Written: May 1932.
Source: The Militant, Vol. 5 No. 20 (Whole No. 116), 14 May 1932, p. 4.
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A worker who apparently agrees in part with the trade union policy of the Communist League has criticized the article on the elections in Local 9 of the I.L.G.W.U. which appeared in the issue of April 16th. In order that his differences may be fairly presented, his letter is printed in full on the correspondence page. The doubts we expressed about the genuineness of the victory of the Left wing in the Local 9 elections are attributed by the writer of the letter, comrade Bojarsky, to misinformation about the conditions in this local and the relation of forces between the contending groups. If that were really the case we would have no hesitancy in acknowledging and correcting the error, since honest information is the prerequisite for intelligent and enlightening discussion. But a closer investigation of the matter, including the consultation of a number of informed workers in the needle trades, to whom comrade Bojarsky’s letter was shown, has convinced us that our first article was correct, in fact as well as in inference.
As a proof of the strength of the Left group in Local 9 comrade Bojarsky says it “was the first to defeat the $3.75 tax proposed by the International Administration.” If the Left alone had fought this tax, and the other two groups – the Right as well as the “Progressive Bloc” – had defended it, then the defeat of the tax would indeed have been an indication of the strength of the Left. But this is not exactly so. The “Progressive Bloc” was also against the tax, and since this group controls the administration of the local, which in itself is a demonstration of its strength, it is manifestly wrong to conclude that the defeat of the tax showed the supremacy of the Left. We sympathize with the “patriotic” loyalty to the Left which our correspondent shows. But we do not in the least help the cause of the Left by closing our eyes to realities and making exaggerated and easily refuted claims regarding its accomplishments.
Comrade Bojarsky also disputes our statement that the “Left wing group in the local came to life only recently and has played very little part in the life of the Local.” Against that he says the group “has been in existence since 1930 and was incorporated into the officially organized Left wing groups in March, 1931”. Here again, in our opinion, the criticism is not a refutation. We did not speak of the “existence” of the group, but of its “coming to life” and “playing a part in the life of the Local”. These expressions were used deliberately. After the practical elimination of the Industrial Union from this field the Left wing workers in shops under control of the Schlesinger union were obliged to register again. Their eventual formation into a group within the old union was inevitable. But they could not play a really effective part in the struggles within the union. And why? Because the policy of the Party and the official Left wing made it impossible.
First the Party and the Industrial Union declared the I.L.G.W.U. a “company union” and forbade an organized struggle within it. (See the resolutions of the Industrial Union Convention.) It denounced as a “reformist illusion” of the Trotskyites, the idea that it could be transformed into an organ of the class struggle. This insane policy could not stand up under the test of the actual developments. Then the Stalinists “changed” it – in the typical Stalinist way, without saying so, and without changing the theory which motivated it. As a result there was a period during which the Left members were organized into a group within the “company union” for the purpose of splitting away little sections. This muddle-headed strategy also suffered a collapse. How can you build a real fighting force within a union if you announce in advance your intention of breaking it up?
Thus it was only recently, that the Party, while still muttering the “company union” idiocy, gave directives for a more sensible participation of the Left group in the internal affairs of the Local. The fight against the tax was one sign of this turn. The participation in the recent elections was another. But there is yet a long way to go. The correction of the Left policy has only begun. A radical change must yet take place, both in theory and practice, before the Left wing can even become a serious contender for supremacy. To contend that this supremacy has already been demonstrated comrade Bojarsky had to deceive himself as to the obvious facts.
After the reports of the convention of the International and the Plenum of the Industrial Union are received we will return to this subject again. Meantime both the Militant and the Unser Kamf will be glad to print the opinions of the needle trades workers as to the facts and the inferences to be drawn from them. How does the Left wing stand now and how can it regain its lost positions? Letters on this theme, whether they coincide with our views or not, will be welcomed.
Last updated on: 15.6.2013