Written: March 1931.
First Published: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 6, 15 March 1931, p. 2.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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The poet Goldsmith in The Deserted Village drew an immortal picture of the schoolmaster whose assorted knowledge was the marvel of all men. His listeners – who didn’t understand him – stood open-mouthed before his display of wisdom, fascinated by the spectacle. Goldsmith tells it, if memory serves:
“And still they watched and still their wonder grew
Goldsmith’s pedagogue perished ingloriously with the doomed village of the poet’s lament. But his undying spirit rises from the dust and finds reincarnation in a school teacher of our own day, one whose head is also crammed with knowledge that is hidden from other humans.
We refer of course to Bert Miller, the Trotsky-killer, who has leaped into the white light of fame with a discovery which he has proclaimed to the world in a manifesto. This unique document was printed in the March 7th issue of Lore’s paper, the New York Volkszeitung. And with an unerring newspaper instinct the editor ran it in the department headed Of Interest To Everybody. Miller has been looking around – prospecting, so to speak – for a grouping that can serve as the center and directing force for the Left wing. He has found it he says, not in the Communist movement but in the Muste organization – the C.P.L.A. – and with the enthusiasm of the 49’er, who found gold in the gravel bottom of a shallow creek, he shouts aloud his discovery.
What are the merits of the reformist organization of Muste and Co. which entitle it to replace the Communist movement as the organizing center of the workers’ vanguard? Miller lists a number of them. Among other things, “it is distinctly American in its approach”. As we know, the C.P.L.A. has been fighting the Communists.
But this slight defect – if it can be called a defect – is more than compensated for by the fact that “it provides a common ground for cooperation with Leftward moving elements such as the ‘Militants’ in the Socialist party”.
Miller, it is clear, is no “sectarian”. And he is not one of those who learn nothing and forget nothing from experiences and defeats. It is true he analyzes defeats in his own peculiar way – in order to repeat them. The international experience of the Communist movement under the Stalin-Bucharin leadership has not passed without carving its mark on Miller’s brain. The fact that the C.P.L.A. has a political character, as a wing of social democracy, does not deter him. He asks the rhetorical question, “Is it permissible for Communists to join middle-of-the road political, non-Communist organizations?” And, instructed by the catastrophic defeats suffered by the Comintern in the East, he answers, Yes! “It is not only permissible”, he says, “but it is absolutely necessary”. And how does he know? Because it has been shown by “our experience with the Indian Nationalist movement, the Kuo Min Tang and the British Labor Party.”
He might have added that it is also shown by the large number of people who have passed over in recent times from the Right wing of Communism to the social democracy. This step, as we have pointed out before, is the culmination of Right wing logic. The fact that Miller, and with him a group of nine others from the Lovestone camp, are jumping ahead of the faction as a whole in this respect does not signify a conflict in principle.
Miller, like Goldsmith’s hero of the same profession, is a man of learning, and like all savants, a bit of a philosopher. Communism, as he sees it now, is a nebulous thing in America, while social reformism, like truth, is concrete; and its slogans, as Muste formulates them, “are well suited to the present stage of development of the American labor movement.” If he is rushing where Lovestone still fears to tread, it is merely a question of tempo. The philosophers of movements are always in advance of the politicians and organizers. Lovestone will catch up. Give him time..
Last updated on: 5.12.2012