Among his roles, for many years Karl Liebknecht was the patron of Communist youth with the anniversary of his martyrdom commemorated as ‘Liebknecht Day’ in the first decade of the Communist movement. Here, the Young Workers League reports on 1923’s events from San Francisco, New York, Gary, Chicago, Providence, Kansas City, St. Louis, Monessen, Bethlehem, Los Angeles, Seattle, and other locations.
‘What the Leagues Did on Liebknecht Day’ from Young Worker. Vol. 2 No. 3. March, 1923.
LIEBKNECHT Day in the United States and Canada was a tremendous success. Anybody who attended one of the many meetings arranged all over the country will tell you that. The young comrades were praised again and again by the older workers in the movement for the pep showed both in arranging and at the meetings. Most of the literature gotten out was sold. 5,000 copies of the Young Worker; 5,000 Liebknecht buttons; 3,000 Liebknecht booklets as well as other reading matter. Thousands of young people were reached and the message of the revolutionary youth given to them.
It is the opinion of the writer that the San Francisco branch of the Y.W.L. (though it did not hold the largest meeting) merits first mention. We will let the organizer of that branch, Harold Coy, speak:
“The meeting was opened by the singing of the “Internationale.” Louise Todd, Secretary of the Branch, who acted as a chairman, gave a short introductory talk on the condition of the proletarian youth of America and an outline of the work of the Y.W.L. Inasmuch as she will probably be too modest to give herself due credit when she reports the meeting, I think I should tell you her talk was excellent, in fact so much better than my own, that I regretted that she had not been made the main speaker of the evening.
“A couple of musical numbers, the music furnished by Frank Weitzel, Rosalie Todd, and Louise Todd, all of the S.F., Y.W.L., were offered.
“I gave the first speech, outlining the outstanding events of Liebknecht’s life, particularly in regard to his anti-war campaign, his relation to the German Social Democratic Party, and the Spartacan uprising of 1919. I realize that I was never meant for a silver-tongued Demosthenes, but the audience received my humble effort very kindly.
“Dick Reeve, former educational director of the Los Angeles Y.W.L. gave a splendid talk on the lessons of Liebknecht’s life, and went into the revolutionary youth movement of the world in some detail. Had it not been for his co-operation, it would have fallen upon me to have delivered a lecture covering an entire hour, and I am sure that would not have been conducive to the well-being of the Frisco League.
“The big hit of the evening proved to be our original one-act farce, of which you have a copy, “Risen From the Ranks, or From, Office Boy to President: A Melodrama of Capitalist Success.” I think I can truthfully say that it was little less than a sensation. The audience was kept in a continual uproar, and the applause was prolonged and oft-repeated enthusiastic congratulations were showered on us from every side after the meeting, and the older folks in the W.P., inspired by our success, are already planning a farce of their own, to be given at a later date. If our respective egoes have not been swelled to incredible dimensions, it can only be due to our deeply ingrained modesty, for since the play we have had the honor of being waited on by a committee bearing invitations to the cast to attend a masquerade ball in costume, and that a couple of those in the audience are urging organization with which they have been connected in Los Angeles and in Australia to offer the play. I think its success can be explained in the fact that propaganda when offered in the form of humor, or satire, holds the attention of the audience so closely, that the lessons drawn are much more effective. In my limited experience in labor journalism, I have learned that a cartoon will convey a propaganda message much more effectively than will a profound dissertation occupying the same amount of space.”
New York Has Monster Liebknecht Day Meet.
In New York the young comrades were busy in arrangements and were successful in getting the Freiheit (Jewish Daily) and the Volks-Zeitung (German Daily) as well as the Worker to run advertisements on their meeting. Over 1,200 people attended; and as for an array of speakers New York had them all beat. There was Ludwig Lore, editor of the Volks-Zeitung; Louis Engdahl, editor of the Worker; C.E. Ruthenberg, secretary of the Workers’ Party; A. Bittleman, C.E.C. member of the Workers’ Party, and E. Elston, member of the Young Workers League.
Comrade Adam Hoffman, who is responsible to a large measure for the success of the Bethlehem, Pa. branch of the Y.W.L., reports that bad weather conditions prevented a large meeting. Three hundred attended the meeting in Seattle. John Kennedy of the Seattle Labor College was the main speaker. Says the secretary of the Y.W.L. there: “The meeting was well attended and enthusiastic. Everyone said it was one of the best radical meetings in months.” Boston had 100 present. A general membership meeting was addressed by L. Marks and H.J. Cantor.
Max Salzman Speaks at Kansas City.
Max Salzman, member of the N.E.C., was the main speaker at the Liebknecht Day celebration in Kansas City. Due to the thorough advertising campaign carried on by Comrade Barney Mass, a large audience was present. Milwaukee held a fair meeting. “Due to the fact that many of our comrades have returned to school,” writes Julia Schulner, “our organization has been somewhat handicapped.”
St. Louis held its Liebknecht meeting at the Labor Lyceum. Comrade Salzman was the main speaker at this meeting.
Chicago Hall too Small for Crowd.
“The hall was not large enough, and many were turned away,” says Robert Garver, city organizer of the Chicago Central of the Y.W.L. A collection of $31.66 was taken for the Labor Defense. John Edwards, fraternal delegate to the Y.C.I. spoke at this meeting; also Earl Browder, associate editor of the Labor Herald. A small meeting was held in Racine, Wisconsin.
Astoria, Oregon, Makes Good Showing.
The Finnish comrades in Astoria, were on the job and arranged a Liebknecht day celebration that was well taken. Both English and Finnish literature was sold.
Harold R. John of the Workers Party conducted the Liebknecht day meeting in Reading, Pa.
Browder Speaks in Gary.
Right in the heart of reaction our young comrades had Liebknecht Day demonstration that was very well attended. Two speakers from Chicago addressed the meeting, Earl Browder and A.D. Albright. A collection of $14.00 was taken for Labor Defense.
In Providence, R. I., though recently re-organized, the Y.W.L. carried through a good Liebknecht Day Mass meeting. “In order to have a larger and better meeting,” writes Ralph Kominsky, “the Y.W.L. cooperated with the Swedish branch of the Workers Party and held one large meeting at the headquarters of the Swedish branch.”
A.J. Murphy Reports for Monessen, Pa.
The Monessen branch of the Y.W.L. of A. held a very successful Memorial meeting in memory of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht Sunday Jan. 21st. The meeting was called to order promptly at two fifteen p.m. by Comrade A. J. Murphy, acting as chairman. The first number on the program was singing the International by entire audience. Second number of the program was an orchestra selection by the Y.W.L. Orchestra which was very well rendered and appreciated by the audience, third number of the program was a reading in memory of Karl Liebknecht by comrade Lula Nieminen which was very appropriate for the occasion, fourth number on the program was comrade Helen Murphy of the Daisytown branch, Y.W.L. who very ably addressed the audience on the Life of Karl Liebknecht pointing out the good work Liebknecht accomplished in behalf of the working class of Germany and the Youth of the World. This address was listened to very attentively by the audience and appreciated very much which they showed by their applause. Fifth number of the program was a vocal solo by comrade Gus Sederholm, which was very nicely rendered. Sixth number of the program was a talk on the Memorial Booklet by comrade A.J. Murphy, while the comrades Carrie and Aune Maki passed among the audience and sold the booklets.
There were many other interesting numbers on their program.
Los Angeles Growing Better.
The program was as follows: Comrade Wm. Schneiderman, chairman. 1: singing of the International, 2: talk by chairman on the activities of the Y.W.L. and the activities the European Young Communists, 3: piano solo by comrade Gordon, Y.W.L., 4: dramatic number by comrade Goldberg, Y.W.L., 5: talk by comrade Levin, W.P., sec. on Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, followed by a talk for the collection. The program was very interesting. By the way this all took place a Sunday Evening, Jan. 21, in a small hall, as we did not anticipate a large audience.
Perhaps this is a small showing in comparison with the mass meetings of your Eastern cities, but I can happily state if the Y.W.L. of Los Angeles can draw such an audience when they are unanticipating it they will be able to do much better later on.
The Young Worker was produced by the Young Workers League of America beginning in 1922. The name of the Workers Party youth league followed the name of the adult party, changing to the Young Workers (Communist) League when the Workers Party became the Workers (Communist) Party in 1926. The journal was published monthly in Chicago and continued until 1927. Editors included Oliver Carlson, Martin Abern, Max Schachtman, Nat Kaplan, and Harry Gannes.
For PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/youngworker/v2n3-mar-1923-yw-G-LB.pdf