The New York Connwnlst. Chicago Turns to the Left By Ferguson, in The Revolutionary Age FINHE Cook County Convention of May 17 18 re sulted in a clean sweep for. the Left Wing. was more than a test of strength of the local. pposing elements, yet even in this limited sense. his convention would be of high national significance, because the Left Wing conquest of Chicago is the best possible proof of the Left Wing conquest of the whole American Party wanting only another half year of conventions and elections to record itself in terms of a new Party olbcialdom and a new orientation in the Party policies and tactics. 1) This Convention was a lzft Wing victory on the basis of what is perhaps the most carefully and completely elaborated statement. interms of platform and rfiolutions. of the left Wing movement in this country. 2) This Convention meant a decisive conquest of a local Party unit of over 6500 members; a victory so conscious of its own purposes and so definitely organized that it can make rapid gains from day to day. 3) Finally, this convention victory will at once be translated into a new control of Local Cook County on the firm basis of revolutionary Socialism Those are confident claims, but need no argument beyond the textual and mathematical facts which they generalize. At this time the secretarial work has not been completed which will provide the details of the platform and resolutions adopted, but those who recall the program published by the Chicago Communist Propaganda League four or five months ago, to which has been added all available circumstances in the interim, will realize that there wu through preparation for this Convention so far as the questions of Party principles and tactics are concerned. Postponing this part of the re rt to a future article. it need only be said now at an Amuican Socialist Party on the basis of the new Cook County program would find itself in complete unity with the Communist International and with the revolutionary proletariat of the United Statas. Chicago left Wing victory takes special significance not only from the importance of the local itself, and the industrial territory tributary to Chicago, but also from the fact that this is the headquarters of the old Party regime The Chicago movement has never had distinctive local character, because its leadership has been tinged with the Party officialdom coming from all over the country.
But the point to be emphasized is the organized character of this Left Wing victory. To the Right Wingers and Centrists this was the mystifying and annoying circumstance. They could understand lots of more or less aimlea talking and more or less confused voting, but the sight of a solid left phalanx of about 400 votes out of some 650 solid, fairly uniform vote, going with a definite, clear cut program. carefully discussed and criticised for weeks ahead, that was not their idea of a Socialist convention.
The first and perhaps the clearest test vote came with the election of the Resolutions Committee, after Comrade William Brass Lloyd had easily been seated as Chairman as the left Wing candidate.
The highest vote for one of the official family as candidate for the Resolutions Committee was 177; one of the most popular Socialists in Chicago, who has failed to make clear his understanding of and alignmrnl on the issues before the Party and may therefore be characterized at the moment as Centrist, received 236 votes; while the five left Wing candidates averaged close to 400 votes, the high vote going to 448.
The representative character of this Convmtion is evident from the large number of delegates and the high attendance, the basis of representation being delegate to 10 members. The general issues to come before the Convention had beat discussed more or less thoroughly in something like 50 branches, so there was nothing here in the nature of surprise or hasty judgment. The main portions of the resolutions had beenpublished in the Chicago Socialist two weeks before the Convention, and a series of debates had been staged between representatives of the opposing camps.
The Left Wing movement in Chicago, taking its theoretical initiative in the work of the Communist Propaganda League, had assumed definite organization character in about two dozen of the most important branch units of the city. Under the able and aggressive leadership of Comrade Alexander Stoklitsky, now acting as Translator Secretary for the Russian Federation, the Russian speaking branches have received intensive education in the principles of revolutionary Socialism. The Lithuanian Translator Secretary, Comrade Stilson, the lettish Secretary, Comrade Purin, the Hungarian Secretary, Comrade Frankel, and many others in the language groups have «so operated ably in a dual educationahorganization campaign, which showed its results at the Cook County Convention, and is bound within a few months to compel a clear alignment of the American Party with the Communist international, Some of the fundamental snobbery and narrow nationalism of the Right Wingers displayed itself in clumsily indirect insinuations about the alien character of the Left Wing while over protesting their own adherence to Socialist internationalism!
This much detail is given to emphasize the organized character of the Chicago Left Wing strength.
There is not a branch in the city or country without left Wing adherents, but the assured control lies in the two dozen or more branches which stand as units on a well defined rogram of revolutionary Socialism. This control as already reflected itself sufficiently in the county organization to assure the Left Wing of the fruits of its victory in relation to the local Party press and other official activities.
On the other hand the demoralization of the politician element displayed itself in an almost ludicrous bolting of the Convention during its second session. The Napoleon of the exodus, which took about of the Convention, certainly loss than 10. was our quite amiable Comrade Seymour Stedman, who momentarily forgot his responsibility as one of the National Executive Committee and forgot to use his own better judgment. This handful of delegates, who had been insistent for a half a year that somebody was trying to split the Party, when faced with the realisation that the Party was reorganized right under their eyes, without a mun mur about u sweesion, decided to prove that there was. finite to split the Party by trying a little splitting on their own account.
The Convention went through its three sessions of May 18th without a word of curiosity about the boilers, and with relief from their silly tactics of time killing and obstruction. The opposition to the Left Wing expressed itself in debate and questioning; and the opportunity for real discuuion was never cut off by the left Wing. About all the writer heard of the bolters was that they started a meeting in a nearby ball, but soon came to the conclusion that no one knew what they wanted to do. It was quite apparent that all wept the most conspicuous figures finally found their way back to the Convention.
Only Stednun is named from among the little band of bolters because the writer is confidutt that Stedmen regrettedhis excited action within an hour after the secession; and this typifies the Convention split as not at all a forecast of any ru tnre in the local organization. Stedman absolute y realized at the opening of the Convention that the Left Wing had a solid two thirds vote, which would have easily increased at once if the fight bad hem made on principles, indeed of through shar ing lines by dilatory jockeying which compe led a seemingly harsh offensive on the part of the left Wing. If an ing further is heard of Partyspliting in Chicago, Stedman and his dozen or so of official lieutenants will stand convicted of a precalculated design toward that end; at least, the deliberate raising of the vanity of personal opinion, or lack of basis for intelligent opinion, above the level of devotion to the Socialist movemait.
So much concerning the mechanics and history of this important Convention. Its contributions toward the working out of the new character of the American Socialist movement, in terms of program.
tactics, and questions of arty organization will tactics. and questions of Barty organization will One comment is made now to counter the imression of an organized vote as indicating a folow the leader Convention, all rehearsed in advance. As emphasized above, the main Party issues had been thoroughly discussed in advance and the results reduced to definite form, but without prompting or even the cooperation of those eonspicious. on the floor for the Left Wing. there were resolutions introduced touching every instant roletarian fight of revolutionary significance. The comrades abroad and our own class war comradu in the jails, the strikers of Lawrence and Winnipeg. and the fighting the revolutionary proletarians everywhere were recognirnd in kinship in that Convention in the most convincingly genuine way that the writer has ever in any Socialist gathering. And it is this spontaneous sensitiveness to the world fight of the rising proletariat the consciourAmerican proletarians which is e vitality of the revolutionary Socialist movement in the United Stats. Regular Party Channels a few glaring examples of the dancer Icy with which our Party machine works, by; t; cite you the following: am a member of the 5th of Bronx. Local Bronx submitted to its membership a resolution to affiliate with the Left Wing Section and a resolution by counter resolutionists (1 had almost written counter revolutionists. At the last meeting of the 5th which was held on May 27th, discussion and voting on these two resolutions was the special order of business. The Branch had decided that Branch member!
be given preference in the matter of discussion, and that outsiders would only be permitted to take the floor after the last Branch member who wished to discuss 1his matter had spoken. At about 10 Comrade Cook, the State Secretary, Comrade Anna Stem, the Local Secretary and a half dozen or more Right Winger: entered our club rooms. Comrade Cook stated to the chairman that be had a very important report to make which would be supplemented by the Executive Secretary of the Local. We stopped the discussion and gave him the flmr. After stating his intention to be fair to both sides in the matter, he produced certain ballots of left Wing Branches on the National Referendums, which he claimed were fraudulent, the evidence being that several of them were in the handwriting of the same individual, thAt certain foreign language Branches had voted en bloc for certain candidates, and that certain ballots had vote crossed out for certain individuals and others substituted. The local Socretary reported practically to the same effect. It is to be noted that neither the State Secretary nor the Local Secretary had ever before up at the Branches to report, and that the evi ent intuit of these reports was to prejudice the membership against the Left Wing at the very moment when they were about to vote on the Left Wing resolution. No questions, however, were per mi to be asked of either the State or Local Secretaries, and after making their so called reports, they doparted their several ways.
The next day the State Secretary called me up on the wire and asked me bow the vote stood on the Left Wing resolution; incidmtally he was interested to find out how our Branch took his revelations of fraud and forgery. explained to him that as far as was concerned, his evidence did not impress me at all; that anyone familiar with Party affairs knows or should have known thht the foreign language Branches generally vote as a unit, and that, being illiterate, the Secretary or some other literate member generally marks and signs the ballots for them. He confessed that he was ignorant of this fact, but that when he had shown several of the ballots which appeared to him to he sits icious to prominent Socialists, they immediate y yelled fraud and forgery. He admitted to me that he had not investigated a ringle suspicinus can to ascertain whether or not there was really fraud or forgery, but nevertheless be was not going to count or oonsida the vote of any Branch or Loul which a peared to him to be fraudulut.
Subsequently had boat informed by sevual prominent member of Loud Bronx. that all those Branches in which the votes on the left Wing molution predominated over the votes on the Right Wing resolution, would be diner mined and to organized so as to include none but loyal munLut night, when appeared at the local haulquarters to attend the Right Wing caucus in response to their invitation, sought confirmation of the fact that those Branches where the left resolution carried a majority would be di ol and reorganized, from the local Summary. She stated that Ihe believed that to be the fact, but referred me to the State Secretary. This mornin called u the State Secretary on the phone informed imthatlhsdbumrefmedtohimfor information; that our Branch mans tonight, and that before banding in our ballots we wanted to know whether we would he pat lined for voting on a referendum submitted to us, not in aoeordlnoe with the wishes or desires of the pom that be.
He refused to definitely Isle his position or the position of the state ofioe in the matter, and referradmetotheLon However, lu stated his opinion to be that a Brand: who Mich ityltaduotedin woroldnlaft Wingmolutiowould be dissolved.
June 1919. Burn Roan