The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 2/Convention of the Bohemian National Alliance
CONVENTION OF THE BOHEMIAN NATIONAL ALLIANCE.
One would wish that meetings, like the convention held in Chicago on February 9 to 12, might take place oftener, for they invariably result in more intensive and efficient work.
It was expected by many that the Chicago convention would be a stormy one. It is inevitable that some complaints should arise in connection with running an organization which was called into existence by a great emergency and which grew up in three years from a small body of enthusiasts into a society with 250 branches and an income of hundreds of thousands. But as it turned out, there was surprisingly little criticism and no ill feeling shown during the four days of the sessions. Much of the credit for the smooth working of the convention should be given to the chairman, Method Pázdral of West, Tex., whose expert knowledge of parliamentary law and unfailing good humor and wit gained him the friendship of every delegate.
Every district branch of the Alliance, with the exception of the Canadian branch, was represented by one or two delegates, districts with more than fifteen branches having two delegates. The National Alliance of Bohemian Catholics, which forms an autonomous division of the Alliance, was represented by its Chicago officers and by delegates from Cleveland and St. Louis. It is no exaggeration to say that since the day when the first Czech immigrant landed in the United States, no Bohemian assemblage has been held in this country with such a high average of ability and actual achievement.
Reports were rendered by officers of the Central Committee, President Fisher, Secretary Tvrzický, Organizer Beneš and Director of the Press Bureau, Charles Pergler. Of special interest were reports of two delegates who had just returned from Russia, Em. Voska of New York and Joseph Martinek. Their addresses emphasized the point that at the very time when Russia became entirely disorganized. Czechs and Slovaks in Russia established an organization which made of the hundred thousand pre-war settlers and three hundred thousand captured soldiers force which making itself felt among the untold millions of quarreling Russians. Masaryk, who finds it necessary to stay in Russia, has at his disposal an army of 60,000 men, as well as the voluntary, but regularly paid taxes of several hundred thousand Czechoslovaks.
Organization changes were the subject of greatest interest to the delegates. In every other Allied state that is one common organization of Czechs and Slovaks. That is not feasible in this country, where the Bohemian National Alliance and the Slovak League have become too firmly established in the hearts of their people to give place to a new body with a new name. But a union closer than the co-operation heretofore practiced was deemed necessary by all the delegates of the Bohemian National Alliance, as well as by the accredited representatives of the Slovak League. A number of plans were proposed, and the result was the creation of an “American Branch of the Czechoslovak National Council,” composed of eight representatives of the Alliance and the same number sent by the League. This new organ will have charge of all political, consular, informational, recruiting and relief activities, and offices will be established in Washington and New York. The eight Czech members of the Council were at once elected; they are: Charles Pergler, Dr. L. J. Fisher, Prof. B. Šimek, Rev. A. B. Koukol, Mrs. Caroline Moták, Father O. Zlámal, John Straka and Hynek Dostál.
The convention endorsed the pleas of Captain Firlinger and Mr. Kopecký for intensive recruiting work and recognized the authority of Captain Firlinger as the man sent by Masaryk to take charge of this work.
An auditing committee, consisting of Charles Bernreiter of Cleveland, J. J. Frnka of New Ulm, Tex., and C. B. Svoboda of Cedar Rapids, Ia., reported that they had examined all the accounts of the Central Committee very carefully and found them absolutely correct. As the convention in deference to the wishes of the Czechoslovak National Council voted not to publish for the present a financial statement, the auditing committee gave out only the following figures tending to show that the very greatest economy was practiced by the Central Committee: Of the total amount collected in 1917 1.23 per cent was spent by the Central Committee on salaries, 1.47 per cent on printing, 1.07 per cent on traveling expenses and 0.28 per cent on rent and office supplies.
A number of resolutions were adopted of which we reprint only the following telegram sent to President Wilson under the influence of his speech of February 9th:
“The Bohemian National Alliance, in convention assembled in Chicago, pledges anew to you and through you to America, the allegiance of all Czechoslovaks. The delegates assembled here received enthusiastically your last message to Congress declaring that all well-defined national aspirations must be satisfied, if permanent peace is to prevail. We realize this necessarily leads to an Independent Czechoslovak State. America through you has again given a noble message to the world.”