Socialist World

(Seattle: 1916-1917)

Report by Gary Siebel

Abstract: The Socialist World was the official organ of the Socialist Party of King County, Washington. It was one of two papers born as a result of the ideological split and demise of it’s progenitor, The Herald. The Socialist World (SW) sallied forth on Friday, July 14, 1916. The other half of that split, The Commonwealth, first appeared two weeks later. The SW was produced by a committee of The Socialist Party of King County. The ideology throughout the less than one year life of the paper can be summed up simply as: Eugene Debs good, Samuel Gompers and craft unionism very bad; Karl Marx good, capitalism very bad. Extreme loyalty to the Socialist Party doctrine very good, party "treason" very bad. Articles and propaganda maintained the Party line. Socialist Party presidential candidates for 1916, Benson and Kirkpatrick, and L. Katterfeld for governor, were vigorously promoted.

Dates Published, Jul. 14, 1916 -- Mar 23, 1917

Frequency, Size: weekly, full size paper, four pages.

Editors: Marius Hansome, beginning Fri., Dec. 29, 1916; Scott Bennett beginning Mar. 16, 1917. Editorial staff: Joe Pass and Aaron Fislerman

Business Address: 319 Eppler Bldg. 813-2nd Av.

Collection: University Of Washington Microfilm Collection. Status: only 12 issues survive

The Socialist World

The editorial policy of the Socialist World was that of the "reds" rather than the "yellows." To put it briefly, "reds" were adamant about absolute loyalty to the Party constitution and it’s ideological doctrine that demanded no compromise with capitalists or politicians. Any Socialist Party member who even suggested compromise was threatened with expulsion. So often did the Washington state party resort to expulsion that the National Executive Committee had to repeatedly intervene to manage the state party's internal disputes. The "reds" who ran the new newspaper and who dominated the King County Party committee which determined the editorial content of the paper were essentially continuing in the footsteps of Hermon Titus, who for years had fought with moderates while editing The Socialist, a Seattle weekly and the major organ of the state's Socialist movement between 1900 and 1910.

The Socialist World's immediate predecessor, the Herald, had been under editorial control of the "yellows " who in early 1916 had turned the paper into an organ of the newly launched Non-Partisan League (based initially in North Dakota), in effect abandoning the Socialist Party. But the "reds" had forced a vote of the Herald's stockholders, which led to its demise. In the Socialist World's first editorial (written by a committee of three) they distanced themselves from the Non-Partisan League stance of the Herald, and committed wholeheartedly to radical socialism.

Front Page

The Socialist World sallied forth as a weekly on Friday, July 14, 1916 featuring a full size newspaper format with up to seven columns of print, graphics, and advertising on four pages. The name, The Socialist World, remained larger than any story headlines throughout the life of the paper. In smaller type beneath the name was the paper’s true purpose: "Official Organ of the Socialist Party of King County, Washington."

ven though the newspaper was in actuality only two sides of one large page, folding created the illusion of four pages. And like all full size newspapers that are folded for delivery, the top half of the front page contained that which the editors wished the reader to see first. For example, in the first issue, on the left side, a two column width (of seven), three-level headline:

"THE INTERNATIONAL LONGSHORE-

MEN’S UNION GIVES IT’S VERSION

OF THE WATERFRONT STRIKE."

The article enumerates worker demands related to a recent waterfront strike, and responds to what it views as management distortions of the union position by conservative newspapers such as the Seattle Times. It was signed, "Press Committee, Riggers and Stevedores, local 50-12, Seattle, Wash." An editor’s note indicates that, "despite every effort by the local", the Seattle Daily Times had refused to print the "reply." It is basically a letter to waterfront employers denying that union leadership is under the domination of any powers save that of union membership; that members are not misguided because the leadership is doing what the membership desires; and that their wage demands were just.

To the right of that article, occupying three columns and dominating the front page, a looming, black-robed Mr. Death beckons to the children of a prostrate "working class mother," beneath a headline- size caption declaring, "ONE OUT OF EVERY FOUR," (by Robert Minor). Without embellishment, it more or less constitutes an editorial statement on it’s own.

On the right, the remaining two column, three-tier headline, declares:

"NAVY OFFICIALS GRIEVOUSLY

OFFEND BIG BUSINESS THROUGH

ALLURING CALL FOR RECRUITS."

This attempt at satire compares the advantages of life in the Navy to disadvantages of life in the mine or factory, the point being that either could get you killed, but the Navy at least fed, clothed, and let you see the world in the process of doing so. Much of the authorship in the paper, as for this piece, is not credited. Generally, mainly national or international stories were signed; straight "news" was usually not attributed. A strident tone was notably favored.

The three columns below the graphic Mr. Death contain three different articles. The first headline, " THE ‘FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY," is an indirect attempt to ridicule George Washington as a drinker and gambler, apparently through his own statements from one time or another. The next two articles could be considered genuine news. One is headlined, "LONGSHOREMENS’ HALL FIRED UPON," and is much ado about bullet holes recently discovered in the union hall . The other headline is: "WELLS WINS VERDICT." Stunningly, Hulet Wells (notable in local Socialist Party work) had somehow managed to win a $500 libel verdict against the "lying" Seattle Times. The case stemmed from the Times accusing Wells of embezzling $1,000 from the Socialist Party a few years before.

A two column headline in the right, lower, half reads:

"WAR DECLARED AGAINST

MURDEROUS STEEL TRUST"

The article announces an impending Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) strike in Minnesota against the mine and steel industries and lists demands for 8-hour days, bi-monthly paydays, and wage increases, to name a few.

Page Two

The second page contained advertising and a mixture of news and propaganda. Prominently featured in the upper right is a graphic of Dr. Karl Liebknecht, (two/thirds the size of the front page Mr. Death illustration), whose caption declares him to be "The Bravest Man in the World," (in small print), with a brief statement below insisting that "we need more Liebknecht-Americans." (The piece is attributed to "The Wireless.") The photo of Liebknecht serves as a link to The Socialist (Seattle), which had glorified Liebknecht’s father, Wilhelm, whose funeral had been front page news to the defunct Socialist.

The second, inside column on the left contained the Socialist Party masthead, endorsing various Socialist Party candidates for the 1916 elections (Benson and Kirkpatrick for President and Vice-president, and Katterfeld for Governor). Party news was always to be found on this page. Below was "socialist news," e.g., the new King County Socialist Party HQ in Seattle at the Eppler Bldg; the new Socialist World was completely"party owned and controlled," and edited by an elected press committee of seven. (The elected committee: Aaron Fislerman, J. Broderman, O. Erickson, Erick Varsanen, Walker Smith, Wm. Humphrey, Nicholas Schmitt.) The remainder of page two was local, national, and international socialist and Socialist Party news and/or propaganda (repeated essays on why socialism was so wonderful and would work just fine if only everyone would only realize how right the Socialist Party really was, and after all, Marx said it was supposed to be inevitable anyway)

Page Three

Page three contained The Young People’s Socialist League Section. Although space devoted to the YPSL’s was eventually reduced after the first issue, it always had at least three columns. Contents varied from love poetry to diatribes against capitalism, to effusive praise of socialism and socialists. Dances were favored. The wonderful inevitability of socialism if people would only listen to reason was stressed. There were usually seven columns of printed matter on this page, but the appearance varied considerably. The March 23, 1917 issue, included a quarter page ad for a book on a topic that perpetually interests youth everywhere: namely, sex.

Page Four

Except for the consistent placement of the legal masthead in a top-left, double width column, and the two, outer, double-columns of the lower half of the page devoted to double width ads (all nine of them), which remained the same, columns were realigned on this page as needed for reportage/announcements/propaganda, and editorials. By the time advertising reached it’s peak in the Dec. 29, 1916 issue, they had some extra double-width ads that overflowed into the upper half of the page. That ad "success" was fleeting, however, because there was a decline in advertising from then until the paper’s demise.

Under the masthead (which reveals the paper was edited by only three members of that committee of seven) an unsigned editorial separates SW from the policies of it’s predecessor, The Herald, and "plants itself firmly upon the impregnable rock of Marxian economics...." Eventually, on Dec. 29, 1916, SW named the editor, Marius Hansome, (pro tem) and staff contributors Joe Pass, Aaron Fislerman, and Mark Stone. Later, in the Mar. 16, 1917 issue, Scott Bennett was editor with Pass and Fislerman as contributors.

Advertising and the bitter end

Most Socialist World advertising was located in the two columns on opposite sides of page two. They were filled top to bottom with the likes of, St. Paul Stove Repair & Plumbing Co.; Hotel Barker Centrally Located and Fireproof, rates $1 per day on up; Home Cooked Lunch; Insurance and Loans, C. I. Tilton; Union Bakery Restaurant; Kazis Krauczunas, Lawyer, Speaks Lithuanian, Russian, Polish, and Slavic; Nicholas Schmitt, Lawyer Advocate; plus an ever present ad for Dancing... Hippodrome...Fifth and University. It seems very likely the paper did not make much, if any, money on advertising.

There was little variety in the ads. Most had appeared in the predecessor (The Herald) to the last. However, less than half of the advertisers with The Herald continued with the SW. Exceptionally, Frederick and Nelson’s, a large department store, maintained a double width ad on page four to the final issue. The column-inch, advertising peak occurred (naturally enough)in the December 29, 1916 issue. We lack the issues between December 29 and March 16 so the decline in advertising may not have been as precipitous as it appears.

When Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare (again, on Feb. 1917), it had a significant impact on the public attitude toward political parties that were seen as rabidly anti-war, such as the Socialist Party. Even before war was declared (April 6, 1917), pressure was rising against the Socialist Party for many statements that were construed to be treasonous or potentially so in the event of actual conflict. Socialist Party doctrine held that national boundaries were irrelevant to the impending worker-controlled dictatorship of the proletariat, so why should any worker fight or even cooperate in hurting his fellow workers through supporting the capitalist war?

On August 26, 1916, a headline, NAVY YARD SLAVERY, appeared above an SW story appealing to workers at the Bremerton Navy shipyard to "confidentially supply" the newspaper with vital military information. This article was the beginning of a series of four articles attacking the war effort via attacks on the Bremerton Naval Shipyard operated by the US Navy. The following week the ad for the Northern Bank and Trust Co. that had appeared in all previous issues disappeared, not to return. By the March 23, 1917 issue, several other regular advertisers had disappeared too, including the ad for what was undoubtedly a popular socialist pastime: Dancing at Dreamland.

WWI was declared April 6, 1917. The last issue of the Socialist World appeared three weeks before that, March 23, 1917.

Issues available:

July 14, 1916

July 21, 1916

July 28, 1916

August 4, 1916

August 11, 1916

August 18,1916

August 25, 1916

September 1, 1916

September 8, 1916

December 29, 1916

March 16, 1917

March 23, 1917

 

Click to enlarge


(July 14, 1916, p.1)


 


 


Doctrine

The Socialist World represented the radical wing of Washington's socialist party.  It frequently ran articles promising that the workers' revolution was near, or maligning conservative forces in the progressive movement.


(March 23, 1917)


Labor

Not surprisingly, the paper frequently commentated on what was happening in the labor movement.  Two issues which the paper followed closely were the treatment of workers at the Navy yard in Bremerton and a Longshoremen's strike.


(August 25, 1916, p.1)


(July 14, 1916, p.1) 


The YPSL

The paper frequently included news of the Young People's Socialist League (YPSL), an organization for socialist-minded youths that held social events, political education meetings, and other functions.


(September 8, 1916, p.4)

Copyright (c) 2001 by Gary Siebel