I.The Position of the Communist League of Struggle on the Trade Union Question (Theses)
II.German Perspectives (concluded from last issue) by Leon Trotsky
The Position of the Communist League of Struggle on the Trade Union Question (Theses)
1. Capitalist development and its disintegration do not proceed evenly. quite the contrary, especially in the period of decay and dissolution of the capitalist system do we see the sharpest uneven developments take place.
[Footnote in original:"During the period of growing capitalism, the unevenness of development of the various countries was far greater than now. Today the world has become more uniform"--Arne Swabeck in the Militant, October 7, 1933. This statement runs absolutely counter to all the principles of Communism. (See e.g. Lenin’s “Imperialism.") It is a statement which Comrade Trotsky must emphatically repudiate.]
In the Soviet Union, where the workers won control, there is taking place under Stalinism the breaking down of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In Europe, imminent conflicts are on the order of the day which place Europe in danger of complete destruction as a progressive developing power. In America there are appearing definite signs of the end of individualism and the breaking forth of great class formations. In short, as Comrade Trotsky has pointed out, Russia is being Americanized industrially, Europe is being crushed into barbarism, and America is becoming “Europeanized” politically.
2. In spite of this great uneven development, there runs through all the political events the great fact that throughout the world there are lining up two great classes--the proletariat and the bourgeoisie--who must come to a decisive conflict in the very near future. Either Soviets or another generation of capitalist convulsions, either Fascism or Communism. That is how the question stands today.
3. In this great conflict, all the middle-of-the-road parties and groups tend to disappear and to wither away. Liberals, Anarchists, Syndicalists, Labor Parties, Socialists of various stripes, all have now lost their progressive function. They are historically dead. And now we can add to this list the Communist International itself which, under Stalin, has degenerated into a mere national socialist pacifist body.
4. This general process has not excluded the United States. The Europeanization of American politics means precisely this: that in the U.S. today, as in Europe in the past, open class formations are taking place. On the one hand, the Roosevelt regime is but laying the base of Bonapartism on the road to Fascism. Within the Roosevelt policies and actions, definite signs of Fascism can be seen. These signs must become more and more clear as the conflicts grow sharper. On the other hand, vast masses of workers are in actual motion against the employers. If at present this movement of the workers is still covered up with DEFENSIVE slogans, this must not deceive us as to its real meaning which has a definite progressive and offensive character. In America, too, the middle-of-the-road groups, the liberals, the laborites, the Socialists, the A. F. of L., the I.W.W., et al. have no longer the possibility of playing a progressive role. Their independent actions can only pave the road for the victory of Fascism in this country.
5. At the beginning of the crisis (1929), out of a population of about 36,000,000 workers, about 3,000,000 or so were actually organized. In the whole period of prosperity (1923-1929), the A. F. of L. significantly had made no growth at all. In other similar periods in America, this trade union advance had taken place. For the first time in the history of this country the ominous signs had appeared that in a period of economic advance the trade union movement had not advanced at all but merely stagnated and held its own. As a matter of fact, of course, it did not even hold its own. Its chief base, the United Mine Workers, began to crumble and gave way to the building trades as the main prop of the A. F. of L. Just as the A. F. of L. changed in its composition, so it degenerated in its leadership. Racketeers, paid company henchmen and government agents increased their hold upon the trade unions which more and more became mere company efficiency machines to increase the profits of the employers. Many of the unions became more or less company unionized in the process.
6. In the same period (1926-1929), due to the militant policy pursued by the Communists, especially in the textile fields (Passaic, New Bedford, Gastonia) a great step forward was taken by the Communists in trade union work. In the textile field the Communists were led by that very tendency now embodied in the Communist League of Struggle. Through the Passaic Strike it had become the recognized policy that it was the duty of the Communists to organize the unorganized workers in the U.S. Through the Gastonia Strike it had become clear that it was up to the Communists to enter the South, so long kept closed to all union efforts. At the same time as the textile work was opening up, stirring events had taken place in the needle trades, in the coal mines, in the shoe industry and elsewhere. New Unions were organized in all these fields, unions controlled by the communists, which began an intensive struggle against the system of rationalization which was sapping the life blood of the workers.
It is the rankest slander to assert, as the Lovestoneites do, that in this period the American workers were “docile.” It is similar slander to declare as the general thesis (1931) of the Communist League of America does that in this period “the class consciousness of the masses was dulled to the point of disappearance,” and that “the philosophy of class collaboration and class peace penetrated every fiber of the labor movement…rendering it impotent.” The Communist League of America calls this period one of “deadly tranquillity” for the American working class and declares that the standards of the entire working class rose “above the standards prevailing for the working class before the war,” and that the whole working class improved its lot compared with the war and immediate post-war period. In thus analyzing the period 1923-1929 (which it calls an “unprecedented period of relative prosperity") the Communist League of America forgot all about the business depression of the winter of 1924 and the business recession of the winter of 1927-28. It forgot all about the intense rationalization system of the bosses. In declaring that the working class was “acquiescent” (a theory in no wise different from that of Lovestone) and in openly stating that there was a “sinister dead calm of labor inaction,” the Communist League of America simply forgot all the brave trade union struggles of that period. The American League on the one hand forgot, too, all the international struggles of the time--the British General Strike, the entire Chinese Revolution--which no doubt affected the life of the American workers, and on the other hand fell into the “three periods” errors of the Communist Party (Stalinites).
7. Since the strike waves that were arising in the period of 1926-29 were being utilized by the Communists and led by them, it was perfectly correct for the Communists to have changed the old Trade Union Educational League which was a mere propaganda body to a body (like the Trade Union Unity League) which proclaimed itself to be a body of action to do the organization work itself.
The new unions organized and led by the Communists had great possibilities. The textile union had an enormous influence and in the year 1929 had over 6000 members in good standing. The needle trades union was not organized until it was clear that the left wing had the majority of the furriers section and until the whole New York Joint Board of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union had been expelled by the national right wing officials and until the Left Wing had obtained a great mass following particularly in New York City. The new mining union had been created only after a great deal of preliminary work had been done in the Save the Union Committees, etc. The new shoe union was winning its spurs in actual struggles of importance to the shoe workers.
We cannot say that these unions were prematurely organized. Quite the contrary, they were organized too late--too late in a double sense: first, because generally the Party did not understand the necessity of the organization of the unorganized until many years after it was founded (1919-1926) and second, because, in the particular acts of organizing new unions (both in the coal fields and in the needle-trades especially) it organized these new unions after a great deal of unnecessary vacillation and when the most favorable moments had passed. In other words the errors made by the Party up to the time of the crisis were right wing errors and not errors of an ultra-left character.
8. With 1929 the Communist Party made a complete right-about face and with its false theories of “social-fascism,” “third period,” etc., committed a whole series of crimes which practically ruined the Left Wing organizations in the trade union field and left the working class leaderless. The Party raised the slogan: Down with the A. F. of L., the A. F. of L. is worse than a Company Union, it is fascist. All the Communist forces were withdrawn from the A. F. of L. The Left Wings within the A. F. of L. organizations were destroyed. The mass of workers were left at the mercy of the Right Wing officials. The Communists lost all influence in the A. F. of L. Little Communist remnants were organized into foolish paper unions without any mass base whatsoever. The Right Wing Communist Lovestone group took advantage of the blunders of the Communist Party. They began to organize their own groups and to grow. The blunders of the Communist Party aided the Lovestone-Gitlow group tremendously.
9. Historically, the Communists have made the following chief errors in their trade union work:
In the very beginning (1919) they declared the A. F. of L. and other conservative unions too reactionary for them. They called on all to leave the trade unions and to organize Soviets. This was not a case of organizing masses of workers into unions, it was simply a case of splitting the unions.
Then the American Communists began a policy of work within the existing unions. First they began to bore within the I.W.W. only but later changed to bore within the A. F. of L. This tactic was carried out in a most shameful opportunist manner. The principal slogan was “Amalgamation” which was grossly exaggerated in true right wing fashion. On this slogan they began to make maneuvers with the Right Wing officials of the A. F. of L. (Fitzpatrick, Nockles, et al.). No effort was made to see the problems of the unskilled and unorganized workers. No effort was made really to rally the rank and file against the fakers in the unions, including the reformist “progressives” with whom the Party was playing.
Later, the Party, under the leadership of the Communist League of Struggle, in 1925- 1926, began to make a decided turn in the correct direction. For the first time in its history the Party raised the slogan: The organization of the unorganized belongs to the Communists; the principal direction of work must be to organize the mass of poor, unskilled workers, not organized at all, at the same time to work within the A. F. of L. and to strengthen our base there. This correct turn was fought by all the chief leaders of the Party. They declared that to organize the unorganized was dual unionism. They declared that Communists cannot lead strikes to the advantage of the workers. Finally they stated that the unions which the Communists may organize must enter the A. F. of L. and not form independent national bodies, and that this entrance to the A. F. of L. should take place even if the Communist leaders are forced to resign because of the insistence of the Right Wing fakers. The result of this disastrous policy was that the Communists soon saw the unions which had been built, as in Passaic, New Bedford, etc., fall to pieces.
The new turn that the Party made in 1929 saw repeated the errors of the first period of 1919-1920. There was, however, this historical advance over the 1919 days, namely, the Communists never gave up the role of organizing the unorganized. They entered the South. They began to lead strikes. They saw the necessity of day to day work. However, due to their false line, everything they did fell to pieces and to the old errors they added new ones. These new errors were: a stifling bureaucracy was placed over the new unions by the Communist Party led by Stalinism which killed all initiative and enterprise in the new unions. All those who did not agree with the Communist Party were isolated and even ousted from the unions. In other words the new unions became only vulgarized editions of the Communist Party. Thus the “Red” unions failed to be even unions, that is, they failed to work out a correct organization and strike strategy, they failed to build up into solid organizations that know how to defend the every day interests of the masses. In the needle trades THEY ACTUALLY SCABBED on the A. F. of L.
As a result of this long series of blunders, in spite of the most favorable opportunities of work, the new unions built by the Party and having a justification for their existence must fall to pieces. Stimulated by the failure of the Party, the Right Wing Communists have called for the liquidation of the new unions and a return to the A. F. of L. of all the unions in the field.
10. The economic crisis which struck the U.S. in 1929 found the workers completely helpless. The suddenness, severity and long duration of the crisis, coupled with the collapse of the trade union leadership, both A. F. of L. and Communist, prevented the workers from giving battle. The unions began to shrink rapidly. The A. F. of L. rapidly dwindled to but a million and a half members. Their leaders entered into a “no-strike pact” with President Hoover that in the name of the national emergency, they would not strike during the crisis. The union treasuries began to disappear. Millions of members lost their rights because they could not continue to pay high dues demanded of them by their officials. With the collapse of the union treasuries, the old class collaborationist schemes--union banking, union real estate schemes, union business enterprises-- which had marked the degeneration of the A. F. of L. in the halcyon days of prosperity, crashed to earth, leaving the heavy cost upon the members who still remained or who had been fleeced. The building trades unions went the way of the United Mine Workers and the chief base of the A. F. of L. became the needle-trades, the printers, and other light industry unions.
At the same time the new unions under Stalinism were entirely unable to take advantage of the rising resentment of the workers. Instead of organizing the unorganized or mobilizing the unemployed effectively, they turned their attention to the destruction of the “renegades.” They lost the National Miners Union. They lost the National Textile Union. They lost the Shoe Workers Industrial Union. They began to lose their base among the needle trades workers. The T.U.U.L. became more and more truly a mere paper propaganda organization.
11. Since the inauguration of Roosevelt there has taken place a great movement forward by the workers due to the inevitable reaction against the new measures put forward by the Roosevelt regime and the new economic conditions created. Due to the policies of the government a great industrial speculation period began to arise. Prices began to move rapidly forward. Industry began a period of feverish laying-in of stock. The bane of the government’s drastic inflation policy struck the workers with full weight and forced them into activity. The workers had by now gotten over the paralysis of the first four years of the crisis. Temporarily re-employed in part, faced with the end of their reserve power and a rapidly rising cost of living, the masses in a huge strike wave began to hit back.
The National Industrial Recovery Act was the final blow which galvanized the masses into life. This Act had for its aim the organization of the employers and their efficient coordination with the government. It helped to raise prices enormously and put the burden of the crisis upon the workers. It also attempted the formation of national company and fascist-like unions of a stool-pigeon and strike breaking character, and was the final bit of provocation that was needed to unleash the mass movement. This mass movement verified the prediction of Comrade Trotsky that the workers would take advantage of the first lull in the crisis, no matter how temporary, to enter into active battle.
The figures of the strike wave are indeed startling. Not even the immediate post-war days are equal to it in extent and numbers involved. The strikes have taken place literally all over the U.S., North, South, East, and West. Millions of workers have taken part. Hitherto untouched layers have been stirred into the greatest activity. General strikes have occurred in the men’s clothing industry, the women’s clothing industry, the miners of Western Pennsylvania, the Miners of Illinois, shoe workers, etc., which have involved enormous numbers of people. Even the “small” strikes that occurred at one time in New York City alone involved close to 100,000 according to bourgeois reports.
12. In the course of this upheaval the A. F. of L. in a short time has doubled its membership from the low level of one and a half million to which it had fallen to between three and three and a half million members. However, there are a number of points that must be considered in reference to this growth. In the first place it must be noticed that the figures still show the A. F. of L. considerably below its old figures of before the time of the crisis. Second, the most important increases have taken place in the needle trades and in the coal mines. In the case of the needle trades the figures are augmented by the entrance of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union with over 100,000 members into the A. F. of L. In the case of the coal miners it has been the pressure of the U.S. government itself that has helped to cause this growth. The fact of the matter is that the A. F. of L. still has as its chief base the light industries (Needle trades first of all) and not the heavy basic industries.
13. Can the A. F. of L. really organize the unorganized as the Lovestone and Communist League of America groups seem to believe? This is impossible. The A. F. of L. on the whole can represent only the aristocracy of labor. It is against the interests of the bureaucracy itself to take into its ranks the 36,000,000 workers, Negro and white, mainly unskilled and poorly oppressed. These unskilled workers, if they came into the organization, would make it impossible for the officials to control the A. F. of L. safely for the bosses.
In these days of an international line-up of Fascism or Communism, the middle-of-the- road groups such as the A. F. of L. are played out as far as any independent progressive role is concerned. The new masses who enter the A. F. of L. will call for militant industrial unionism and for independent political action of their own. They will call for a real struggle against the Codes and the N.R.A. Such a policy would be deadly to the bureaucracy.
It is a fact that the A. F. of L. has taken in hundreds of thousands of new layers of workers who were never in any organization before. To the American League and to the Lovestone group this is a sign of the regeneration of the American Federation of Labor. To us it is a sign that the splitting up of the A. F. of L. is imminent and inevitable. If the A. F. of L. has grown it is in spite of the greatest treachery of its leaders. The forces of events have pushed the workers into the A. F. of L. faster than the A. F. of L. leaders can drive them away. Already we see within the A. F. of L. signs of such splits due to take place. The silk workers of Paterson are carrying out such a policy during their general strike that will inevitably bring them into conflict with the bureaucracy. It is the same in the strike of the mine workers in Western Pennsylvania. Everywhere, as soon as the masses begin to feel the fascist whip beneath the words of the N.R.A. codes, they will begin to move against the bureaucracy of the A. F. of L. in a militant manner.
14. The organization of the unorganized in America is peculiarly bound up with the task of the proletarian revolution itself. It is no accident that in America, in spite of the great wealth of the bourgeoisie and its power to grant special bribes to the workers, that the formation of powerful unions encounters the most serious difficulties. The history of the Western Federation of Miners, of the United Mine Workers, of the I.W.W., of the Communists, have shown us that the organization of the unorganized into militant unions must take on the form of regular pitched battles at times. The struggle of the Progressive Miners of America already can show a total of 45 killed and many more wounded although it has just begun its history. It was the same in Harlan, Kentucky. The miners of Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia have been forced to create regular armies of men with gun in hand in order to organize several locals.
Unions of the workers are not much of a menace when capitalism is on the upgrade. Then the employers can permit the workers to organize for certain small reforms that do not shake the structure of the capitalist system itself. But in a period of decay and disintegration of capitalism, such reforms are hard to grant. The margins of profit are now narrower. The limitations of capitalism are more clearly seen. Capitalism no longer can grant even mere reforms to the masses. That is why it must move away from the Socialists and from the A. F. of L. and capitalism takes to Fascism.
On the other hand, in the period of capitalist decline, the trade union asking for reforms is all too likely to become an industrial union fighting for revolution. The American employers have seen the menace of even carefully controlled unions as in the great British General Strike of 1926. They have seen the German unions become the very seat and hotbed of revolutionary activity. That is why the employers resist unionization so strongly in the U.S. The organization of the tens of millions of unskilled workers in America inevitably means the organization of the revolution itself. (In a sense just as the democratic revolution is completed and made permanent by the dictatorship of the proletariat which pushed the revolution to its furthest goal.) That is to say, the fight to organize the unorganized and the fight to build militant unions will be so severe and will bring such forces into play as to inevitably lead to the fight for the seizure of power itself. This is the American way of saying politics is but concentrated economics.
The revolutionary connection between trade union action and political action was early grasped by the revolutionists of this country. However, they were not able to solve this problem and it is precisely on this question that the Socialists, the Socialist Labor Party, the I.W.W. and all the groups in the past broke their backs. It is only because we stand on the shoulders of all the earlier revolutionaries, it is only because, resting upon Marxism-Leninism, we can avoid the crimes and blunders of the other groups that we can declare so emphatically that only the genuine Communists can solve the task of the organization of the unorganized and lead the movement forward to the revolution. It is exactly in this new period when every economic struggle is becoming directly a struggle against the Codes and the State that it is particularly true that only the Bolsheviks can solve the complicated struggles of the day even on the trade union field.
15. The present upheaval in the labor movement has affected not only the A. F. of L. but all the other organizations as well. There has taken place a growth of the independent organizations (including those controlled by the I.W.W. and the T.U.U.L.). It seems that the I.W.W. has come to life in the marine industry on the gulf coast. Certainly the unions of the T.U.U.L. have temporarily grown in certain industries. Simultaneously hundreds of local independent strikes and organizations have come to life. The Progressive Miners of America, the independent Illinois miners organization, still maintains its active existence, as does the National Shoe Workers Union, only recently called into life, and the Progressive Shoe Workers Union and other local groups.
16. It is rank capitulation to declare, as J. P. Cannon declares (Militant, September 16, 1933) that the independent unions have a slim chance at the present time. This is far from the truth. The fact of the matter is there is great room for all unions to grow, particularly unions led by Communists who know how to fight correctly. The line of Cannon is practically the same as that of Lovestone. It implies that the workers are docile and ignorant of the true character of the A. F. of L. It implies that the A. F. of L. has a great growth before it and is not historically bankrupt. It declares that the new unions should go out of existence and liquidate themselves since they have no hope at present. It signifies a utopian policy that the Communists could liquidate all their new unions and a few months later build them all over again. Such a policy is not a strategy. It is the absence of strategy. Certainly Communists are willing to change their tactics in twenty-four hours if the conditions change, but to change tactics one must first have tactics, strategy, perspective and program. Finally, the line of Cannon means that the Communist Party is to be considered bankrupt because it does not liquidate the T.U.U.L. Whereas the Community Party is bankrupt for one reason BECAUSE IT HAS LIQUIDATED THE T.U.U.L., because it HAS killed the new unions which were under its control, and which had such a great promise of creating a real mass base for the Party.
17. If it is true that the A. F. of L. is historically dead, this does not at all mean that the A. F. of L. can not spasmodically increase its membership from time to time. Similarly, if we say that there is ample room for the new unions in this country today, this does not mean that the independent unions now in existence are the ones that can solve the problems. Far from it.
18. The I.W.W. has outlived any usefulness it might have had. The victory of Fascism certainly did not take place so as to cause the rebirth of syndicalism. Quite the contrary. With the death of the Socialist and Communist Internationals we see also the final burial of syndicalism, really dead for twenty years. Syndicalism learned nothing from the war. It learned nothing from the Russian Revolution and all the great events since the war. It proved itself nationalistic, provincial, hidebound, unable to take part in colonial uprisings to win over the army from within, to win the peasantry, to solve even the slightest problems of revolution. In Spain syndicalism has only added grist to the mill of the reformists. In Italy, syndicalism could only prepare the way for Fascism. In its fierce hatred against the Russian Revolution, the I.W.W. bureaucracy drove the Communists out of its organizations and sunk into a death like slumber from which it can never emerge, no matter how much its limbs may jerk convulsively.
19. Certainly we can declare that Stalinism has killed the new unions under the control of the T.U.U.L. The T.U.U.L. has proved itself completely unable to take advantage of the glorious opportunities open to it. Stalinism which has executed the Chinese Revolution and murdered the German revolutionary movement, can not be expected to bring into existence a healthy revolutionary trade union movement in this country. We must openly declare that there is no future in the T.U.U.L.; that Stalinism has killed the T.U.U.L. and all its affiliated unions.
And this is so even though under the present conditions there has taken place a temporary growth in certain of the unions in the T.U.U.L. The T.U.U.L. shoe union is growing again. The T.U.U.L. has organized many of the knit goods workers in New York City. The Furriers Union still remains solidly for the T.U.U.L. In the textile strike of Paterson and elsewhere the National Textile Workers Union was able to revive itself and to organize a considerable portion of the dyers, the poorest paid and most exploited section in the industry. In the steel industry there have been drives by the T.U.U.L. which have netted several thousand members into the new unions. It is a criminal mistake to sneer at the T.U.U.L. unions as the Lovestone and Communist League of America groups tend to do.
Nevertheless, already we see that there are certain ominous signs connected with this recent growth of the T.U.U.L. If the needle trades industrial union gained the knitters, it lost the dress workers to the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (A. F. of L.). If the textile union gained the dyers it lost the old workers (weavers et al.) to the A. F. of L. If the steel union gained fresh members the National Miners Union lost all its old members in Western Pennsylvania to the A. F. of L. Everywhere we see that the T.U.U.L. has driven away its old members and has temporarily gained new layers who are as yet unacquainted with the false line of the Communist Party. The older members, driven from the A. F. of L. into the new unions and now driven out of the new unions by Stalinism have in part rejoined the A. F. of L. But they must rejoin the A. F. of L. temporarily. They will soon find their way out again into new unions that will be able to advance over all the old (both A. F. of L. and T.U.U.L.).
20. In regard to other independent unions not mentioned above there has taken place a two-fold process. Some of the unions, the greatest being the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union, have joined the American Federation of Labor. This to us is a sign not of the virility of the A. F. of L. but of the necessity of the bureaucracy to bury the hatchet and to unite among themselves against the workers. It is precisely in a time of growing militancy that this process would have to take place. The Progressive Miners of America is another example. This union must either return to the A. F. of L., and the government is helping them to find their way back, or they must move to the left and become transformed into a real militant union. Again from this we draw the conclusions not that the A. F. of L. must grow but that all the middle-of-the-road groups must tend to disappear as the class struggle grows fiercer.
On the other hand, while some of the independent unions are disappearing, many others are arising. Within the A. F. of L. there is taking place a stirring that must give birth to future splits and new unions. If the Communists are alert, if they know how to organize the unorganized it will be of the greatest importance to keep close contact with these groups. For these future split offs from within the A. F. of L. it is imperative that a trade union center is at hand which can aid them and later even take them in.
21. What shall be the line of the Communists today? First of all, we must emphatically affirm that the organization of the unorganized still belongs to the Communists. It is the Communists and the Communists alone whose historic mission it is to do this fundamental job. The whole orientation of the Communists in the trade union field must be to lead strikes, to fight for the everyday demands of the lowest strata of the toilers, to build up unions of their own. On this question we must emphatically separate ourselves from the Lovestone group or the Communist League of America who conceive that the main job of the Communists is to work within the A. F. of L. This conception is perfectly appropriate for those who never themselves as Communists took part in the formation of revolutionary unions. It can not be appropriate for us. The Communist League of Struggle maintains now as before: THE MAIN JOB OF THE COMMUNISTS IN THE TRADE UNION FIELD IS THE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNORGANIZED.
22. Whether, when the Communists organize the new unions, they shall take these new unions into the American Federation of Labor or not, is a separate question to be decided in each case upon the concrete conditions. Wherever possible, wherever practical, the new unions should be developed outside the A. F. of L. Wherever the new union is a local body, wherever in that industry the A. F. of L. has a mass base, wherever the new union can enter with its own leadership and with the possibility of organizing a strong left wing, keeping its own local base intact, there it might be the correct tactic for the local independent union to affiliate with the A. F. of L.
We must abandon the false idea that the A. F. of L. is hopeless, that we must not work within it, that we must work to destroy it. This is a very dangerous policy that already has cost the Communists dearly. The opportunities for work are especially favorable at the present time. The masses are awakening and under the blows of their discontent the A. F. of L. has been forced to change its theoretical position. It has now come out for social insurance. It has even hinted about the necessity of a general strike to enforce a real deal for labor.
While using these new phrases, however, it still supports the most treacherous acts of the capitalists against labor. The A. F. of L., following the footsteps of Gompers during the war, has become part of the very governmental apparatus of Roosevelt. It is solidly behind the N.R.A. and is doing everything to “sell” the workers this infamous act of slavery. The sole concern of the bureaucracy is that the government should see to it that the workers pay it dues. And this partnership has gone so far that the government has actually enforced the check-of system in places hitherto unorganized (captive mines). The A. F. of L. officialdom is compelled by the very logic of events to become the lackeys of the capitalist government more and more.
In all of the unions the real discontent is leading to the formation of progressive movements. Capitalizing this are the Muste and Lovestone groups who use these movements for their own purposes. In some cases these opposition moments have led to complete splits (Illinois Miners) which have carried with them the mass of the workers in the industry in that locality.
In the face of these favorable conditions, the Communists must work more than ever, but in the proper manner, within the A. F. of L. They must break the control of the misleaders of the A. F. of L. over the rank and file. They must expose the limitedness and hopelessness of the Muste and Lovestone opportunist groups. They must really begin a struggle for the rank and file. If they work within the A. F. of L. it must be not with the theory that the A. F. of L. is a fascist or company union outfit but that it is a workers organization of which the members must be won to Communism. The unions must not be destroyed but revolutionized. If, in the course of this work, the Communists and their sympathizers should find themselves expelled, or if, in the course of the struggle, splits take place, not in all cases is this necessarily a calamity. We cannot be against all splits. Whether, after the split, we organize another union, or fight for reinstatement or do both, is a matter to be decided in each particular instance.
23. It is exactly at this very time that the unemployment work of the Communists must be intensified and intimately linked up with all trade union work. Both A. F. of L. and T.U.U.L. unions have completely fallen down on the job in unemployment work. We must constantly keep in mind that the present crisis is a chronic state of capitalism, that unemployment now will be constantly with us and that under no consideration must the fight for the unemployed by slacked in the slightest. It is the unemployed that will take the leadership in breaking the back of the A. F. of L. bureaucracy.
In every phase of union work special attention must be given to drawing in the unemployed into the union activity. The unions must make special demands for the unemployed and vigorously fight for them. The unemployed must be taken directly into the unions and mobilized as active union forces. The struggle for a shorter hour week, the struggle for higher pay, the fight against the speed-up, against child labor, against night work for women, etc., etc., all must be looked at from the point of view of the unemployed as well as from the point of view of those actually working and on the job. (As for our work in the unemployment field see our special “Instructions for our Fraction in Unemployment Work--Class Struggle, Vol. III, No., 7, August 1933.)
24. Particularly appropriate now is the slogan “For a General Strike of Limited Duration to Compel Social and Unemployment Insurance.” At a time when millions of workers are on strike for partial and local demands of an economic nature, it becomes the primary duty of the Communists to try to link up these local struggles into a general struggle. This is the next task in the fight against the N.R.A. And there can be no better issue to mobilize the masses than the fight for social and unemployment insurance. On this question too we must sharply break with the other Communists groups which have fought our policy.
We turn now to the important trade union questions in specific fields.
25. COAL MINING. Due to the tremendous blunders of the Communist Party the National Miners Union is practically of very little significance save as a propaganda group. This we must attribute to the errors of the Save the Union Committee, the vacillation of the Communists, their formation of the new union a year too late, the mechanical bureaucratic manner of handling the union, etc. The result of these errors was that new unions organized in Kentucky and West Virginia came under the influence of the I.W.W. and of the Muste group respectively. While some local struggles were carried on in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio under the banner of the N.M.U., the big break among the miners in Illinois was carried out under the banner of an entirely different and new organization, the Progressive Miners of America.
The fact that after years of work in Illinois, the key soft coal field in the U.S., the N.M.U. not only failed to win the rank and file miner but actually lost ground and became of practically no importance there speaks volumes for the bad policies of the Communists. We have to recognize that at the time the founding of the Progressive Miners of America marked a tremendous step forward.
The formation of the Progressive Miners has shown that the A. F. of L. miners union is in a desperate crisis, for 25,000 miners or more are now solidly behind the Progressive Miners in spite of the terrific reign of terror launched against them. These miners, not being able to turn to the N.M.U. because of the false policies of the C.P. have floundered around in their own confused way. Standing by themselves, or under the influence of any policy that Muste might spread, the Progressive miners must go under. Only the Communists can save this union. It is up to the Communists to save it.
The Communist League of Struggle declares that the correct line of the Communists is to propose a united convention of the Progressive Miners Union with all the independent unions in the field (N.M.U., Independent Kentucky, Independent West Virginia, etc.) and that at this convention one union be formed under the banner of the Progressive Miners Union. This is the way out. This is the way to save the Progressive Miners Union and to build up again the left wing forces in the Miners Unions. At the same time the Communists must work wherever the A. F. of L. miners union is strong, the Communists must work within it to build up a left wing to fight the reactionary officials and for a united front policy with the new united union of progressives.
The Communists must do all they can to build up this new united miners organization. A smashing victory for this new union will greatly weaken the A. F. of L. misleaders and will greatly strengthen the militant forces all over the country. It can even lay the base for a new trade union center in America. In this connection we must strongly oppose the Lovestone group which would work only within the A. F. of L. and has abandoned the Progressive Miners.
Within the Progressive Miners there is a struggle between the Right Wing and the Left Wing. Because of the false policy of the Communist League of America in restricting itself to a propaganda body merely and because of its neglect of the situation there, the Left Opposition forces are exceedingly weak and have committed important errors. It speaks volumes for the policy of the American League that its leading contact (Gerry Allard) should have left it in order to join the Muste group. However, these errors can and must be corrected and the Progressive Miners become a great base for work for the Left Opposition.
In the hard coal fields the Communists must work within the A. F. of L. Here we must expose the Communist Party tactic of expelling members from the Party because they did not organize paper locals and split the union of 150,000 members with their 7 or 8 that they had organized. Organization of the unorganized miners, particularly in the South, fusion with the Progressive Miners in the soft coal fields, work within the A. F. of L. in the hard coal fields and wherever they are strong, this is the line of the CLS in the mining industry at the present time.
26. TEXTILES. In no other field have the crimes of the Party in the trade union question proved so costly. The National Textile Workers Union had a splendid basis for existence. Here of many struggles of great importance (Passaic, New Bedford, Fall River, Gastonia, Paterson, etc.), first to enter the South for the Party and for the militant labor movement, the National Textile Workers in a short time was left a corpse. The leading organizers (Weisbord, Buch) were expelled in short order and the union abandoned. From 6000 members and with an influence of much more, the union fell to several hundred and outside of Paterson has practically nothing. As a permanent union it is of little significance.
Nevertheless, the basic line of our group still holds here. It is still up to the Communists to organize the unorganized textile workers. The line of the Lovestone group and now of the Communist League of America to liquidate the National Textile Workers Union remains false to the roots. There is still ample field for the N.T.W.U. The workers have not forgotten the splendid traditions of this union, in line with the best in the entire labor movement of this country. If the union had a correct policy there would be many workers who would return to it.
The Communist League of Struggle raises the slogan: Save the National Textile Workers Union, rebuilt it, put an end to the choking bureaucracy of the Communist Party over the union, bring back the founders of the N.T.W.U. (Weisbord, Buch, and others) back into their rightful place. The C.L.S. warns the workers that Stalinism can only kill the N.T.W.U.
The principal job of the N.T.W.U. is to organize the unorganized. But this does not mean that they must not go into territory where the A. F. of L. or local unions exist. They must enter such territory with the slogan of the united front. If the A. F. of L. union or the local union calls a strike the N.T.W.U. must enter this strike to mobilize the workers in a really militant fashion against the employers and against the agents of the employers to be found in the ranks of labor itself. The example of the New Bedford 1928 strike stands as a model in this respect. At the same time the N.T.W.U. must offer to the other unions a united front in the battle to the end that the workers in struggle might win their demands and might choose which union they wish to belong to.
To rebuilt the N.T.W.U., to organize the unorganized, to form united fronts in concrete actions with other unions, this is the line of the Communist League of Struggle in the textile field. This does not mean, of course, that where the N.T.W.U. is not present, or where there are other unions which contain the mass of workers in that locality, the communists must not work within the other conservative, A. F. of L. or independent unions. On the contrary, we declare that under Stalinism, the N.T.W.U. has degenerated to become no better than the A. F. of L. essentially. The work of building left wing groups in both these organizations must steadily go on, the object being to transform these unions into really fighting bodies which will unite in struggle against the bosses and their agents.
27. NEEDLE TRADES. In spite of the many errors of the Communist Party in the needle trades, the mass of furriers are with the Needle Trades Workers Industrial Union, as are thousands of other garment workers. Besides there exists a growing influence in the key locals of 2, 9, 22 and elsewhere inside the I.L.G.W.U. for the Left Wing. Here too the Lovestone line calls for the liquidation of the N.T.W.I.U. and must be fought.
Nor do we find ourselves in accord with the line of the Communist League of America. While this line is not yet clear yet from several articles that have appeared in the Militant it seems that the American League calls for “One Union in the Industry.” In the circumstances in which the slogan is issued, this is a dangerous demagogic slogan which can lead to disaster. Interpreted by the average needle trades worker, it means the liquidation of the Needle Trades Workers Industrial Union and it means that the American League and the Lovestone group again find themselves in accord in this vital point of trade union work.
What is meant by this slogan of “One Union in the Industry"? The furriers section of the N.T.W.I.U. is stronger by far than the fur workers union of the A. F. of L. Shall the fur workers section of the N.T.W.I.U. be liquidated and join the A. F. of L. as individual workers or even as a group when they are the majority and are THE union in the field? Obviously this is playing right into the hands of the reactionary officials who, under the terms of the American Federation of Labor, will concede to such a convention to take in the Left Wing furriers only if they control it. The A. F. of L. will never give up its control to the Left Wing. And since the Right Wing has but a small minority of the furriers and cannot enforce shop conditions against the Left Wing, obviously there can be no point of going back into the A. F. of L.
Shall the N.T.W.I.U dress workers liquidate? Then this can have only the following results: (1) It will have to be admitted that the many years of Communist organization was a complete failure; that the Communists can not build unions outside of the A. F. of L.; that Communists do not know how to organize; that the many-year fight against the A. F. of L. bureaucracy was futile for the left wing goes back to its status as a minority group within the A. F. of L. again to be expelled if the Left Wing does not yield to the Right Wing. The slogan of “One Union in the Industry” only means the liquidation of the new union and all that it stands for, the complete confession of failure on the part of the Communists. (2) This result will leave the furriers completely abandoned. How long will the independent furriers last under such a blow? (3) The T.U.U.L. itself is mainly based upon its needle trades work. The return of the needle trades workers to the A. F. of L. means the end of the T.U.U.L. as now constituted at any rate.
Such a slogan the Communist League of Struggle can not support. In spite of the terrible mistakes of the Stalinists in the trade union field, there is still place and room for the N.T.W.I.U. We must not let the Communist Party kill the N.T.W.I.U. First of all, there is still the mass of unorganized workers to be reached. Second, there is still the powerful left wings to be built up especially within the Amalgamated Clothing Workers and in the I.L.G.W.U. Third, instead of the slogan “One Union in the Industry” the proper slogan must be the “united front” in all concrete battles.
In all the struggles of the needle trades workers the N.T.W.I.U. must raise the slogan of united front with all other needle trades unions in the common fight against the bosses. United front with independence for the workers to choose to which union they wish to belong. This is the tactic for the Communists at the present time. This is the way for the N.T.W.I.U. to show it really wants unity in struggle, that it really helps to defeat the bosses and their agents in all fights and yet at the same time that it and it alone can represent the real interests of the needle trades workers.
28. MARINE. Here is a case where the slogan “One Union in the Industry” can well be taken up by the Left Opposition. The marine situation differs from the textile in that the union was not built up on the basis of struggle, has not the tradition of struggle, has not won great strikes, was not built after years of battle but entirely upon the basis of a subsidy from Moscow. It differs from the textile situation also in that it has the worst bureaucracy of any of the red unions while at the same time the I.W.W. and the A.F.L. unions still exist as bodies with more members than the party’s artificially built up union.
Nevertheless the fact is that 90% of the marine workers or more are unorganized and that it is up to the Communists to organize the unorganized. Therein consists the justification of the Marine Workers Industrial Union. The C.L.S. does not desire the liquidation of the M.W.I.U. Quite the contrary, it must send in its members to work within the M.W.I.U. and to build it up, if possible. But under the miserable bureaucracy in the M.W.I.U. with its meager membership, this is quite a difficult task. Under the circumstances it is the duty of the C.L.S. to advocate the building up of Left Wing groups not only in the M.W.I.U. but in the I.W.W. and in the I.S.U. and I.L.A. These groups of course do not go in to destroy these unions but to build a revolutionary wing within them. Within all these unions the C.L.S. fights for amalgamation and for one fighting union in the marine industry. Under the given circumstances, while we do not favor the M.W.I.U. especially, we must fight the liquidation tendencies of the Lovestone clique on the water front.
29. SHOE. The Shoe Workers Industrial Union of the T.U.U.L. must be rebuilt and the mistakes of the past corrected. The principal job here too is the organization of the unorganized. Here too as in the marine industry the line of the C.L.S. must be to build Left Wing groups not only in the T.U.U.L. shoe workers union, but in all the other shoe workers unions as well, some of them being stronger than the Party’s union (the Progressive, the National, etc.). However, the Shoe Workers Industrial Union is different from the Marine in this that the show workers have had more of a mass base, has had some struggles. Therefore in some localities while the C.L.S. must build groups everywhere and must raise the slogan of amalgamation, and one union in the industry, it is possible that its main emphasis can be laid on the Shoe Workers Industrial Union to build it up and to make it competent to do the job of organizing the unorganized and fighting against the misleaders of labor.
30. FOOD. There can be no question about the fact that the split that took place within the Amalgamated Food Workers Union in which a part of the cafeteria workers left to go with the T.U.U.L. was one of those errors which the party in its “third period” frenzy carried out in a number of places. However, the paper union originally formed has carried out some work, has done some organization, has increased its prestige and influence among the cafeteria workers. While the split originally was a forced one, we must now face the fact of such a split. The situation of the Food Workers Industrial Union is somewhere in between that of the Needle Trades Workers Industrial Union and that of the Shoe Workers Industrial union (see above). In our opinion the Communists must support the Food Workers Industrial Union where it has a mass base and strive to correct it from within. At the same time it must strive for unity in action with the other food unions, particularly with the Amalgamated Food Workers. The same tactic should apply here as in the needle trades, although it must be stated that here the slogan “One Union in the Industry” can be raised more plausibly by the Right Wing.
The fact that the line should be confined to united fronts with the other unions rather than to the aim of fusion with the other unions and the eventually liquidation of the F.W.I.U. into another body should not prevent the C.L.S., however, from organizing left wing fractions within the A. F. of L. and Amalgamated unions for the purpose of transforming them into fighting organizations that would really unite in struggle with the F.W.I.U.
31. In other industries, the basic heavy industries where the task is still the organization of the unorganized, the C.L.S. must support any efforts that may be made by the T.U.U.L. in the lunger, agricultural, steel, metal, auto, rubber, chemical, etc. fields. We must repeat and emphasize the fact that the historic duty rests upon the Communists to organize the unorganized in this country.
32. In other industries, such as building trades, hard coal, railroads and where the A. F. of L. is strong, our job is to work within the A. F. of L. to condemn the C.P. foolish splitting policy which only aids the splitting policy of the bureaucracy and to carry out a Communist line within these organizations based upon a militant program of action.
33. If the job of organization of the unorganized belongs to the Communists it belongs to the Left Opposition and to the Communist League of Struggle. We cannot ignore our duty with the statement that we are too weak to begin, we have no forces, no money, etc., we have no experience, or that only the party or only the A. F. of L. should do it, etc. (the line expressed and implied of the American League). Wherever Left Oppositionists are, there they must be organized into trade union fractions, that really begin to function. Shop papers should be issued. Wherever possible strikes should be led and unions organized.
Wherever possible the Left Opposition must form clubs of workers in that particular industry to carry out the line of the Left Opposition in that industry. The clubs must be not merely educational bodies but must undertake to carry out the day to day tasks which the other unions should do but do not do. Especially is this true in those industries where in fact only paper unions exist. In cases, such as the Marine, where our policy is one union in the industry, these clubs if really doing their work can become holding bodies to join forces with the Left Wing groups organized by us within each of the existing unions to compel the formation of one union in the industry. These clubs if successful may really become so enlarged as to be unions of their own but unions, in this case, which are constantly urging the necessity of one union and amalgamation and permitting within its ranks as members the members of other unions in the field who are in agreement with its policy. In other cases, too, these clubs can turn into unions. But we do not shrink from success. It is in the course of this independent mass work that the Left Opposition can build itself up to that level where it can effectively organize a new and genuine Communist Party in the United States.
The bureaucracy--as well as many revolutionaries--forget all too easily that the proletariat is not only the object, but also the subject of politics. The Nazis want, with blows on the head, to change the workers into one artificial people. The leadership of the Comintern figures, on the contrary, that Hitler’s blows against the workers will cause them to become docile Communists. But the workers are not clay in the potter’s hands. Not every time do they seize history at the beginning. Despite all their hate and contempt for the Nazis, they are still least of all inclined to return to that policy which shoves them into Hitler’s snare. The workers feel themselves deceived and betrayed by their own leadership. They don’t know what to do, but they know very well what must not be repeated. Their torment is beyond all description. They want to tear themselves loose from the devil’s circle of complications, threats, lies, and boastings. They want to shake off necessity and difficult questions which are beyond their strength. They need time in which to heal their wounds of disillusion. The general expression of such a condition is: political indifference. The masses fall into an embittered passivity. One part--and not a small one--seeks refuge in Fascist organizations. It is of course inadmissable to put into the same category the going over of several politicians to the side of Fascism and the entrance of nameless workers into the compulsory organizations of the dictatorship; the first case is one of place-hunting, the second, one of defence-coloring, an embittered subjugation to the “Master of the House.” But in spite of this, the fact of a mass desertion of the workers to the Swastika is an irrefutable sign of the spirit of evasion and passivity which has caused this desertion. The reaction has forced itself deep into the marrow of the revolutionary class. And this not only for a day.
The party bureaucracy, which has forgotten nothing and learned nothing, is building a glaring political anachronism in this general condition of affairs. The workers lie prostrate before the official infallibility. The void around the apparatus is growing. The worker resents the fact that besides Hitler’s knout he is also being driven by the knout of false optimism. He wants the truth. The crying contradiction between the official perspective and the real state of affairs can result only in further demoralization in the ranks of the advanced workers.
That which is called the radicalization of the masses is a complex molecular process of collective consciousness. In order to come forward again, the workers must, above all, understand what has happened. Radicalization is out of the question, unless the masses have assimilated their own defeat, unless at least the vanguard critically surveys the past and rises above it to a new stage.
At the present time this process hasn’t even begun. The press of the Apparatus is itself forced to recognize, between its optimistic outbursts, that not only are the Nazis further consolidating their position in the country, persecuting the Communists, inflaming the hatred of the peasants against the workers to the point of white heat, but that also in the industrial centers-- without the least bit of resistance--the Communist workers are being crushed. In all of this there is nothing unexpected. Whoever allows himself to be beaten, must bear the consequences.
In the face of these facts, the bureaucracy--in its search for something to bolster up its optimistic perspective--precipitates itself into a subjective condition of complete fatalism. Even should the voice of the masses be submerged, National socialism will be shattered into bits through the forces of its own contradictions. Only yesterday the bureaucrats proclaimed that all the other parties of Germany--from the Nazis to the Social Democracy--merely seek to establish some form of Fascism in order to carry through a common program. Today, all hope of opposition to the government’s policy has been destroyed. The conflict between Hitler and Hindenburg takes the place of what not entirely inconsiderable antagonism between Hitler and Wels which was not taken advantage of it its day. A crash between the SA and the SNBO on the one hand and the Hitler Regime on the other hand is not only unavoidable but also is claimed to be close on the horizon. The reckoning can only be extended a few weeks. Yesterday, Reformist and Fascist were twins; but today the disillusioned Fascist and the Fascist who is in power are Antipodes.
The new errors in political calculation are no less gross than the old. The “opposition” of the old capitalist parties against the National Socialism is no greater than the instinctive opposition of an old sick man who is having a tooth pulled. Events follow the line of march. Hindenberg’s conflict with Hitler appears merely as an episode in the course of the concentration of all power in the hands of Hitler. In order to consummate its destiny Fascism must identify itself with the State Apparatus.
It is quite possible that many of the peasant followers of Fascism are already dissatisfied; they have not been allowed to plunder what is rightfully their own. But no matter what sharp forms this discontent may take on, it cannot be a decisive or determining factor. The apparatus of the ruling regime will crush the disobedient rebels one after another, will build up anew the unreliable divisions and patch up the ragged edges. The disenchantment of the broad masses of the petty-bourgeoisie is--generally speaking--entirely unavoidable. But it will take place irregularly and in different forms. Outbursts of dissatisfaction can, in certain cases, very well lead to a condition of decay among the layers that are disillusioned with and drawing back from Fascism. But in no case should one expect independent, revolutionary initiative to arise from all this.
The Factory Councils of National Socialism are much less dependent on the workers than were the Factory Councils of Reforms. Indeed it is possible in an atmosphere of temporary economic upturn that the Fascist Factory Councils can act as a fulcrum for the attack of the workers; as for example the Tsarist Ochrans workers organization of January 9, 1905, which became the lever of the Revolution. But today, when the German working class is experiencing the most anguishing disillusionments and defeats, it is nonsensical to expect that it will unleash itself into desperate struggle under the leadership of Nazi dignitaries. The Factory Councils are consolidated from above, as agents of betrayal, to keep the workers in check.
Let us not deceive ourselves. It is suicide to cover up defeats with illusions. The way out is through clearness. Only a merciless criticism of one’s own mistakes and blunders can pave the road towards retaliation.
From past experiences we can see that German Fascism is developing along the lines of Italian Fascism at an accelerated speed; not only because Hitler is learning from Mussolini, but above all because of the hither industrial development of Germany, and the greater sharpness of its inner contradictions. From this we can draw the conclusions that National Socialism will more quickly ruin itself through mismanaged power than will its Italian predecessor. But still, when it degenerates and disintegrates, National Socialism cannot bring about its own downfall. It must be overthrown. A change in the present political regime in Germany is unthinkable without an uprising. Certainly at present there is no direct and immediate road to an uprising. Still, whatever crooked paths developments may beat out, these will inevitably lead to the insurrection.
It is understood that the petty bourgeoisie is incapable of an independent, revolutionary policy. But the politics and humor of the petty bourgeoisie are not unimportant in determining the fact of a regime which it helped to establish. The disillusionment and dissatisfaction of the middle classes--as has already happened in Italy --will change National Socialism from a people’s movement into a police apparatus. But no matter how strong this apparatus may be, it will not be able to turn back the living stream of revolution which will force itself into every pore of society. The bureaucratic degeneration of Fascism means, therefore, the beginning of its end.
But at this point a new difficulty arises. The weight of the defeat has come down with tremendous force upon the proletariat. The workers become careful, mistrustful, watchful. Even though the volcanic outbreak of the reaction may be at an end, the cold lava of the Fascist State reminds them only too strongly of their tragic experiences. Such is the political situation in Italy today. The lessons of Political Economy teach us: the disillusionment and dissatisfaction of the petty-bourgeois reaction prepare the moment when the depression in the workers movement passes away and makes room for a revival. Now to discover how, when and under what circumstances the revival will take place, would be an empty beginning; if the stopping places in public inns always have an “unexpected” character--how much more so the stopping places on the political road!
For an organism that is convalescing from a very severe illness a good nurse is absolutely essential. In the case of the worker who has been rolled underground to the waltzes of Fascism, every adventurist tactic must produce a relapse into apathy. Premature speculation on the stock exchange very often results in a renewal of the crisis.
The example of Italy shows us that the existence of a political depression, especially through a false opposition leadership, can drag along for many years. A correct policy does not pounce upon the proletariat with a magic line of march, but on the contrary bases its perspectives and conditions of struggle upon the actual march of events. Favorable outer conditions can shorten various sections of the process considerably: it is not preordained that the depression must last as many years as it has in Italy! Still the masses cannot jump over the necessary, organic stopping points. To expedite, to pass over without unnecessary risk--therein lies the entire strategy of a realistic leadership. When the workers movement is able to pull itself out once from the lead coffin lid of Fascism it will be able in a relatively short time to take a broad upswing. Only through and only under the leadership of the proletariat will the dissatisfaction of the petty- bourgeoisie take on a politically progressive character; only then will the basis again be laid for the revolutionary struggle.
The ruling classes will have to deal with the reverse side of this process: as soon as the Fascist State loses the support of the petty-bourgeoisie it will prove itself an obviously unreliable apparatus of oppression. The capitalist politicians will be forced to seek a new orientation. The conflicts within the ruling classes will have to break out into the open. Faced with a solid front of attracting masses Hitler will find the inland provinces unreliable. In such a manner will develop the revolutionary situation, during which will be sounded the death knell of National Socialism.
But before the proletariat can set itself great tasks again, it must draw the balance of the past. Its main formula: the old parties are lost. A small nucleus of workers already understands: a new party must be formed. The characterless Social Democracy and the irresponsible Stalinist bureaucracy will be burnt to ashes in the fire of struggle. The gentlemen Nazis never cease to boast about the “Race of Fighter.” The day is coming when Fascism will join issue with the unexterminable race of revolutionary fighters.
Is Soviet Policy a Matter on which Only Russian Socialists are Competent to Decide?
To the Comrades of the Independent Labor Party--
You have published my Copenhagen speech on the Russian Revolution in pamphlet form. I can, of course, only be glad that you made my speech accessible to British workers. The foreword by James Maxton recommends this booklet warmly to the Socialist readers. I can only be thankful for this recommendation.
The foreword, however, contains an idea to which I feel obliged to take exception. Maxton refuses to advance to enter into the merits of those disagreements which separate me and my co-thinkers from the new ruling fraction in the U.S.S.R. “This is a matter,” he says, “on which only Russian Socialists are competent to decide.”
By these few words the international character of Socialism as a scientific doctrine and as a revolutionary movement is completely refuted. If Socialists (Communists) of one country are incapable, incompetent, and consequently have no right to decide the vital questions of the struggle of Socialists (Communists) in other countries, the proletarian International loses all rights and possibilities of existence.
I will allow myself, moreover, to affirm that, while refraining formally from judging the struggle which split the Russian Bolsheviks. Maxton, possibly without wishing it, has nevertheless expressed himself in hidden form on the essence of the dispute and, in effect, in favor of the Stalinist fraction, since our struggle with it concerns precisely the question as to whether Socialism is a national or international matter. Admitting the possibility of the theoretic and practical solution of the problems of Socialism within national limits, Maxton admits the correctness of the Stalinist fraction which bases itself on the theory of “Socialism in one country.”
In reality, the disputes between the Russian Bolsheviks are not only Russian disputes, just as the conflicts between the Labor Party, the Independent Labor Party, and the Communist Party of Great Britain are not only British conflicts. The matter concerns not only the fate of the present Communist International, but of a proletarian International in general.
The grouping of forces, not only in the U.S.S.R. but also far beyond its limits, goes along the dividing line between “Socialism in one country” and international Socialism. Sections of true Internationalists, taking as the point of departure the theory of permanent revolution, are to be found now in almost all the countries of the world. Their number and influence grows. I consider that on the basic questions of the struggle between us and the Stalinists, every member of the I.L.P. not only can but is duty bound to arrive at his independent opinion.
On my part I am ready to help as much as I can in print writing or orally, every British Socialist, every British worker in the study of the disputed questions of the International….
August 1933 Comradely yours, L. Trotsky