1912 Socialist Party and Criminal Syndicalism

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Nate
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Mar 25 2007 07:28
1912 Socialist Party and Criminal Syndicalism

So in 1912 the Socialist Party of America changes its constitution to say basically "syndicalists, out!" I've read different things commenting on the irony of this, as the state had yet to criminalize syndicalist doctrine. I can't remember where but I saw a remark some place saying that the language used in Article II Section 6 of the SPA constitution, the part which says no syndicalists, had some influence or was at least very close to the language later adopted in criminal syndicalism laws in the U.S. Anyone got a reference on that? I'm more interested in stuff that makes a case for as direct an influence as possible than I am in stuff that says "this was an ideological precursor." Thanks.

syndicalist
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Mar 25 2007 12:54

i have a vauge recollection of this being discussed at length--that is the 1912 convention--- in "The American Socialist Movement 1897-1912" by Ira Kipnis.
I'm off to work now, so I don't know if this exists on-line. I'll see if I can dust off my book later. James Weinstein discussed SP attitutdes towards trade unions, the IWW and so forth in his "The Decline of Socialism In America, 1912-1925".

Nate see the following link---which I haven't in ages----to see if there's anything of substance: http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/eam/spa/socialistparty.html

Gotta run.

David in Atlanta
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Mar 31 2007 17:10

all the marxists.org site has from the 1912 convention is a list of delegates, includiing two from Georgia, ( I wonder what their story was?) and a few conference reports from the language federations .

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Mar 31 2007 22:41

The problem at the 1912 era was that the IWW wing of the SPA embraised sabotage (rather than syndicalism per se) at the same time as the McNamara Bros were arrested for dynamiting the LA Times Newspaper Building. This was a deeply troubling time in the left in the US. The SPA had just won it's largest total votes for President, held many offices across the country, etc. It had become a major power in the US.

The McNamara Bros. were organizers/officials for the Iron Workers Union and the Iron Workers were practicing what the IWW hard core were only dreaming about. The Ironworkers policy was simple, if it's built without union labor, blow it up. The last straw was when the Brothers blew up the LA times building because the editor was anti-union.The problem was they killed a couple dozen typesetters in the process. They pled not-guilty and their case became a cause celbre in the left, with the IWW, Debs, left wing ofthe SPA and Darrow taking front and center stand in defense of the Bros. The problem was late in the trial the brothers admitted guilt and that totally discredited the Left (pro-IWW wing) of the SPA. Because it tied into the period when Big Bill and Ralph Chaplin had taken it upon the IWW to advocate sabotage, the right-SPA elements (Hillquit, etal) were able to expell Haywood, St. John and the other left-wing elements.

This is an important event time in US working class history.

* The thoughtless advocacy of sabotage by the left-wing/IWW handed their enemies a handy stick to beat us to this day. I once tracked down quotes from all the major IWWs of that period saying the advocacy of sabotage was one of the worst mistakes they ever made. Hence the black cat on the "First 100 years". Make mistake, retreat from it, ignore, repeat.

^ The AFL (of whom the Iron workers were a major union) was severely injured from the McNamara Bros. case. The AFL wound up backing away from member militancy, instead hiring out to the mob. That's how the AFL started getting mobbed up and toned down.

syndicalist
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Apr 1 2007 01:02

Thanks David....I meant to paste the download page:
http://www.marxists.org/subject/usa/eam/spadownloads.html

See 1913 for some of the back and forth within the SP on this question.

pgh2a
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Apr 1 2007 05:25

I do not think it was "thoughtless advocacy" of sabotage, as tsiatko states. Rather, it was that the union did not soon enough and thoroughly enough state that by "sabotage" it did not mean violence, but rather withdrawal of efficiency, creative job actions, etc.

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fnbrill
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Apr 1 2007 08:02
pghwob wrote:
I do not think it was "thoughtless advocacy" of sabotage, as tsiatko states. Rather, it was that the union did not soon enough and thoroughly enough state that by "sabotage" it did not mean violence, but rather withdrawal of efficiency, creative job actions, etc.

I would posit that if the term you use is widely mis-understood your tactic probably didn't have much thought put into it.

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Apr 1 2007 08:05

BTW: Going through histories this evening reminded me of where and how the criminal syndicalism statutes arose. US states were inspired by the repressive laws in Canada and Australia used against the IWW, starting with the on-set of WW1 in 1914.

petey
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Apr 1 2007 14:44
tsiatko wrote:
The thoughtless advocacy of sabotage by the left-wing/IWW handed their enemies a handy stick to beat us to this day. I once tracked down quotes from all the major IWWs of that period saying the advocacy of sabotage was one of the worst mistakes they ever made. Hence the black cat on the "First 100 years". Make mistake, retreat from it, ignore, repeat.

yup.
i take phgwob's point, but "rulebook slowdown" is a valid descriptor, and nobody starts screaming "violence" when they hear it, as happens with 'sabotage'.
on which: did earthfirst really put nails in trees?

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fnbrill
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Apr 1 2007 15:51
newyawka wrote:
on which: did earthfirst really put nails in trees?

Yes. I participated in the negotiations which ended Tree Spiking on the West coast. EFers were so naive they thought that Mill Owners would really care about the safety of their enployees. instead EF pushed the mill workers and fallers into the hands of the bosses.

petey
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Apr 1 2007 16:04

it makes me sick.