MIA: History: ETOL: Document: SWP-US: 12 National Convention of the SWP-US
From a Propaganda Group to a Party of Mass Action
Tasks of the SWP in the Present Political Situation
Adopted: November 12-18, 1946
First Published:January 1947
Source: Fourth International, New York, Volume 8, No.1, January 1947, pages 14-21.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido and David Walters, February, 2006
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2006. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.
1. Position and Prospects of U S. Capitalism
The position and prospects of American capitalism can be appraised correctly only from the following starting point: The crash of 1929-32 marked the beginning of the historical crisis of the capitalist regime. U.S. economy never fully recovered from the effects of this crisis. Following the feeble upturn from 1933 to 1937, came the “recession” in late 1937. The country started plunging toward depths below 1932.
The incipient crisis of 1937-38 was cut short by the desperate effort of the capitalist rulers to find a way out through a gigantic war program. They thus aimed to revive their decaying system and destroy the most menacing rivals (Germany and Japan), blocking their path to world domination. The military expenditures, multiplied with the direct entry of the U.S. into the war, lifted falling profits to new heights, reduced and then absorbed the unemployed, artificially invigorated and expanded industry and agriculture.
Only the demands of total war with its wild wastage of the country’s wealth made possible the full utilization and extension of existing productive facilities. The war, far from resolving the fundamental causes of this historical crisis, has in reality only aggravated the contradictions and accentuated the disproportions of U.S. economy.
The post-war boom has not signified the reestablishment of a stable and enduring equilibrium nor has it held out the promise of prolonged prosperity. The artificially stimulated market—arising from wartime scarcities, speculation and the resumption of international ties—has provided American capitalism with a temporary reprieve, and nothing more.
An analysis of the present economic situation shows that the post-war boom will be short-lived and that in the period ahead the crisis cannot be averted.
The constantly mounting concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny oligarchy has proceeded at an unparalleled rate. This acts to diminish the absorbing capacity of the internal market, which has been shrinking since 1929.
The production facilities, which declining American capitalism could not make use of during the chronic crisis of the Thirties, increased over 50 per cent during the war. In 1939 these facilities were valued at 40 billion dollars. During the war 26 billions of new production facilities were added. Capitalism is now tormented with the insoluble problem of what to do with these vast means of production and how to keep them in profitable operation.
The working force likewise expanded tremendously, reaching the high point of 58 million employed in October 1946. The productivity of labor had also increased on an average of thirty per cent.
This over-expanded productive capacity comes into ever-sharpening conflict with the declining purchasing power of the people. The worker’s relative share of his product, and therewith of the national income, is diminishing steadily. Thus although between 1919 and 1938 the productivity of the average worker doubled, his relative position had worsened, because his real annual wage had meanwhile increased only slightly.
The domestic market, shrinking because of the workers’ inability to buy the increasing quantities of goods they produced, was further limited by the capitalist attempts to unload the costs and consequences of their war upon the working people. The post-war tax-burden remained six times heavier than before the war. The 260 billion dollar national debt plus an annual 40 billion dollar budget—a sum equal to the entire national income in 1932—insures the continuation of this intolerable taxation, and blocks any lasting and genuine expansion of the internal market.
High taxes coupled with constantly soaring prices produced severe slashes in real wages. The CIO Economic Outlook estimated that at the height of the 1946 boom the weekly paycheck of the average American worker was worth one-fifth less than in 1945.
Wartime “savings,” amounting to one year’s national income—another factor confidently expected to vastly increase the absorbing capacity of the internal market—have instead acted to further restrict it. These “savings” do not represent mass purchasing power. 70 per cent of the population has little savings or none. 10 per cent of the population holds 60 per cent of these “savings.” The balance is held by another 20 per cent. In plain words, the bulk of these savings represents—capital. This capital, even if idle, bears interest, which can come only from national income. And by this token, like the high taxes, the bulk of these “savings” further depresses the purchasing power of the masses.
The lifting of government price regulations removed the last flimsy restraints upon inflation. The price-gougers were given a free hand to fleece the consuming masses.
While the real income of the workers was being drastically cut, corporation profits kept setting new records. 1946 business profits will net at least 11 billion dollars—the highest in history, and this on top of the scores of billions of wartime profits. Under these conditions the period of scarcities must approach its end and give way to its opposite: The overproduction of commodities. And this has been happening. By July the inventories of manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers soared to over 30 billion dollars, only to leap another 1.2 billion by August. This process continued in September and October and threatens to stall production.
Prices and production have kept mounting and have been maintained by the momentum of every speculative boom. Production, reaching its peak in August, remained at record levels in September and October, with the surplus accumulating in the warehouses. What makes these huge inventories possible is the equally huge inflation of credit. Business loans increased 2½ billion dollars by the second half of this year and have kept rising. By the end of October the Treasury and federal banking authorities had issued three warnings to clamp down on loans. It still remains to be seen which will collapse first; the credit structure or the monstrous pile of hoarded commodities. In either case, a flood of goods must then pour into the market and production will become progressively paralyzed.
Growing unemployment and declining production—these are the real prospects directly ahead. Temporary fluctuations upwards are not excluded, but the general trend is down; further and further down.
The war-born prosperity of American agriculture provided one of the principal props of the post-war boom. Following World War I, over-expanded American agriculture contracted violently and collapsed. It never fully regained its health thereafter but remained in a chronic crisis relieved by government subsidies.
The war-boom did not remove any of the underlying causes of this continued agricultural decay. The first ominous cracks in the agricultural price structure have already appeared. They came with the successive breaks in October in cotton. With the drop in cotton, other commodity markets (grain, corn, meat, etc.) also sagged. UNRRA purchases are scheduled to end this December. Authoritative capitalist economists who had issued warnings early in the year that the farm boom was fading never expected the developments that have already occurred. Far greater convulsions are ahead.
The hope of America’s capitalists that the world market, shored up by American loans and credits, would prove capable of absorbing the enormous surplus of goods will never materialize. After the first great flush of peacetime buying, foreign purchasing power, restricted by universal impoverishment and ruin, must decline. The 1946 rate of 10 billion dollars a year in exports cannot 1ong be maintained. Even this figure falls short of the required anticipated annual export of 30 billion dollars. The rest of the world is far too poor to sustain the colossal overbuilt edifice of U.S. capitalist industry.
The post-war boom has paved the way for a new and bigger crisis, mass unemployment, widespread misery, suffering and want.
2. Preparations for World War III
How can Wall Street escape the consequences of this economic catastrophe?
Just as German capitalism had no way out of its blind alley except through the organization of Europe under its iron heel, so capitalist America must attempt to reorganize the world under its domination. In its drive to achieve its imperialist aims, Germany had to fight two world wars. Similarly, the U.S. imperialists cannot carry out their program of world conquest without a Third World War.
World War II eliminated Germany and Japan as contenders for world mastery. It definitely relegated Great Britain to the status of a second-rate power. France was prostrated. But, although World War II made the United States predominant, it fell short of making American imperialism the unchallenged autocrat of the planet. To establish absolute control, the capitalist rulers must fulfill the following assignments:
1. Smash the power of the working class at home.
2. Crush the colonial and semi-colonial peoples who are fighting for their independence (Philippines, China, Indochina, India, Indonesia, Korea, etc.).
3. Remove the Soviet Union as an obstacle to Wall Street’s world domination. This is why the war plans of U.S. imperialism are directed first and foremost against the Soviet Union.
The American militarists monopolize the atom bomb. Washington is using the UN as a cover for war preparations and as an instrument for stirring up public sentiment against the USSR. These aims determine the foreign and domestic policies of Washington and dictate its imperialist war program.
3. Party Tasks in the Fight against World War III
For us the struggle against war is inseparable from the struggle against the rule of Wall Street. That means to broaden and deepen the class struggle against monopoly capitalism and to mobilize the masses in opposition to capitalist militarism and Wall Street’s war plans.
The party’s anti-war slogans are designed to tear the mask off the imperialist bandits, to expose their schemes for world conquest, and to defend the oppressed peoples throughout the world as well as the Soviet Union, imperiled from within by the Stalinist gang and from without by the Anglo-American imperialists.
Our party must shoulder the historic task of leading and organizing the anti-war fight of the masses. This struggle must be developed around the following slogans:
Take the war-making powers away from Congress! Let the people vote on the question of war and peace!
Against capitalist conscription! Abolish the officer caste system! Full democratic rights in the armed forces! Trade union wages for the armed forces!
There is a working class answer to capitalist militarism! Military training of workers, financed by the government, but under control of the trade unions.
The fight against war is a world-encompassing struggle. The workers in every land confront a common enemy in monopoly capitalism headed by American Big Business. Every action of the masses directed against capitalist rule and imperialist enslavement helps undermine the power of the Morgans, duPonts and Rockefeller at home. Support of the anti-capitalist struggles of the European and colonial masses is therefore an integral part of the anti-war struggle of the American people.
The peoples in the occupied countries have voiced demands that the American forces be sent back home. The American troops themselves do not want to be used as tools for the dirty work of tyrannizing over other nations. Withdraw all American troops from foreign soil!
Solidarity with the revolutionary struggles of the workers in all lands! For the complete independence of the colonial peoples!
4. The Offensive of Capitalist Reaction
Big Business and the capitalist press have deliberately unleashed its red-baiting campaign. This mounting anti-red drive emanates from the highest government officials, and has been picked up by all of Wall Street’s political and trade union agents, becoming one of the dominant issues in the 1946 election campaign and within the trade union movement.
The red-baiting campaign pursues the following aims:
1. To divert the attention of the masses from the critical conditions at home, to cover up the shameless profiteering and criminal misdeeds of the capitalists, and find a scapegoat for the capitalists’ own inability to provide adequate food, clothing and shelter to their wage slaves.
2. By instigating a hue and cry against the “reds,” the corporations aim to sow dissension in labor’s ranks and split the unions. The success of these tactics would render the workers helpless to combat the offensive against their working and living conditions.
3. They thus aim to clear the path for Wall Street’s projected war against the Soviet Union. Intensified assaults upon labor at home go hand in hand with large-scale preparations for atomic warfare abroad. U.S. imperialism seeks to gag all opposition to its conspiracy to plunge the country into world War III.
4. By these witch-hunts the government officials prepare the ground for frame-up prosecutions against militants. Red-baiting creates the political atmosphere for repressions against the most irreconcilable opponents of imperialism. The World War II imprisonment of the SWP and Minneapolis Teamsters’ Local 544-CIO leaders was only the first step in this campaign of repression.
This rabid reaction, stemming from Wall Street’s war-preparations and union-busting conspiracy, will set the pattern for the next Congress. The 79th Congress was characterized by its supporter, Philip Murray, as “the most reactionary in many years.” The 80th Congress will outdo its predecessor in anti-labor acts and repressive legislation.
The Democratic-Republican coalition will attempt to curb the right to strike, to restrict civil liberties, and to repeal progressive legislation now on the statute books. The demands of the Negro people for anti-lynch and anti-poll tax laws and for a Fair Employment Practices Committee will be more crudely rebuffed.
This offensive is directed not only against labor but all the oppressed. Shielded by government and police officials, Jim Crow vigilantes and Ku-Kluxers have launched nation-wide terror and lynch campaigns against the Negroes. Anti-Semitic hoodlums attack Jews.
These manifestations of capitalist reaction are paving the way for the emergence of a native fascist movement. Powerful monopolists are throwing more and more support behind the likely candidates for the role of the American Hitler.
Wherever the red-baiters raise their ugly heads, the militants must meet them with uncompromising opposition. They must teach the workers that red-baiting plays into the hands of the worst enemies of labor. The same working-class solidarity, militancy and unity in action that set back the wage-cutting drive can defeat these new boss maneuvers to split the ranks of labor. The slogan must be: On guard against the red-baiters! Unity of labor against all divisive tactics of the bosses!
5. The Power of American Labor
In the economic field the labor movement today stands at the peak of its power. The unions embrace over 15 million members. The basic industries are organized.
Although the official leaders of the trade unions are conservative, jingoistic, and pro-capitalist, the workers have time and again displayed a firm will and ability to fight militantly in defense of their living standards against the corporations and in defiance of the government. When the camp of “national unity,” extending from Big Business to the union bureaucrats, Social Democrats and Stalinists, sought to shackle the workers to the war-machine, important sections of organized labor (miners, auto workers, rubber workers) defied the “no-strike pledge” and engaged in strike struggles even amid World War II.
The power of American labor was demonstrated in action by the unprecedented wave of strikes after V-J Day. This upsurge, the greatest in labor history, set back the wage-slashing, union-busting plans of Big Business, heightened the unity, morale and fighting temper of the working class, shook Up and drew into struggle even such a traditionally conservative section as the railroad brotherhoods.
These struggles also forged strong links of solidarity between the unions and the veterans, white-collar workers and Negroes. After World War I many ex-servicemen were utilized as a strike-breaking, vigilante force against the unions. After this war the returned soldiers have been in the front ranks of labor’s fights against the monopolists.
The Negro workers who in 1919-20 unwittingly served as part of the labor reserve used by the corporations as strikebreakers are today an integral part of the organized labor movement. They constitute one of its most combative and self-sacrificing detachments. Two million Negroes are in the ranks of organized labor. The Southern organizing drives of the CIO and AFL will bring many thousands more into the house of labor.
Women comprise an important section of the American working class. In addition to those formerly employed, millions of women were absorbed into industry in wartime. The effects of this are far-reaching. The women obtained for the first time the opportunity to acquire industrial skills. They learned about working conditions and the importance of organization. Large sections became imbued with trade-union consciousness.
During the war the capitalist propagandists glorified the role of women in industry. With the termination of hostilities the same capitalists began to push them back into the drudgery of the kitchen. The wartime nurseries were closed down, and in the lay-offs the women were among the first to go. By May 1946 employment of women in all types of work decreased by more than 4 million. The altered psychology of the women, resulting from their wartime experience, expressed itself in the protest movements against these steps. Their indignation was further augmented by the food shortages and profiteering. The millions of women in and out of industry enter the next period as one of the important fighting contingents of labor.
The American working class enters the unfolding crisis far more homogeneous, better organized and with a solidarity forged in struggle. And what is no less important, without the previous illusions about the stability of capitalism and its ability to provide jobs, security and a living wage. The memory of the economic disaster in the Thirties is fresh in the minds of the youngest and oldest generations alike. Through their own experience they have learned that capitalism could end unemployment only by mobilizing the resources of the country for destruction and dragooning twelve million men into the armed forces.
Wall Street faces its most formidable antagonist in the American working class. The economic crisis will have a profound revolutionary impact upon the American workers, accelerating their politicization and radicalization. The attempts of the monopolists to unload the burden of war upon the workers met with stubborn resistance. The attempts to unload the burden of the economic crisis will provoke far fiercer defensive battles.
6. The Closest Allies of the Working Class
The Negro people, comprising one-tenth of the country’s population, are fighting for their second emancipation. In their struggle for social, economic and political equality they have demonstrated great courage and militancy. The urbanization of the Negroes, their integration into the industries of the North and South has consolidated their hitherto dispersed ranks. Their social consciousness has undergone a drastic transformation as evidenced not alone by their role in the trade unions but also by the growth of Negro mass organizations, the Negro press and their increasing participation in political life. The Negro people as a whole have demonstrated a high degree of solidarity, a readiness to struggle and an eagerness to join in the struggles of the labor movement. Today they are the most radicalized section of the American people.
White-skinned working people can never free themselves from oppression so long as their brothers with colored skins remain enslaved. The demands and objectives of the Negro people must become those of the labor movement as a whole. In this way the natural alliance of the labor movement and the Negro people will be cemented.
Our party continues as in the past to fight against Jim Crow, lynchings and all forms of discrimination wherever they exist. We support and promote federal, state and local legislation (federal anti-lynch law, FEPC, anti-poll tax and similar measures). But above all we work for the independent mass action of the working class organizations jointly with the Negroes to achieve these ends.
Wherever Negroes have run candidates of their own in elections it has been and remains our policy to call on the entire labor movement to support them.
The political parties of Wall Street are the worst foes of the Negro people. That is why the Negro people have everything to gain from the formation of the Labor Party and will play an important role in helping to organize it.
The party favors participation in the work of the Negro mass organizations. The NAACP is the largest and most important. Despite its cowardly petty-bourgeois leadership and its inadequate program, the NAACP embraces in its ranks thousands of workers and other elements eager to struggle. Before launching new Negro organizations, a course that is by no means excluded, it is necessary to take advantage of opportunities for work in the existing ones. The possibility of influencing the policies of existing organizations in a revolutionary direction must be tested in action and cannot be written off in advance. In any case, our increased activity in the existing organizations would augment our influence and forces, and would enable our comrades to gain invaluable experience, preparing them for the bigger tasks ahead.
Millions of veterans on returning from overseas have had their eyes opened. There is no housing for them and their families; most of them can find no jobs other than at low wages, or on an “apprentice” basis; they are rapidly exhausting their year’s unemployment allowance of $20 a week. Their perspectives for future employment are even more dismal. Those who have entered industry have learned that all the propaganda stories about the workers getting rich during the war were monstrous lies. All this has impelled the veterans to the side of labor.
The Wall Street-sponsored American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars have not found favor with the mass of veterans of World War II. One of the reasons is that these reactionary organizations are dominated by the same Brass Hats with whom the returning veterans have had experience at first hand and against whose caste system they staged grandiose protest demonstrations. Our party has long urged the trade unions to organize the veterans. The official trade union leadership has, however, refused to do more than organize veterans committees in the separate unions. These committees are neither coordinated nor do they embrace all the veterans inside each respective union. Although the most favorable moment has been let slip, there is still time for the trade unions to organize the veterans.
Meanwhile the vacuum thus created has been filled by a number of veterans’ organizations, none of which have achieved any notable success. The most prominent and aggressive among these new bodies is the American Veterans Committee. Our party favors participation in these organizations, particularly the AVC, in order to advance a militant program of struggle and to promote the alliance of veterans with the labor movement.
The youth are the greatest reservoir of the revolutionary movement.
The “locked-out” generation of the pre-war period now comprises a large section of the veterans. Their prospects of stable employment at a living wage are rapidly disappearing. The generation of youth now growing up faces the prospect of the “locked-out” generation of the Thirties: No jobs, no chance for a normal life, army service in place of CCC camps.
Neither generation has any stake in capitalism. In their discontent they will seek the most thorough-going solutions, and look first of all toward labor to provide the program and leadership.
7. The Fight to Maintain Living Standards
Despite the gains wrested by the workers in recent strike struggles, their living standards have been steadily declining. The SWP advances the only effective program of struggle against the scourge of inflation. The heart and core of this program is the struggle for the sliding scale of wages. This demand has already been raised by a number of auto, steel, rubber, packinghouse and other unions.
Since inflationary prices play havoc with the living standards of all groups in the population who are compelled to live on a strictly limited income, this same demand extends to other groups. Especially does this apply to veterans receiving unemployment compensation, attending school under the GI Bill of Rights, or drawing disability pensions. In addition to the demand for trade union wages for veterans in the above categories, the party demands a sliding scale of compensation to meet the rising cost of living. Trade unions and veterans’ organizations should urge legislation to provide such a sliding scale retroactively on the basis of the price index at the time the GI Bill was passed.
This demand likewise covers unemployment compensation for all workers as well as old age pensions, widows’ pensions, etc., both state and federal.
So long as the war-born inflation continues to rage, the demand for the sliding scale of wages and benefits retains its full force and remains central for the immediate struggles.
The party advocates Consumers’ Committees as a supplementary means of struggle against profiteering, price-gouging, black marketeering and diversion of scarce commodities. Such committees operating along correct lines can be highly effective in fighting profiteering and cementing the alliance between the workers and the city poor. These committees have thus far appeared only sporadically and failed to acquire any considerable scope or influence except in isolated instances. In the next period such committees can play a significant role, especially in the struggle against the landlords and real estate sharks.
The projected lifting of rent ceilings, under the pretext of stimulating a construction boom, will undoubtedly generate great indignation and resistance. These struggles will take the form of rent strikes, anti-eviction demonstrations, demands for adequate housing, etc.
The party must be on the alert to initiate and give organized expression to this mass movement. The tenants must be organized to resist the lifting of rent controls, raising of rents and evictions. The trade unions, the veterans and all other mass organizations should be mobilized in support of the tenants’ actions.
To relieve the housing shortage we raise the slogan of an immediate appropriation of 18 billion dollars for a government low-rent housing program. In our agitation we counterpoise this demand to the military budget for 1947. We want houses, not atom bombs!
Once the speculative boom is exhausted, the attack on the workers’ living standards will take the form of unemployment, part-time employment, wage slashes, worsening working conditions, etc. The party must prepare itself right now for this next phase of the struggle. This will bring to the fore our program for full employment and job security for all workers and veterans, summarized in the following slogans:
For the 6-hour day, 30-hour week!
A sliding scale of hours—reduce the hours of work with no reduction in pay to prevent layoffs and unemployment!
Government operation of all idle plants under workers’ control!
Unemployment insurance equal to trade union wages for workers and veterans during the entire period of unemployment!
The fight for the economic protection of the unemployed must be carried on by and through the unions. This is a matter of self-preservation for the unions themselves; and conversely, this is the most effective way to defend the unemployed.
In several localities our party has participated in effective actions against heavy and discriminatory taxes. The party must fight to lift the growing tax burden from the toiling masses and place it upon the rich who fattened on the war.
It is imperative to safeguard all social gains and progressive Legislation. But it is not enough to wage a purely defensive battle. Our party must aggressively advance its demands for social legislation and urge all the workers’ mass organizations to pass over to the offensive in this field, and fight for a broad program of social demands to be adopted by city, state and federal governments. These demands should cover the immediate needs of the unemployed, the veterans, the aged and the disabled. Such a bold program of social legislation can act as a magnet to draw together the separate segments of organized labor and attract other oppressed sections of the population to the side of the workers.
The party must assume the initiative in calling upon the labor movement to wage mass struggles against Jim Crow, anti-Semitism, fascism and all other manifestations of capitalist-fostered reaction.
In the coming struggles the corporations and their government agents will redouble their efforts to terrorize the workers, rob the unions of their rights and paralyze labor’s freedom of action. By breaking the injunction of the boss court by militant mass protest, the Pittsburgh workers have translated into action our slogan: No restrictions on the right to strike and picket! and No compulsory arbitration!
The 15 million organized workers have common problems and face a single class foe. They urgently need a broad national agency whereby they can plan, coordinate and organize their joint efforts. Our party was the first to raise the slogan for a United Conference of Labor, embracing the CIO, AFL, Railroad Brotherhoods and other unions, to draw up a program of action and launch a nation-wide struggle in defense of labor’s rights and living standards.
The proposal for a United Labor Conference has already been advanced by the UAW-CIO and other unions. The necessity for united action will become more and more obvious to every thinking worker as the class struggle sharpens. The opposition of self-seeking, narrow-minded bureaucrats to joint action must be combated and overcome through the pressure of the ranks. Our members must become untiring advocates of united action as the most effective way to avoid exhausting strike struggles in single combat against the corporations. Conferences on a local scale and for local actions will fortify the movement and pave the way for the holding of such a national Conference of Labor.
8. The Role of the Trade Union Bureaucracy
The capitalist class has powerful agents inside the labor movement. The most corrupt and servile is the top officialdom of the AFL craft unions. The last convention of the AFL echoed the ideas of the National Association of Manufacturers and set the stage for witch-hunts against militancy and progressive ideas within the ranks of labor. The voice of the AFL rank and file was not heard on the convention floor.
These union bureaucrats are far more concerned with protecting their own narrow interests than organizing action to defend the interests of the workers against the attacks of the employers.
The top CIO leaders rest on a different base from that of the AFL hierarchy. The CIO unions, young and based on the workers in mass production industries, have not been so bureaucratized. This is why the top Readerships of the CIO have been more aggressive in the struggle to defend the workers’ living standards. This is why there has been more hesitancy among the CIO leading circles in openly participating in the red-baiting campaign. It has been the secondary leaders and the Social Democrats who have taken the lead in the witch-hunts and purges against the Stalinists inside these unions.
In the critical days ahead the trade unions will require unity more urgently than ever before. While this unity was actually being forged on the picket lines in the course of the recent strike struggles, the AFL bureaucracy has organized a jurisdictional war against a number of CIO unions. They declared war on the CIO in vicious red-baiting terms. They hope thereby to gain the monopoly of the organized labor movement and to purge it of all militancy. This program of the AFL bureaucracy comes into clash with the vital interests of the workers and is doomed to failure.
Out of the crisis of the Thirties arose the CIO as a revolt against the failure of the craft-ridden AFL bureaucracy to organize the workers of the basic industries. The CIO broke the stranglehold of the AFL bureaucracy on organized labor. The next crisis will weld the best militants in the trade union movement into an organized left wing as a challenge wherever the dead hand of the trade union bureaucracy stifles the militancy of the workers in their political and economic struggles. Only this new leadership can secure the necessary unity of the class front and defeat the offensive of monopoly capital.
9. The Crisis in the Communist Party
The American Stalinists emerged from World War II discredited among the best militants in the labor movement and among the Negro people. Their ranks have been demoralized by the sudden shifts in line and weakened by internal conflicts. No authoritative leadership commands the respect of the Stalinist ranks. The American Stalinist Party is no different from its counterparts in other countries. The Stalinists are servile agents of the Kremlin oligarchy and they faithfully pursue the policies dictated by Stalin. The difference between the various Stalinist parties lies solely in the different conditions under which each operates. The reactionary role of the Stalinists in the European countries, for example, was hidden from the full view of the masses. Under Nazi occupation the Stalinists were compelled to function underground. Many of them fought arms in hand against the occupying forces and the native collaborationist bourgeoisie. They thus gave an impression of militancy which disguised their fundamentally reactionary role.
In the U.S. (as in England), however, they functioned openly as the best defenders of monopoly capitalism: they broke strikes; they advocated speed-up; they served as informers for the FBI and the bosses against revolutionists and union militants who resisted the employer-government union-busting acts; they were the advocates of a permanent no-strike pledge and labor conscription; they opposed the struggles of the Negro people against Jim Crow in the army and civilian life.
Soon after V-J Day, the wartime sell-out policies, the breakup of “Big Three” unity, and the realignment inside the unions provoked a deep-going crisis within the Communist Party. The pseudo-"left” turn and the expulsion of Browder as an “agent of monopoly capitalism” however, produced no fundamental change in the treacherous policies of the CP and only deepened the crisis. The present Foster leadership contending with the growing disquiet and discontent in the ranks has resorted to wholesale expulsions.
Their only answer to the questioning of the members is to conduct red-baiting hunts of their own against “Trotskyist” and to expel all oppositionists. By these bureaucratic measures they hope to terrorize their own ranks and stifle further criticism. They have intensified their slanders against the Trotskyist and instigated gangster assaults upon Militant distributors.
The Stalinists remain the greatest single obstacle in the labor movement to the development of the revolutionary party. Through their national apparatus and their control over a number of CIO international unions, local and central labor bodies, they act as a disorienting force, restraining the workers from independent class action, contaminating the class consciousness of the workers, and continuing under more radical phrases the same class-collaborationist policies they practiced during the war.
Their character and role cannot alter. They have been the prime obstacle to the crystallization of a genuine left wing in the trade unions. The crisis within the CP presents our party with an exceptional opportunity to strike damaging blows at the Stalinist apparatus, win over its best worker elements, and dislodge our main rival for the allegiance of the advanced workers. The relationship of forces between the CP and the Trotskyist is more favorable here than in any other country. In several key industrial centers our effective forces equal or surpass those of the Stalinists. Our struggle to rid the labor movement of this treacherous agency of the Kremlin has nothing in common with the campaign of the red-baiters. Our struggle against Stalinism is a component part of our revolutionary program, which is the most effective weapon against the red-baiters. In advancing this program and mobilizing the militants to oppose the red-baiters, we at the same time deal the most decisive blows to the Stalinists.
10. The Political Situation and the Labor Party Movement
The American workers will enter the coming crucial battles organized only on the economic field. The elemental urge of the workers toward political organization has been thwarted thus far by the combined forces of the trade union bureaucracy, the Stalinists and the Social Democrats. The coming class battles will give a powerful impetus to the entry of American labor as an independent force on the political arena. The process of political realignment is already under way.
The breakup of the camp of “national unity” following V-J Day has unloosed the political tendencies cut short and repressed by the war. The Democratic Party, which has governed the country since 1933, is rapidly disintegrating.
It comprises such fundamentally incompatible and hostile elements as bankers, big businessmen, Southern Bourbons, big city machine politicians and, on its left, organized labor and a large number of Northern Negroes. Despite minor defections, Roosevelt managed to keep these diverse forces under one roof, first by a complex system of reforms, concessions, demagogy, and then by the war program.
Once the wartime lid was lifted, however, and the class struggle raged again, a showdown between the factions for control of the party’s policies was inevitable. That struggle has been quickly concluded with the total triumph of the Truman-Byrnes Big Business gang and the rout of the New Deal wing. This victory has been sealed with Truman’s firing of Wallace, the last remaining symbol of pre-war Roosevelt reformism.
The present Democratic Party leaders inherit a maturing social crisis which is not only a continuation but a deepening of the crisis confronted by Roosevelt in 1932. They have neither the material nor the political resources at the disposal of Roosevelt. For example, instead of the national debt of thirty odd billion dollars, at the time Roosevelt began his reform program, they now have a national debt of 260 billion dollars. Instead of an atomized working class stunned by the economic crash, they face an organized labor movement of 15 million workers fighting fiercely to protect their living standards.
The principal beneficiary to date of the discontent of the masses has been the Republican Party. But the Republican Party has little or no attraction for the workers. It simply profits from the revulsion against the Democrats—and especially by the absence of a labor party.
That is why all the representatives of capitalism strive to maintain intact the two-party system which guarantees Wall Street’s monopoly over political life. They want to keep the masses imprisoned within that vicious circle. That is also why they exert the utmost pressure upon the liberals and labor leaders to keep the workers enchained to the present two-party setup.
The objective conditions have never been more favorable for the successful launching of a Labor Party in the United States. The workers, disillusioned with the Democratic Party and distrustful of the Republicans, would rally by the millions behind a party of their own. Many veterans, Negroes and discontented middle class elements would follow. With the tremendous membership of the unions and the support mustered from other sections of the population, a national Labor Party would quickly become not a “third party,” but the second party in the country, challenging the first for supremacy.
While the AFL bureaucracy in the main continues to follow the Gompers policy of “rewarding friends and punishing enemies” within the two capitalist parties, the CIO has been almost from its inception, impelled to seek a modified form of political expression, signalized first by the formation of Labor’s Non-Partisan League, and later of the PAC. What has characterized the PAC in the main is its support of capitalist candidates by more organized and more aggressive methods. Although organized originally to corral the labor vote for Roosevelt and to forestall the formation of the Labor Party, the PAC as the existing political expression of the most dynamic section of organized labor can at the next stage play an important role in the launching of the Labor Party.
The triumph of reaction inside the Democratic Party, which renders it indistinguishable from the Republican Party, and its rapid decomposition has confronted the PAC with the immediate problem of what party to support.
Recoiling in timidity from the task of opposing the capitalists with an independent political party, and fearful of labor’s political independence, the PAC bureaucracy seeks to revive the ghost of Roosevelt’s New Deal through a progressive hodgepodge that will reform the Democrat Party. This is a hopeless task.
The aggressiveness of the PAC, the advance it represents over previous methods of labor politics coupled with its growing power (the adherence of the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen) comes into an increasing clash with the conservative and limited objectives imposed upon it by its timid and capitalist-minded leadership. With the death of Roosevelt this contradiction is manifesting itself more and more clearly. On the one hand, the PAC leadership finds itself increasingly unable to rally support for the capitalist candidates; on the other hand, it has been forced on several occasions to put forward its own candidates, (the outstanding instance was Frankensteen’s candidacy in Detroit).
The impasse of the PAC leadership and the contradictions within the PAC present the party with a favorable opportunity to intervene with its clear-cut program for the Labor Party. This would enable the SWP to form an alliance with the best elements within the PAC and crystallize the growing sentiment in the labor ranks for the independent Labor Party. Active intervention of the SWP in this highly fluid situation becomes all the more necessary because the PAC leadership may seek to divert the workers’ urge toward the Labor Party into the channels of a third capitalist party.
Our approach to the PAC heretofore has not been flexible enough. Repelled by the PAC support of capitalist candidates, the party was not sufficiently alert to the possibilities latent in the PAC. It is necessary to introduce a sharp corrective. The-Socialist Workers Party never supports the candidates of capitalist parties, under any circumstances or in any way regardless of whether they may be endorsed by the PAC or any other labor organization. At the same time, the party militants in the unions must penetrate the PAC and work side by side with the workers who are going through the PAG experience and help them draw the correct lessons from it.
At the present time participation in the PAC represents a medium for transforming our demand for the Labor Party from a propaganda slogan into a slogan of action.
A likely development is the formation of the labor party on a local and state-wide scale, especially in those cases where our comrades are influential in the unions and where the conditions are favorable. This is especially important. It is one-sided, and therefore wrong, to view the formation of the labor party from a purely national perspective and ignore the local and initially limited opportunities which may prove decisive in the final analysis.
To render our work most effective our comrades must familiarize themselves thoroughly with the existing local conditions, trends, and peculiarities—from the local issues to the types and records of the politicians involved—so as to concretize and translate our labor party demand into the language of the experience of the workers in the respective localities.
In this connection it is necessary to promote labor and social legislation by raising these issues inside the PAC, organizing mass actions for them, and demanding that the PAC-supported candidates sponsor such legislation. From mere vote-getting instruments, the local PAC bodies can and should be transformed into bodies functioning the year around, raising the self-action of the workers and accelerating their politicization. The fate of the PAC, does not hinge upon the will and policies of the incumbent leadership along. It will be decided in struggle. The decisive word will be spoken by the left wing in the CIO whose task it will be to give the clearest expression to the movement for the labor party.
11. The Change in Character and Methods of Our Party Activities
The American workers, especially the union militants, who are already highly receptive to our party’s program, will under the impact of the crisis gravitate in ever larger numbers to our revolutionary ideas and methods. This will not take place automatically. The primary condition is that the party demonstrate in action the correctness of its policies and its ability to organize the discontented masses and provide leadership in the struggle. Side-line commentators and critics of the class struggle, Monday-morning political quarterbacks no matter how talkative, will be completely ignored. The workers will listen only to those who are themselves in the thick of the fight and demonstrate by deeds their devotion and abilities.
What is needed are leaders who know how to apply theory in action—a Marxist party of action. This has always been our conscious aim. Since the beginning of the fight against the petty-bourgeois opposition in 1940, we have made important strides in this direction.
Our party’s programmatic firmness and its achievements are the best pledge of its future. The Socialist Workers Party was the only one that fought American capitalism and fulfilled its obligations to the world working class during World War II. Throughout the war our party conducted an uncompromising struggle against Wall Street and its agents. Our campaigns around the imprisonment of the party leaders, against the no-strike pledge and all the war policies of American imperialism and its labor lieutenants brought significant gains to our movement and prepared the way for our subsequent strides forward.
Our party has notable accomplishments to its credit in many fields of activity. The size and circulation of The Militant has expanded. The paper has become transformed into a genuine workers’ organ which has proved its popularity among the working people. Since the Eleventh National Convention, November 1944, 1,000 new members have been recruited, most of them industrial workers and many of them leading militants in their unions, shops and cities. A sizeable section of these new members are Negroes. New branches have been added in key industrial centers and old ones considerably strengthened. The party has reached or surpassed the goals set in all its national campaigns (financial, subscription, membership recruitment, publication sales, etc.).
The growth of the party’s influence, in the past two years in the trade union movement is especially noteworthy and gratifying. The party has made gains in such basic industries as auto, steel, rubber, maritime, packing, railroads. In these and other key industries the party has qualified spokesmen and tested leaders who command the respect of the best militants. Our slogans for a sliding scale of wages and for a National Labor Conference have been adopted by wide sections of the labor movement.
In the GM and the steel strikes, in the organization of the veterans, our comrades were in the forefront. The slogans issued by the party through The Militant, distributed by the hundreds of thousands, and through its members in the unions, became the guide of the most energetic rank and file fighters.
By its active intervention in the fight against fascist Gerald L. K. Smith, our party showed its capacity to initiate struggles and to give them a mass character. In Los Angeles, Detroit and elsewhere, large sections of organized labor, veterans and minority groups participated in imposing mass protest demonstrations against Smith. This anti-fascist work was climaxed in Minneapolis where the official labor movement, AFL, CIO and Railroad Brotherhoods, was mobilized against the fascist Smith.
In many localities the party has come forward as the most resolute defender of Negro rights and the most militant fighter for equality. The activity of the party around the Fontana case in California, the Hardy case in Chicago, the Freeport case in New York are milestones along this road.
Beginning with the campaign around the Minneapolis Labor Case, the party has undertaken a series of important struggles in defense of civil liberties and democratic rights. Outstanding among these are: 1. The campaign of the New York state organization against being barred from the ballot. The case was taken not only to the highest courts but directly to the workers of the state through the radio, press, and meetings. 2. The fight of the Detroit branch against the attempt to evict them from their headquarters. Every leading union official in the city has joined in condemning this vicious attempt to evict the SWP because it welcomed the Negro people on an equal basis.
The entrance of the SWP into the election arena in 1946 in six states (New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Minnesota, Washington and California) represented the most ambitious electoral undertakings in the history of American Trotskyism. This must pave the way for our entry into the 1948 presidential elections, with a national ticket as well as local candidacies.
Through all these activities the party has begun to transform itself into a party of action. It is breaking out of long isolation, making itself felt as a factor in the struggles of the working people, and winning friends, sympathizers and supporters in increasing numbers.
Wherever our party has engaged in mass struggle, our members have found ready allies, especially among the Negro people and the veterans, and met with a response from a segment of the labor movement. This has demonstrated that under the existing favorable conditions even a small party can become a big influence, a small branch can set large masses into motion in its locality, and a small force in a trade union can lead thousands of workers in action.
However, smallness in a revolutionary party is not a virtue but a weakness to be overcome; and we are determined to overcome it in action and struggle. Our achievements have been limited primarily by the weakness of our forces. As our activities increase in scope and effectiveness, the party will grow in numbers and power. We aim to become the mass revolutionary party of the American workers, and on the road to that goal set for ourselves the task of recruiting ten thousand new members.
Of utmost importance is the fact that in the last period the party, by taking the road of action, has gained invaluable experience in the methods of mass struggle, increased its self-confidence, augmented its forces and striking power, and expanded its arena. This is the course we have charted and must unswervingly follow. Our resolve is to continue with greater vigor, determination and speed to expand our party as the party of mass action capable of leading the millions of American workers to the conquest of political power and the revolutionary transformation of society from capitalism to socialism.