First Published: Spark Vol. II, No. 4, April 1948
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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[SPARK is reprinting an open, letter sent by some expelled comrades in Chapel Hill, North Carolina to their comrades in the South. It is eloquent testimony both to the corruption and opportunism of the CPUSA leadership and to the intentions of the best rank and file Communists (called “small fry” by the leading hacks) to build a real CP. in the U.S.A.]
March 23, 1948
Dear Comrades and Friends:
We were expelled, by the North Carolina State Committee of the Communist Party in August 1947. In this statement we want to give our opinion of the political situation and of Party policies in connection with it. We also want to explain our position regarding our own expulsion and the numerous other expulsions which have occurred.
The war ended with Socialism much stronger, and capitalism much weakened on a world scale. The United States has become the strongest capitalist power economically and politically. The American bankers are trying to speed up their, plan for enslavement under an American Fascism, for imperialist investment of capital in other countries at super profits, and for a war on the Soviet Union and the new Peoples’ Democracies of Europe and Asia. The big capitalists are afraid to wait for they know that within a comparatively short time of peace the Socialist economies will show as plain as day the superiority of workers’ ownership and control of production. Since the capitalists also realize that our “free enterprise” production for profit system is headed for the worst economic crash in history, they want to head off the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and to put the burden of the crisis on the overloaded backs of the working people. The fact that the U.S.A. has become the organizer of world reaction and war places a heavy responsibility upon American Communists, regarding which Stalin said:
“I think, comrades, that the American Communist Party is one of those few Communist Parties in the world upon which history has laid tasks of a decisive character from the point of view of the world revolutionary movement . . . I think the moment is not far off when a revolutionary crisis will develop in America. And when a revolutionary crisis develops in America that will be the beginning of the end of world capitalism as a whole. It is essential that the American Communist Party should be capable of meeting that historical moment fully prepared and of assuming the leadership of the impending class struggle in America. Every effort and every means must be employed in preparing for that, comrades. For that end the American Communist Party must be improved and bolshevized...” Although Stalin said, this in 1929 in the American Commission of the Communist International, while denouncing the unprincipled factionalism of Wm. Z. Foster and A. Bittelman on the one hand and J. Lovestone on the other, it is truer than ever today. It would be a good idea to make a. comparison between the way the present American Communist Party is meeting its responsibilities, with the way the European Communist Parties are meeting theirs. The Communists of Europe have set up an information bureau at Belgrade, Yugoslavia for the establishment of joint-action and mutual criticism. One of their main jobs is the fight against American imperialism as the most dangerous force against world peace, democracy and Socialism. They will also of course, fight the European capitalists who have become open stooges for American reaction, just as they were lately stooges for Hitler. In the December 1947 issue of the “Political Affairs” is a statement by the National Board of the C.P.U.S.A. which says the Communist Party of the U.S.A. should not affiliate to the Information Bureau of the nine Communist Parties because:
“The reactionary and pro-fascist forces now whipping up anti-Communist hysteria and war incitement in our country would undoubtedly seize upon such action by the American Communist Party as a pretext for new provocations and repressions against the Communist and all sections of the American Labor and progressive movement.”
Ironically in the same issue, as though for contrast, are statements from Thorez and Zhdanov. Zhdanov, speaking in September to the conference which formed the Communist information Bureau, warned of the danger of such a position among Communists in which they ”refrain even from meeting among themselves, not to speak of consulting with each other on questions of mutual interest fearful of the slander of enemies with respect to the ”hand of Moscow”… There is no doubt that such a situation, if it were prolonged would be pregnant with extremely harmful consequences for the development of the work of fraternal, parties...Continued isolation may lead to the weakening of mutual understanding and at times to serious errors.”
Thorez, in speaking to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of France, uses the declarations of the information Bureau to defend the national honor and sovereignty of France despite the attacks of the reactionaries. Yet he says:
“what a chorus they sang after the Conference of the nine Communist Parties!...But we have also shown that despite the violence of their general attack, we have held fast to our position...”
An American Communist Party which acted in full responsibility to the American working class and to the working class of the world, would immediately apply to join the C.I.B. and would spread and study the organ of the C.I.B. “For a Lasting Peace, For a People’s Democracy.”
It is interesting that this newspaper could not be purchased at the party bookstore in New York long after it was available to this country until the various expelled groups were spreading it and the P.R. Club (expelled) of the Communist Party put an ad in the newspaper P.M., advertising it. Only a party which fears to stand up for the internationalism of the working class movement could make such a cowardly and company union type of statement in refusing to join the C.I.B. Only a party which is not seriously trying to lead the working class to the victory of Socialism in our own country could refuse the offer of mutual advice with other parties when only recently this party has gone completely off the track into Browder ’s opportunism.
The move to manufacture hysteria and hatred against the Soviet Union and repression against the American working class is the reason Communists must move fast with a correct- program. The workers and farmers have got to be aroused against the warmongers. But they must be organized on the basis of class struggle and not on the basis of appeals to our government to quit its ”insane policies”. Nationally this type of Browderism has been expressed by Dennis and the whole staff of the Daily Worker and a local example of it took place when shortly after Junius Scales announced himself as an open Communist at Chapel Hill, N.C., he was invited by a student organization to take part in a forum. It was a wonderful chance to get across a Communist position and deliver a blow to the war drive since the students packed the meeting wanting to see what an admitted Communist had to say. So Scales proceeded to say that the warmongers should be scolded and some changes made in the State Dept. He said nothing about the necessity of a mass struggle by the workers, farmers and Negro people against the capitalist class and its capitalist government in order to give a setback to the war drive. A few superficial changes in the government or the shuffling around of individual officials, is not going to stop war. Some individuals from the upper classes make Communists but Junius Scales is not one of them. He is speaking for the Bosses inside the labor movement by appealing to the capitalists not to carry out “insane policies” such as war.
Regarding such hogwash as is being preached by Scales and the Daily Worker, Lenin had the following to say:
“He who simply confines himself to ’demanding from bourgeois governments the conclusion of peace’ or ’the manifestation of the will of the people towards peace’ etc., is in fact degenerating into a reformist, For, objectively the problem of war can be solved only in a revolutionary way.” Little Lenin Library, vol. 9, pp. 23-24.
Junius Scales and the C.P. leadership in this country have already degenerated into reformists. Anyone appealing to the Truman government to stop its dangerous policies must be appealing on the basis of what is best in its own imperialist Interest.
The Daily Worker is filled with articles exposing the Marshall Plan yet at the national C.I.O. Convention, the Communists voted for it and stood up and clapped for Marshall himself. The Daily Worker has tried to say that the resolution for which they voted was not for the Marshall Plan but Foster in a later article admitted that the C.I.O. went on record for the Marshall Plan, What can be the purpose of such double dealing except to fool the rank and file, the workers, and the other Communist Parties? The party here has done Kautsky (the traitor to the German working class in Lenin’s day) one better and red baited itself in order to keep unity with the “center forces” of Murray. We would like to know what kind of unity this is, Murray sends his emissaries to Greece to aid the U.S. imperialists keep the fascist monarchy in power to murder the workers and, peasants. The same government which has made it a death penalty to strike. He had Carey to go to Europe to break up the World Federation of Trade Unions. Murray fires Communists left and right. A Communist Party is needed that will lead the workers and not tail after the liberal capitalists and the ”labor lieutenants of capitalism” (Murray and Green) or even Wallace.
The Progressive Party with Henry Wallace as candidate for president has finally been launched after much sabotage from the C.P. leaders. In North Carolina a typical sample occurred.
One of us before we were expelled, tried to get the position into the statement of program of the Chapel Hill Students for Wallace Club, that if Wallace were not nominated by the Democrats with a progressive program, a third party would have to be started. The other party people vigorously opposed any mention of a third party and they evidently had been told to take that line by the local party chairman even though that position had never been decided in party meetings.
We are not proud of taking the position we did as it became clear to us shortly afterwards that our position was also opportunist in that the Democrats and Republicans should not be supported if they run ten Wallaces; but a Farmer-Labor Party should be organized.
However shortly after this the name was changed from Wallace for President; to the even worse Wallace Democrats on the claim that it was “too late” to start a third party which would run Wallace, and that Wallace would not be likely to be nominated by the Democrats...therefore the club intended to see to it that the Wallace program was in part gotten into the Democratic Party position and in North Carolina liberal Democrats would be supported. Which adds up to the old “lesser evil” and a bridge head to supporting Truman.
Up until this time the party leadership had been saying that it was too early to start the Third Party. They said it was necessary to wait until there was a broader labor support, meaning from Murray and William Green. They can always find somebody to tail after. The rank and file workers don ’t pay so much attention to Murray and Green on politics. It seems likely that the Wallace people forced the hand of the CP. leadership by launching the third-party. This business of “too early” and “too late” seriously set back the work of the third party as far as the 1943 elections are concerned. But fortunately this is not, as the CP, leadership thinks, the most important part of the third party. The building up of a class conscious labor-farmer party with the possibility of developing the American working class to a higher level of struggle must be the aim of all Communists.
For proof of how the Third Party was sabotaged, read “SPARK” Jan. 1948 published by the P.P. Club, Communist Party (expelled) P.O. Box 3A Tremont Station, N. Y. 57, N.Y.
The Third Party gives an excellent opportunity for Communists to take the lead in the organization of a Peoples Front against war and fascism. The people are sick arid tired of the two old parties. A Farmer-Labor Party was recommended by the Communist International in the past, as the best form for the organization of the Peoples Front in the. U.S., but it was immediately perverted by Browder to mean making alliances with groups further and further to the right until we slipped into the fold of the “progressive” Democrats. The Communist International said that such a party should not be a Communist Party, but neither should it be an anti-Communist Party. While Wallace has been just as left in practice as the CP.U.S.A., the blank check given to Wallace creates the danger of the movement being transformed into an anti-Communist one.
Wallace’s talk about the Soviet Union’s “aggression”, being a result of American aggression can very easily be turned into talk about “the Soviet Union has gone far enough. We have tried to be fair with her, but she won’t play fair, therefore, we must save what democracy is left.” The red baiting remarks of Glen Taylor, Wallace ’s running mate are clear signs of what betrayal is in store if the Third Party is built up only as a means to get Wallace in to the presidency.
The Communist Party says nothing about Wallace’s “plague on both your houses” talk, except an occasional back column in the Daily Worker to soothe the remains of a Marxist conscience in the rank and file but a principled Communist position means criticizing the waverings of the Wallace leadership and working for a correct program right in amongst the Third Party people...and especially pointing out to them the shortcoming of any solution other than Socialism.
The Progressive Party should have a program for the division of the land of the southern plantations amongst the Negro and white tenant farmers and sharecroppers. It should also support abolition of the farmers’ indebtedness and taxes as Dimitroff pointed out at the 7th Congress of the Communist International.
The question of land is one that has been ignored by the Party except for a couple of articles now and then. Land for the people of the South is never raised in the agitational work of the party (if one can call any of the C.P. work agitational).
We are going to try to deal with this question of land in the South, in a regular publication which we Intend to issue immediately. It will be called ”THE ROAD. AHEAD” and in a way, we consider this statement the first issue.
Of course the C.P. leadership talks a lot about the Party “maintaining its independence” in the Progressive Party and showing the ”open face of the Party”. In North Carolina, a state conference of the Students for Wallace, was held in Chapel Hill recently at which there was some talk of taking a stand against the Soviet Union in order to appease the red-baiters. The local Party chairman was present and no one heard a peep out of him. He was evidently just there “showing the open face of the Party”. The Party policy in the Wallace clubs is never to say anything more left than Wallace.
Communists working in the Progressive Party should try to ’get a better program adopted, more working class influence in the organization, help to build, it...while at the same tame carrying on their independent propaganda so that when the time comes in which most of the middle class elements in the leadership swing back to the reactionary policy of the big capitalists the Communists will be able to thoroughly expose these people before the workers and farmers. This is the tactic that Lenin urged for the British Communists with regard to the Labor Party in England, Real Communists also have to watch the leadership of the Third Party and the C.P. to see that the movement is not sold out to the Democrats. They should try to stop this business of the Third Party supporting so-called liberal candidates who “happen” to be for the Marshall Plan such as Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas of California.
The Negro people are one of the first segments of the population to be hit by the war drive and the fascistic trend. In the field of struggle against the lynchings and attempts to terrorize the Negro people, the leadership has been turned over lock, stock and barrel to the NAACP (who are going a good job considering their middle class leadership.) The Negro people are ceasing to think of the CP. as the party of the defense of the Scottsboro boys. When a case of legal lynching arises in the South such as that of the Ingram family in Georgia, the Party confines itself to some publicity in the Worker with appeals for money. While money is important in a defense case it is one of the smallest aspects of it. When more is done it is usually some rank and file party members who start it and get something done. What is needed most in these legal lynchings of Negroes and also in the fight for the prosecution of the lynchers, is to arouse the people by agitation and struggle and to show every one the brutality and lack of justice of the landlord and capitalist South. In connection with the fight against the oppression of the Negro people, the fight for land for the landless, both Negro and white, must be raised continuously and not just as part of a high falutin resolution that is forgotten until some one wants to prove he has a Marxist program.
Trade union work reflects better than any other field the type of leadership and policies which the CP. has. The Party has been receiving setbacks, one on top of the other. It has been ousted from leadership of the U.A.W., a union largely organized by Communists. They have lost in the A.F. of L. Painters Union in N.Y.C, and have lost much of their influence in the national CI.O. These reverses are due to opportunism of the party leadership and the party trade union bureaucrats. For one thing the Party doesn ’t put up a fight for the workers demands and secondly, their “coalitions” are built on a phony conception of unity.
The recent strike of the tobacco workers in Winston Salem did not achieve what it could have if the party had been a really revolutionary party. Aside from the question of whether the strike had to be settled at the time it was settled, on the basis it was settled, the support organized by the Party nationally was little compared to what should have been organized. The C.P. organized much more support for the Gastonia N.C strikers in 1929 although the party was numerically much smaller then. Many of the union leaders who are party people became leaders in that period when the Party was building new industrial unions where the AFL had failed, because the Party organized on a militant aggressive policy Now after years of comfortable trade union official salaries and class collaboration policies from the Party, they have degenerated into ordinary trade union bureaucrats scrambling for positions. They usually function as part of the “center forces” of Murray. Of course the “center forces” of Murray cast them aside when they no longer need them. Then the Party leaders talk about themselves and the workers being “betrayed”: It is rank tailism to always wait until events take place and then weep about them. Communists are supposed to lead the workers and to warn them of what will happen and not just tell them what has happened and on top of that give-a phony explanation of why it did happen.
During the machinist strike in San Francisco starting Oct. 29, 1945 and lasting to about March 12, 1946 the Party trade union “leaders” backed up by the Party heads actually sank to the level of strike-breaking. This strike lasted about four and one half months and about 13,000 workers were on strike involving both AF of L and CIO. The 40,000 or 50,000 workers refused to scab by crossing their picket lines.
The Party leadership called it an adventurist and “leftist” strike. Harvey Brown, the corrupt head of the International Association of Machinists also considered the strike “adventurist” because he said, the leaders of the AF of L local were following the C.P. line by having joint action with the C.I.O. So between Harvey Brown on one side and the Party leaders and trade union officials in the CIO on the other side the strike was broken after about four and a half months of working class solidarity.
Here is a sample by Harrison George, nearly forty years in the Socialist Party, the I.W.W. and the Communist Party and former editor of the People ’s world (west Coast version of the Worker) but recently expelled:
“it may seem unbelievable that union officials who are Party members could participate in strike breaking, but one such “comrade” not only led his union members in demonstrations against picket line repeatedly, but on one occasion nearly came to blows with another party member, Levon Mosgovian, who, as picket captain for the striking machinists, defended the picket line against assault. The result: Mosgovian was expelled from the Party while the CIO comrade remains in the Party... unrebuked before the proletariat which observed his strike breaking.”
This quotation Is from page 33 of “The Crisis in the CP.U.S.A.” address: Harrison George, Box 3135 Los Angeles 53, California. Single copies are $1.00, 3 copies $2.00, and 5 copies or more 60 cents each. (Do not send postage stamps in payment)
Many of the members in California have been expelled for opposing the Party strike breaking but are still carrying on activities as Communists in their respective organizations. Among these is Vern Smith. He was a charter member of the Communist Party and was co-founder with Harrison George of the PEOPLE’S WORLD, the West Coast Communist paper. He was expelled for protesting against the expulsion of 17 other members and for disagreement with opportunism. He was ordered before the Tenney Committee, a California edition of the Un-American Committee in Congress. Smith tried to read a statement before this committee. He refused to be sworn in or answer any questions. His statement before the Committee is the only thoroughly Communist one so far in the wave of investigations. Vern Smith was arrested for contempt of this committee and is temporarily out on bail. A. Vern Smith Defense Committee has been set up with Warren K. Billings of the famous Mooney-Billings frame-up case, as chairman. The treasurer is Lou Austin and the secretary is Levon Mosgovian (the comrade who was expelled for trying to step another Party member from scabbing). This committee needs money as well as political support...especially so since the Party will not defend Smith...in fact the leadership would be pleased if he were back in jail. He was indicted in 1939 for participating in the mass violation of the anti-picketing ordinance in Shasta County, Calif; an action which smashed the ordinance. He served four months, in 1932 in “Bloody” Harlan and Bell County, Kentucky with nineteen others for criminal syndicalism during the mine strikes.
Address correspondence to Levon Mosgovian, Sec’y, 57 Carmel St., San Francisco, Calif. We hope to print the full statement of Vern Smith to the Tenney Committee in the first issue of our publication and also more concerning the facts of the case with suggested action.
Whenever the Party literature mentions “Socialism” it always hastens to say “of course we realize the American people are not ready for Socialism”. The writers give the impression that they are so darn glad the people “are not yet convinced of Socialism”...yet while the people In the U.S.A. are less socialistic minded than European workers, the Party has underestimated the amount of socialist sentiment among the workers and farmers, unclear though these ideas are. There Is a huge portion of the working people who realize that th2re is something wrong with the chaotic and rotten capitalist system and many go farther and think that there could be a system whereby plenty would be produced and distributed for everyone. Marxists, by raising the question and explaining Socialism in connection with every injustice and oppression of capitalism could find many a. recruit from among these people for a Communist Party...instead of keeping Socialism ”ever bright before us”, in the words of Gene Dennis, like a set of family silver which is polished off for company but not used In daily life.
The Party misleaders will say we are calling for “immediate Socialism”. We are for the building of Socialism just as soon as the workers and farmers have power in this country.
This, raises the point, of how to get to Socialism. The Party revisionists have thrown away and discarded the concept of the necessity for a worker ’s and farmer ’s democracy...what is usually called by Communist the dictatorship of the proletariat. This means a state where although the workers and farmers have democracy, the capitalists will not. It means the workers government will put down by force any attempt by the capitalists to organize an armed insurrection. This means that the capitalists will not be allowed the freedom to try a counter-revolution. To lead the workers to believe that the capitalists will not use violence against the workers...by talking about the majority of the people voting Socialism in, without mentioning the inevitable violent class conflict that would intervene...is opportunism of the lowest stage. Fortunately worker ’s experience exposes this lie since the capitalists use violence in nearly every strike.
Everyone who revises Marxism in the C.P.U.S.A. becomes an outstanding “theoretician” of Marxism. Every rationalization of retreat and move to the right is greeted as profound. Everyone who tries to develop Marxist theories is called “mechanical”, “sectarian” and “one-sided”. Of course Marxism always takes into account what is new in every situation; but that doesn ’t mean they must take out the “kick” or revolutionary content of the theory. A new situation no more demands an opportunist solution than any old situation did. It should have been said here for the newer comrades that opportunism means taking the easy way out...that is what superficially appears to be an easy way out but what is no way out at all. It was one of the greatnesses of Lenin that he showed that questions never have any easy opportunist solution, but only a revolutionary Marxist answer. Opportunist solutions usually take the form of avoiding struggle.
Since the preceding part of this statement was written, we have read the POLITICAL AFFAIRS (magazine) for March 1948. In it are the speeches to the National Plenum of the Party leaders in which they admit that they are guilty of all the deviations we have taken up in this statement. They speak of these “mistakes” as calmly as if they were discussing the weather and pass swiftly on. The correct line which they now recognize in words is the very one for which they have been expelling people all over the country and they admit their mistaken views only now when events are exposing them from all sides and in order to steal the fire from the pre-convention discussions.
Were their confessions sincere, they would admit that the people they expelled were correct and they themselves wrong, call a convention and step down from leadership. However, they want to keep control so that they can continue to make “mistakes”. If one accepts their reasoning, Dennis, Foster and Williamson have discovered a new law governing the development of a correct program for a Marxist...those who are right are wrong and those who are wrong are right. Lenin said opportunists at times would agree to and sign anything in order to stay in leadership. To call these sellouts like voting for the Marshall Plan, mistakes, is like calling strike breaking a mistake as was done in California in the account we gave before. No one has heard of anyone being, expelled for right opportunism except Browder and a few around him. The people who are expelled now in such quantity are always “leftist” and “disrupters”. When the opportunist leadership in the Transport -Workers Union in New York City proposed a transportation fare increase that would have cost the workers and middle class millions of dollars a year, they were not expelled. Robert Thompson was forced to write an article saying this position was right opportunism but instead of anyone being expelled...Mike Quill makes an open sellout and deserts the Communist Party. So also was the case with Budenz, once editor of the D.W.
But when someone like Francis Franklin in good time warns of and condemns such “mistakes” as Foster, Dennis, Williamson, and Winston admit in the March P.A., Franklin is expelled in the very month in which they announce and “correct these errors”.
And the lofty tone in which these “mistakes” are noted is an added insult to an already swindled membership...Dennis democratically lets the membership share in the errors. He says “the Party made a major mistake” in naming one or another of the latest sellouts... when who but Dennis was last year writing long and wordy articles about the GOP being the party of the worst reaction and holding back the organization of the Third Party with the illusion that we could try to influence the Democratic Party in a progressive direction! Who but Williamson organized the sellout in the State C.I.O. Conventions and later in the National CI.O, Convention and covered up for them in numerous twisted articles.
The grounds on which we were expelled were disgruntlement with and undermining or the Party leadership and relations with a person who turned rat, and also factionalism. Therefore we want to review our work and our disagreements with Party leaders, particularly in North Carolina. Naturally, people and places can be named only generally. We will be attacked for writing a statement exposing differences of opinion and party policy, in a period when the offensive of reaction is so vicious. Just because it is so urgent that the working class fight back the advance of reaction we feel it is necessary to acquaint the membership with our case so that they can struggle for a steadfast militant Communist Party without which the working class cannot win.
The industrial center where we settled down, we thought could become the center of party in the state because of its large aroused working class. There were a few party members already here but no meeting: were held and no organized party activity was carried on. Only one Negro party member was in a plant. First we had to carry on a struggle to convince the white party members that political action was as important as trade union organizing and that an active policy of bringing Negro and such white unionists as there were together would overcome the race barrier quicker than trying to pacify the Negro haters. When union political committees and educational committees were set up jointly of Negro and white workers, these were the seeds of later election victories, even though this was wasted on a candidate useless from the point of view of labor. The whites who got to know Negroes on these committees were the best and most consistent fighters against the race hatred that hobbled the white workers.
The one member who opposed these advances also opposed recruiting on any scale. However the other members, especially Negro helped organize recruiting meetings out of which we were able to start new workers branches. The union officials including party members were weak and scared and wanted to stick behind the wage question...afraid to fight for political leadership of the workers. They were afraid to have a left-wing educational worker and also wanted the rank and filers to take it easy as far as raising political issues in the unions.
The role of the official party organizer,Alice Burke, who occasionally visited the area, was at first to support the fight to get unions over their bad race practices. Later when the issue got hot enough to where the resisting member brought charges against us on the grounds that the Party had no right to take a stand on union affairs, Alice Burke criticized this comrade’s actions but went on to support a “peace making” resolution that there had been wrong on both sides. She tried to explain the Party position that there should be no Communist factions in the trade, union but we never understood in what way it was possible to be a consistent fighter for working class advancement and not work together in the trade unions to convince the membership of a correct position. Actually the trade union officials considered that if the Party people took any different position than that which they as trade union officials wanted...then the Party was interfering in trade union affairs. While we were willing to admit mistakes we thought all the actions should be analyzed and it decided which were right and which wrong rather than blurring over the thing with a meaningless resolution which didn ’t educate anyone. Alice Burke cautioned us against being too tough with this really anti-Party element because he was unreliable and if provoked might turn against the Party. This same tactic of coddling dangerous elements and letting them remain in the organization where they of course got to know more and more and become more dangerous, we saw carried out in other cases in the left-wing unions and in the Party right now.
In all this period we had cooperate with the Party leadership, recruited the first workers branch, handled literature and spread The Worker, acted as a liaison between the workers branch and the townspeople ’s branch...but we had also made the serious mistake of depending too much on trying to convince the trade union officials of correct policies instead of going to the membership and urging them to demand these of the supposedly progressive leadership. This mistake flowed right out of the ideology of the Browder period as it was transmitted thru Alice Burke ’s leadership and the Party literature.
During the Browder Convention of the Party, dissolution of the Party in the South without setting up even the substitute C.P.A. was proposed and we opposed it in the meeting of the Southern caucus. Other Southern delegates also opposed it...all of us who did in a confused weak manner, but the dissolution might not actually have passed on a vote except that this was avoided by having three people from the Southern caucus meet with a sub-committee of the Browderite National Committee to decide the question. Alice Burke who had half way opposed the dissolution before, voted for the dissolution in the meeting with the National Committee members.
After all Marxist organization was dissolved in the South, including our newly organized ones among the workers, we tried to hold them together in a discussion group. This group grew mainly through the efforts of a new Negro comrade. This organization was weak because of its loose form of organization and of the Browder Teheran line of “cooperation with the progressive capitalists” which we propagated. There is no question that with a Party form of organization and a militant program, a relatively large section of the Party could have been easily built in this period. After the Duclos letter, one of us contributed a letter also attacking Browder theories to the Daily Worker, which never published it. The Duclos period had a deep effect on us and since we were in the city visiting relatives, one of us tried every night to get into the convention which reestablished the Party. It was claimed that to conform with war travel restrictions the delegates from out of town were limited to 50 and no visitors were admitted on the claim that the meeting might be checked for travelers. Only twice was one of us admitted inside the Convention hall. Both times on the Invitation of Alice Burke one of us attended meetings of the Southern Caucus.
Robert Thompson and Gene Dennis met with the Southern Caucus. They spoke on the New York State Convention which had just met and where the membership had risen in fury when they learned of the secret dissolution of all Marxist organization in the South. Thompson and Dennis denounced Francis Franklin (a former southerner) as disruptive for rousing up the membership over this. Their talk that there ware some ”super leftists at the New York State Convention, while, we knew nothing of the people to whom he referred, could not help but make us wonder if the leader ship was trying to keep the anti-opportunist revolt of the membership within bounds which the leadership determined.
The other time the Southerners met, as a nominating committee, the Southern Caucus officially recommended, on the suggestion of the Alabama delegates, that ROBERT F. HALL, former district organizer in Alabama, not be put back on the National Committee. The Alabama comrades gave objections to his personal life. He had been one of the leading exponents in the South of Browder dissolution theories long before they were generally accepted in the Party.
However he was put back on the National Committee and is now Washington editor of the Daily Worker where he has written admiring feature stories about Governor Folsom and Senator Pepper. He was full of hero worship for Pepper...who he said ”had a sense of history” and implied he had the interests of the working class at heart. A sense of history as Marxists use it usually means that some individuals attain a knowledge of History as a whole and ally themselves with the most advanced class...the working class. Evidently it was Pepper ’s sense of history which caused him to describe American aid to Chiang Kai Shek as only the first step in what needed to be done.
Shortly after this, back home, at an enlarged State Committee, criticism was made of one of us who had been engaged in organizing a union. These dealt with laziness, hanging around reading the Daily Worker openly in union halls, and being generally no good on the job. The discussion was raised by a comrade who had no contact with the work and who could only have been given this opinion by the other comrade engaged in the organizing with us and who was well known to be a professional gossip, and who never raised any open criticism in all the time of working together or even here in this meeting until challenged. The criticism about flaunting the D.W. was made by a person who later turned rat and sold out to the companies. The comrade who was engaged in the organizing with one of us complained that she always showed up in the office early even if she had nothing she could do to organize right then and that the other comrade came in late. The one of us who was organizing replied that this was true and was a real failing but that whenever there were any contacts to follow up or any gate work to be done we did our share. The other of us who was in close connection all the time with both organizers and knew when visiting of workers was being done, and who had had the benefit of hearing the comrade constantly complaining In private on the previous organizing job that the workers who were organizing with her stole the credit for her work, objected to the present criticism that while it was true that she punched the clock more conscientiously than the other comrade, that both of them did the same amount of actual union agitation where it counted and that neither of them had enough contacts to look forward to winning the campaign and that one was covering up with the appearance of activity what the other was brazenly showing… that what had to be done was to analyze the campaign and help these relatively inexperienced comrades to work out methods of organizing and that the signed cards could now be counted to find out who had signed up how many workers and the value of the new members which each had convinced…in order that the facts rather than gossip be known.
While this is a relatively minor point to go into in such detail, it was the basis later on which Junius Scales kept one of us from taking any leading role in the Party. This was the basis for one of the charges against us by Alice Burke. This was the basis for all kinds of behind the scenes running down of us although in the actual meeting the discussion took about 10 minutes and other comrades were criticized for more serious errors but not later discriminated against. The actual meeting came to no conclusions on it and most comrades present attached no significance to it.
Much later on Sam Hall came into the district as D.O. and the Party was rapidly enlarged after an open meeting of the most active working class elements was held. At the first full scale Party meeting including these new members since the reorganization of the Party and the first important Party meeting either of us had been able to attend in a long time. During the period of the Duclos discussion it had been pointed out by many of the members’ letters that they had entertained doubts about the correctness of Browder’s line but that the atmosphere of finality, the implication that to question the leadership was a threat to the unity of the Party...in a word, the straitjacket of bureaucracy had kept opportunism from being rejected by the membership itself at a much earlier time than Duclos letter. So when this meeting proceeded very cut and dried with no attempt to involve the bulk of the membership in the actual formation of policy...let alone any fundamental examination of our theory than a Boy scout meeting, we could not help but gag. While a few of the outstanding Negro comrades were allowed to introduce points on the agenda and one who was just back from a Party school spoke briefly on the role of the Party, the actual content of the meeting was entirely given from the top. One of us objected at the point when the educational director, a student, informed the new members that the educational committee would tell them what to study and would send people into each club to see that they did so in an approved way. The objection was sustained by an active trace union comrade who expected that at least as in unions, proposals by officers would be subject to approval by the membership. Sam Hall hastened to make a little speech about everyone should feel free to make any suggestions they wanted to. And then the meeting rolled smoothly on as before. The person who spoke on the point of membership and recruiting had not recruited anyone for the Party and was relatively new in the area. His only claim to distinction was that he was a big shot in the trade union movement. He is now on the State Committee for the same reason.
Sam Hall with whom we cooperated to the fullest, turning over to him all Party literature and equipment which the former D.O.’s wife left with us in the absence of a D.O. had no reason to complain of any one undermining his leadership. Unless it was by studying the Manifesto in one of our clubs and a Party outline on similar material in the other, and by referring to him the Party members who happened to raise problems with us because they knew us of old. He worked mainly with his city committee and we had little contact with him in connection with our Party functions.
On one occasion during the discussion period over the Party position on the Negro Question we followed with close attention the articles in the Political Affairs expressing different points of view. Sam Hall never made any analysis of these positions, merely in the manner of giving a hot tip on the horses told us to read Foster ’s article because he was sure that was the one which would be adopted as the Party position.
In Chapel Hill there appeared to be a lot of Party activity among the students. Acquaintance with it showed that it was run from the top.
There was an executive committee made up of Junius Scales and some members of his social circle. Every quarter the executive presented a slate for the new executive, which had one or two new members and the rest of the offices shuffled around among the same little clique. The new member was either some person wholly dependent on Junius or else one relatively new in the Party who was in no position to stand up against a combination of the old hands if he had a difference of opinion.
In the membership meetings, a member of the exec, usually Junius, handled each point and gave the conclusions the exec, thought ought to be reached. In the exec. Junius raised the points and gave the conclusions Sam Hall had thought ought to be reached. The membership discussions were often long but usually around details and often fruitless because questions were not raised from a fundamental point of view. Policy was not critically examined to see whether it squared with basic Marxist theory and experience, but to lead the membership thru the reasoning by which the leadership arrived at its conclusions. The result over a period of time was, that the membership was not developed in Marxist ways of handling problems, so after a question was batted around awhile, upon the suggestion of one of Junius ’ stooges it was often referred back to the exec, for decision if it hadn ’t been already decided there.
This chain of command system could not activize all of the membership and the student work was slipshod and on the whole unproductive. Then the leadership could grow very righteous and say failure of Party work was due to members not working harder. But the kind of discipline which drives a Communist to work hard and effectively can only be self-imposed and can only be generated out of thorough understanding and conviction. With an inactive membership no basis for correct policy existed in any case because there was not enough contact, with the students and their organizations to know what their needs were.
Not only was the work poor around immediate issues like veteran and ’ southern regional questions but when a historic event like Truman ’s first open imperialist move of sending aid to Greece and Turkey occurred it was allowed to pass without any exposure and agitation among the students generally. Later when-we asked Junius why not even a leaflet was put out on it he said it had been decided that the students would react badly to a leaflet which would have to be put out in an undercover way.
The situation among the Negro worker Party members was even worse. This group had not even met in a very long time. With the help of several other comrades, besides one of us, they were reorganized and also got some recruits. This branch after it had started functioning, had no organizational connection with the rest of the city organization and therefore none with the state. It would have been a Jim Crow Branch if it hadn ’t been for the fact that some of the white student rank and filers enjoyed meeting with the workers and came on their own initiative. While it is a real problem in the South to have Negroes and whites function together continuously in groups it was very possible to at intervals at least, have joint meetings. This, even the church, reform organizations do; this the few Negro comrades who had survived from earlier more militant days, asked for, and this, when one of us raised it with Junius Scales was promised in the near future which never arrived until the membership roasted him for it in a criticism meeting. These working class Communists, their job, union, and race problems were completely neglected by the local and state leadership except when one of us who was assigned to leading educational work in that branch, raised them on our own initiative by going for a personal chat with him or in another case upsetting him by seeing that a delegate went on the initiative of the workers branch to raise their problems in the student branch meeting rather than in their exec, if at all.
Sam Hall was repeatedly in town and had time to socialize with little gatherings of the students under Junius’ expert supervision and even to sun bathe, but for about six months after this branch was organized could not find time to see either the Negro or white comrades who were active in it. This did not prevent him from bragging on the close attention the Party paid to the Negro industrial workers In the section previously discussed, and on the support the Party had among them when in actual fact, that militant, experienced group of workers would have pulverized him if they had realized the situation here.
From this point on, we can hit only the most immediately significant events because of the pressure of time and finances. We are afraid to wait any longer to get this statement out in its complete form because the howling for blood by our imperialist government at the Italian elections might very soon illegalize any Communist activity. So we will issue this now in reduced form and fill in the minor questions in our first issue of “The Road Ahead”.
Disgust with the ineffectiveness of Party work, with the Jim Crow setup in the Party, and with the Upper Story Elite that basked around the leadership, built up to a point where the leadership was forced to take notice and announce a critical session to be held.
An exec. meeting was held to prepare the critical session and Sam Hall showed up at our home for the first time, to get one of us to come to the exec, to represent the Negro Worker ’s Branch at the last minute. Sam Hall was very stern with one new member of the exec for timidly suggesting that the exec should refrain from drawing up slates for offices in small groups where people knew each others capacities and where It could only mean setting up the opinions of the exec as more important than the membership and reinforce bureaucracy. Sam accused him of trying to subvert the whole experience of the C.P.S.U. and talked to him as to a first class traitor. One other interesting thing occurred when in discussing the need for a Communist paper to the students, something which had been talked about for months but not executed, Sam Hall exhibited an ad he had placed in the North Carolina daily papers, as an example of Communist journalism. The one of us who was present objected to a section on “who wants Force and Violence”? In it he had turned the question aside – by going into an attack on Fascistic methods which any reader would agree with, but still told nothing about under what circumstances Communists had used” or would use force. Sam would not discuss this point.
The criticism meeting was held the next night. Although the exec started off the criticism on a general and meaningless level, the membership eventually got down to brass tacks and criticized slates in small meetings, the stifling bureaucratic atmosphere, the setting, up of the authority of the exec as above the discipline of the membership, and the policy of favoring some individuals and holding back others. Two examples of this last point were: one case in which a comrade had disgusted and insulted most everyone with his upper class attitudes. Some of the members had demanded his expulsion and had started proceedings when suddenly a request for a leave of absence because of ”illness” was received from him and was granted because Junius and Co. railroaded it thru with all sorts of opportunist arguments. Junius later admitted to us he had urged this leave of absence to protect him from the membership who he knew would expel the snob. In contrast, there was the case of one of us who was repeatedly nominated for office and Junius and his associates had spoken against this in the membership meetings saying that although this comrade had practically reorganized alone, the Party in North Carolina after he had got out of the Army and had read more Marxism than anyone else, that this comrade needed all his time to study because he hadn ’t had any previous formal education. In fact he urged this one of us not even to come to meetings. Privately, he told one person that this comrade ’s trade union work was irresponsible and lazy as judged by a State Committee meeting. However, one fairly new member of the exec disclosed to the meeting that after he had suggested one of us for the office and it had net been accepted for the more respectable reason, that one of Junius ’ close co-workers came up to him after the meeting and bawled him out, saying “Don’t you know the State leadership doesn ’t want him pushed”?
Sam Hall in his summing up speech, while he censured some of the minor forms of bureaucracy, soft pedaled the blame by saying there should be more self-criticism and he never dealt with the point that showed the State leadership engaged in secret wire pulling...Junius also side-stepped that point. The meeting as-a whole however was a defeat for the bureaucracy and made provision for a new city setup to be worked out tailing into account the criticisms made.
Later Junius came to see us, he said to straighten matters out and after much wriggling, he admitted that a member of the National Committee had told him that he thought one of us was not fit material for the Party...this happened more than a year before. We later learned from someone else that this N.C. member was Nat Ross, in charge of the South. Junius promised to have him talk this over with us whenever he should be in the area but of course he never showed up.
About this time Elizabeth Gurley Flynn came to speak at the University for a political forum. She told of the fine record of the Communists in the resistance movements in the countries abroad, and on the program of the Communists here...that is their immediate program for health, housing, wages, etc. but on the all important difference between others who stood for these limited gains, and the Communists, she said nothing...nothing about the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of Socialism. Consequently while, some of the Social-Democrats liked her mild speech, other people thought she was covering up something since from what they already knew about the Soviet Union and the new democracies, they expected more of Communists than simply liberal reforms.
After the meeting a reception was held. Miss Flynn was given numerous openings to explain Socialism but she avoided them like a trap. To a question from a student on whether, if he were a young person in the S.U., he could decide to go to school or would he be assigned by the State to a job or career without his decision...a question that any YCLer of old could have used to tell all he knew about Marxism, Miss Flynn replied: “That all depends – under some circumstances you could go and under others not.” To more question about the Soviet Union, she replied she had never lived there and why didn ’t people ask her something about the United States. To questions about how Socialism would work in North Carolina, she said she didn ’t know enough about North Carolina.
Having seen her hedge on all these questions, the real red-baiters present went at her hammer and tongs about the Party ’s position of non-support of the war as imperialist until the Soviet Union entered. She evaded and cited the war effort of the Communists later in the war. Finally she said, ”Maybe we made mistakes…nobody was very clear then.” When asked what Communists would do in the event of a war between the United States and the Soviet Union, she said, I suppose we would be conscientious objectors”. The rank and file, especially new members made a noble attempt to take up the battle where Elizabeth let it down. Because we hadn ’t studied over this period in recent years none of us did well defending it but Junius and the old exec members present were strictly silent.
Miss Flynn’s idea seemed to be to convince the people that Communists were real Americans by never suggesting anything more than had groups more respectable. Her effect however was just the opposite. Just because she didn ’t explain the connection between patriotism and international working-class solidarity, there did not seem to be any principled basis for Communist support of the Soviet Union...therefore they thought Communists must just be Russian agents. The meeting really killed two birds with one stone, people were not informed about Socialism or the struggle for it, and the lies of the capitalist press about Communists being foreign agents were at the very least not exposed.
After the criticism meeting, a joint Negro and white membership meeting was held, and a new city setup was initiated with new leadership except for Junius and one friend. The work and atmosphere improved and more members were involved. The details on this and the subsequent signs that Junius et al were not reconciled to the change will have to be held for the next issue.
About two and a half months later, a special joint membership meeting was called supposedly to hear a report of the recently held National Plenum and the meeting of the Southern D.O.s. Nat Ross made a speech which ended up with a wild, bunch of accusations and insinuations mostly directed against one of us. In spite of having no proof at this time, he ranted like a maniac, trying to build up an atmosphere in which he could get expulsion without any questions being asked. He beat around three general points, that one of us had exposed the membership by having had social relations with a person who later turned rat. That this same one of us had a shady past in the Party in Texas; that both of us were disgruntled with the leadership and factionalists. These charges we denied immediately, with only a few of Junius’ stooges testifying anything to the contrary. ’The majority of the membership were revolted by the Rankin Committee tactics of the leadership and insisted that an investigating committee be elected before any action be taken against us. Nat Ross, obviously taken aback by the unfavorable response, unwillingly conceded to the investigating committee but insisted we be removed from leadership in the meanwhile. When we wouldn ’t resign, he admitted there was no fault to find with our work but on the other hand, he said our attitude would be judged in the future from the quality of our work.
He said dramatically that we had received a letter whose contents were unknown, the very day this person had sold out, which established our connection with the F.B.I. He said, ”we have reason to believe that every member of the Negro Worker ’s Branch ’s name is known to the FBI.” Despite all these Hearst touches, the Negro people before they left gave their opinion that they could not believe these charges were true of us and that we had been faithful to the Party in all our contacts with them.
Because of the pressure of time we will only answer the FBI insinuations in detail now. By the time the investigating committee called us before them in what passed for a trial, (although when asked what the charges were Sam Hall said this was not a trial and there were no charges) we had made it obvious we could prove the FBI charge was false, so the leadership had watered down the emphasis to the idea that we had undermined the leadership by making certain comments about this person’s sellout, which reflected upon them. We insisted however that the original implication of connection with the F.B.I, be taken up because we could show not only that the leadership was mistaken and the charge false, but we could show the leadership knew it was false at the time they raised it. We had the “mysterious” letter which had arrived the day of her sellout, still in our possession and turned it over to the committee. The letter contained a long account of a physical disability, a thank you note for some help received in connection with it, mention of other comrades she had been seeing, and mention that the only news she had of a working class organization was thru the visits of a relative of Nat Ross. There was no intimation of her sellout, just as there had-been none when we and other comrades had seen her up to that point. The fact that Nat Ross knew all the while that the letter had nothing incriminating to us in it, was plain also from the fact that he knew we got the letter because one of Junius ’s side kicks had read it the day it arrived as had other comrades directly after we took it from the mail box. The second way he had made the FBI inference was by saying that when this person had given up her post, it was as a result of the censure of the State Committee, and therefore we should have known she was unreliable and so deliberately exposed comrades when she was allowed to come visit us. However, we also were able to show letters from a comrade who is still In good standing, which showed that long after this person who sold out had been out of her party post, (at which time they were supposed to have censured her) that she was visiting freely among comrades and particularly visiting this relative of Nat Ross ’ and helping her address club mailing lists. Obviously there must have been no State Committee censure of her for us to take notice of, or else Nat ’s relative had connections with the FBI which we feel sure is not the case. If anyone should have known of any such censure of that person, it should have been Junius Scales and he said nothing about it when she spoke with him in our presence during her visit. Nat Ross ’ statement that they had reason to think the comrades names were in the hands of the FBI, was never proved with any evidence at all. In fact Sam Hall tried to say later that he had not said it. The whole point is that in this one case where we were in a position to give objective concrete evidence, the charges were proved to be false and a deliberate planned frame up.
The charge that we had undermined the leadership in her connection was built up on the basis that when people asked us what could have made an old comrade who had been in the Party in tough periods before sell out...one of us had told them that she was in a tight spot financially and personally and was embittered by the attitude of certain well-heeled comrades towards her problem...and that she had said that Sam and Nat wanted some personal information of her in private at the State meeting and got angry when she wouldn ’t give it. The twist of “anti-leadership” given this by the testimony of Junius ’ close associates was entirely their own interpretation. The only error of which we might be guilty would be that of wasting time trying to analyze a degenerated individual ...but only distortion could turn that into the accusation that we sympathized with such an individual after she had exposed to persecution thousands of workers and incidentally ourselves, but interestingly enough not Nat ’s relative. Sam Hall and Nat Ross however might be asked why they wanted information of her secretly, unless it was because they knew that the ”man she was connected with was going to turn rat....in which case they should have denounced her to the membership immediately as a potential spy instead of trying alternately to make a deal with her to go out of town or to scare her. Nat Ross admitted in the original meeting that “they had moved too slowly”...in which case they are guilty of gross neglect of the membership’s safety.
In the next issue we will show that statements from Alice Burke, Jack Sapphire, and David Carpenter were deliberate falsehoods, while the frame-up is not so important in itself, it shows to what extent the leadership will go to stop any criticism or discussion.
Some comrades could not see why the national leadership should go to all kinds of trouble to frame-up a few obscure people in the South and so concluded that it was all due to the resentment of the local bureaucracy. In the list which we are printing below, comrades can see a part of the wide scale on which the expelling of all criticism from below, has been carried out on a national basis by the Party leadership as a whole...or had forced people to resignations on principle.
“S.F.C.C. Bulletin” H. Allinger, Secy, P.O. Box 2533 Sta. B
San Francisco Committee For Correspondence San Francisco, Calif.B
“L.A. Notes” R. Durem, Secy. Box 736 Hollywood Station
Los Angeles Committee For Correspondence, Los Angeles, Calif.B
N.C.P. Report P.O. Box 77 Oracle Station, New York 28, N. Y.
P.R. Club (expelled) P.O. Box 34, Tremont Sta. Bronx 57, N.Y.
“Fore N ’ Aft “ P.O. Box 157 Cooper Station, New York 3, N. Y.
“Crisis in the CP.U.S.A.” Harrison George §1 Box 3135 Los Angeles, Cal.
“Open Letter to Members of the Party” Francis Franklin Box 937 GPO NYC
“Communist Voice” P. Driscoll, Secy. 1026 E. Cordova, Vane Oliver, B.C.
“Communism Vs. Opportunism” F. McEean 2561 Cambridge St. Vancouver, B.C.
0ther Valuable Literature
“New Times”, Published by TRUD, Moscow
“For a Lasting Peace, For A People’s Democracy” (Organ of the Cominform)
each obtained from Universal Distributors, 33 Union Square, N.Y.C.
While we do not agree with everything printed in the literature of the expelled groups we think in general they are trying to overcome the opportunism and fight the bureaucracy in the Party...and are working towards building up a real Communist movement. In as far as what leftism is in the expelled movement, most of it is a result of the right-wing corruption of the leadership of the C.P. We think left leftism of the NCP group is dangerous because, while the Wallace group leadership is middle class, it is getting a substantial following among the workers in spite of Green and Murray, and is the only outfit in the country fighting the imperialist policies and anti-Soviet drive of the U.S. to any extent. It should not be supported like the Party is supporting it, but as Lenin advises in “Left-Wing Communism.”
We also think that members should stay in the Party, contrary to the position of NCP, in order to fight for a correct program and to expose the bureaucratic leadership...especially during the pre-convention discussion and the convention. If the present leadership controls the delegates and the convention, which is most likely, then a new Communist movement will have to be formed. Expelled members should carry on activities, singly or in groups wherever possible, as Communists.
We will appreciate news, opinions, or criticism from any reader and also contributions to help publish a regular bulletin. Address:
”THE ROAD AHEAD” P.0. Box 1684 Durham, North Carolina.