This outstanding overview of The Appeal to Reason, written by Tim Davenport, was originally published in Big Blue Newsletter No. 3 (2004 Q-III). It has been republished here with the kind permission of the author. All credit, rights and copyright belong to him.
By Tim Davenport
The American socialist movement as an organized political force dates to the years immediately following the American Civil War. The emergence of modern industry and a tidal wave of economic growth associated with rapid expansion of the nation's railways quickly altered the American economy from one based in small-scale agriculture to one revolving around large-scale factory production. As mining, steel production, railway construction, and the manufacture of textiles expanded, so too did the pool of industrial workers needed for those enterprises to function. America was a land not only of open spaces, but of labor shortage as well, and it was new immigrants to the country from overpopulated and impoverished sections of Europe who filled the gap.
Many of these laborers and factory hands came to the new world with few financial resources. These new arrivals found themselves forced to take whatever pittance was offered for long hours of toil in unpleasant factories and workshops. The problems of early American industrialism were obvious and onerous: a working day running to twelve hours or more, grueling employment of very young children in mines and factories without protection or supervision, dismal wage rates and no job security, overcrowded and poorly ventilated housing clustered in dismal urban slums with poor sanitation and rampant disease.
Amidst this great suffering of the urban poor, the owners of the mines, mills, and railways began to amass enormous fortunes. Industries rocketed forward and strong firms swallowed their weaker competitors, forming mighty enterprises. These giant survivors aligned with one another as industrial trusts, fixing prices and forcing up profits. This festival of avarice would be interrupted every few years by a financial "panic" - banks would close, factories would be shuttered, unemployment would skyrocket, and the already miserable lot of the working poor would become still worse. The idea that there was a fundamental deficiency in the structure of the American economy sprouted in this fertile soil. A left-wing labor movement emerged, dedicated to exposing the glaring evils of the system and proposing solutions.
Socialism - the notion of state ownership and public control of productive capital - came to be one of the most powerful political ideas by the last quarter of the 19th Century. The socialist reorganization of society was viewed in an almost millennial light, a simple and universal solution to poverty, inequity, and injustice of all sorts. This prescription for fundamental change spawned a socialist political movement and a closely associated socialist press. The most successful of these socialist periodicals was a newspaper published in Girard, Kansas, a small town in the eastern part of the state, called The Appeal to Reason.
The story of The Appeal to Reason and how it arrived in Kansas is inseparably bound to the biography of its publisher, Julius Augustus Wayland. J.A. Wayland was born on April 26, 1854, the youngest of seven children of a midwestern grocer and his wife, part of a family with roots dating back to the days of the American Revolution. Just four months after J.A. was born a cholera epidemic swept his hometown of Versailles, Indiana, killing his father and two siblings. Hard times followed, and the Wayland family soon lost the grocery store that provided its financial support. Wayland's mother, who never remarried, became the primary provider for the family, doing laundry and needlework to make ends meet. Little "Brookey," as J.A. was called in his youth, was forced by circumstances to take on a series of small jobs to supplement the meager family income, ending his academic career after a mere two years of school. In 1869, the 15 year old Brookey was apprenticed to the printing trade, where he worked as a "rolling boy" on the weekly Versailles Gazette for $2 a week. Inside the publishing office Brookey saw a vision of his future, and he soon worked his way into the job of designing pages and setting type - a skill which remained an important aspect of his life for the rest of his days.1
After a few years in the printing business, Wayland and a friend managed to scrape together enough money to purchase the operation from the owner of the Versailles Index. Security on their promissory note provided by important Republican Party political figures in town, who sought a newspaper amenable to their political interests.2 The paper was promptly renamed the Ripley Index and was run with a careful eye to the bottom line, enabling the publication to survive the protracted Great Panic of 1873. It is unfortunate that no copies of this publication are known to exist today.3
By 1877 the 23 year old J.A. Wayland was debt free and had additionally managed to save a nest-egg of $1000. He married a local girl from Osgood, Indiana, Etta Bevan, and packed up and moved west. The Waylands landed in Harrisonville, Missouri, a town about 30 miles south of Kansas City, very near the Kansas border, selected because Mrs. Wayland had relatives living there. The young and ambitious J.A. Wayland was soon named local postmaster, a political appointee of the new Republican administration in Washington, DC. At the same time, Wayland went together with brothers-in-law Charley and Harry Bevan to purchase the Cass County Courier - a staunch Democratic Party organ in a largely Democratic town in the Democratic state of Missouri. The young Republican editor Wayland wasted no time in immediately - and opportunistically - reassuring his readers that the Courier would remain partisan, lending "steady, unremitting service to the principles of the Democratic Party."4
This chameleon-like reversal proved short-lived. Later in 1878 local Republican leaders approached Wayland about starting a Republican paper and Wayland ended his association with the Democratic Courier in order to launch the competing Cass County News. It took this new Republican paper a year to gain 500 subscribers and two years to approach 1,000. After three years paddling against the stream in Missouri, Wayland gave up the battle. He resigned his postmastership, sold his newspaper operation, and returned home to the more friendly environs of Indiana - taking with him his first child, Jon Garfield Wayland, named after the Republican President-elect.5
Following another brief publishing interlude allowing him to bankroll several thousand dollars more dollars, the enterprising J.A. Wayland and his family again moved west, this time landing in Pueblo, Colorado, their home for the next decade. The Wayland family arrived in the Spring of 1882, just in time to capitalize on the town's explosive growth, with the town growing from 3500 to 35,000 over the next ten years. Wayland worked as a job printer in this rapidly expanding mining community, gaining renown (and paying customers) as the populist proprietor of the "one-hoss print shop."6 Despite this plebeian moniker for his printing business, J.A. Wayland - a man controlling a relatively healthy stack of chips in a town in which money was in short supply - was a major real estate speculator during this time, amassing a small fortune buying and selling property in booming downtown Pueblo.
In spite of his personal prosperity, as the decade of the 1890s began, J.A. Wayland began to be radicalized by the world around him. Mine and railroad strikes for fairer wages and better working conditions took place frequently, and as a printer Wayland came into contact with strikers and was made aware of their seemingly reasonable demands.7 At the same time, Wayland's Republican Party steadily moved to the right, advancing programs and policies of interest to the industrial owning class rather than the common folk who toiled in industry and agriculture. When he was formally introduced to the socialist idea via Laurence Gronlund's seminal 1884 book, The Cooperative Commonwealth, Wayland's thinking was profoundly changed. Wayland later recalled:
"To be brief, [Gronlund] 'landed' me good and hard. I saw a new light and found what I never knew existed. I...went into the financial study so thoroughly that the result was, I closed up my real estate business and devoted my whole energies to the work of trying to get my neighbors to see the truths I had leaned." 8
From 1891 Wayland began working with the local organization of People's Party, contributing money to the campaign fund and printing the party's newspaper, The Colorado Workman. He soon took over this publication as an unpaid editor, renamed it The Coming Crisis, and rapidly built its readership from a few hundred nonpaying subscribers to a paid list of 2,700.9
In February of 1893, Wayland liquidated his assets in Colorado and returned to Indiana for the third time. He landed in Greensburg, Decatur County, and was not long in launching yet another paper dedicated to propaganda on behalf of a socialist republic - the cooperative commonwealth. This new paper was known as The Coming Nation, the first issue rolling off the presses on April 29, 1893. The beginning was modest, a roll of just 98 subscribers, the names of whom were published in its first issue. The publication's political orientation was clear:
"If all labor was directed into proper channels, all the wealth now produced could be created in three hours a day, giving work to all and an equitable division of the products.... "The trusts and combines are dividing up the millions of wealth they have taken from the producers under the system of capitalism..." "The millionaire today lives in a palace, surrounded by menials, and the people who feed, clothe, and supply his wants live in tenements and cellars. Read up, see the truth, and you will be free...."10
Subscriptions to the new socialist paper began to roll in by the hundreds. The Coming Nation became one of the vital centers of the emerging political movement. Within six months the paper had 14,000 subscribers and nine months later that figure had rocketed to 60,000, making it the largest circulation socialist newspaper in America.11
During this period there was a great difference of opinion within the socialist movement whether the socialist system should be initiated through the electoral process - by an explicitly socialist political party organizing itself, building support among the industrial working class, agitating for its program and winning the votes needed to gain control of the state - or through the power of direct example. Those favoring the latter approach sought to establish model socialist communities, to prove through actual practice that common ownership, cooperative production, and egalitarian distribution was a superior system to capitalist competition. These socialist communities would then serve as models and beacons, it was believed, winning mass political support from the laboring classes and spurring on the transformation of society as a whole. J.A. Wayland firmly believed in the power of practical example.
A thousand acres of low-cost land was purchased by Wayland 2 miles north of Tennessee City (50 miles west of Nashville) as a home base for a socialist enclave in the midst of capitalist America. Wayland wrote that
"...the future perfect social state will be a growth from little beginnings. One practical success, widely advertised, showing that men can live and love in peace and plenty, will do more toward bringing the Brotherhood of Man than a thousand speakers."12
Income from The Coming Nation was to be placed in a common fund for use of the community, and all employees of the firm would draw their pay from it. Wayland wanted to rapidly expand this printing operation and to use its growth to attract other industrial establishments, run upon similar economic principles, to the colony. In July of 1894 Wayland once again pulled up stakes in Indiana and moved his Coming Nation to the new communal property in Tennessee - named the Ruskin Colony in honor of a radical writer revered by Wayland, John Ruskin.
The Ruskin Colony was ironically established on an ostensibly capitalistic basis as a joint stock company, with all but six of the male members of the community contributing $500 to the capital fund and receiving in return one share of stock each for husband and wife. Most of the capital so generated was used to construct crude pine board houses and a building for Wayland's presses, with the group later spending $5,000 more to obtain additional printing equipment. The colony's printing operation, which in addition to The Coming Nation included The Ruskin Magazine Quarterly and the journals of several labor organizations, was the group's chief source of financial support, as the rocky soil selected for the colony made agriculture extremely difficult. Some Ruskin colonists attempted to engage in handicraft production, albeit with small success.13 A school and a saw mill were established by the colony, which at its peak counted 125 people in its ranks.14
Just one year later, by the end of July 1895, J.A. Wayland was ready to leave, having grown weary over bitter fighting over the direction of the Ruskin Cooperative Association and its publications. Accompanied by his brother-in-law, Charlie Bevan, and a handful of followers from Ruskin, Wayland made his way to Kansas City, Missouri, where he immediately began to make plans for the publication of a new socialist newspaper. Although he initially thought of calling his new paper Wayland's Weekly, the title The Appeal to Reason was settled upon, a name borrowed from Tom Paine, rationalist thinker and propaganda genius of the American Revolution. On August 31, 1895, with a press run of 50,000 - of which 4,700 were pre-purchased by a Philadelphia "angel" - The Appeal to Reason was born.15
The Appeal to Reason was no overnight success. Indeed, for one of the first times in his career as a publisher the 41 year old J.A. Wayland found it difficult to make a living with a printing press. A large percentage of his Pueblo real estate fortune was poured into establishment and promotion of The Appeal, but its circulation stagnated at the 11,000 mark - a small fraction of The Coming Nation's 60,000 subscription roll. In 1897, on the verge of halting publication, Wayland decided to take two final measures in an attempt to put his publication on a firm financial basis. First, Wayland began to use sensational methods to build subscriber rolls, making use of contests and hoopla to expand the paid mailing list; secondly he moved the paper's offices from urban Kansas City to the little county seat of Girard, Kansas - a state which Laurence Gronlund had declared "ripe for socialism" on the basis of the committed and radical views of those People's Party rank-and filers who called the state home.16
A 1913 Appeal-published history recounted Wayland's move of the paper to "staid and quiet" Girard:
"Girard was then, as today, the dwelling place of many well-to-do, retired merchants, farmers, and the like. Its conservatism was intense. In Wayland it scented a potential peril. The advent of a 'wild-eyed fanatic' was thoroughly unwelcome.... Here...he and his family were again social pariahs. His children were hooted in school and on the street. He himself was shunned. Dark clouds of suspicion, scorn, and hate hung above the Waylands. At times, personal danger even threatened."17
Regardless of his personal situation, Wayland was committed to making his latest publication a success. Subscription prices were slashed from 50 to 25¢ per year when four or more subscriptions were taken simultaneously and the ranks of Appeal subscribers began to grow exponentially. As the paper grew, so too did its importance to Girard as an employer. The economic clout of Wayland's operation soon assuaged all fears. Within a year The Appeal's circulation had grown to 36,000 and by the end of 1900 the paper's paid readership topped 141,000.18
It was in 1900 that radical railroad union leader Eugene V. Debs was making his initial run for the presidency and Wayland seized the occasion to establish The Appeal to Reason as an unabashed partisan publication on behalf of Debs and the newly founded Social Democratic Party. A special Election Day issue on November 3, 1900, appeared in a press run of 927,000 - lauded by Wayland as a world record for any single newspaper edition up to that time.19 As the paper grew over the next fifteen years, during political campaigns and moments of political crisis, single issue press runs reached as high as 4.1 million copies.20
The turn of the century saw one other major change for The Appeal: Fred D. Warren came to Girard. Hired as a printer in 1900, Warren worked himself into the job of Managing Editor by 1902 before departing to edit The Coming Nation, which still remained in production. On Jan. 1, 1904, The Coming Nation and The Appeal to Reason merged, and Fred Warren returned to Girard to become Managing Editor of the combined publication. Warren played the leading role in the day-to-day direction of the newspaper for the next ten years. The circulation guru for The Appeal to Reason was a man named E.W. Dodge, a blacklisted telegraph operator. Dodge was oriented towards prizes and promotions designed to bolster circulation - contests which played no small part in building the publication's readership.21
One of the greatest supporters of The Appeal to Reason and its mission was the emotional leader of the Socialist Party of America, Eugene V. Debs. Debs, one of the greatest orators of his generation, was an admirer of Robert Ingersoll. Like Ingersoll, he crisscrossed the country delivering hundreds of speeches on themes of importance to him. Debs even went so far as to make Girard a home away from home, leaving his wife behind in Terre Haute and living in the town from the spring of 1907 through the fall campaign of 1908.22 Debs used his time in Girard to work on the editorial content of The Appeal and never missed an opportunity to promote the newspaper during the course of his travels.
Indeed, Debs often travelled on behalf of The Appeal's Lecture Bureau, the details of which were recounted by Emanuel Haldeman-Julius in his memoirs:
"For years Debs lectured for The Appeal to Reason, for which he received only $100 a week and expenses. For that modest pay he made many speeches each week in widely scattered places...
The Appeal to Reason offered Eugene V. Debs' speeches to Socialist organizations at no charge, except, that the comrades had to buy so many Appeal subscription cards at 25¢ each. This meant that if a meeting was attended by 1,000 persons, each had to pay 25¢ for a subscription card, which entitled the purchaser to a year's subscription to The Appeal to Reason... This meant that the lecture was free. This also meant that the circulation of The Appeal to Reason grew by several thousand each week that Debs was on the road, and he spent years at that work. It's no wonder The Appeal built up so much circulation that it attracted the antagonism of the [conservatives]." 23
Among the publication's greatest accomplishments was its 1905 decision to commission a young socialist named Upton Sinclair to write a novel dealing with the dark side of the Chicago meatpacking industry. The result of this project was The Jungle, a book which was first serialized in The Appeal before being published in hard covers.24 This novel soon and sensationally became one of the most influential books of the century, igniting the "muckraker" movement. The paper provided a forum for the writing of such prominent socialists as Debs, Jack London, Kate Richards O'Hare, Henry Demarest Lloyd, and Edward Bellamy, and introduced thousands to the writings of such seminal thinkers as Marx, Gronlund, Ruskin, and Paine. The paper sponsored speaking tours on behalf of the socialist movement and was in turn the beneficiary of vigorous promotion by its speakers as they crossed the country raising a ruckus and pushing subscriptions. An "Appeal Army" of 80,000 volunteers around the country distributed the paper by the bundle and generated new subscriptions by the thousand.25
During its peak of activity (1900-1914 or so), The Appeal to Reason employed approximately 100 people in its operations, producing a weekly paper with print runs averaging 500,000 to 750,000 - and occasional "special editions" with print runs counted in the millions. The paper was produced in a union shop structured around an individual working a 47 hour week. The day was divided into three 8 hour shifts, which produced the newspaper around the clock.26 Twenty electric machines were used in production of the paper, including the largest three-deck straight line Goss perfecting press in the country. This big press generally produced 25,000 copies of the paper an hour - folded and printed and including spot color, if desired.27
The Appeal to Reason was in large measure a mail-order operation. It stocked and sold hundreds of works from scores of different publishers, including fiction, children's literature, sociology, farming, personal hygiene, humor, poetry, science, and religion - as well as the inevitable deep stack of books and pamphlets on socialism, economics, and related themes.28
Each morning the mail was received and postcards separated from letters, which were then divided by state-of-origin. The envelopes were then opened and money orders, checks, and cash removed. The monetary content of each letter was marked on the face of the letter in red ink and the letters placed in a letter file. The amount of funds received simultaneously entered on a tally sheet, which was used to cross-check and confirm the total amount received for that day. The letters were then turned over to "carders," who wrote the name and address and total sent on a small card, as well as a list of the items ordered - subscriptions, books, or additional copies of the paper. Each card and letter were assigned a unique number in case future reference needed to be made to the original correspondence, which was filed by number.
The "carders" then filled out mailing labels and kept track of all books and other items ordered. The orders were distributed to the various departments for picking and shipping. Book orders and extra papers generally shipped the day after funds were received, while subscriptions generally took from ten days to two weeks for fulfillment.29
Upstairs was a room where the address slips - small mailing labels - were produced. Stencils were produced for each subscriber by means of a special typewriter; each of these was filed by state, town, and street. Sometimes as many as 5,000 address changes were made in a single day. The address stencils so made were used by two label-making machines, which automatically printed each address on a long roll of yellow paper, which was clipped and pasted by hand in a separate process. These address labels were rapidly applied in the mailroom, which was a special postal substation staffed by a government postal clerk. Bundle after bundle of books and newspaper were thrown into a series of mailsacks hung on hooks, with an enormous stack of empty bags piled from the floor to the ceiling in the back of the room. Filled sacks were hauled away to the railroad station, a couple of blocks away, by a team of horses and driver employed full-time for the task. Passing trains were frequently stopped at Girard to help handle the extraordinary mail volume generated each week by the Appeal publishing operation.30 And the volume generated was truly tremendous - one special edition of the newspaper in 1913 had a press run of just over 4 million copies, which weighed over 120 tons and mailed out in over 4,000 mailsacks.31
Eugene V. Debs immortalized that which was valuable in The Appeal's workplace culture with a small leaflet published in 1907:
"The Appeal stops for nothing. It never sleeps and it is fed in its flight like a meteor....
There is joy in seeing The Appeal family, for such it is, at their task.
They work with their heads, hands, and hearts.
The most beautiful concord prevails in every department and the several departments are bound up in a system that seems perfection.
There is no 'boss' in The Appeal. Not a harsh word is spoken. There is a smile on every face, kindness in every voice, joy in every heart.
The work is done as all work should be done - with eagerness and enthusiasm.
The more work the merrier the crowd, and if an emergency arises that requires special effort or extra exertion they settle down upon it like a swarm of bees and the decks are soon cleared for another attack....
It is truly mechanism of marvelous magnitude; a miracle of harmonious cooperation."32
But all was not bliss.
Over the course of time, J.A. Wayland became alienated from his expanding publishing empire. As Wayland stepped back, Fred D. Warren's already large role with the paper expanded. In mid-1910 Warren signed a massive five year personal services contract with Wayland to run the Appeal for the princely sum of $25,000 per annum.33 Wayland began to again fill his days speculating in real estate - this time in Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Girard itself. In 1910 oil land in Preston, Oklahoma on which he had speculated began to produce heavily, making Wayland an even wealthier man. He bought downtown property in Amarillo, Texas, improved it, and began collecting high rents.34 Despite this financial success, Wayland's personal life was anything but happy. In 1911 his second wife was killed in a freak automobile accident near their home. The following year he was also embroiled in what seems to have been a politically motivated "set up" by the US Justice Department, who contacted a former business partner and disgruntled female employee with a view to framing up a charge that he had seduced a young woman at the plant and taken her across state lines for an illicit sexual affair - in violation of the Mann Act. The indictment of Wayland on such a charge was rumored to be in the offing for shortly after the Presidential election of 1912.35
On the evening of November 10, 1912, just three days after the finish of Eugene V. Debs' 4th - and most successful - campaign as the Socialist Party's candidate for President of the United States, J.A. Wayland retired upstairs to his bedroom. There he opened a drawer and removed a loaded handgun. He carefully wrapped the revolver with a sheet to muffle the sound of the explosion. He drew a breath, placed the gun in his hand, raised it to his open mouth, and shot himself in the brain. Wayland never regained consciousness, dying shortly after midnight, November 11, 1912. Harried by the government, despondent over the failure of the Socialist movement to win the support of more than a small fraction of the laboring classes, tired of life, Wayland left an epitaph tucked into a book on his bedside table: "The struggle under the competitive system is not worth the effort; let it pass."36 At the time of his ultimate surrender, Julius Wayland was 58 years old. His friend Eugene Debs was particularly shocked by the sudden termination of Wayland's life, noting in a letter:
"...As Mrs. Debs read the message to me I was so stunned that I could not believe my own senses, and I have not yet entirely recovered from it. Wayland is about the last man I would have expected to take the short cut into the unknown by his own hand. How his heart must have been wrung with agony and his soul torn with despair and desperation before he reached that fatal conclusion! But he had reached the farthest limit of his capacity to endure and while we all pity him with all our hearts not one of us may breathe the breath of blame upon him."37
The Appeal to Reason did not die with its founder on a cold Kansas night in November 1912. Editor Fred D. Warren was left behind to pick up the pieces. About four days after Wayland's suicide, he wrote a letter to Gene Debs:
"I seem too dazed to think of much else aside from the terrible tragedy, but the problem of The Appeal and its future is one that will not wait and so this morning we assume our duties..., winding up in a week of events that have crowded so closely upon each other that I have scarce had time to eat and sleep. There will be no change in the conduct of The Appeal, other than the changes we can make to improve and strengthen the paper."38
Warren invited Debs to go back on the road with an Appeal Subscription-Lecture tour. Debs proved unable to comply with this request as he had made a previous commitment to do a tour under other auspices. Debs did instruct his friend Warren that "if there is anything I can do for you and The Appeal in this hour of need and trouble I want you to command me." Debs indicated that he would be able to send some articles for publication from his home in Terre Haute that would "help in some measure to make The Appeal strong and virile at this particular time when the battle is over [for the Presidency] and there is a general letting down for a breathing spell."39
Warren continued to serve as editor of The Appeal until 1915, when he was succeeded as Managing Editor by veteran socialist journalist Louis Kopelin. Kopelin had known Emanuel Julius from their time together on the staff of the Socialist Party daily The New York Call and he lost no time in inviting his compatriot to Kansas to take over the task as the paper's editorial writer and to assist with the writing of news stories. Julius showed up in Girard in October 1915, the start of a residency in that town that would last until the end of his life in 1951.
Julius later characterized Kopelin as a "much abler editor" than that "student of feeble caliber," Fred Warren, but a man far inferior to Warren in the task of circulation promotion. As a result, despite the production of a top-quality product, "the paper's circulation went steadily down and down, until it threatened to break the publishers, the sons of J.A. Wayland, Jon and Walter."40
External factors contributed to this decline. The eruption of war in Europe rocked the socialist movement to its foundations as in country after country "social patriots" foreswore their international commitments and rallied to their individual national flags. Many were discouraged in the United States, and the Socialist Party began to lose members. The fall of The Appeal from its lofty heights was a complex and protracted process, neatly summarized by American Studies professor John Graham, a historian of The Appeal:
"The domestic effects of World War I were crucial to The Appeal's decline. The Great War dominated socialist and national consciousness from its outset in 1914, three years before American capitalism and the Wilson administration officially entered the conflict and used it as a pretext to crush domestic radicalism. The world war, the shift to the right of public consciousness, division in the Socialist Party, the repression and delegitimization of American radicalism, the departure of old Appeal staffers, circulation losses, and the inability of Kopelin, Haldeman-Julius, and Walter Wayland to redirect The Appeal and mobilized its readers all pushed the paper into decline."41
While Graham is perhaps overly harsh with Emanuel Haldeman-Julius' politics when he characterized him "a political dilettante, a man who toyed with socialism and had no convictions that seriously challenged his own self-interest,"42 an account does need to be rendered of one stunning piece of opportunism during the last days of The Appeal to Reason - the "flip" of the paper on the issue of militarism and the European War.
Prior to America's intervention in the European War early in 1917, antimilitarism and international solidarity were regarded as axiomatic by the American left. Throughout 1916 the conservatives' slogan of "Preparedness" was fought tooth and nail by all factions of the American socialist movement - ranging from gradualist reformers like John Spargo to died-in-the-wool "impossiblists" like Socialist Party of Ohio leader C.E. Ruthenberg. The European War was an abhorrent manifestation of capitalist imperialism, American socialists of all stripes believed, and those European socialists who had rallied to their country's flag and participated in the mass slaughter of millions were flatly regarded as traitors to the socialist cause.
Following his re-election in 1916 under the slogan "He Kept Us Out of War," Woodrow Wilson clearly began moving the United States towards intervention in the European conflict on the side of the British and French. While formally proclaiming American neutrality, Wilson believed that American corporations should have the right to sell raw materials and military materiel to the belligerents. England's superiority of surface vessels effectively blockaded Germany from receiving American shipping; only submarine warfare made it possible for the Germans to approach an equivalent status for shipping bound to British ports. As the sinking of ships by submarine entailed the loss of civilian life on torpedoed surface ships, American passion was stirred and ultimatums delivered to Germany by the Wilson regime.
By March 1917 it was clear that American intervention in the Great European War was imminent. Not wanting to be caught off-guard, as were the Socialist Parties of Germany, France, and England, the Socialist Party of America's National Executive Committee issued a call for an Emergency Convention of the party in St. Louis, to convene April 7. Nearly 200 delegates converged on the city in the immediate aftermath of Congress' declaration of war between the United States and Germany. The Convention voted upon a resolution drawn up by New York leaders Morris Hillquit and Algernon Lee, both being regarded at the time as representatives of the party's "Center" faction, and Charles E. Ruthenberg of Cleveland, prominent as a spokesman of the revolutionary socialist "Left." The resolution branded Congress' declaration of war to be "a crime against the people of the United States" and pledged its continued adherence to anti-militarism and international socialist solidarity. The resolution further called for "continuous, active, and public opposition" to military conscription and pledged to fight against restrictions upon freedom of speech and the right of workers to strike.43
The aggressive "St. Louis Resolution" was passed by the convention by a vote of 140 to 36, with the decision subsequently ratified by a mail vote of the SPA's rank-and-file, 21,639 to 2,752.44 Amidst rampant patriotic hysteria, American socialists had voted to stay the course.
This position did not sit well with the sundry intellectuals who comprised the Socialist Party's "Right." Many of the party's biggest "names" resigned in protest - including such famous individuals as Upton Sinclair, W.J. Ghent, John Spargo, Charles Edward Russell, Robert Hunter, and W.E. Walling. Louis Kopelin and Emanuel Haldeman-Julius and their Appeal to Reason were part of this parade of defectors from the Socialist Party of America, spurred in this direction by the Wilson administration's draconian use of postal regulations and imprisonments to silence radical opposition to its policies.
Of the two Appeal principals, Editorialist Haldeman-Julius was the most malleable towards the new patriotic orientation. A Wilson voter in 1916, already in February 1917 he had announced that an American declaration of war would destroy an antimilitarist Appeal. Managing Editor Louis Kopelin fought longer: on April 28 he had editorialized that "The Appeal can not and will not lend its support" to the war. It was not until Wilson's declaration of "humanitarian" war aims in December that he "flipped" to a social-patriotic position.45
Kopelin and Haldeman-Julius decided to relaunch their newspaper as The New Appeal - a weekly paper which would explicitly support the Wilson Administration and its war effort. The first issue under the new banner appeared on December 22, 1917, to catcalls of derision from the rank-and-file of the Socialist Party of America - an organization which despite the defection of the party "Right" and unceasing government repression actually gained membership in 1918.46 Kopelin and Haldeman-Julius may have been ideologically in harmony with most of the nation, but they were very much out of step with the thinking of the socialist movement. Circulation suffered. Three months after the change in the "line" of the newspaper, not surprisingly, the pair of editorial principals were informed by the Wayland brothers that the paper was theirs to buy.47
Kopelin was won over to the Wilsonian war effort to the extent that he enlisted in the Army, shipping out to Europe as a private. This gave a free hand to Haldeman-Julius to run The New Appeal and shape its editorial line. During the war years the paper trumpeted the Wilson administration's nationalization of the railroads, telephone, and telegraphs, along with his proposal to seriously tax corporate profits as the coming of socialism, drawing the ire of the National Executive Secretary of the SPA, Adolph Germer, who charged that "the one time 'Fighting Appeal' has become the disguised vassal of the Wall Street Gang."48
The armistice of November 11, 1918, gave The New Appeal a chance to again move leftward in hope of rewinning its old constituency. The federal government's prosecution of Debs, Kate Richards O'Hare, and thousands of radical trade unionists and military objectors gave the publication an issue with which it could run. Wilson's failure to enact the vaunted peace "without annexations or indemnities" similarly discredited the administration and enabled Haldeman- Julius to move his newspaper perceptibly to the left. On March 1, 1919, the name The Appeal to Reason once again appeared on the masthead of the newspaper signaling an end to the flag-waving pro-war line of The New Appeal.49 Nevertheless, the restored publication failed to regain its momentum - its "Appeal Army" had dispersed and the mood of the country ever more hostile to the socialist movement amidst bombings, bomb scares, and a series of revolutions in several of the decimated nations of postwar Europe.
Emanuel Haldeman-Julius came to regard The Appeal and its socialist tradition as a burden to be rid of, a fetter upon profitability in publishing. The mass movement for American socialism was but a relic of the past. In November of 1922, the name of the paper was changed yet again, this time to The Haldeman- Julius Weekly - and a glorious tradition had come to an end.50
|1||Elliott Shore, Talkin' Socialism: J.A. Wayland and the Role of the Press in American Radicalism, 1890- 1912. (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1988), pp. 9-10.|
|2||During the last half of the 19th Century the anti-slavery Republican Party, with its base of support in the industrial north, was significantly more radical than the rural-and-southern Democratic Party. The two major parties "flipped" in ideological position around the turn of the century.|
|3||Shore, Talkin' Socialism, pg. 12.|
|4||Cass County Courier, Jan. 4, 1878, pg. 16, cited in Shore, Talkin' Socialism, pg. 15.|
|5||Shore, Talkin' Socialism, pp. 17-18.|
|6||Shore, Talkin' Socialism, pp. 19-20.|
|7||Wayland seems to have told the story of his radicalization in several variants, one of which includes a particular 1891 railroad strike and the print job he did on the strikers' behalf. See Shore, Talkin' Socialism, pp. 22-24.|
|8||J.A. Wayland, Leaves of My Life: A Story of Twenty Years of Socialist Agitation. (Girard, KS: The Appeal to Reason, 1912), pg. 27. Quoted in Shore, Talkin' Socialism, pp. 23-24.|
|9||Shore, Talkin' Socialism, pg. 26.|
|10||Quoted in Eugene V. Debs, 14th Anniversary of The Coming Nation at Greensburg, Decatur County, Indiana, April 1893. (Girard, KS: The Appeal to Reason, 1907), pg. 3.|
|11||John Graham, "Yours for the Revolution": The Appeal to Reason, 1895-1922. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990), pg. 3.|
|12||J.A. Wayland in The Coming Nation, Feb. 10, 1894, cited in Howard Quint, The Forging of American Socialism: Origins of the American Movement. (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1953), pg. 190.|
|13||Quint, The Forging of American Socialism, pp. 191-192.|
|14||George Allen England, The Story of the Appeal: "Unbeaten and Unbeatable": Being the Epic of the Life and Work of the Greatest Newspaper in the World. (Girard, KS: The Appeal to Reason, ), pg. 26.|
|15||Quint, The Forging of American Socialism, pg. 194.|
|16||Quint, The Forging of American Socialism, pg. 195.|
|17||England, The Story of the Appeal, pp. 26-27.|
|18||Quint, The Forging of American Socialism, pg. 196.|
|19||Quint, The Forging of American Socialism, pg. 197.|
|20||John Graham, "Yours for the Revolution," pg. X.|
|21||Shore, Talkin' Socialism, pp. 138-144 passim.|
|22||Nick Salvatore, Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist. (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1982), pg. 213. In popular mythology, Eugene Victor Debs was a railroad worker and union organizer who happened to run for President of the United States on five separate occasions (1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1920). While this job description is true for the earliest years of his career, in actuality the great majority of Debs' working life was spent as a journalist and lecturer; he worked as primary Editor of the large monthly magazine of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen for well over a decade and wrote regularly for the socialist press during the years after his failed effort to organize the American Railway Union in 1894. Debs' primary financial support in subsequent years came from lecturing and writing, not from union activities or the Socialist Party itself. Debs served as a de facto Assistant Editor of The Appeal to Reason during the 1907-1908 period and his writing was particularly prominent in the paper during those years. A November 19, 1912, letter to Fred D. Warren indicates that Debs remained a salaried employee on The Appeal payroll even at that late date. [Letters of Eugene V. Debs, v. 1, pg. 555]|
|23||E. Haldeman-Julius, My Second 25 Years: Instead of a Footnote: An Autobiography. (Girard, KS: Haldeman-Julius Publications, 1949), pg. 60.|
|24||Graham, "Yours for the Revolution," pp. X-XI.|
|25||Graham, "Yours for the Revolution," pg. XI.|
|26||Eugene V. Debs, An Inside View of The Appeal to Reason. ([Girard, KS]: [The Appeal to Reason], n.d. ), pp. 1-2.|
|27||England, The Story of the Appeal, pg. 270.|
|28||A 1915 edition of the Appeal Book Catalog runs to 144 closely-packed pages in cardstock covers. No more than 25% of the titles available related directly to socialism or economics, a quantity dwarfed by the amount of available poetry and fiction - generally apolitical. The list even included eleven titles under the heading "Anti-Socialism"!|
|29||A Trip Through the Appeal Office, reprinted in England, The Story of the Appeal, pg. 274.|
|30||England, The Story of the Appeal, pp. 275-276.|
|31||England, The Story of the Appeal, pp. 278.|
|32||Eugene V. Debs, An Inside View of The Appeal to Reason, pp. 2-3.|
|33||Shore, Talkin' Socialism, pg. 202.|
|34||Shore, Talkin' Socialism, pp. 202-203.|
|35||Shore, Talkin' Socialism, pp. 216-217.|
|36||Henry Vincent, Wayland: The Editor with a Punch, An Appreciation. (Massilon, OH: Henry Vincent, 1912), pg. 5. Cited in Shore, Talkin' Socialism, pp. 217-218.|
|37||Eugene V. Debs to Fred D. Warren, Nov. 19, 1912, in J. Robert Constantine (ed.), Letters of Eugene V. Debs [in 3 volumes]. (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1990), v. 1, pg. 555.|
|38||Fred D. Warren to Eugene V. Debs, Nov. 14, 1912, in Letters of Eugene V. Debs, v. 1, pp. 553-554.|
|39||Eugene V. Debs to Fred D. Warren, Nov. 19, 1912 in Letters of Eugene V. Debs, v. 1, pp. 555-556.|
|40||E. Haldeman-Julius, My Second 25 Years: Instead of a Footnote: An Autobiography. (Girard, KS: Haldeman-Julius Publications, 1949), pg. 60.|
|41||John Graham, "Yours for the Revolution," pg. 15.|
|42||John Graham, "Yours for the Revolution," pg. 15.|
|43||James Weinstein, The Decline of Socialism in America, 1912-1925. (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1967), pg. 126.|
|44||New York Times, July 8, 1917, cited in James Weinstein, The Decline of Socialism in America, 1912-1925, pg. 127.|
|45||John Graham, "Yours for the Revolution," pg. 250.|
|46||Average monthly dues collections for the Socialist Party of America rose from 80,379 in 1917 to 82,344 in 1918. [See: Alexander Trachtenberg and Benjamin Glassberg (eds.), The American Labor Year Book, 1921-22. (New York: Rand School of Social Science, n.d. ), pg. 392].|
|47||John Graham, "Yours for the Revolution," pg. 250.|
|48||Andrew N. Cothran, The Little Blue Book Man and the Big American Parade: A Biography of Emanuel Haldeman-Julius. (Ph.D. dissertation: University of Maryland, 1966), pg. 90. Cited in John Graham, "Yours for the Revolution," pp. 250-251.|
|49||John Graham, "Yours for the Revolution," pg. 252.|
|50||John Graham, "Yours for the Revolution," pg. 288.|
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