, thus providing the promised entertainment and creating a basis for local interest in future block meetings of a similar nature under the same auspices.
  7. "One-fifth of those receiving invitations to attend may be relied on to be present in a meeting. Tickets should be issued with the usual result in mind.
  8. "Slides and lanterns can be supplied by local relief centers or obtained through application to the B (legal branch of the Communist Party) national office. Instructions for their use are simple. Any member of the block committee wishing to use the outfit could learn to operate it 'straight', while the simple explanations of the pictures can be made by anyone, as there is a certain easy system that a child could learn, that comes with the slides.
  9. "At the meeting, which should be given a neighborly, friendly atmosphere, enlist the women as members of the block committee to help the famine-striken mothers and children of Soviet Russia. All who join should be recorded in the Women's Division of the B.
  10. "The Working Class Women's Block Committees should be adopted as the official name of these groups throughout the country.
  11. "Arrange for the next committee meeting in the home of one of the women where work, entertainment, collection of clothing, money, food etc., sale of literature, block meetings and talks may be planned in harmony with local needs, etc.
  12. "In these activities pride in local tatent must be utilized to knit the hopeful elements more closely together that the clarifying process may go on in a friendly, social atmosphere.

"It is necessary to point out future possibilities. It should be clear to all our comrades that ihe block committees can become a vital force in the general proletarian struggle.

"Third, work in women's organizations other than trade unions.

"Again, among the organized women generally, the famine appeal is the most practical means for penetrating women's clubs, leagues, etc. These women's organizations are very numerous.

"It is suggested that when our data concerning women's organizations are returned with the questionnaires we choose those whose proletarian character is best fitted to our aim, gradually widening our activities as we build up our forces.

"Fourth, the Women's National Committee should at all times have its eyes fixed on the industrial horizon. When great industrial conflicts present themselves it should have its plans perfected for prompt emergency work among those working women more clearly involved in the conflicts. With the organization of the Women's Committees completed, work in the industrial districts will be greatly facilitated.

"These four types of work will be all that our present forces will be equal to: the work in the W'omen's Trade Union League, organization of the unorganized, penetration of other women's organizations through famine relief appeals, etc., and emergency work. This is an ambitious program.

"Sub-committees for each category could be named to facilitate the work in the first three types of activity, while emergency work could be assigned to a sub-committee appointed when an emergency arises or is anticipated."

In an interesting article, published May 1, 1922, The Woman Patriot says that "the so-called 'Pan-American Conference of Women' at Baltimore called by Mrs, Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance and honorary president of the National League of Women Voters, was in reality "The Women's Third International." The article is too long for quotation here, but seven short paragraphs give all loyal Americans food for thought. It is not charged here that the women interested in this meeting, the first of its kind held in the United States, are working for Communism directly, but it behoves all loyal American women, and men as well to "watch their step" in these times surcharged with danger. These paragraphs read:

"The two former internationals were held in Zurich, in 1919, and in Vienna, in 1921, under the names, 'International Congress of Women' and 'Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.'

"'Frequent changes of name,' as advised by Nicolai Lenin, are resorted to by the International feminist-pacifist bloc as often as necessary, but the entire movement originates with the International Woman's Suffrage Alliance.

"The work is divided up, like an army's artillery, cavalry and infantry, into three mobile divisions:

  • "The political, under Mrs. Catt and her 'International Woman Suffrage Alliance' and 'League of Women Voters.'
  • "The pacifist, under Miss Jane Addams and her 'Women's International League for Peace and Freedom."
  • "The industrial, under Mrs. Raymond Robins and her 'International League of Working Women' and 'Women's Trade Union League.'

"The three branches are employed precisely as a wise general would engage artillery, cavalry or infantry; using all three together wherever necessary and each one alone for special objectives."

Voluntary organizations which are carrying on agitative propaganda or which have objectives to a greater or less extent in harmony with the program of the Communist party of America are so numerous that it would be impossible to list them. They may be found in every state in the union, and several of the larger ones with headquarters in metropolitan centers are active in every state. In some instances, the work of such organizations is of so much value to the revolutionary forces that recognition is freely and officially accorded by the Communists. In other instances, the objectives are praiseworthy, the personnel is above suspicion, and it is only on pausing to analyse that the adherence to collectivism as opposed to individualism, or the tendency toward dependency on the state which is so characteristic of socialism, becomes apparent. Between the two extremes all grades of variations are to be found. As an example of the more radical type, the Women's Trade Union League may be mentioned.

[Note: That the Woman's International League for Peace and Freedom is closely aligned with the Third International in interest and objective is clearly shown in an advertisement which recently appeared in "The World Tomorrow", and cited by The Woman Patriot. In which it is stated that Miss Jane Addams of Hull House, Chicago is listed as a stockholder in the Russian-American Industrial Corporation (Sidney Hillman) along with Nicolai Lenin. Eugene V. Debs, Charles P. Steinmetz, and Congressman LaGuardia. The Woman's Patriot also quotes the Federated Press Bulletin as stating that Anna Louise Strong, for many years Moscow correspondent of the Federated Press, and for the official American Communist organ, The Worker, expects to fill numerous lecture engagements during the winter and can be reached at Hull House. No. 800 S. Halsted St., Chicago, Ill. Press dispatches from Moscow recontly indicate that some of the funds of the Russian American Industrial Corporation In Russia had been misappropriated.]

The League was originally started by Mrs. Raymond Robins, who was until quite recently and for many years, its president. Miss Agnes Nestor and Miss Rose Schneiderman figure prominently in its activities, the latter of whom is now president. Its object is to organize trades unions composed of women, and to federate those in existence. Its work is so much in harmony with that of the Communist party of America that at the Bridgman Convention the latter adopted a thesis which obviously looks upon it as occupying an important strategical position in the united front of its lawful and open machinery. So far as is known the leaders of the Women's Trade Union League have never repudiated this overture on the part of the Communist party but on the contrary from time to time in its annual conventions, the League has adopted resolutions indicative of its sympathy with the Moscow Soviet government and in accord with the program of the Communist party, it "demands" among other things that public utilities now run by the state be turned over to workers' control.

In view of these and many other facts, the Women's Trade Union League may be considered as a part of the united front of the open and legal machinery of the Communist party of America, regardless of whether the League or its leaders would desire such a designation. On the other hand, it would be unjust to regard all individual members of the League as communists. Obviously, they are not. Many of them have a purely nominal connection with the League, or though working for its organic interests, are ignorant of the uses to which the League is being put.

The same is found to apply on appraising the nature of the activities of some other organizations. From the stand-point of hypersensitive humanitarianism, many of them have objectives which are excellent and desirable, provided we do not take into consideration the cost either in money or destructiveness to the state. It should be noted, however, that in almost every instance, some individual or group among the leading spirits of any particular society, can be found having direct or indirect connections with the Communist party of America, while the numerical majority are quite above suspicion. For instance in such a class undoubtedly belongs the American Association for Labor Legislation. It beseeches legislators for the adoption of social insurance by the state. To it we owe the present workmen's compensation laws which are on the statute books of the various states. Compulsory health insurance is a part of its legislative program but up to the present, largely owing to the bitter opposition of physicians and the administrative difficulties encountered in England, the Association has failed to achieve this end here.

En passant, it should be said that these measures were born of revolutionary socialism in the decade following 1860. The effect of its adoption means a lightening of responsibility on the part of labor in the maintenance of a healthy well-balanced society, and quick adaptation of the working classes to the idea of dependency on the state. Samuel Gompers at one time a member of the A.A.L.L. resigned, repudiating all its words and works. Social Insurance legislation is class legislation and socialistic. The Soviet government of Russia has attempted with a more or less show of success to establish a complete system of social insurance.

The most conspicuous generality which could be deduced from a study of the names of those connected with the management of the American Association for Labor Legislation is the fact that aside from Andrew Furuseth, radical president of the Seamen's Union, probably not one includes in his personal experience a history of having worked continuously for any length of time at manual labor, certainly not Thomas Chadburn, its president, nor Adolph Lewisohn, its treasurer (1923).

There are doubtless many people who have contributed to the support of the American Association for Labor Legislation who are far above the charge of consciously desiring the success of a subversive movement. If we subtract these from the membership and leaders of the organization, there remains a large number wbo are prominently connected with the radical movement and in some instances indirectly with the Communist party of America.

It is still an inexplicable mystery, how the Lusk Committee failed to give this organization due consideration. Among its conspicuous officials are or have been in the past such well-known radicals as Mrs. Raymond Robins, organizer and president of the Women's Trade Union League, which has just been considered and which is an important part of the lawful open machinery of the Communist party of America, and her associates Miss Agnes Nestor and Miss Mary Anderson; the Rev. John Haynes Holmes, the radical pacifist, and his friend and co-worker. Rabbi Stephen S. Wise; Owen Lovejoy, of whom more anon; Miss Lillian Wald, of the Henry Street Settlement known as a member of the interlocking directorate of radical organizations; Miss Jane Addams, famous for her interest in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom; and a host of others of like thought.

In general, there is a mutual sympathy for the objects which this class of organizations desire to attain, an interlocking personnel in the directorates, and programs which dovetail into each other that suggest common inspiration and mutual financial resources. They present the appearance of a united front, and might be deemed the shock-troops of an insinuating army of borers, whose province it is to wedge ignorant inertia aside and make room for advancing communism. To call such organizations "socialistic" as opposed to communistic is in reality a distinction without a difference. These systems differ in degree and not in principle.

Among the papers uncovered by the raid on the convention of the Communist party of America at Bridgman, was one entitled, "Next Task in the Communist party of America", consisting of orders from Moscow, signed by the Executive Committee of the Communist International, Bukharin, Radek, and Kusinen. It is given in full in Appendix F.

The careful reader will be amazed at the progress which this program has already made, not as the result of the open support of the Communist party of America, but as the result of ceaseless propaganda by this type of voluntary organization. The scar resulting from the repercussions of the Russian Bolshevik revolution on American social and political life is already a permanent one. As one glances over the names of those who make up the personnel of these non-communistic radical groups, there will always be found the name of the isolated individual, or group of individuals whose connections and friends may be classed as dubious, or as having associations with those who are known Communists.