The President of the American Federation of Labor (Gompers) to the Secretary of State

Sir: If it is not incompatible with the public interest would it be possible for me to secure information from your department relative to the situation in Soviet Russia?

There is much propaganda being circulated in the United States claiming that the demand for manufactured goods in Russia is so great and the purchasing power of the Russian Soviet government so vast it is almost impossible to determine the actual capacity of the Russian market to absorb goods of foreign manufacture. This scarcity of goods is laid to the blockade, which as I understand it was removed July 8, 1920. It is said that the pressing needs of the Russians are large quantities of the following:

Locomotives, cars, rails, tires, springs, etc. Tractors, plows, reapers, mowers, binders, harrows, and other tools, large and small, binder twine. Motor trucks. Leather goods: shoes, etc. Textiles. Chemicals, drugs, soap. Notions. Belting, all kinds. Oil well machinery and piping. Mining machinery. Rubber goods. Ties. Typewriters. Sewing machines. Surgical instruments. Machinery and machine tools of all sorts. Printing presses, and printing supplies. Small tools. Sheet iron. Tool steel. Camera and camera supplies, films, etc. Raw cotton.

It is also claimed that the Commissariat of Foreign Trade of the Soviet government has given orders for the purchase of the following in America:

Agricultural machinery, including tractors, mowers, binders, reapers, plows, cultivators, etc., specified orders to the extent of $50,000,000; machine tools, between $3,000,000 to $5,000,000; small tools, files, drills, etc., between $3,000,000 and $5,000,000; 30,000 to 100,000 tons of rails; 10,000 tons of locomotive ties; 2,500 tons of spring steel for locomotive and car springs; 10,000 tons of sheet iron; 50,000 tons of oil piping.

These figures, it is claimed, do not represent all the orders that would be placed at once.

It is alleged that the Federal Reserve Board has refused to permit the transfer of funds to the United States from the Soviet Russian government in order to pay for the goods, although payment in gold is guaranteed. It is claimed that the American manufacturers are [Page 761] prevented from accepting the gold on the probability that it was illegally acquired by the Soviet government.

It is also said that the following raw materials are ready for shipment to the United States if only the American government recognizes the Soviet government of Russia:

Lumber, unlimited quantities; Flax, 20,000 tons; Hemp, 10,000 tons; Furs, 9,000,000 pelts; Bristles, sorted and cleaned, 1,000 tons; Horse hair, 2,000 tons; Manganese ore, 250,000 tons; Asbestos, 8,000 tons; Hides, 3,500,000 skins; Platinum, large quantities; Petroleum and petroleum products, 2,000,000 tons.

Another claim made is that if the restrictions placed on trade with Russia were removed it would place in operation many mills, shops and factories now closed down and would give employment to the unemployed of America.

This propaganda is being widely circulated among labor organizations and I have received many letters asking me what is the truth. In this connection I have repeatedly called attention to the action of the American Federation of Labor convention at Montreal, June 7–19, 1920, as follows:

Resolved, That the American Federation of Labor is not justified in taking any action which could be construed as an assistance to, or approval of, the Soviet government of Russia as long as that government is based upon authority which has not been vested in it by a popular representative national assemblage of the Russian people; or so long as it endeavors to create revolutions in the well-established, civilized nations of the world; or so long as it advocates and applies the militarization of labor and prevents the organizing and functioning of trade unions and the maintenance of a free press and free public assemblage.”

This resolution was based on a report made by the Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor and previously unanimously approved by the convention, as follows:

“Bolshevism has been a lure for some of our people and its doctrines have been propagated with great vigor. This hideous doctrine has found converts among two classes of people principally—those intellectuals, so-called, who have no occupation save that of following one fad after another, and those so beaten in the game of life that they find no appeal in anything except the most desperate and illogical schemes. The rank and file of the organized labor movement, as was to have been expected, has given no countenance to the propaganda of Bolshevism, but has, on the contrary, been its most effective opponent in America.”

Whether the statements in the circular are true or untrue, the widest publicity of the facts should be given. It would be more effective if it could be in official form. If that can not be done the proper knowledge should be transmitted to the various organizations [Page 762] that have resolutions on the subject before them for approval or disapproval and only awaiting an answer from me as to the real situation.

I therefore request, if it is not contrary to the rules of the Department of State or if not against the public interest, that you furnish me with such information as you might have on the matter. I would also like to know the amount of exports and imports between the United States and Russia for a number of years preceding the war, as it is claimed these would be enormous because they have been enormous in the past.

This question is of vital interest to the people of the United States as they should not be misled by propaganda that is consciously or unconsciously directed to aid the Soviet government of Russia against the interests of our people. I therefore trust that I am not asking too much.

Yours very truly,

Sam’l Gompers