32. ACW and ILGWU support revolution
While the top officials of the American Federation of Labor, led by President Samuel Gompers, opposed the Bolshevik revolution, important trade unions hailed the Soviet government and rushed to its defense. Taking the lead in this activity were the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, many of whose members were socialists.
"The sentiment among our people is all one way,” declared Joseph Schlossberg, general secretary of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers. “They are opposed to any interference in Russia’s internal affairs and believe intervention in Siberia or Russia I would spell disaster.
“They are heartily in favor of recognition of the Soviet republic on the part of our government. The interest in Russian affairs among our members is intense. Many of them have been citizens of Russia in the past, and they are familiar with conditions there and know what the revolution means to the great mass of the Russian people.”
Other officers of the Amalgamated, in referring to the enthusiasm for recognition among the membership, cited a resolution for recognition that was passed at the recent convention of the union amidst tremendous enthusiasm. The great demonstration in favor of this resolution on the part of the delegates made it plain that it reflected the sentiment of the 100,000 workers in the organization.
The resolution reads:
“Whereas the Russian people have emancipated themselves from the tyranny of Tsardom and established a free people’s republic, be it resolved, That we hail with joy free Russia and send to her our most fraternal greetings. We realize the tremendous difficulties that are now in the way of the Russian people in the working out of order and national prosperity. Those difficulties are but natural for a great nation just freed from autocracy, freed at a time when the world is in such a state of universal upheaval as the present. We do not wish to enter into a consideration of the merits of the several parties in Russia, but we rejoice in the fact that the Russian nation is free, and are confident that it will successfully work out its own salvation. It is our fervent hope that our own country and all other civilized nations will come to the assistance of free Russia by recognizing the Russian people’s Soviet government, and giving the Russian people all aid in working out their own destinies.”
It was pointed out today that the recent International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union convention also reflected this enthusiasm for the Russian revolution and the formation of a workers’ republic in Russia. An official report unanimously passed at the convention hailed the revolution as “a great event which has had a vital and far-reaching effect upon the fate of human civilization and the progress of the labor movement.” In summing up the progress of the revolution from a bourgeois overturn, “a program of substituting one Romanov for another,” to a real workers’ republic, the report greeted the present regime in Russia as “the first truly democratic Socialist republic.” The report concluded:
“The members of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union will follow the struggles of their brothers in Russia with immense interest and sympathy, not only because many are linked to them by ties of kinship and sentiments, but also because the fate of the first great working-class republic in the world cannot but be a matter of prime concern to organized and progressive workers of all countries.”
- New York Evening Call, 6 June 1918. (The text of the resolution adopted by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers appears in the union’s Documentary History, 1916-1918, 259, and that of the resolution adopted by the ILGWU in Report and Proceedings, Fourteenth Convention of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, Boston, Mass., 20 May to 1 June 1918, 42-43.)
33. The Soviet
The Messenger, a socialist Negro monthly edited by A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen and described as “the only Radical Negro magazine in the world” consistently defended the Bolshevik revolution. The following editorials are typical of its position.
The Soviet is, doubtless, the most hated, the most loved and most misunderstood political institution in the world today. The Russian people love it; the capitalists of all countries hate it. Most people don’t understand it because the channels through which they get their information are controlled by its enemies, the capitalists.
The Soviet government resembles the elements in our American democracy which are the most stable and strong. The Soviet organization rests upon local self-governing bodies, like the famous New England town meetings. These local self-governing bodies are comprised of the peasants and working men of local communities. These local bodies send delegates to the All Russian Assembly of Soviet Delegates, which must meet every three months, sometimes more frequently. This All Russian Assembly of Soviet Delegates, in turn, elects a central executive committee of about 250 members. This executive committee is the legislative body of the Russian people.
This central committee elects what are called “Commissioners of the People,” who are similar to cabinet officers in England, France and Italy and the President and Cabinet officers in the United States. These “Commissioners of the People” are always responsible to the legislative body which has chosen them.
Where, then, is the ground for the cry of disorder and anarchy in Russia? Nothing can be more orderly or more stable in a democracy than this!
Here the representatives of the Russian people are both selected and elected by them. Whereas in all capitalists’ countries the representatives are selected by the capitalists and elected by the people.
Of course, the capitalists maintain that anarchy exists in Russia, because the discarded and discredited Romanovs and their ilk no longer rob, exploit, pillage and plunder 180 millions of Russian peasants.
The ruling class in Germany, England, France and America are in a state of consternation and despair, lest the clock of democracy be striking the high noon of the reign of the ruling class in their countries, too.
Order! Who calls for order in Russia? “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” By order, do we mean a state in which life, property, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are safe? If so, have we order in America, where over 280 Negroes have been lynched since the war began; where free speech, free press and free assemblage no longer exist; where 1,200 IWW miners were torn from their families in Bisbee, Arizona, packed in cattle cars, and deported away into an hapless desert by capitalist thugs and gunmen; where men are being imprisoned because they dare to quote the Declaration of Independence or a passage from the New Freedom by President Woodrow Wilson; where the Supreme Court, by a decision of 5 to 4, declared the child labor law unconstitutional? Can England make a motion in “the Parliament of the world” for order, who has held her heel of oppression upon the neck of Ireland for over 800 years, and whose hand is red and reeking with blood of India and other underdeveloped peoples?
After the revolution of 1789, France was chaotic for years and changed governments constantly and rapidly, swinging from a republic to a monarchy.
Germany only became an organized nation in 1871. The North German Confederacy welded with the sword, the recalcitant duchies, monarchies and principalities into a stable affair. And yet the “Zabern affair” is a fact of common knowledge to every student of world politics.
As for the Negro, neither property, life, liberty nor the pursuit of happiness, which by the way, is only possible by the possession of the former, is secure in the Southern section of these United States.
The Messenger denies the right to every capitalist hypocrite in Christendom to speak to the motion of order on the Soviet of Russia. Long Live the Soviet!
- The Messenger, May-June 1918.
34 Bolshevism and World Democracy
Bolshevism is the Banquo’s ghost to the Macbeth capitalists of the world, whether they inhabit Germany, England, America or Japan. It is a foreword of a true world democracy. The Soviets represent the needs and aims of the masses.
Bolshevism has already defied the imperialist vultures to lay their cards of secret diplomacy on the table of justice before the high court of world opinion. It has led the world in making a concrete application of the principle of self-determination of smaller nationalities.
A sound and just economic, political and social program of reconstruction is gradually being adopted.
Bolshevism is not yet one year old in Russia. Russia is still at war with a great nation, and is virtually without help from her former allies. One hundred and eighty-seven millions of people have been delivered from the autocracy of the Tsar—a people 85 percent of whom are illiterate.
Bolshevism has given these people a new hope, a new promise, anew ideal—economic and political freedom!
Will Bolshevism succeed? The tories of England and America asked same question about the American people after the revolution of 1776. The Bourbons of France doubted the power of the French people to exist without the rule of the aristocracy— after the revolution of 1789. Governments are living organisms which have structure and function and are governed by the laws of growth. Hence, the Russian people must be helped, not hindered; they are still young.
- The Messenger, May-June 1918.
35. New Body Demands Justice for Russia
Announcement is made of the formation of the Russian Soviet Recognition League, an organization formed of individuals and societies interested in securing justice for Russia and aiding in the rehabilitation of that country under the Soviets.
The League will work for the recognition of the Soviet govern ment. It holds that recognition by the United States would speedily result in the establishment of a working understanding between America and the Soviet republic and be the most effective way of combating German penetration in Russia...
Alexander Trachtenberg, editor of the American Labor Year Book, has been chosen temporary chairman... “The idea of the League grew up almost spontaneously," declared Trachtenberg today. “A great demand has arisen, particularly among the Amer icans of Russian blood, and those of Slavic descent generally that an organization be formed to present the case for the Soviets counteract counter-revolutionary propaganda which serves only the interests of Germany, and show the logical reasons for recognition. Virtually all Russian factions in this country, except the reactionaries and Germanophiles, are now united on realizing the need for recognition.”
The League was formed as the result of a number of conferences in which members of various Russian groups in this city took part. Conferences were also held with officers of some of the Russian commissions, now in this country, who were sent here at the beginning of the Kerensky regime. Most of these Russians have refused to follow “Ambassador” Bakhmetev in his counter revolutionary activities, are firmly opposed to the idea of allied intervention in Russia’s internal affairs, and are entirely sympathetic to the idea of recognition of the Soviet government as the only power supported by the Russian people today.
Many well-known Americans interested in the welfare of Russia are interested in the formation of the League. A list of names will be published later.
The big drive engineered by Russian counter-revolutionists and other reactionary forces here to attempt to involve the United States in schemes for intervention in Siberia and the recognition of a “Siberian Republic” to be declared by the Cossack Colonel [Gregori] Semyonev and his handful of yellow battalions, roused Russian sympathizers here to the necessity of forming an organization to present the case of the Russian people. The intervention schemes apparently have collapsed and the friends of democracy in Russia are convinced that the time is ripe to press the case for the recognition of the Soviet Republic.
36. League For Recognition Of Soviets
No impartial student of the Russian conditions can deny the following facts:
The Russian Soviets have the support of the vast majority people. This support is not passive only, as has been asserted by those favoring an allied intervention. The Russian peasants, who constitute an overwhelming majority of the Russian people, are fully conscious of the fact that any force that could overthrow the Soviets would at once proceed to deprive them of the lands which they have expropriated during the revolution. For this reason they are ardently supporting the Soviets. Whether we like it or not, the fact remains that the peasants are bent upon keeping the nationalized land they have Expropriation is an accomplished fact, and the readjustment of the financial disruption caused by the invalidation of land investments must be done on some other basis than the return to the “status quo ante" in Russia.
The Russian Soviet Government earnestly and with apparent success is establishing order and stabilized conditions in Russia.
If assured that the Allies, for the time being at least, will not try at any cost to unmake the social revolution in Russia, the Soviet Government obviously is willing and anxious to enter into friendly relations with the Allies and willing to readjust its foreign relations and its policy in general, in as far as it can be done without destroying the fundamental principle of the Russian revolution, in harmony without the most vital interests of the Allies.
The Soviet Government is wide awake to the necessity of forcible resistance to the German penetration into Russia. However skeptically many persons may seem to regard the efforts of Trotsky to raise a revolutionary army against Germany, the fact remains that such an army is being raised. If the effort is encouraged by sincere support on the part of the Allies, Russia will become a formidable factor in the struggle against German imperialism- even granting that the re-entrance of Russia in the war will take place only in the interest of the revolution.
A great part of the Russian middle class and intellectuals realize that the Soviet Government has come to stay. They are re-entering the service of the Government in ever increasing numbers. The same thing is taking place among Russians in the United States who have been opposed to the Soviets. Only a small number of irreconcilables, mostly those financially affected by the expropriation of land, or their agents, have not yet resigned to their fate, and would be willing to risk hundreds of Allied and Russian lives, as well as the whole future of democracy, if only that they could get back their former possessions.
No close observer of the Russian conditions can deny these facts. They are supported by testimony of most of the Americans who have recently returned from Russia. The Russian and the Scandinavian press bear strong witness to our contentions.
Yet the American press seems to publish reports, which eliminate all bright sides of the Russian situation and do not stop at misrepresentations in order to paint a picture of complete chaos in Russia.
Every friend of Russia, every person interested in justice and truth, everyone who desires the downfall of German imperialism and understands the great role which Russia may play in this, should be interested in bringing the true facts about Russia to the American public. Until the present time sinister interests have flooded the American press with distortions and lies. A bogus “Russian Information Bureau,” run under the auspices of “Ambassador” Bakhmetev in the interests of counter-revolution has been instrumental in spreading this campaign.
The Russian Soviet Recognition League has been organized to conduct meetings, to furnish the press with true reports about the doings of the Soviet Government of Russia, and to urge official recognition of the Soviet Government.
We invite you, members of the Amalgamated, if you are interested in our undertaking and are willing to do your share toward bringing about a better understanding with Russia, to support us in our work, morally and materially. We need your cooperation in every way.
- Advance, 11 June 1918.
37. “Recognize Soviets!” 15,000 Cry
Although the secret plans for Allied intervention in Russia did not come out into the open until August 1918, friends of Soviet Russia worked hard to stave off the planned intervention through mass protest meetings.
"Recognize the Soviet Government of Russia.”
These were the two demands cheered and urged by 15,000 Russian and American Bolshevist sympathizers in Madison Square Garden. The demands were voiced in diverse languages, but all languages are alike when it comes to the words "proletariat" and "revolution." ...
Promptly at 8 o'clock Alexander Trachtenberg, who was exiled from Russia by the Tsar for his part in the revolution of 1905-06, opened the meeting, and after a short address introduced Norman Thomas, who was warmly received. The first big moment in the meeting was reached when Thomas, after reviewing the Russian situation, declared:
“There is only one thing this government can do—recognize the Soviets."
The audience rose as one man, cheering and waving flags, hats and handkerchiefs..."Recognize the Soviets! Recognize the Soveits!" they cried, and that was the keynote of the meeting. Every subsequent speaker made it the “burden of his song,” and even now the cry has reached Washington, and tomorrow it will be heard in every capital in the world. ... So fervid were the appeals and demands made by the speakers and echoed by the cheering mass, that the resolutions urging the recognition of the Soviet government in Russia and the blocking of intervention read by Alexander Trachtenberg, chairman, were almost drowned in a roar of unanimous approval. . . .
The resolutions follow:
"Whereas, the federated republic of Russia and its government of the workers and peasants' Soviets is the only organ of actual governmental authority in Russia in accordance with the will of the millions of Russian toiling masses, and resolutely supported by them;
"Whereas this republic, the guardian and the hope of the loftiest ideals of the toiling masses, is in grave danger of destruction at the hands of German junkers in the West and Japanese and other interventionists in the East;
"Whereas plans of invasion in Siberia, originated with and nursed by reactionary tendencies all over the world, and by representatives of former privileged classes of Russia, can bring nothing but internal confusion in Russia;
“Whereas such an intervention will, by its very logic, lead to further annexations of Russian territory on the part of the German oppressors;
"Whereas intervention will undoubtedly evoke bitter resistance on the part of the Russian people and thus hamper the work of reconstruction and rehabilitation energetically carried on by the Soviet government;
“Whereas intervention would create a gulf of hatred and bitterness between the Russian people and the United States;
“Whereas an invasion would hamper the organized resistance to German militarism, which is being successfully planned and organized by the Soviet government; be it
"Resolved, that we, 15,000 men and women, Americans, Russians, Finns, Lithuanians, Letts, Ukranians, Poles and Esthonians, in a meeting assembled in Madison Square garden in New York urge the government of the United States to recognize the government of the Russian Soviets as the government reflecting the will and the ideals of the Russian people; be it further
“Resolved, that we most emphatically protest against the treacherous campaign in the interest of armed intervention in Russian affairs carried on in the United States by various imperialistic elements of several deposed Tsaristic regimes, and other discredited reactionary elements of Russia. This campaign only plays in the hands of German imperialism, and is supported by enemies of democracy, justice and freedom.”
- New York Evening Call, 12 June 1918.