‘The Finnish Section of the Workers Party’ by Henry Puro from the Daily Worker Saturday Supplement. Vol. 2 No. 249. October 31, 1925.
In order to understand the necessity of reorganization of our party, we must examine the past relations of the party and its various language sections.
The Finnish section being the largest language section of our party, is presenting the most typical picture about these relations. We now turn our examination principally toward the relations of the Finnish section and the party. The organizational structure of our party, founded on the federation form, is such that we find in it parties in the party, each having its own autonomy and each one living its own separate life.
In many localities the relations between various branches is such that joint membership meetings have been held very rarely if at all. So far as the holding of meetings have been attempted it has been found that members of the language branches have not been willing to take part. This is especially true as far as the Finnish members are concerned. Not only have we had difficulties to have language branch members take part in joint membership meetings but we have had very much difficulty in getting members to attend general mass meetings of the party organizations.
The various city central committees have had difficulties in getting a full quota of delegates from the Finnish branches. We have found very few comrades who were willing to take active part in city central committee activities. When some comrades, in different localities, have tried to remedy this deplorable condition general excuses have been offered; for example, the inability to speak the English language. But language difficulties are not real reasons to prevent comrades from taking an active part along with other comrades speaking different languages. The real reasons are a lack of interest and enthusiasm to take an active part in our party work.
The results so these relations have been that our party has been unable to mobilize the whole membership into action, even in its most important campaigns. This is why our party work, compared to its membership, has been comparatively weak.
The fault of these conditions is not, however, solely of the language section membership. Besides the organizational reasons which will now be abolished by the reorganization, there are other reasons. First, on the part of our party leaders. Our party leaders have not approached the membership of the language sections in the proper manner and have not tried to draw them closer to the work party and to its campaigns and activities.
The language section members have been left to take care of themselves and to work their own way. Not even in the big centers of the party have the members of the language sections known more than two or three leaders of the party and have seen the latter only once or twice a year when they have come to address in the big mass meetings. Only during the last few months leading comrades of the party have written articles to the language section press explaining our party viewpoints to members of the language sections.
Even the ideological contact has been very limited and incidental. The party leaders have not had actual and direct contact with the membership of the language sections, and only very few district organizers have been paying occasional visits to the language branch The very fact that party leaders have not had direct contact with the membership of the various language sections, not even with leading comrades, is a potent reason for these sections being so separated from each other. That is why the mobilization of the membership of the party for action has rarely been successful.
But the leading comrades are as much and as seriously responsible for this condition. We have lived and acted in language sections as if they were autonomous republics, which have only foreign relations with the party. We have felt that it is not our duty to acquaint ourselves and become an integral part of the party. In our meetings, we have discussed mainly our social and entertainment affairs. Sociological, political and party discussions have become minor matters and often have been left out altogether from the order of business of the branch meetings. And to the extent that we have discussed party matters, we have done that at the end of the meetings, when the greater part of the members had already left meetings. Our Finnish district committees have had only in casual cases contact with the party district committees, not to speak of having continual relations.
We have spent so much of our time and energy for the maintenance of our halls and social affairs that our part, in various campaigns’ of the party has been very insignificant. Even in the financial campaigns where we have considered ourselves as the leaders, the Finnish section membership has often taken small part compared to its membership strength. In the Soviet Russia and DAILY WORKER foundation campaign in which we took conspicuous part, we were not able to fill our quota. It is true that many comrades and many branches distinguished themselves in these campaigns, but in proportion to our big membership we were not able to do our share in the campaign to organize The DAILY WORKER. Some other language sections, especially the South Slavic section, did better. In the Labor Defense campaign we have been trying to do our share.
But in the political campaigns of the party and also in the trade union activities the membership of the Finnish section has been very indifferent, and has been taking a very small part in spite of the fact that these activities constitute the main work of the party. Indifference to these most important activities of the Communist party is in itself a living example of how we have been ideologically! As well as in action, fully in accord with social-democratic indifference and inactiveness.
Federation autonomy is deeply rooted in our membership. They look upon a party campaign as if it did not concern them. Of course there are many exceptions. There are localities and branches where our Finnish comrades are in close contact with the party organs, but the general situation is as above mentioned.
Responsibility for the existence of this condition of affairs falls upon the leading comrades of the language sections. I will quote a letter from a certain well-known comrade of the New York district, which he sent me the other day. After making a reorganization tour thruout the district, he writes the following:
“I met so much hesitation and faltering among the membership that the situation looks much more gloomy than I expected. We have been too negligent since we left the socialist party. We have not emphasized enuf in our propaganda in our press and, speeches the necessity for the Communist organization forms and activities. And now when we have to start to build up a Communist form of organization and to get more clearness of the ideological views of the party we find the masses, that have been under our influence and who should now become the best elements of our party, unripe. Even those comrades whom we have considered the vanguard of our federation, we find hesitating and faltering; not to speak of the masses who have been with us only for social purposes.” This same comrade writes that in his second meeting in the New York Finnish branch, when he was elaborating such an important question as the resolutions and proceedings of the national convention of our party and also the question of reorganization, only twelve people were attending, although the New York branch has a membership of about 400.”
Comrades, this letter speaks a serious language about the situation we now find ourselves in. It shows to us, as this comrade rightly admits, how seriously we have neglected the Communist education of our membership. The more cheerful phase of this letter is that the writer realizes the situation and admits it openly. To that extent we admit our negligence we are able to remedy it. A serious struggle, however, is bound to rise from the fact that too many leading comrades are not willing to admit our negligence and errors. On the contrary, in their words they as much as confess that something has been neglected, but in their deeds they hold tight to their former methods and viewpoints, and are trying to make the members believe that those comrades who are now demanding a fundamental remedy, are disturbers. For personal motives they want to interrupt the peace in the Finnish federation and to sow discord.
However if the situation does not, in the light of foregoing analysis, look very bright, there is no need to be pessimistic, as far as the relation of the Finnish members toward our party is concerned. If we become pessimistic towards the working masses we might as well cease to believe and speak about the coming proletarian revolution. It would also be a wrong idea to believe that the Finnish workers are naturally conservatives. Among our Finnish members there are excellent proletarian elements whom our party must and can win to the American proletarian revolutionary party, by approaching them in the proper manner, making clear to them the purpose of the Communist Party and the duties of its members. We must abolish the present federation form of organization and build our party on the basis of shop nuclei. This new form of organization tears away the national division lines and at the same time makes possible the unification of the ideological views of the whole membership.
This same condition that now exists between the Finnish section and our party, also exists more or less between other language sections and the Workers Party.
In the next article I will deal with the question of how our party can win over in this crisis of Bolshevization and reorganization the Finnish and other national proletarian elements in this country. I consider It necessary to put the whole situation as it exists before our entire party. That is a proper approach to correcting the errors we have made and to remedy the present situation.
The Daily Worker Saturday Supplement, later changed to a Sunday Supplement, of the Daily Worker was a place for longer articles with debate, international focus, literature, and documents presented. The Daily Worker began in 1924 and was published in New York City by the Communist Party US and its predecessor organizations. Among the most long-lasting and important left publications in US history, it had a circulation of 35,000 at its peak. The Daily Worker came from The Ohio Socialist, published by the Left Wing-dominated Socialist Party of Ohio in Cleveland from 1917 to November 1919, when it became became The Toiler, paper of the Communist Labor Party. In December 1921 the above-ground Workers Party of America merged the Toiler with the paper Workers Council to found The Worker, which became The Daily Worker beginning January 13, 1924.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/dailyworker/1925/1925-nat/v02b-n249-oct-31-sat-sup-Chi-1925-DW-mfilm.pdf