I. Long Live the Spanish Socialist Republic
II. Workers’ Control over Production
III. The Execution of Lenin’s Comrades
IV. The Unemployment Crisis in Illinois
V. On the Verge of Insurrection-France
VI. The Strategy of the Fourth International (II)
Also: Militarization of C.C.C.-----Worker’s Correspondence
LONG LIVE THE SPANISH SOCIALIST REPUBLIC
Since our article on the Spanish Revolution in the last issue of the Class Struggle, immense changes have taken place which must be thoroughly analyzed by the working class throughout the world.
First and foremost is the fact that the old rotten Liberal government has gone out of existence and in its stead is a new regime in which the Socialists and Communists have a clear majority. This result has been due to the fact that the civil war is far more severe than had been originally conceived. It now involves the very life and death of Spain. In the course of the severe fighting all half-way measures have to go by the board. It has been found that the bourgeois Republicans in the government have sabotaged every inch of the way. They had aided the Fascists in their mobilizations before the outburst; they have hindered the defense of the important positions in the battle; they have refused to conscript wealth and the general population for the struggle; they have protected the Fascist and Monarchist prisoners as long as possible; they have thwarted the workers and toilers in accomplishing the social aims of the revolution.
As a result the Spanish people were being defeated in one decisive battle after another with great losses. The fall of Irun served notice another course would have to be pursued. The masses have seen that they would have to get rid of their treacherous bourgeois allies or they would be destroyed. It was not the action of the Socialists nor of the Stalinists that ousted the “People’s Front” coalition, but the demands of the people themselves to use all the force at its disposal to crush the rebellion. It was not merely the fact that the workers refused to give up their lives for the abstractions of a bourgeois republic, but the practical realities of the civil war that showed that only the greatest development of the power of the people stifled by the bourgeois republican element of the “People’s Front” could defeat the enemy.
Thus, now for the first time in the history of Spain the Socialists have a clear majority of the government. It is a sign not that they have fought for Socialism but that the workers are moving so strongly to the proletarian dictatorship as to take the Socialist politicians along with them. Together with the Communist Party, the Socialists, however, even now do not abandon their bourgeois friends but insist that they remain in the government as a minority. As we wrote last month long before the events:
“In the course of the struggle the Socialists headed by Largo Caballero, who is playing with the title of the Spanish Lenin will have to take over the government. Of course the Socialists will not want to transform the government into Soviets. Indeed, the Socialists will take over the government only in order to prevent the Soviets and the organization of the workers from dominating the scene and deciding events. Rather than allow Soviets to be formed the bourgeois republicans will turn parliament over to the Socialists. Once in power the Socialists may temporarily talk about nationalization of certain industries, but that will be only while the fighting is on. By no means will they countenance the taking over of the factories by the workers. But the workers will begin to do this anyway. Thus the very taking over of power by the Socialists will mean the rupture with the Republican bourgeois who will go over to the side of the reactionary enemy. This will result in an intensification of the civil war which in turn will make the compromising position of the Socialists utterly untenable and the Socialists, too, will be forced to quit the scene as a progressive force.
None of these words has to be modified today. Although the Socialists and the Stalinists are in office together, they make no demands for the change of government from parliaments to Soviets. We could expect this from the Socialists but should not the so-called comunists under Stalin have remembered the theses of the Third Congress of the Communist International under Lenin which declared: “Parliamentarism cannot be a form of proletarian government during the transition period between the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and that of the proletariat. At the moment when the accentuated class struggle turns into civil war, the proletariat must inevitably form its state organization as a fighting organization which cannot contain any representatives of the former ruling classes. All fictions of the “national will” are harmful to the proletariat at that time… The only form of proletarian dictatorship is a Republic of Soviets."?
However, the Stalinists have forgotten all they ever knew about Leninism or Marxism. They still shout about the People’s Front in Spain although the People’s Front has in fact disappeared. Not only is this true in the government but in the actual field of battle where as at San Sebastian we see the bourgeois Republic Basques treacherously give up this important city to the enemy without a fight; yet the Basque Nationalist representative is kept in the Cabinet of the new government, regardless. Not a word do we hear from the Socialists and Stalinists about the treacherous conduct of the President, Azana, last vestige or rather hostage of the People’s Front, until reports in the capitalist press inform us that Azana has fled the government and has sought refuge in the Argentine legation, preparatory to leaving the country in an Argentine cruiser. This is no flight from Fascism, but rather a flight from the workers and toward Fascism. Azana now realizes that in spite of the support to the bourgeoisie offered by the Socialists and the Stalinists, neither party can control the masses and that the Socialist Republic is on the order of the day.
It is not only that neither Socialists nor Stalinists demand the abolition of the fake Constituent Assembly—- for now it is truly a shell, since all the reactionaries and most the bourgeois Liberals have fled and no longer participate in any deliberations—- and the institution of real bodies, Soviets; but far more significant is the fact that nowhere do these so-called revolutionary parties make the slightest effort to proceed to the socialization of industry, to workers control and the end of private property in the means of production.
Wherever this is being accomplished, it is being done by the workers themselves. In Catalonia it was found more convenient by the people for them to break from the Spanish government and set up their own autonomous region before socializing their industries. And it is precisely in Catalonia where the Socialists and Stalinists do not have the principal voice in proletarian affairs. The Stalinists, on the contrary, still ardently maintain that it is not a question of a social revolution, that the workers must not end capitalism but merely fight for the continuation of the “democratic” republic.
In Catalonia, from all reports, matters are proceeding rapidly towards the abolition of capitalism. Factories are being seized; food rationed; workers militia set up; the bourgeoisie shot down; the wealthy quarters turned over to the poor; the principal buildings appropriated by the revolutionary organizations, etc. From Catalonia military columns are being sent all over Spain, to Madrid, to Saragossa, to Huesco, and elsewhere to stiffen up the front. Everywhere these Red troops bring the hope of Communism to the people.
The Communist Party is now in the government but it behaves exactly the way Stalin wanted the Russian Party to behave before Lenin arrived in Russia in 1917, that is in close alliance with the Socialists, serving as coolies to them. These “Communists” have put no demands separate from the Socialists. Scandalous as it may seem, the Stalinists now in the government still make no effort to come for the independence of Morocco or appeal to the Moorish shock troops of the Fascists to fight for their own independence which will be aided from now on by the new workers government which has repudiated imperialism. Instead the Moors see no change from the attitude of the old Spanish imperialist government even though Socialists of the Left (not of the “Right” note) and so-called Communists are at the head.
The fact of the matter is that the “Left” Socialists and the Stalinists are desperately trying to maintain capitalism in Spain. The value of the new Socialist and Stalinist regime consists merely in the fact that these people dare not openly sabotage the fighting against the Fascists as the Azanas and the bourgeois Republicans have done. Because their own heads are at stake, they must permit the forces of the people to become unleashed further than ever. This eventually must spell the doom not only of the Fascist rebellion but of the “Left” Socialists and the Stalinists as well.
Now for the first time there has been introduced universal conscription of all who are not at work and of every able-bodied person, men and, in many cases, women. Facing such determination of the people it will be almost impossible for the Fascist troops to win, in spite of the great aid given them from abroad and the international isolation of the Left government. But the Spanish people have still enormous work out ahead of them. Up to now they still have not formed a real Red Army. They still operate haphazardly, without a plan and centralized direction. Thus, we have isolated campaigns in Malega, in Oviedo, in Bilbao, in Saragossa, in Mallorea, in Madrid, etc.
Such a policy can be fatal in the long run against an experienced enemy. It leads only to the defensive never to the offensive. But by defensive fighting alone the people cannot win. And they cannot take the offensive unless they have a centralized force, discipline and plan.
Up to now the Anarchist tradition, with its loose guerilla warfare, has carried the day but it now must and is giving way. A Red Army is being formed. But such a Red Army cannot be organized without a genuine Communist Party. Up to now it is precisely this kind of a Party that has been lacking. If it is not formed the workers cause is lost. However, the germs of such a party are there in fact and the party must and will be formed in the course of the fight.
The issue is becoming more and more clear: Under the guise of supporting the government, the people are really moving to Socialism and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and as they march in that direction they are bound to organize their own shop and land committees and Soviets with full power. The old government apparatus will crash to earth just as surely as the old army has now been blown to pieces. If they conscript men they will conscript property and they will proceed from equalitarianism as a policy to socialization of the means of production. This, in turn, will allow the masses for the first time to fight for the independence of the colonial peoples, to really address themselves to the poor Moorish colonial soldiers fighting against them and to win them for the cause of Socialism.
As the Stalinists have turned into filthy Liberal-Socialists, it is after all the Anarchists who are behaving like genuine Communists. They have retained the name Anarchists, but in fact many of them have lost their Anarchist theories almost entirely. They are now strongly supporting authoritarian action; they are on government bodies to carry on the struggle; they are forming centralized organizations; they are helping along the dictatorship of the proletariat. Ever since 1934 and the lost Asturias revolt, Anarchism has been in a deep crisis in Spain. The old Anarchism has been killed. Only a small fraction of the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie and intelligentsia now adhere to the old type of Libertarian-Communism. The new Anarchists are taking the place to a considerable measure of the Stalinists who have betrayed the cause of Communism.
By no means does this mean that these new recruits to the cause of the proletarian revolution are trained Leninists. But in spite of the fact that they keep the name Anarchists they are far better Leninists in fact, with all their traditions and mistakes, then the stinking Stalinist Party with its “People’s Front” and class collaboration. These revolutionary elements are truly following basically a correct line. They denounce the People’s Front; they put no faith in the bourgeois Republicans; they oppose the present type of State: they fight reaction but they do not fight for bourgeois Republicanism. They push the faker politicians constantly to the Left; they inaugurate the most drastic acts of reprisals against the bourgeoisie and carry on constant Red terror against the enemy class within their ranks; they declare plainly that their task is not only to defeat Fascism but to institute the new social order.
In line with this hopeful sign is the fact that the Workers Party of Marxist Unity is also growing and increasing its might. It has been rumored that Maurin has been killed. This leaves really only Andreas Nin to head the Party. But Nin has had some training in the Internationalist Left Communist Movement. He is far better prepared ideologically than any other to take full advantage of the situation. It is significant that he refuses to become part of the government and while fighting reaction, denounces all the Stalinist-Socialist-bourgeois conditions and their “People’s Fronts". Also Nin has been close to the Syndicalist movement and has its respect. Should there be a coalition of forces nationally under the direction of the former Internationalist Communist Left there is no doubt that the Spanish Revolution will take a still further step towards Socialism and the World Revolution.
The terrible influence of the Socialist-Stalinist-bourgeois “People’s Front” is to be seen also in the international aspect of the Spanish Revolution. On the one side, the Italian and German Fascist States are helping with all their might. They have sent in large numbers of the most powerful bombers with full crews and plenty of equipment and bombs to destroy the Spanish people. They have helped materially in defeating the people’s forces in the Islands of the Mediterranean, especially Mallorca. They have threatened to bombard Barcelona, the most important city of Spain. They have demanded repeated apologies from the Spanish Left government for daring to protect itself from the outrages committed by the foreign Fascists. They have used their embassies to pour in a stream of money and supplies to the Fascist forces of Spain.
On the Western side of Spain, Portugal now has begun a complete fascisation of its regime. Up to now there had been established a military dictatorship. But with the moving to the Left of the Spanish Revolution, this military dictatorship is now being buttressed by the arming of the active civil forces controlled by the aristocratic and capitalist elements. The Portuguese government has put down the mutiny in its naval forces with the most severe reprisals against the sailors. It has strengthened its reactionary supports on every side. It has openly taken sides against the Spanish Republic and for the rebels. It has become the greatest counter-revolutionary center against Spain on the entire continent, being the source for all the supplies for the rebels that are pouring in daily to aid their cause.
Certainly, this could not have been done without some acquiescence on the part of the British, the traditional friends of whom the Portuguese have been for a long time. The British-Portuguese alliance is of old standing and firmly cemented. Yet the British look on with no action on its part to prevent the formation of an Italian-German-Portuguese Bloc to crush the Spanish Republic.
In return, it is reported that the reactionists are willing to grant Portugal a portion of Spain directly to the North of her present borders. Spain will cede the Balearic Islands to the Italians and Portugal promises to give the Canaries to the Germans, the Germans to abandon all claims to the Portuguese sections of Africa in return. We do not know whether all these rumors are accurate but where there is smoke there is generally some fire and in this case the reports fit in well with the imperialist adventurous schemes of the large Fascist continental powers, Italy and Germany.
But even more scandalous than “democratic” British toleration of these moves is the position of the French “People’s Front Government” and that of the Socialist Blum. While the forces of Fascism are bending all their might for the destruction of the Spanish People’s movement, Blum does all he can to isolate the Spanish Republic and turn it over to the Monarchist hounds for destruction. In spite of the greatest pressure on the part of the French workers, in spite of repeated demonstrations and now even general strikes, the Socialist Blum remains adamant. And just as the British Trade Union Congress supports the position of its bourgeois government to remain “neutral” although the formal position of every government is to adopt a friendly attitude toward a government it considers friendly, so does the Socialist Blum insist on serving the interests of his own bourgeoisie by barring arms and munitions to Spain.
And yet it is ordinary capitalist courtesy to permit friendly governments to buy arms and munitions in their country while preventing rebels from doing so. Apparently it makes a great difference to the British Labor Leaders and to the French Socialists whether the government that wants to busy such arms and munitions is a Left government or not and whether the rebels are workers or bosses. If the rebels are bourgeois, then they are to be favored; if the government is being controlled by the workers, then the government must be barred from purchase of arms in that country. Such is the “neutrality” of the Socialists of France and the Labor Partyites and the Trade Union scoundrels in England.
Of course, what is bothering these people is that the Socialist Revolution cannot succeed in Spain without precipitating civil war in France and England. The workers there too will have to move for power and struggle against international Fascism with more than platonic phrases. What is bothering them acutely also is the fact that the Spanish people cannot win without establishing the independence of Morocco and calling for the freedom of all African colonies. This must inevitably mean civil war in French Morocco and the spreading of the entire war throughout the whole colonial world. The great British Empire and French colonial possessions are at stake. The British Trade Union leaders and the French Socialists mean to fight for the colonies of their masters to the end.
If we look at capitalist Europe as a whole, we see that it is burning at both ends. In the East there is the record of the Russian Revolution, in the West, the great Spanish Revolution which can spread to France and Belgium and throughout the world. Fascism must strike quickly if it is to extinguish these mighty flames.
There is this great difference between Russia and the West. Russia was under the domination of the Third International now destroyed by Stalinism. With its theory of Socialism in one country, Stalinism has played a role crushing the proletarian revolution elsewhere. The Spanish Revolution cannot turn to Stalinism. It must turn to the World Revolution and thus it must turn to the Fourth International. The victory of the Spanish Social Revolution is the end of Stalinism and the rise again of genuine revolutionary internationalism.
But in the meantime the Spanish Revolution moves gloriously forward. It is now well on the way to establishing the rule of the workers. LONG LIVE THE SPANISH SOCIALIST REPUBLIC! LONG LIVE THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL.
The principal strategical problems with which the Fourth International will have to be concerned are the problems of 1. Workers Control over Production.; 2. Direct Action; 3.Permanent Revolution; 4. Arming of the Proletariat; 5. United Front; 6. Insurrectionary Strategy;7. The Formation of a New Communist International. It can be seen that these problems are truly pertinent to the field of strategy, that they have to do neither with the day-to-day relations in the sphere of tactics nor with the ultimate relations of program and objective. They have to do with these questions which tie up the given day-to-day work with the program and bring the program to actual realization.
The Fourth International will have to make the most careful study of the question of workers’ control over production. Under some circumstances, where there is no revolutionary situation and the capitalist order is relatively stable, the slogan Workers Control over Production may be used in a very opportunist and reformist sense, providing a theoretical basis for all sorts of schemes of collaboration with the employers. We must beware that revolutionary phrases do not in fact cover up counter-revolutionary policies.
Even Fascists have organized their Fascist organizations with the specious plea that they are going to give the workers some control over industry. Very often company unions are built by employers with the slogan that they believe in industrial democracy and the right of the workers to have a say in the business. Again, it is possible for labor leaders, like Sidney Hillman of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers demagogically to declare that “the industry has responsibility to the workers” only in order to work out some joint action with the manufacturers’ association or in order to help the bosses “put order” into the industry by collaborating with them in the introduction of machinery, in speed-up and rationalization plans, etc. Most often the idea that the workers should control their jobs is used by trade union bureaucrats to obtain the “check-off” system whereby the dues to the unions are taken out of the wage envelopes by the bosses and handed over to the union officials. On the surface it seems that this measure compels the boss to work for the union, in reality it results in the bosses and union officials working hand in hand while the union members have precious little to say about finances. Also, the idea of workers’ control can be interpreted to mean that the union bureaucracy should control the right to hire and fire men on the job.
Similarly, the term “Workers’ Control” has been abused by the functionaries of the opportunist Labor parties. When a Labor Party gets into government office, at once the officials begin to talk to the workers in industry that strikes would embarrass the Labor Government, that the workers are really controlling the factories and industries through their parliamentary Labor Party, etc. The elections of the Labor Party are run on the assumption that Labor Party victories would mean workers’ control over the resources of the nation. As a matter of fact, everywhere we see these Labor Parties defend capitalism and prevent the workers from moving towards Socialism through genuine workers’ control.
An interesting variation of Labor Party use of the term “Workers’ Control” is the phrase “Industrial Democracy". In the United States the Railroad Brotherhoods in 1921 came out for the Plumb Plan of operation of the railroads, which plan had as its features the nationalization of the railroads with full compensation and their operation by a board composed of workers, management and government. This class-collaboration scheme was called “Industrial Democracy” or “Workers’ Control over Production". A similar proposal was made by John L.Lewis and the United Mine Workers after the war in reference to the coal mines. Behind the phrases that sounded as though labor was advancing its interest, was the brazen attempt of union officials to link up the unions with the government to speed up production and prevent strikes.
In the light of these opportunist and dangerous methods of misconstruing the idea of workers’ control over production, it is very necessary that the Fourth International work out carefully its analysis so that revolutionary organizations will not use the slogan of workers’ control in any fashion that will bolster up capitalism. The danger of opportunism cannot be eradicated, it is inherent in the situation in which the workers are forced to take control.
It can be seen from the very terms that the idea of workers taking control over industrial production does not mean that they dispossess the owners and take over the property themselves. This is far from the case. The employer still owns the factory; he is still nominally the possessor and the proprietor. Only he now loses the right to close down the plant, the right to hire and fire workers as he pleases, the right to dictate working conditions, etc. In his plant there is now formed a committee of workers that goes over his books, limits his profits, sets up its own control, prevents sabotage or lock-down of the plant. Naturally, then, we have a situation of dual power that can not last for any length of time.
No employer is going to allow the intolerable situation of workers taking control over his plant without putting up a battle. On the other hand, the invasion of his plant by the workers means that they are preparing to establish their own ownership and rule shortly and that the control is only a stepping stone on the way. Thus, when properly used, the slogan “Workers’ Control over Production” is adopted by the proletariat, on the one hand, when the capitalists are losing control of the situation or have provoked the masses into action without having the strength to stop them, and, on the other hand, when the workers are ready to establish the dictatorship and take full possession but are not yet able to do so.
Every revolution has this sort of transition period and since the factual situation is inevitable, it is necessary for revolutionists to examine it from all points of view. A revolutionary organization can not issue the slogan “Workers’ Control over Production” if it is meant to be carried out during periods of capitalist stability, when it can only imply wholesale collaboration of the workers with the bosses in which the workers become the coolies to worry about the production problems of the capitalists and measures to increase their profits. A Communist Party can issue the demand for workers’ control only in periods which are becoming revolutionary,when the masses are in action and the demand of workers’ control will unleash the energy of the toilers still further, will bring matters to a head-on collision and impel the proletariat to take the necessary steps for the conquest of power.
The Socialists have the idea that the workers must be trained not in “destructive” operations but in “constructive” work and part of that constructive work is to know how to manage and operate the factories so that when Socialism comes the working class will be trained by the bosses so that everything will work smoothly without a hitch. The revolutionist, on the other hand, understand very well that the slogan workers’ control can be used only in a revolutionary situation, when the “destructive’” factors of social evolution are reaching their highest level, when the employer is trying to lock-out the workers and throw them out on the street so that pitched battles with the military can be provoked and the workers can be either shot down or starved into submission. Workers’ control over production is used in a period when such control will not be accompanied by more production but by more revolutionary activity of all sorts. It is to be accomplished, not in order to teach the workers “management” but in order to build up the fighting forces and realize the objectives of the revolutionary movement.
While in the hands of opportunists and reformists of all kinds, the idea of workers’ control harnesses the workers to the carts of the bosses, in the hands of revolutionists the workers’ control over factories is a transition policy, a strategy that will move the masses from their stable and accustomed mode of action to the practice of establishing their own dictatorship and ownership of the means of production. With the reformists it is a method of controlling the workers with the genuine Communists it is a method of wiping out the control of the bosses.
It is paradoxical but true that workers’ control is introduced precisely at a time when all social control is being lost; when society is in chaos and civil war is soon to be on the order of the day. Herein lies also the difference between workers’ control and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Under the dictatorship there is internal centralization, order, discipline: there is a party which acknowledges authority; the capitalists are out of the factories, completely ousted, and the workers are running their own affairs. Under the transition of workers’ control, on the other hand, everything is sporadic, confused, haphazard. The actions are not planned or controlled. It is utterly ridiculous to imagine that under such circumstances production can be increased.
It is true that the workers undertake to control the plants under the pressure of the lock-outs and sabotage of the capitalists and the need for continued production. But it is also true that once they take over the factories, even though ownership nominally is retained by the capitalists,they will have to fight to maintain their control and enter into the destructive aspects of the civil war.
In Italy, in 1921, and in Hungary, in 1919, the workers took over the factories and ran them themselves, but they soon found out that they had to confront the world subdivision of labor; their raw materials ran out, they had to get into communication with the outside capitalist world that refused to aid them in any way. Thus, the workers’ control must have an extremely limited character until the proletariat is able to conquer not only the power in its own State, but extend the proletarian revolution, in most cases, beyond the boundaries of one nation.
The fact that workers; control over production has little to do with actual constructive projects but is merely a phase in the attack of the workers can be seen in the fact that in the period of workers’ control, as distinguished from the dictatorship of the proletariat, there can be no centralized planned economy, no real utilization of the national resources. This can come only when the workers have won the political power completely.
An important question to be discussed is what is the relation of workers’ control to the political movement and the dictatorship of the proletariat? In Russia there was no extensive workers’ control until the proletariat took over power through the Soviets and then they went though the process of workers’ control for almost a year before they decided to go the whole way and socialize industry outright. Thus, in Russia, workers’ control went hand in hand with the period of the democratic-dictatorship of the workers and peasants, through the Soviets. Only by taking power was the workers’ control made effective by the workers.
In Germany, the workers attempted to institute workers’ control over production in 1918-1919 through their factory councils. But they did not take power. The Socialists who were in the government were holding the power not for the workers but for the bourgeoisie and at the first opportunity put down the workers. In the meantime while they were stalling for time, they established “Commissions on Socialization” to study the question and report back to parliament. On their part, instead of taking over the industries, the workers’ councils waited for the Socialist Party to “nationalize” the industries.
Workers’ control has absolutely nothing to do with the nationalization of industries. It is the Socialists who like to substitute one for the other. They are generally opposed to workers’ councils or Soviets in the factories. They would like the workers to trust to the Socialist politicians to bring the factories under workers’ control. Workers’ control to the Socialists and opportunists of all stripes means simply workers’ participation in a government that controls the industries and runs them.
Nothing could be farther from the correct policy than this. The workers must wait for no government. They must take the factories themselves and run them. This itself will be a guarantee that the government will begin to correspond to the needs of the workers and not vice versa. In Germany, they waited for the government to act, the result was they could not control industry at all. On the other hand, workers’ control should be the economic phase of the movement of the proletariat the political aspect of which is the conquest of power.
In and of itself nationalization of industry means simply State capitalism. The workers have no control whatsoever. This is true even when the Labor Party is in the government or a Socialist Party. The government is still a government over the workers and in favor of the bourgeoisie in all these cases. Where the workers take over control of the factories, they must strive to take over power and thus not nationalize the factories as much as socialize them. In this way they can legalize their factual control and go further and dispossess the capitalists.
In Italy they took control over the factories but could not take political control. In the end they lost the economic control as well. In Germany they waited to take political control before they took economic control. They lost both. In Russia the movement for workers’ control went hand in hand with the movement for power and each buttressed the other. It was successful. However, it is well to point out that if workers’ control over the factories goes hand in hand with the movement for dictatorship of the proletariat, as we have remarked before, by no means are they identical. Workers’ control has existed without proletarian dictatorship (although not for long) and dictatorship of the proletariat can exist without workers’ control.
This last point may be hard to grasp until one reviews the history of the Russian Revolution up to date. After the workers took over power with the poor peasantry through Soviets, the control of industry was turned over to the State. Under Lenin, the State was really under the control of the workers, that is, workers were directly in the management of the government. Thus, the loss of direct factory control by the workers was compensated for by control over the government; and this, indeed, was a great improvement for only through the centralized State apparatus was there able to be coordinated national planning and a greatly increased production. This is the Communist policy as contrasted to the Anarchist who wanted each particular factory to be under the direct control of the workers of that factory. This is what the Anarchists meant when they raised the slogan “Land to the Peasant and the Factories to the Workers.”
However, as time went on, the Russian workers lost control over their government. Under Stalin, the dictatorship of the proletariat operates under the form of a dictatorship over the proletariat by the bureaucracy. This is a dangerous situation, since these bureaucrats must strive for the weakening of workers’ control and the substitution of bureaucratic control on the road to the return of capitalism. As the workers lose control of the administration of the State, they naturally begin also to lose control over their factories, since they had already turned over the control of production to themselves only as managers of the proletarian dictatorship. Under Stalin, indeed, matters have gone even further; the unions have in fact been destroyed and the right to strike taken away. And now the Soviets are gone. If the workers now control their factories and their State, it is only indirectly and to the extent that there is as yet no force to bring back capitalism in Russia without outside intervention which is as yet not realized.
From what we have said, it can be seen that it is totally false to declaim for nationalization and workers’ control over production as some pseudo-revolutionary children are now demanding in the United States. As we have already pointed out, the one is not in the least connected with the other and indeed may be antithetical to the other. Besides, no revolutionary group with a grain of sense would concoct slogans that contained two items at the same time,giving the enemy the alternative to choose and confusing the workers by the duality.
Matters of wages and hours and working conditions are generally fought for by unions, craft, trade and industrial. Workers’ control over production can be managed generally only by shop committees, workers’ councils or such bodies that cut across craft and even industrial lines sometimes. Wherever the workers’ councils or committees have been set up they have not been conceived as dual organizations to the industrial unions, but rather have been looked upon as organs for sharper forms of struggle, for the taking over of the factories. Of late, however, the industrial union is being formed on the basis of the shop council itself and thus both forms are combined. In the past, however, the industrial union has been the instrument for fighting economic battles, the workers’ councils for workers’ control and the Soviets for the conquest of power.
In Russia, after the conquest of power, the question became very acute how the workers would be able to maintain their control over the factories in the light of the danger of bureaucracy that was growing in the State. The Workers’ Opposition wanted to turn the whole question of planned economy over to the trade unions. Whether this was feasible in an agrarian State was very problematical at the moment, and for the time being, at any rate, Lenin vetoes the proposition. It is another question what would be the situation in a more industrial country and under other circumstances.
In Spain, for example, the Syndicalists in control of the C.N.T. refuse to turn over the factories to the control of the State or Soviets even though the State is composed of Soviets and the workers run the Soviets. Here the argument of the Workers’ Opposition in Russia of 1922 are finding fruit and the unions themselves are undertaking to run production, centralize it and workout any plan that will have to be made. The workers refuse to lose control over their factories directly even though the dictatorship of the proletariat is being established. Whether this duality between the trade unions and the Soviets taking in the broader masses of toilers including the agricultural laborer and the peasantry, will remain practical, is yet to be seen.
The forthcoming Congress of the Fourth International groupings, whenever it is held, must take stock of the recent experiences of the question of workers’ control. They must draw the lessons from Russia, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Spain and the other places where this matter has been put to the test practically and lay down the general norms and directives that will guide the internationalist revolutionary fighters all over the world.
C H I C A G O F O R U M of the COMMUNIST LEAGUE OF STRUGGLE
Every Friday Evening, starting October 16th
at the Abraham Lincoln Center—700 Oakwood Blvd
Outside of the Stalintern, not a single group of people have been so convinced that the 16executed men, some of them prominent Old Bolsheviks, were guilty of the extraordinary charges made. It was expected the public trial would clear up the matter, but the few days of the trial passed leaving the mystification greater than before. There was a note of unreality, of the fantastic, about the whole affair.
Is it possible that Lenin’s partners, men who had given a lifetime to the service of the revolution, could suddenly have become enemies of the U.S.S.R., Fascists allied with Hitler who conspired to inaugurate Fascism in Russia by a reign of terror? This we refuse to believe. Yet there were presented confessions of the most prominent of the defendants to that effect. This is the baffling contradiction at the heart of the case which has aroused so many protests of incredulity. Demand have been made from various quarters for a labor review of the case. Needless to say, the Stalinists everywhere, who are incapable of anything except to blabber what is sent from Moscow, have refused to question the verdict or to reply. We ourselves are neither psycho-analysts nor amateur detectives, but it is necessary for the moment to become both in dealing with this case.
First, the charges made. The 16 defendants were charged with responsibility for the Kirov assassination and also with being involved in a plot to assassinate Stalin and his close associates and to bring in Trotsky and Fascism with a reign of terror. This plot is supposed to have been carried on for at least four years previously, and in addition to the 16 executed, large numbers of other prominent men have been involved by mention. Here are a number of points which the intelligence refuses to assimilate. Such men as Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov, Sokolnikov, etc.were not amateurs in conspiracy, they had many years of experience under the Czar in conspiratorial work. Would they have been likely to commit such a stupid blunder as to first kill an isolated victim of their supposed plot, thus exposing their hand and making it impossible to continue> Furthermore, Zinoviev and Kamenev were brought to trial in January 1935 for responsibility in the Kirov assassination. If there was not enough evidence to convict them then,it would be necessary to introduce new evidence to prove them guilty now. But there was no such new evidence.
Now, as to the means used to convict. No direct evidence was introduced except for one oral testimony to which we will refer later, although the charges were of the greatest severity. If the men were really guilty, why were not some traces of their conspiracy brought to light, some letter, some document, some fact involved in killing Kirov, why did not some of the 117previously executed have some knowledge of this and reveal it at the time? The 16 had supposedly organized a band of students, and other rank and file people, to throw the bomb at a May Day celebration or at a Party meeting which was to have demolished Stalin and his associates. Who were these students, these rank and filers, and why was it that not a single one of them was produced or in any way personally involved in the trial?
Two of the defendants testified that they had been in touch with an agent of Heinrich Himmler, head of Hitler’s Gestapoo, and had received money from him. The peculiar thing about this is that these two men were the only ones in the case whose names were completely unknown,whom nobody had ever heard of before. Why should such prominent leaders associate themselves with newcomers in a venture of such seriousness. Knowing Stalin’s methods from past cases, the most likely conclusion is that these two men were the inevitable GPU agents in the case.
We cannot speak of flimsy evidence, where there is no attempt to back up the charges with evidence at all. If the GPU, one of the most powerful police machines in the world, during four years the plot was supposed to have existed, could not lay its hands on one single letter,could not unearth one single bomb or other weapon the conspirators were to have used, then the normal intelligence cannot be blamed for concluding “There never was such a plot". The background of this trial, with its talk of bombs, of killings, of betrayals, of terror, was less convincing than a blood and thunder dime novel or a movie thriller. The whole trial was a furious demonstration of Trotsky and the defendants, and a fulsome adulation of Stalin. That was all. On what basis were the convictions made? On the desire to convict, first of all, with confessions offered to appease public opinion.
The confessions contain an element of the enigmatical, but they can be explained. What baffles one’s credulity at first is that just these people should have become involved in just this sort of plot. Consider the records of the defendants and others involved without being charged. Zinoviev was the first Secretary of the Communist International. He had worked closely with Lenin for years, both in exile and since the revolution. For years he was chairman of the Ptrograd Soviet, and a member of the political bureau of the party. Kamenov was chairman of the Moscow Soviet and member of the Political Committee for years. Bucharin was one of the best-known theoreticians of the party and at one time Lenin called him the most popular of the party leaders;he was chairman of the C.I. after Zinoviev and still remains the editor of “Isvestia". Smirnov was at the head of one of the army sections during the civil war and for many years a member of the Bolshevik party, Yevdokimov was a member of the Central Committee, so also was Bakayov during the time of Lenin. Tomsky was the first head of the red trade unions. And so on.
The old Bolsheviks were never individual terrorists: they considered that even under conditions of Czarist oppression the struggle had outgrown these method after the organization of a party. Even supposing that in desperation of succeeding to fight Stalin by any other means they might have resorted to terrorism, can we believe that such men as these had become overnight"Fascist and dogs” “bloodthirsty enemies of the Soviet Union”, etc. Zinoviev had been at onetime a member of Trotsky’s faction. Surely he knew Trotsky’s views well enough, whether he supported them or not. It is impossible to believe that he could have declared of his own free will,"Fascism plus terrorism is Trotskyism”, or that he could have become an actual Fascist.
The only assumption we can tolerate is that the confessions were wrung from the defendants through the use of torture, threats and promises. This leaves us in another dilemma. How is it that revolutionists of this standing and experience can break down now after enduring so many trials in the past? Faced with death would they not be likely either to tell the truth or to remain silent? Or did they actually believe that these fantastic confessions could save them? We can explain the moral breakdown only in the light of years of futile struggle against an all-pervasive crushing bureaucracy. We see in the United States where the Stalinists are a mere flea-bite what a regime of lies, petty slanders, intrigue, sycophaney, contemptible tricks, frame-up and brutality of all sorts characterizes the Communist Party. In Russia, we must imagine all this multiplied many thousand fold, Stalinism to the defendants must have seemed a monster against which it was well-nigh useless to struggle by the usual methods. Isolated from the revolution in the rest of the world, prisoners of the attempt to build socialism in one country alone, they had lost all perspective of the world revolution. Under Stalin, revolutionists must in one way or another be destroyed…it is a choice of complete moral prostitution, or torture and death. Rakovsky, Blumkin, Krupskaya, Tomsky, Xinoviev, Kamenev, in one way or another Stalin gets them all.
Zinoviev and Kamenev had sided with Trotsky in the early days of the Left Opposition before the banishment of Trotsky. Afterwards, they capitulated. In fact, every one of the defendants (with the exception of the two or three obscure people whom we can suppose to be GPU agents) was a political person of high standing who at one time or another had been in opposition and had capitulated. The stifling bureaucracy of Stalinism with its vicious persecutions breeds cowardice and capitulation as fast as it breeds opposition.
Even Trotsky…Stalin had the brass to demand that Trotsky be delivered up to his vengeance. It is when we consider the connection with Trotsky that we begin to see some sense in this last “bitter dish” that the Georgian cook has served. Stalin has not been able to get Trotsky. But the dread of Trotsky haunts him and every opposition or possibility of opposition is thus linked up with Trotsky in the hope of getting him. Trotsky is the specter of Truth—the Truth which Stalin has tried so hard to hide, to falsify, to destroy. Trotsky’s connection with the case is like everything else about it, fantastic and unconvincing. Somebody saw Trotsky’s son, Sedof, in Paris, it was reported, and Sedof said that Stalin must die. Even were Sedof Trotsky, one would still require a little more proof than this to substantiate such serious charges. No letters, no documents were offered. Trotsky as always is pictured as the arch counter-revolutionist, now turned Fascist. But we ask: “Is it not astonishing that if Trotsky is a Fascist he is expelled from various countries not for his Fascist but for his revolutionary activity? In France he was in too close touch with his political faction, the Bolshevik-Leninists, too much engaged in building the Fourth International, to suit the authorities. Now in Norway he is being kept a close prisoner, hedged in and refused the possibility of communicating with the outside world? Again because he was in touch with the revolutionary activities in Spain and France. Would not a Fascist of such ability and celebrity be welcomed with open arms in more than one quarter? Isi it not precisely because of his fidelity to the revolutionary ideal as he sees it that Trotsky is today a hunted exile, almost without parallel in history? Something here does not click in our understanding.
Tomsky was supposed to be the link between Trotsky and the Russian conspirators. And Tomsky “committed suicide". What a very convenient coincidence. But we are not ready to believe that Tomsky, one-time head of the Red Trade Unions and Bolshevik of many years standing, would be willing to pass off the scene without at least leaving a statement of the truth behind him. This implies an irresponsibility which is not likely to be found in a man of that age and experience. We remember that when Jaffe committed suicide he left behind a statement exposing the unspeakable persecution to which he had been subjected which had cornered him in a helpless position, suffering from a painful ailment and cut off from the opportunity to get treatment. It is hardly necessary to suggest that Tomsky might have died by other means than those published, or that he might really have left a statement which was immediately hushed up.
Zinoviev and Kamenev are also linked with Trotsky in this affair. It is well known that these two men were in a bloc with Trotsky in the early days of the Left Opposition, but they deserted this position and capitulated to Stalin. Certainly if they had again become connected with Trotsky this fact could not have been concealed during all this time. Here is another of the ridiculous and incredible aspects of the case. Besides, Trotsky had repeatedly excoriated them.
We have gone into these details concerning the trial itself to prove the complete lack of evidence, of proof of guilt. The execution was a slaughter based on preposterous charges. More clarity will be thrown on the subject, however, if we view it in the light of the international situation and of the internal contradictions within Russia. Why is it that Stalin needs from time to time to resort to these spectacular mass trials and why just now does he wish to get rid of these prominent people.
The flare-up of the revolution in Spain, which is likely at any moment to spread to France and from there to Belgium and Holland if not further, puts before the Soviet Union the necessity of taking sides. This the Soviet Union officialdom does not do openly. But in the usual Stalinist manner of sinister trickery, it is taking sides just the same. Before the workers of the world it throws a bluff of fighting “counter revolution: and “Fascism” which it destroys in the persons of the supposed associates of Trotsky. In reality Stalin is again prostituting himself before the international bourgeoisie. He is assuring them that he is their man, that the last reminders and remnants of the October Revolution will be wiped out, symbolized in the physical extermination of Lenin’s comrades. It was not enough to liquidate the Society of Old Bolsheviks, those old Bolsheviks themselves must be wiped out. This extermination is but the symbol in turn of the constant progression towards counter-revolution that has been going on now for many years, so that all effective participation or control in the government has been taken from the workers,control over the factories has been taken from them (though not yet the ownership), all effective organs of struggle have been taken from them.
Certain landmarks have stigmatized this degeneration within the past year and a half: the Franco-Soviet pact, the mass executions in the Kirov affair, the new constitution and now the execution of the 16. Opinion may differ as to what the particular stage of degeneration the Russian revolution has reached. For some groups, the Franco-Soviet pact was the signal for abandoning the defense of the U.S.S..R. The “Class Struggle” declared after the publication of the new constitution that it was now necessary to drop the flat slogan of Defend the Soviet Union,since there were no longer any Soviets to defend. At the same time, however, we still defend the Russian proletariat as the makers of the October revolution from any aggressive war which endangers them.
The new constitution was also a declaration to the international bourgeoisie of Stalin’s sincere counter-revolutionary intentions. The wonderful “democracy” of the new constitution was proclaimed. Here was no longer any need for dictatorship, the Stalinist puppets everywhere echoed, since the country had progressed so well on the road to Socialism. In reality there is less,not more democracy in the new constitution as compared with the Soviet form of government, (see article in the “Class Struggle” for August 1936 on “The End of the Soviets"). Now come these executions of 16 people to prove that even the thought or the shadow of opposition to Stalin is enough in the now much-heralded democracy to bring a man before the firing squad.
We can say as we said at the time of the Kirov assassination that the trial of the 16indicates the terrible instability and hysteria of the Stalinist regime. Only a government isolated from the masses and lacking genuine support needs to resort to such extreme measures. If all those implicated in the plot, including a long list of people in high posts were really guilty, then the regime must be shot through and through with unreliable elements from Stalin’s point of view. It must be so honeycombed with plots that civil war is likely to break out at any moment. If on the other hand, the affair is completely a frame-up, and this is the more likely supposition, then it is clear that Stalin has reason to fear a mass uprising, and feels he must in advance get rid of all who might give it leadership. Whichever way we look at it, a veritable abyss is revealed. Russiahas certainly one of the most insecure regimes in the world today.
Capital punishment is now resorted to on a mass scale and irresponsibly, with only a pretense of proof of guilt. And note the great haste with which the executions were carried through. Even the 72 hour delay legally due the men was denied. By the time the news of the sentence reached the world the condemned had already been shot. No doubt it was feared, if there was any delay, the defendants finding they were to be shot after all their lies at Stalin’s dictation, might burst forth in some last minute revelation of the truth. The executions took place secretly, with no witness but the firing squad.
These executions must recall a somewhat similar situation in the French revolution. As the revolution moves to the right, all those who symbolize its earlier really revolutionary period must be put out of the way. This is in the name of the Revolution. Robespierre in 1793-94executed the leaders of the Communes in Paris, Hebert, Roux, Chaumette, those who attempted to voice the needs of the common people. Robespierre so isolated himself from popular support -and indeed he never had represented the interests of the masses- that he himself went to the guillotine not long afterward in the month of Termidor, ushering in the era of counter-revolution,Stalin will never be able to read the handwriting on the wall.
Stalin’s trade-mark is all over this affair. His peculiar methods have become well known. In America we would call it a frame-up, but it is a peculiar sort of frame work A la Russe.Trotsky has called this the method of “amalgams". In 1927, in order to defeat his opponent whose political views he could not refute, Stalin planted a White Guard ex-Czarist officer in Trotsky’s faction. This spy was then uncovered as an “ally” of Trotsky and at the same time the little mimeograph machine by means of which Trotsky had circulated his opinions in party circles was magnified into a “secret printing press” (See Trotsky’s book “The Real Situation in Russia")Then a whole scandal was cooked up in which Trotsky figured at the head of a supposed counter-revolutionary plot to restore Czarism. At the same time Stalin maneuvered to fill up the party with new elements, strangers to the October revolution, who could be fooled by these stories and would be willing to vote Trotsky out (at that time votes were still necessary to put over these dirty deals.)
Ever since Lenin’s death, whenever Stalin has wanted to get rid of political dissenters of any sort, he has carried on a “purge” and “Lenin drive” within the party. Immediately after the death of Lenin, the party membership was pushed from 440,000 to 741,000. This was hailed as a wonderful achievement. But what had really happened?—The barriers had been let down to take in all sorts of elements, bureaucratic and petty-bourgeois, that in Lenin’s day would have been considered ineligible to membership, but which could be relied on to vote against Trotsky. Ever since then, the “purge” which takes place from time to time, is not, as in the days of Lenin, to clean out non-reliable and non-proletarian people and to get fresh workers from the point of production, but rather to get rid of all those who have expressed discontent or opposition, and the"drive” is to get in people always more and more removed from the October revolution, whose one great qualification for party membership is their subservience to Stalin.
These “drives” and “purges” in Russia are reflected in the puppet parties throughout the world in campaigns of slander against Trotskyism and attacks against all those opposing the C.I. Thus we see a faint ripple of the Zinoviev-Kamenev affair in Chicago recently where two members of the C.L.S. were slugged by Stalinists as they gave out leaflets appealing to the unemployed, in the name of “fight the Trotskyist mad dogs.”
Today the “amalgam” in the Zinoviev trial is formed of both Left and Right elements, with the fiction of “Hitler’s agents” added. Bucharin, one-time chief inspirer of the Right opposition,and other men such as Radek, Piatnikov and Tomsky, have been implicated in the plot and linked up with Trotsky without definite charges as yet being brought. We can easily surmise that in the near future some scandal will be fabricated which will create the necessary excuse for wiping them out also. In fact Rykov, one of those darkly hinted at, has now been removed from his post as Commissar of Communications. The Left and Right have not stood out very clearly in Russia. The decisive defeat of the Left Opposition in 1937 and the exile of Trotsky made it extremely difficult to crystalize a Russian opposition. Not merely was there a suppression all the more effective as the Stalin regime was officially in control of the whole country, opposition to it meaning therefore banishment, imprisonment, deprivation of the opportunity to earn a living,persecution in every field of life, but also there was a lack of sufficiently forceful and clear ideological leadership. The result was that any sort of criticism and dissatisfaction was lumped together as “opposition". This is what explains why such people as Zuinoviev, Kamenev, Radek,Krupskaya and others have been at one time with the Left and at another with the Right opposition, varied by complete capitulation to Stalin.
Today to the amalgam of Left and Right are added the unproved charge of Fascism (In1927 the Czarist officer at least existed in flesh and blood even though he was nothing but a paid spy and tool of Stalin.) The real drive today is against the Lefts…against any sort of Left.Zinoviev and Kamenev as Bolsheviks had serious deviations from Leninism (for example in 1917on the verge of the October revolution). They have been vacillating and unclear, but is not for their departures from Leninism that they are being punished, but quite the contrary, for the very fact that they were associates of Lenin, that they took power as leaders in the revolution of October 1917 which put the proletariat in power. They have been executed as revolutionists,though in the name of fighting Fascism. Not even the capitalist prosecutions with their lawyer sand courts can cook up such outrageous frame-ups as this.
Of the bureaucrats now surrounding Stalin, some were even on the other side of the barricades in 1917. They have no traditions of revolution or any bonds with the proletariat. They are a new ruling clique foisted on the proletariat from without (though not yet possessing class although they absorb a large share of the country’s revenue and enjoy standards of living much higher than those of the workers.) This clique is attempting to represent the interests of capitalism in the outside world and of the kulaks within Russia as well as of the Russian working class. This conflicting combination of interests cannot endure very long.
A paradoxical situation exists in Russia today whereby ownership of the means of production and political power are vested in different hands. The proletarian ownership is rather negative than positive. We cannot see any effective proletarian organs of power, either economic or political; on the other hand, we cannot see a class other than the proletariat possessing the factories. A situation like this can only be a temporary one. Just as in the early days of the revolution there was a transitional period (from October 1917 to July 1918) when there was workers’ control in the factories though the capitalists had not yet been ousted, so today we see a bureaucracy in control in the name of the proletariat, yet the proletariat has been ousted from effective control through its shop committees, unions and soviets. In 1917 the situation was passing from workers’ control towards Socialism, today it is passing from workers’ ownership towards a restoration of capitalism. Such acts as the shooting of Zinoviev, Kamenev and the others are counter-revolutionary acts, no matter under what bluff they are committed.
The discontent of the masses in Russia, as in the Fascist countries, cannot easily find expression, but it is very eloquent of the real situation that the 117 people executed in punishment of the Kirov assassination in 1934 were rank and filers, many of them factory workers and some of them members of the Communist Party. Whether they were really involved in killing Kirov or not we do not know. But the fact that they were accused and executed seems to speak of a deep-seated discontent which may perhaps be attempting to express itself through desperate means. The number of people sent away to prison and exiled (and this has been going on for years)testifies to the continuous current of opposition that had existed. Just how will the Russian proletariat be able to break its new chains and once again assert itself as owners and rulers over the factories it seized in 1918 and over the political government of the country? It is not likely the ousting of Stalin and his clique will take place until some impulse comes from the proletariat outside.
This impulse gives more promise of coming now than in many years. And here too we see one of the most decisive factors driving Stalin to the most recent spectacular clean-out. The masses in western Europe are threatening to get out from under the control of the Communist International. There are the workers in Spain holding reaction at bay and in some parts of the country forging ahead with their own revolution, taking over industries and setting up a workers’ government. All this is in defiance of the Stalinist policy of defending “democracy only". The Communist Party appears as an insignificant factor in the Spanish struggle, its instructions are unheeded in the fire of events. Similarly in France, where the workers are supposed to be bound in the support of Russia through the Franco-Soviet Pact (and to their own bourgeoisie by the same means) the masses are restive and there are signs that they are getting ready for a new occupation of the factories, from which this time they will not so easily be ousted. This too is in defiance of the Stalinist definition that there is no revolutionary situation in France. Enough has happened already to make it clear that the revolutionary current has definitely shifted and that the struggles from now on will center around the Fourth International.
Not merely this, but in both the Spanish and the French situations are inherent the possibilities of a new world war. Then indeed will Russia learn the fruits of building socialism in one country! Russia will find itself abandoned on all sides. The masses of Europe, disillusioned at having been so many times deserted, by Stalinism, are now leaving the Third International behind them, and are making their revolutions themselves. On the other hand, the diplomaticp acts by which Stalin had hoped indefinitely to stave off war, and for which he sacrificed the world revolution, are cracking. French hegemony in Europe is a thing of the past. The new German-Italian-Austrian alliance has sufficient power to win over the smaller countries away from France. If a new war breaks out, Russia will stand isolated and bureaucracy doubly so, deserted from within and from without.
It is in desperation at seeing the new struggles arising, fearing that the new revolutionary wave will sweep into Russia also, that Stalin rushed to behead the movement in advance, making an example of the 16 in order to strike terror into those who may be contemplating an uprising. For the Russian masses there is only one way out, to join hands again with the world proletariat from which they have so long been isolated, to get rid of the Stalinist bureaucracy and to struggle once more for Socialism.
After the events of February, 1934, we said that France was on the brink of civil war. Certainly, all the objective possibilities were present then. If the threatened outbreak did not materialize it was due to the policy of the workers’ leaders, the bureaucracy of the Socialist and Communist parties and of the Trade Unions, who seized upon the spontaneous united front committees formed between Socialist and Communist workers to fight the Fascists, and out of them built the official United Front, later broadened into the People’s Front to be ready to break its discipline and to act in their own interests. If they have reached that point, then insurrection and civil war will soon be on the order of the day in France.
The workers have made vast progress since the organization of the People’s Front in June,1935. The great demonstrations of July, 1935 were entirely in line with the official People’s Front policy. The mass of the workers were carried away by the note of victory, or patriotic fervor,which the C.P., the S.P. and the trade unions did everything to create. The only note of warning was that sounded by the very small Left groups (Trotskyist, Union Communists, Action Leninists,"Que Faire” Opposition to the Communist Party and some of the Anarchists.) There was a subterranean rumbling of discontent which broke out suddenly in the arsenal strikes of Brest and Toulon. But these strikes, with the strike-breaking intervention of the Socialist and Communist parties were very quickly put down. Then ensued quiet until May, 1936.
The country-wide spontaneous strikes of May-June, 1936, taking the form of temporary occupation of the factories, bore witness to the readiness of the French workers to enter upon a course of direct action in their own right. In the elections of May 3rd, the People’s Front won the government. Had the masses been penetrated with parliamentary illusions they would have waited for the government to accomplish for them the improvements they needed. But they did not wait. By the time Blum and Co. took office on June 5th, the general strike was already in full fling. Whatever confidence existed in the leadership it is plain that at the same time the workers felt it necessary to confront the Blum government with an accomplished fact of factories in the workers hands. It is evident, too, that there exists a strong core in the organized labor movement(outside of the small groups mentioned above and the limited circle they influence) which will take the lead in direct action against the will of the People’s Front.
It was the metal workers in the automobile, airplane and munitions industries who initiated the stay-in strikes and held out most stubbornly, although there had been strikes in various industries previously, such as among the taxi chauffeurs in Paris, among textile workers and among the agricultural laborers of the South, testifying to the wide-spread character of the discontent. In the early stages of the strike, the union leaders made an attempt to settle on the basis of the workers going back to work pending negotiations. This the metal workers refused to do except in isolated cases such as in the Renault factory where Communist deputies joined with the union leaders to persuade the workers to give in and to evacuate the shops they were holding. (The day following this deal L’Humanite came out hailing the Renault workers as victorious.) In the greater part of the shops the workers repudiated their delegates and maintained their striking ranks firmly.
On June 5th Blum stepped into office. At once he made a radio speech to the strikers, promising a 40 hour week, paid vacations, collective contracts, revision of the decreo-laws, and nationalization of the war industries. After him Jouhaux spoke denouncing “the elements who were driving the workers to an extreme position” and urging the workers to keep the public sympathy by stopping the strike. On June 7th took place a meeting of shop delegates which L’Humanite somehow failed to announce, a poorly prepared meeting attended by only 180delegates (a very small percentage of the total). Here the union leaders preached a moderate policy and succeeded in getting the majority to pass a resolution to this effect. Several delegates,however, objected, demanding that production be carried on without the bosses. Now Salengro,Minister of the Interior, organized a meeting between representatives of the trade unions (the top leaders, of course) and of the manufacturers association, at the Hotel Matignon, with Blum presiding. Here an agreement was signed whereby the strikers were to go back to work while negotiations were carried on in their individual shops, with a general increase in wages of from 7to 15% and recognition of the union granted. This Blum and the trade union officials readily signed. The next day all the People’s Front press came out proclaiming victory.
The People’s Front has promised them social legislation and now they are asked to go back to work before agreements for the shops are signed. But the workers see it differently. Many of them had been demanding a greater increase than 15% as well as a fixed minimum wage. They consider this a flat betrayal. In the Parisian region and in many places elsewhere, the strikers refuse to return to work. Both trade union leaders and government urge them to go back to work but it is actually at this moment that the strike reaches its height. The Hotchkiss, the most militant of the metal shops calls together the shop delegates of the 33 principal shops who declare they will sign contracts only with a minimum wage guaranteed. On June 9th a general shop delegates meeting is held in Paris attended by 587 delegates who sharply criticise the leaders and refuse to accept the proposed agreement. They give the bosses a 48 hour ultimatum in which to sign the contract the workers propose, otherwise, they declare they will demand the nationalization of the shops. In the meantime, the People’s Front press warns the workers against"elements not authorized by the regular trade union movement” and Salengro speaks about “agents provocateurs” (the shop delegates, apparently).
All this pressure has some effect. On June 11th is signed a new contract granting slightly more than that of the Hotel Matignon. The bosses, however, have become increasingly intransigent, encouraged by the attitude of the workers’ parties. The Radicals now insist that the government act. The government responds at once and calls in the Mobile Guards, the most dreaded section of the French armed forces, which breaks up a demonstration taking place in connection with the cafe and hotel workers the slogan at a party meeting: “We have to know how to end the strike.”
Although these developments ended the movement for the time being, surely the lessons of so many betrayals must have sunk deep into the workers’ minds, if not amoung the more backward elements which have only recently joined the unions during the May-June strikes, at any rate among the more solid experienced core. Among the great masses there was a natural enthusiasm at the government decrees granting paid vacations, wage increases, etc. But there has been plenty of experience since to disillusion even the most simple workers. The employers have taken advantage of their increased cost of production to raise prices. Meanwhile there has been widespread chiselling; the agreements have not been lived up to. There have been 2,040 evictions in Paris between January 1st of this year and the end of April. The worker finds it just as hard to live as before, even if he gets his increase.
Now the criminal devaluation of the france adds a new blow. The devaluation with the accompanying inflation of currency must send the already high prices zooming. At one blow all the gains won by the strikes will be wiped out and more than that. The workers will find themselves worse off than before in spite of the promises of Blum that he will protect them. There will be disastrous effects, too, on other layers of the population, on the poorer peasants, the agricultrual laborers,the small tradesmen, artisans and the numerous people living on small incomes. Already without inflation the effect of the social legislation within the last few months has been to drive many small employers to the wall and force small trades people to close their shops. The inflation could only be put over accompanied by drastic economies on the part of the government, such as were embodied in the Laval decrees, for example. But a Laval would not beable or willing to put over the inflation. In fact, all the French ministries for two years havebroken their teeth in trying to crack this nut of maintaining the franc. The devaluation had to come and Blum had to be the goat to put over this deal for the bourgeoisie.
In reality, it is to the devaluation more than to anything else that Blum owes his premiership. It was reported at the time of the elections that Blum had agreed in advance to put over the devaluation should he be elected. Of course, there was a great swing of the masses towards the Left parties as a result of the privations endured and the worsening of conditions during the past year, nevertheless, there is the fact that a Socialist Premier would not have been tolerated unless he had been absolutely needed by the bourgeoisie to put over the goods for them. The Socialists are in office on sufferance; at every step they are bound to the bourgeoisie for their salaries. Under the given circumstances no other group but a workers group could have put over a policy decreasing wages of the workers without open revolt breaking forth.
By allowing the Socialists to do the dirty work, the bourgeois parties could also shirk responsibility for this and make Socialism more unpopular than ever, thus preparing the way for the Fascist counter-attack. Giving office to the Socialists was a great scheme to demoralize the workers and to win the petty bourgeoisie over to Fascism. However, all has not gone according to plan, this time. Nobody exactly foresaw the great wave of stay-in strikes. And these strikes still continue. All the threats of the employers, the chafing of the Radicals and the warnings of Blum have not succeeded in calming the proletariat. The Spanish Revolution was another unforeseen development which has stirred up the French workers to a high pitch.
Had another government been in power it would have been extremely difficult to have restrained the French workers from aiding the Spanish revolutionary Lefts. As it is, Blum is living up to his neutrality pact towards Spain and the official help of France is being withheld from the Spanish workers. In the meantime, Hitler and Mussolini are living up to their own imperialist ambitions and are intervening to help the Spanish Fascists with all their power. Were it not for their aid, the Lefts might already have been able decisively to defeat their foes. The Spanish Revolution is dear to the heart of the French workers. They have ties of blood and culture with the Spanish, but most of all, it is a case of a revolution going on at their very borders, inspiring their own struggle. Many French workers have gone to fight in the Lenin Battalion which is the working class counterpart of the “Foreign Legion". Big demonstrations have been held expressing the seething discontent of the masses at this treachery to the international working class. There have been even strikes voicing as a demand that military help be sent to the Spanish workers.
This is not the only source of discontent with the Blum government. Blum made a demonstration of removing the old head of the Bank of France, Tannery, and Chiappe, the hated chief of police. But meanwhile, all sorts of reactionaries, Fascists and Royalists retain their posts in the government apparatus, even in the most strategic bureaus, including the police department. How dangerous this situation can become is seen by the experience in Spain where the present Fascist “rebellion” was nurtured in the very bosom of the People’s Front government. Furthermore, the strikes have been everywhere interfered with by the police, even though there has been actual shooting only rarely. For the 22 departments where the strikes were located,there were 2, 438 reported acts of interference by the police and 2,303 arrests of strikers. The move against foreign workers in France has continued, 1,106 arrests for deportation having taken place since the May elections, 467 of these being since the stepping in of the Blum government.
The official Communists have remained an integral part of the People’s Front, without accepting posts in the cabinet. Such opposition as they have offered has been to the Right of the tendencies of the masses, in such a way as to hold the revolutionary movement of the workers in check. We have seen their attitude on the stay-in strikes. We have seen them do all in their power to help the Blum government liquidate the strikes when they were becoming embarrassing to the employers.
The Communist Party has tried to put itself at the head of the mass movement for aid to Spain but not in any revolutionary manner. The Stalinists have taken up the demand in a purely nationalistic way under the slogan: “Neutrality is anti-French.” Whereas the workers are moved by international solidarity, with the Stalinist leaders it is a question of the fear of another Fascist country at the borders of France. Some sections of the French bourgeoisie are fearing this also. But above all, A Fascist Spain in league with Germany and Italy would be most unhealthy for the Soviet Union. Similarly, the Communist Party criticised Blum when he dined with the German banker Schact in Paris, but when France received a visit from the Polish dictator, General Ridz Smigly, L’Humanite greeted him with an article headed “Long Live Poland” in which was stated how much the Communists desire the friendship of Poland, for “the friends of peace are also the friends of France.”
In the July 14th demonstrations of this year, red flags were carried in all the workers’ ranks. Only the Communist Party had a bit of tri-color placed in a corner of their red flag. The Communists have voted for the military and armament budgets which are on the increase. But this is not all. They make it evident that the French C.P. is not satisfied with the People’s Front. They want to see it broadened to include all the friends of the Franco-Soviet Pact. Some sections of the bourgeoisie are willing to support this, and so the Thorezos and the Cachins want to see the People’s Front extended into a National Front, a revival of the Sacred Union which put the World War over. In such a government the Communist Partyites would be willing to take part. In this such people as Cachin are experts since they did precisely this in 1914.
The Stalinists have said from the beginning that there is no revolutionary situation in France. They have bound themselves to a four year contract in the People’s Front, they say and they must be given these four years to work out social reforms. For these people who do not want a revolution, there never will be a revolutionary situation. Even in Spain, with civil war raging from one end of the country to the other, they have declared there is not a proletarian revolution,merely the defence of democracy.
But already the French workers have given the lie in action to the cowardly predictions of the Stalinists. All the prerequisites of a revolutionary situation are there. The masses are restive and acting for themselves against the conditions of increasing misery. Their strikes have risen,since the outbreak of the Spanish Revolution, from the economic to the political plane. The workers have no political party capable of leading them in the struggle. On the contrary, they can only conduct the struggle by breaking the discipline of such organizations as they have, their C.P.,S.P., and C.G.T. The Government is very unstable, with the Radicals more and more dissatisfied with Blum and with the Senate representing a solid body against the People’s Front.
The strikes have cut through the People’s Front from top to bottom. Workers have fought side by side regardless of whether they were Catholic, Socialist or Croix de Feu. On the other hand, many small employers in the Radical Party, are impatient for an end to the strikes and must line up with the big employers to accomplish this. Other middle class people are desperate and ready to follow any group that will act decisively. The workers will win these lower middle classes to their side if they make a definite bid for power, understanding at the same time the needs of the many ruined people and trying to keep them as allies not by capitulating to the big employers, as the Stalinists have done.
The French bourgeoisie, for their part, are in a precarious position. Internationally, they are losing their Little Entente which is going over to the side of the powerful Fascist alliance. Internally, there is no way of calming the workers. Social reforms they cannot afford. The pressure of the mass strikes forced Blum to grant such reforms to a certain extent, but the employers cannot afford to keep up with them. The chaos in the country has actually increased since the Blum regime came in.
Had the troops been called out during the strikes to shoot down the workers, then and there the civil war would have broken out. The bourgeoisie well know this and for this reason they hesitate to go further. On the other hand, the present situation cannot continue. It is difficult to see how the civil war can now be avoided. The workers have gone too far for them to turn back. Their task now is to break from the treacherous organizations and build their own organs of power started during the strikes, namely, the shop committees. At the same time they should organize their Soviets which can take in the broader masses of poor toilers and agricultural laborers.
Civil war in France means inevitably the breakdown of the Franco-Soviet Pact. It means that Hitler will move on Russia. It means further intervention in Spain and the unleashing of anew world war. As far as the workers are concerned, the events in Spain and France have already been enough to show them that the domination of the Communist International is broken, its day is past and the future will be with the Fourth International which will have to be organized in the course of the struggle.
Revolution in France means the end of the false Stalinist theory of Socialism in one country in which the world revolution was sacrificed for the interests of backward Russia. It is positively inconceivable that the French revolutionists will look upon Stalinism with anything but the strongest disgust bordering on nausea. A French Revolutionary movement will be bound to spread to Belgium, to Holland and to other countries. It will be the final act to drive the Spanish Fascists into the ocean. It will be the signal torch to ignite the whole African colonial empire into widespread revolt. It will be the signal for the final conflict in Europe, with the stake either a United States of Europe under the control of Soviets, or a generation of new slaughter and disaster for the people of that continent. Should the proletarian movement be extinguished and new world wars ushered in, it will mean the end of Europe as a progressive force in history. The revolutionary torch would have to be taken up either by the comrades in the Far East or in America or both.
What is to become of the hundreds of thousands of Chicago’s unemployed and their families and of the millions of unemployed throughout the country?
Not since 1932 have we had a situation as bad as this. In Chicago, for months the relief stations have been closed and boarded up and only now are they temporarily reopened. Each week the number of new families becoming destitute and needing relief becomes greater. When a family gets down to its last penny and the city and county authorities fall down completely on the job, starvation stares these helpless people in the face. The private charities claim they are over whelmed with cases and can take no more. And everybody knows the endless red tape that is wrapped around private charity. It is even worse than getting on the relief.
Everything possible is being done to get rid of those families who are already on the relief rolls. Cases are being checked and rechecked, affidavits must be signed every few months in the hope that the client will be tripped up on some of his statements and the excuse taken for cutting him off relief. Food checks have been cut. But the price of food is not getting cheaper, on the contrary, it is steadily rising. The drought has given an excuse to raise prices of vegetables, eggs,butter and milk so that these necessities of life are now luxuries which the poor cannot afford to buy. Added to this is the disgraceful sales tax which adds a cent or two to every little order of groceries the unemployed buy. The unemployed themselves are being taxed for their own up keepin this city and state of wealthy corporations. Some of the biggest trusts in the country have their headquarters in Illinois and right here in Chicago. The steel corporations, the meat-packinghouses, the mail order houses and department stores are all multi-millionaire firms. And yet the state has to come to the poor relief clients who are forced to live on $1.15 to $2. Per week to contribute money for their own support.
There is no lack of food supplies in this country. Everywhere we see stores bursting with food. The hungry unemployed have to smell the tantalizing odors from restaurants and have to see the tempting, nourishing food laid out in the stores under their very eyes. In New York City,in the spring of 1935, 7,000 Negroes in Harlem, driven to desperation by hunger and misery of relief conditions “rioted” and seized food from the stores to fill their empty stomachs. After that the city authorities began to sit up and take notice and to pay some attention to the awful conditions in Harlem. Just as bad conditions prevail here in Chicago, particularly in certain quarters, as in the Negro section of the South Side were actually on the verge of starvation.
Since July 1st no rent checks have been issued. Now for the first half of September the niggardly sum of $800,000 has been allotted for Chicago’s 21 relief stations. Of this, $600,000will go for food. Thus it is plain that very little will be paid for rent. Since July evictions have been increasing and have now become like an epidemic. Sick people, mothers with small children,the aged, all these helpless people without a cent to their names are being thrown with their furniture out into the street. They are sleeping in hallways, in parks and even outside in the streets.
In the sections of the city where light housekeeping and kitchenette apartments prevail, the landlords are simply putting locks on the doors and the tenant finds himself suddenly without a home. All summer no money has been issued to relief clients for gas and light. The public utility companies have a monopoly and they are merciless. Just as soon as the bill is not paid the gas or light is shut off. The family must grope around in the dark by candle light in this 20th century of"scientific progress.” And how can they prepare meals without gas? Even water has been shut off in some cases. The street hydrant then becomes the only place to get water, but the cops are waiting there to drive people away from that source. In one case there was not enough money even to bury the dead.
A human being needs a little more than just bare food to live, but everything but just a little bit of food has been taken away from the relief clients. Ice for the hot weather, milk for babies and invalids, medicine for the sick, those things are no more to be had. People are simply left abandoned in their misery. The wretchedness is so great in the poor sections of the city that anyone would think some sudden calamity had befallen the land such as earthquake or famine. But no, it is just the same depression and unemployment we have had now for seven years.
Seven years, and the provisions for caring for the unemployed are in complete chaos! The responsibility is shifted from the federal government to the state, from the state to the county and then to the township. Nobody knows where to turn. Instead of one uniform administration on a stable basis there are now several hundred separate administrations handing out relief. The capitalist class is either blind to the fact that unemployment is now permanent, or they refuse to admit what they know. The unemployment is not some unexpected affliction or “Act of God". It is the direct and logical result of the capitalist mode of production. So long as there is modern capitalism there will be unemployment. But the capitalists and their government agents will never admit this unless forced by the pressure of the working class to do so. Rather, they take refuge in lies about the return of prosperity in order to dodge responsibility for their failure to provide a well organized relief system for the permanent army of unemployed.
All these changes mean that more hands are extended through which the money must pass,more palms are to be greased, more graft is to be handed out for numerous officials. By turning the relief over to the local politicians the power of the ward heeler to round up the votes is increased, the tyranny of the local boss is intensified and everything is rendered chaotic in the highest degree. Added to this is the disgraceful situation such as exists in Chicago where the mayor and the governor fight it out at the expense of the unemployed. Because Kelly and Horner have a political feud each one blocks the measures of the other. Such outrages could exist only because the unemployed have not yet thrown their own heavy hand into the conflict and shoved these greasy politicians into the garbage can where they belong.
In some localities now the authorities claim to be without any funds whatsoever to feed the hungry people on the relief lists, not to speak of those who have become destitute and need to get on the relief. Fourteen townships in Cook County were given no funds at all for September because of a ruling by Attorney General Otto Kerner. These townships are supposed to rely on selling the new property tax bonds but because the lawyers have declared these bonds to be illegal, they cannot be sold. Now in one township alone the 85 families on the relief rolls are cutoff from all means of support. It is not merely in Chicago that such desperate situations prevail. Reports come in from other states showing that in many localities there is the same starvation the same chaos.
One thing is plain: the unemployed men and women and their families are not responsible either for the depression nor for the criminal inefficiency of administering the relief. The working class cannot for a moment tolerate that the unemployed be made the goats for all this. The employers would like to make a pariah class of the unemployed condemning them to live in hopeless misery, separating them from the rest of the workers. It has even been proposed by one brilliant capitalist politician that the people on relief be deprived of the vote. This would make them real outcasts. For seven years now the employers have locked the workers out of the factories and have shut the warehouses bursting with food in their faces. The crisis has resulted in increased profits for the small number of multi-millionaires who stand at the head of the big corporations and the big banks. By installing new machinery (which under capitalism creates new unemployment) and by squeezing out small employers they are getting richer and more powerful with every year of suffering for the masses. The lockout of the workers from the factories is really a conspiracy on the part of this small group of bosses in order to keep their profits up. They could take in the unemployed into the factories if they were willing to s ell their goods produced at less profit, but this they will not do.
This situation will not change until the WORKERS OPEN THE FACTORIES AND RUN THEM THEMSELVES. Let us not fool ourselves that there is any other way out. Let us turn our situation to this fact instead of pleading to be allowed to be eternal boondogglers forever shovelling gravel on paths in the park or building cabins in the woods for the well-to-do to enjoy their vacations in. This is a real blind alley for the working class it can lead only to something worse, to the forced labor camps of Fascism. Responsibility for the starvation must be placed squarely upon the boss class. Meanwhile the money needed for relief must come from them from the banks, the wealthy corporations. The sales tax which directly taxes the poor is an outrage that must be abolished.
What is the Outlook?
Is prosperity returning? Will the elections help the situation? Some sections of the labor movement are trying to spread dangerous illusions that Roosevelt is a great Messiah. But the experience of the last four years has already proven that the unemployment is still with us on amass scale in spite of the grandiose plans of Roosevelt to solve it. Facts have been published that much less goods are consumed in 1936 than in 1929 in spite of the great increase of population since that time. Building materials such as brick, sand and lime are being used 85% less,locomotives 75% less, factory construction is 75% less, iron ore 40% less, etc. AS far as consumption goods is concerned, 40% less hogs are being consumed, 20% less butter, 10% less poultry and 10% less cotton. These figures mean in plain English that the masses are getting less to eat and less to wear and that there is much less industrial activity in the country such as movement of freight and building of factories and houses than in 1929. The talk about prosperity returning is pure bunk.
Under Roosevelt the relief has been ruthlessly cut and now conditions are so bad for theW.P.A. workers that they are compelled to go on strike in thousands. Even now 6,000 W.P.A.workers are on strike in Minneapolis under the banner of the Workers Alliance. Santa Claus Roosevelt cannot prevent this; he has no wonderful gifts up his sleeve for the next four years.
As for Landon, he has taken a clear stand for a return to the Hoover wage cuts, open shop, throwing the unemployed on private charity. No matter which candidate is elected, the problem of unemployment will still be just as pressing. The capitalist system can never solve unemployment no matter what political form of government it may take. It is only when the workers take things into their own hands, set up a Workers State and manage production and distribution themselves that we can permanently get rid of unemployment, war and poverty. The workers must set themselves solidly united together, in such a way as to weaken the capitalist class and strengthen their own power.
What is to be done here and now?
I. To prevent evictions the unemployed organizations must undertake the following steps:
1. Organization of Block Committees to canvas all blocks in order to know in advance just where an evictions is to take place and prepare for it.
2. Picketing of all houses where evictions take place, denouncing the landlord by name.
3. Solidarity of all tenants to be organized behind the evicted. Refusal to pay rents in protest against the evictions. Tenants Leagues to be organized to carry on rent strikes against evictions and high rents.
4. Picketing the Eviction Court building and one big demonstration to be organized in front of it to protest the evictions.
5. The compulsory opening of all public buildings, settlement houses, churches and such for the shelter of those evicted. The taking over of all empty buildings for this purpose.
II. To feed the hungry the following plan of action should be attempted:
1. Demonstrations to be held in the poor neighborhoods to arouse the workers and to mobilize them around the organization. Wherever there is a food warehouse or center of big stores a demonstration should be held there to bring home the fact that the workers are starving in the midst of plenty. The demand must be raised ever sharper for the opening of the warehouses to the hungry and the factories to the unemployed..
2. The demonstrations can be organized around the slogans: FOR ADEQUATE RELIEF,TAX THE WEALTHY, DOWN WITH THE SALES TAX, A MORATORIUM ON RENTS FOR THE JOBLESS. Special demands can be worked out for the W.P.A. workers.
III. The slogan “We Want Work” must be dropped. This can only be a reactionary slogan that benefits the bosses. The capitalist likes to see the workers work. It means his wealth, capital, will be increased and that he can try to beat his competitor down better. It means that his workers are still under his discipline. They will be better fighters than workers. He knows that every bit of work that the workers do will increase his power and stability. It is not work that the capitalists fear it is the class struggle. He boss fears that the workers will demand that the stuff which they produce should be turned over to them as the direct producers, that the factories should be owned and controlled by the working class and the capitalists “rubbed out".
The slogan “We Want Work” takes attention away from the main job, that of wiping out the capitalists and their entire work system. How can you attack the system which hires labor and exploits it when you are clamoring for work under that system, demanding and beseeching it? And if work is such a fine cure for unemployment, then how does it come about that just before the crisis everyone was busy, everyone was at work and wages were relatively high? Is it not true that just before every capitalist crisis we have a period of feverish activity where everyone is working full speed under capitalism.
These people who shout “We Want Work” fail to realize that it was precisely because everyone was working that we did have such a terrible crisis. The workers were being…………………….who had to sell this stuff and could not. Not being able to sell their goods at a profit the capitalists were forced to close down their plants because the workers had produced too much,because they had to work too hard, because they had not fought for a greater share of the produce.
The slogan “We Want Work” implies that what is wrong with the present system of society and what has caused the depression is not overwork but under work. Or, on the other hand, the slogan implies that what is wrong is not the work system but the system of distribution. In both cases the slogan is directed at the bosses not because they are driving the workers too hard but because they do not give the workers enough work.
Event the Townsendites, the Coughlinites and the Share-the-wealth-ites are smarter than the workers who shout “We Want Work". These middle class elements do not holler for work,they cry for $200 a month or $5,000 a year or some such idea that shows that they know there is plenty of wealth around but that it is not distributed to all the people. Is it not funny that these middle class people should be demanding more goods for themselves and the workers who have produced all the goods should be asking not for more goods but merely for “Work"? So long as the workers take such a servile attitude they will be kicked around from pillar to post by every crook and politician in office.
Those who are constantly demanding “We Want Work” can never object to the kind of work that is given them even if they are put to work building military roads and improving naval stations or creating machinery for armament construction and ammunition production. To shout for “Work” and then to shout “Strike against war preparations” is an impossible and ridiculous proposition. For every one knows that all work under capitalism today must be work for war preparations. For those who want jobs there is open only the mass murder industry of war. Today capitalism is no longer constructive but eminently destructive. It wastes and tears down far more than it builds up. To demand work under capitalism means to demand work that increases destructiveness, the waste, the misery of the world.
It must be constantly born in mind that the demand for work is the demand to work under present social conditions with capitalist control and direction. But what is this capitalist control? It is a control that destroys the crops, that lays waste the soil, that rots the products, that rusts the machinery, that devastates the land, that kills the humans. Such is capitalist control. If a dam is built it is to produce more electric power for war time. If new research is undertaken it is to throw out the workers from jobs. If capitalism is developed, it is only to raise the destructive power of the ruling class.
Instead of “We Want Work” let us demand WORKERS CONTROL OVERPRODUCTION. Let the workers begin to think of taking over the means of production into their own hands to be managed for their benefit. This is the only way to end starvation and unemployment forever.
IV. Solidarity must be built up between the unemployed and the employed sections of the working class. We must not tolerate the separation which the capitalist government made bosses try to bring about. The union workers must constantly raise the issue of unemployment in their unions and must force the officials to act and to help such organizations as the Workers Alliance. On the other hand the unemployed organizations must insist upon help from the trade unions in the work. There are many unions in Springfield, Illinois, for example, and yet in the last hunger march there was no union that offered funds for food, there was none to help in the demonstration. Such a scene must never be repeated. The trade unions can and should participate in all conferences called to meet the problem of the unemployed; they must contribute funds for the agitation which the unemployed organizations must carry on; they must help to carry on the struggle for food and shelter.
V. Above all the unions must answer to the call for a ONE DAY GENERAL STRIKE TO COMPEL UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE, ADEQUATE RELIEF and SOCIAL LEGISLATION. This will create the solidarity of the employed and unemployed more than anything else; it will produce such a show of force by the working class that the government will realize it cannot throw helpless people upon their own resources when such resources do not exist.
Suppose the unions of Chicago, merely those belonging to the Chicago Federation of Labor were to declare that they would go on strike for one day in order to end the unemployment crisis in Chicago and compel the government and city officials to act to care for the unemployed,would not all workers stop work with joy at being able to enter this important battle? Would not all the unorganized rally round the trade unions making them stronger than ever? Would not the unemployed and the trade unions be united into one solid strong army? Does anyone imagine the Kellys and the Horners would not come out of their rat-holes to improve conditions for the masses? Would we have the hundreds of evictions now taking pace? Would the landlords be so brazen as to refuse admittance to the unemployed families who need shelter? Merely to ask these questions is to answer them? THE CRYING NEED OF THE HOUR IS THE ONE DAY GENERAL STRIKE OF ALL LABOR TO END THIS UNEMPLOYMENT CRISIS.
VI. The Workers Alliance is a national organization of the unemployed. We urge all workers to join it and help to build it up into a militant organization to fight for the interests of the unemployed, whether relief clients or W.P.A. or other workers.
“…As for myself, well it’s the same old routine. Except for occasional wood fires, things are generally the same. You asked me to describe the camp life, so here goes….. The CCC is unquestionably a well integrated part of the regular army. This can be seen by the fact that it is divided into the same 9 army corps that the army has, for one thing. Each corps area in the CCC is divided into districts. The basic unit of the CCC is the company. There are about 20 companies to a district.
Each company has a strength of 165 men, aside from officers, foresters and the like. Previous to April 1936 each company had 206 men. The reduction in each company’s strength did not affect the total CCC’s strength, and it still stands at 360,000 men. It’s easy to see how they could get more work done and cover more territory by reducing each company and establishing new ones with the surplus from each company.
The CCC as a whole is headed by Robert Fechner—If I’m not mistaken he was one of the dollar-a-year executives pressed into service during the last war. Each company is officered by reserve officers, generally two at each camp. The actual work in the field is done under the supervision of either the Dep’t of the Interior, Dep’t of Agriculture, Bureau of Reclamation, Dep’t of Grazing, Forestry, etc. As far as authority goes it’s mostly the army, with these other departments simply acting in advisory capacity. Other agencies of the governmental bureaucrcy play their role, as for example the W.P.A. The Federal Theater Projects puts on plays,puppet shows, etc. Also the W.P.A. provides each camp with an educational advisor, who preaches the general hooey about making your way in the world, etc. They also arrange sport programs which of course are great ways to keep the fellows from getting discontented.
The regular army hierarchy is very much present in the form of army officers and then the other gradations of leaders, assistant leaders, etc. The last mentioned titles are given to the"common Johns’ who show the most “industry”, “integrity” and the other blah blah blah. They get more money of course, a leader gets $45 a month and an assistant leader gets $36 per.
In most cases enrollees (camouflage for private) are recruited from the relief rolls in their respective localities. Being in the CCC renders any other member of the family ineligible for Home Relief or a W.P.A. job. A great way of lowering relief standards for only $22 of the $30 a month goes home now, and $8 goes to the enrollee. It used to be $25 and $5 but so much fuss was kicked up in the camps because its damn hard to get along on $5 a month, that they changed it to $22 and $8. Each camp also has a certain percentage of L.E.M.’s (local experienced men)that they put on the rolls when they are short of the necessary 165 men. These draw all their pay at camp, regardless of their rating. The others who draw more than $30 a month are not required to send more than $25 home, which is a neat way of bribing them in order to divide the workers.
The actual degree of regimentation may be seen in the routine. We arise at 6 every morning (to a bugle call of course) breakfast at 6:30, sweep up, make up our beds in uniform style. Work call (bugle) comes at 7:30.. Trucks take us to work; generally we work within a 15mile radius, except for forest fires. Our camp is strictly a forestry camp. We trim woods, dig water-holes (for use in case of fire), build roads, battle tree diseases, plant trees, improve streams,build fire-trails, etc. To continue the routine, we lunch at 12 (two sandwiches and coffee): the idea is that if we were fed a full meal at noon, lethargy would set in and much time would be wasted. We quit work between 3 and 3.30 depending on how far from camp we’re working and are back at camp at 4 p.m., after which we wash and dress in our regular army uniforms(regulation, olive drab). We have retreat at 4.30. This is the ceremony of lowering the flag. The bugle blows and we’re off for the mess hall in columns of two.
I forgot to mention—while we’re out working, the army officers inspect the barracks—and woe to him whose bed is not made right, or whose floor is dirty! Those delinquent in this respect are given extra work (after supper) in the kitchen, digging ditches, etc. Every Friday night the barracks are scrubbed en masse, and Saturday mornings we have inspection, during which we stand by our beds and are given the once over by the Captain. For this the beds are made up,shoes polished, boots cleaned, all clothing must be clean. You can’t even have a dirty pair of socks in your bag, or else you can expect plenty of extra duty, or if you do it too often they can find you. In order to leave the camp grounds for any reason, one must get a pass at the office. The only time this routine is suspended is when there is a forest fire or a flood. Under the aforementioned circumstances there’s no telling how many hours we must put in. Ordinarily we work about 40 hours a week for the forestry dep’t and probably 5 to 10 for the army (generally around the camp proper like shoveling cinders, building a coal shed, and general work to make the camp more habitable.)
The food in general is lousy. There are two sandwiches for lunch, and for supper mountains of hash and beans, and quite a few of the boys raise pimples owing to the unusual amount of starch in the food. On many occasions we are given (but it’s not consumed) yesterday’s left-over potatoes. The officers at our camp have a swell racket. They go and by vegetables from the farmers nearby and sell them to the mess fund at a good profit. When there are complaints about the food, they point out that it’s hard to buy enough at .46 per capita daily ration that the government allows them. It’s hard to prove this, because you’d have to swipe a bill of sale from the to prove it. I only learned of this racked by luck; one of the girls I know told me that her father did business with the captain this way. I tried to persuade her to get me some proof but she was afraid. Another racked is worked at the Canteen (army term for company store). Cigarettes are sold at .115 and two boxes for .25, so when two people pay .15 each, that makes .05 in the officers’ pockets.
There is an infirmary at the camp proper with two first aid men in charge. A doctor from a nearby town visits us every morning, but you’ve got to be pretty damn sick to get out of work. Axe cuts make up the most frequent injuries. Many boys are sent back to work limping, and with half-healed gashes on their legs. Athlete’s food and ringworm are fairly common. Winter brings in its train bronchitis, pneumonia and the like. I might mention that the boys in our company stages a strike last winter because of having to work in below zero weather, and they won.
What is very bad here is the cesspool that they have as a catch basin for the waste and excrement matter. It should have been condemned long ago and the company moved, but I guess they think our work is necessary and so they ignore it. Other holes are dug, to no avail. It stinks to hell. The clothing we are given is mostly army leftovers. In winter they’re not warm enough and in summer they’re too damn hot.
One thing is certain, the turnover of personnel in the CCC is terrific. Even between enlistments (April and October) they go home by devious ways. One way is to have some one write you a letter saying there is a job for you at home. Another is “going over the hill”—in other words, running away. Between April and July of this year the CCC dropped from 350,000 to 296,000. It is so hard to keep a company at full strength or even near it that a number of changes were made in the regulations. First they eliminated the 30 day training period at Camp Dix. Second, now when any one goes home he can’t re-enlist for a year. Another is when you get a letter telling you there is a job, the captain telegraphs your local relief station to check up.
The turnover is a great factor in keeping down strike action. The newer men are generally backward at that sort of thing, and prevent solidarity of action. In addition to the cold weather strike I mentioned before my company had a food strike also last winter. Actually there have been thousands of food strikes in he CCC. One company I know of at Green Lake, N.Y. (near Syracuse) has had over 10 food strikes in 4 months. When a strike takes place, some colonel or major comes down to investigate. If he finds the captain, guilty, of rifling the mess fund, that captain gets fired. Regardless of theft or not, the agitators and strike leaders if they can be tracked down are discharged. Segregation is the policy for the Negroes, who are placed in separate camps. One of the results of this was a race riot at Camp Dix in October 1933. Thousands were hurt, and many shot by the military police at the post. There is quite a mixture of nationalities in my company, Italians, Jews, Spaniards, Yankees, etc.
I’d say that in their blind way the boys are getting radicalized. There are the strikes, and atypical American contempt for the rich. Some are Coughlinites and many think Roosevelt is a socialist. They despise scabs and strike breakers. The slower ones are the farm boys. They are generally the ones who are given ratings. Most of the boys view with contempt any attempt to fully militarize the CCC. Some camps have conducted polls and sentiment is against it. Not many of the boys have done factory work, but some think that is their only perspective. The average age is between 16 and 20 years. I’d say that not more than 10% of the boys go to church on Sunday. It’s so bad that the Capt. often has services conducted right in camp, and still he won’t get more than 15%.
Of course, no compensation whatever is provided in the event of injuries or death. In case of severe illness they might move you to one of the army base hospitals. If you’re incurable, or sustain permanent injuries, you are given a medical discharge. They won’t treat you at all if your illness or injury was acquired while not in the line of duty. Especially is this true in cases of venereal disease. Another lousy thing is the presence of shylocks or loan sharks in every camp. They’ll loan you $1 for $1.50, $2 for $3, etc. If the loan shark can’t collect, the captain will collect for him, simply by subtracting from the sucker’s pay.
There is very little more I can say about it all, so I’ll close by wishing you all the best of health and luck.”