Exit Old Guard
NO Sherlock Holmes is needed to discover that the New York old guard has made preparations to take all its supporters out of the party and organize a new Social Democratic party. This could be seen quite some time ago by an analysis of the struggle which the old guard waged against the National Executive Committee. But it could be predicted simply as a deduction from the nature of the old guard and the inner logic of the fight between it and the rest of the party. Waldman and his comrades were careful not to give their hand away too early and nothing they said could be adduced as evidence of their definite intention to launch a party of their own.
Beaten at every point, their forces utterly routed at the primaries where they had hoped to score a signal victory, the members of the old guard threw caution to the wind and openly proclaimed their determination either to win the party for their sickly reformism or organize their own party. Of course they now assert that the New York primary settled no problems. As we indicated in the last issue of the Appeal, we are also of the opinion that the verdict of the Socialist voters in the primaries is not the decisive factor. Its importance lies in the fact that the old guard is licked even under conditions where they should and did expect a victory. It shows clearly that even the sympathizers are with the left wing of the party.
Waldman had no recourse after the trouncing the Old guard received at the primaries, but to assert that “unless the national convention seats the New York delegation and the party ceases to be a wing of the Communist movement our conference (the Interstate Conference) will be the beginning of a new Socialist movement.” And he made sure of not being misunderstood by saying in a telegram to comrade Laidler that “Socialists opposed to dictatorship and communism will organize independently to promote social democratic principles.” (New York Times, April 19, 1936)
We can assume that after this clarification of issues any delegates to the national convention who inclined toward voting for the old guard will vote for the unity of the party by accepting Waldman’s challenge. If a majority for the National Executive Committee was not assured before Waldman’s open declaration we feel confident that it is certain at present.
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Whom will the old guard take along in their new Social Democratic party? Assuming that all those who participated in the Interstate Conference follow the old guard out of the party, all that we can say – gratefully – is “Godspeed.” The advance the party will make by the mere leaving of the old guard and its adherents will be tremendous. And this can be said by all left wingers not only because the capture of control of the party by the old guard would mean the certain expulsion of any one who accepts the principles of revolutionary socialism but because it is as clear as daylight that the party would be nothing but a, name if the old guard obtained control. It would constitute a serious, if not fatal, blow to the revolutionary movement and would, under present circumstances, throw many out of that movement.
As it is, with the exit of the old guard the party will ,it is true, lose a great many dues-paying members. But such a loss of members is an absolute precondition to the further growth of the party. The loss of the old guard and its followers will enable the party to turn its attention to the great problems confronting the working class and if the party seriously attempts to solve them on the basis of revolutionary Marxism there need be no fear whatever about the growth of the party.
There are thousands of workers who belong to no party, either because they can find no place in a mechanically control lea Communist party or because they could not tolerate the kind of socialism represented by the old guard. Our party must recruit all of these workers into its ranks. For every old guard dues-paying member who goes out we must. and will bring in two active revolutionary workers. And that in a very short time.
Let the Old guard organize its Social Democratic party and attempt to save a rotting bourgeois democracy – a democracy destined to be destroyed from the side of reaction unless the revolutionary proletariat led by a Marxist party succeeds in destroying it from the side of progress and instituting in its place a real workers’ democracy.
Lovestone Goes Over to Sanctions
“CONFUSION reigns supreme in the ranks of international labor”...... etc. Thus begins an editorial by Lovestone in the Workers Age. And by the time he finished in the subsequent issue of his paper (Apr. 25, 1936) he succeeds in doing his bit to add to the confusion. Lovestone expressly comes out in favor of having the working class “make a demand on the League of Nations and the powers involved in the Locarno pact to impose effective sanctions against Hitler Germany for its activities leading to an attack on the U.S.S.R. and to an imperialist war of revenge.” Is it possible that Lovestone is trying to leave a loophole by mentioning only the League of Nations and The Locarno powers? So that he can later claim, in the case of the United States, that he is opposed to sanctions? He is not so stupid as all that. He was simply not thinking things through.
If we are in favor of sanctions by any capitalist country then we must urge our own capitalist government to apply them. Otherwise we are simply advising the workers of a rival capitalist country to do what we ourselves are unwilling to do. And from the point of view of the defense of the Soviet Union, on the basis of the theory of the Communists, of the right wing Socialists, and now of Lovestone (we do not know whether the Lovestoneite group as such will accept his views) it is certainly necessary to have our own government, the strongest in the world, get into the fray.
There is no definite statement in the editorial that in case of a war against the Soviet Union by Hitler or Japan the working class of France and the United States should support their capitalist governments if they happen to be in an alliance with the U.S.S.R. But that must follow as the night the day. How can we urge a capitalist nation to apply sanctions against another capitalist nation without assuming the obligation, (in case sanctions lead to war, as they in all probability will) of actually supporting our capitalist government in such a war which is but an extension of economic sanctions? The whole logic of the situation will drive anyone in favor of capitalist sanctions to the policy of class peace during a war.
And all this after some of the Lovestoneites criticized so sharply the opportunist turn on the war question made by the Communist International. It simply proves that a group too close to the Stalinists in their fundamental ideas will be contaminated.
Lovestone did not leave the C. I. because of any fundamental differences with the Comintern. He bet on the wrong horse in the Stalin-Bukharin struggle. And after Lovestone was kicked out of the C. I. his group was given a chance, by the abominable mistakes of the Stalinists on tactical questions, to create a program based on those questions. The attitude of the Stalinists on the trade union question, on the problem of the united front, n and social fascism gave the Lovestoneites a chance to pose as the inheritors of Lenin’s policies. Regardless of the fact that Lovestone and some of his followers were partly responsible for changing Lenin’s policy on the trade union question.
Clinging to Stalin’s skirts, hoping and praying that the “leader” may take them back to the fold, accepting the fundamental Stalinist theory of socialism in one country, it is almost inevitable that Lovestone remain within the theoretical orbit of Stalinism on all fundamental question, of which the question of war is the most important.
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Will the Lovestoneite group follow Lovestone in this sudden turn? They have at least been accustomed to some criticism, especially of their opponents. Will they use their critical faculties at this time on Lovestone himself? We sincerely hope so.
At The Convention
UNFORTUNATELY the left wing will probably be unable to present before the convention resolutions dealing with the important problems confronting the party, which had been discussed and agreed upon by some representative conference of the revolutionary left. The struggle against the old guard, although fundamentally the result of profound differences on questions of policy, has been confined more or less to organization questions. In that struggle heterogeneous elements united and it vas natural that differences of opinion between these elements be kept in the background. It was essential in the first place to rid the party of the old guard and permit it to function in a normal manner.
Since the National Executive Committee, partly because of the controversy with the old guard, has not prepared (at least up to the time of writing) any resolutions which could be discussed by the membership prior to the convention, it is reasonable to expect that at the convention a resolutions committee will present some hastily-drawn-up resolutions embodying different tendencies.
Undoubtedly resolutions on war, on the united front, and on a Farmer-Labor party will be introduced. The delegates representing the point of view of revolutionary Marxism (and they will be in a small minority) must not hesitate to present their viewpoint before the convention. On the question of war the danger in the party is not from the social-patriotic position of the old guard but from the social-pacifist position of numerous Militants. This danger shows itself mainly in the tendency to adopt the position of the conscientious objector and to advocate mandatory neutrality legislation. On the question of the Farmer-Labor party there will be a strong group, if not a majority, standing for some such combination as the Wisconsin Farmer-Labor Progressive Federation. On the question of the united front there will in all probability be a majority for a correct position. It is to be taken for granted that on questions of fundamental principle the revolutionary wing will not compromise.
For An Independent Socialist Campaign
IF THE convention serves any purpose at all it must be as the opening gun in the 1936 presidential campaign. Any suggestion, any intimation that the Socialist party should not conduct its independent campaign this year is conscious or unconscious treachery to the party.
That the majority of the party members is determined to lave an independent Socialist campaign is evident from the disturbing reaction created amongst the members from a misinterpretation of a statement given by Norman Thomas to the New York Times. Somehow or other the statement was misinterpreted to mean that comrade Thomas was opposed to having the Socialist party conduct its own presidential campaign.
That rumor was definitely buried by the statement which comrade Thomas published in the Call of April 18, 1936. In emphatic terms Thomas came out in favor of a socialist national campaign for President and Congressmen. On this question every revolutionary Socialist will support him.
What earthly reason can there possibly he to justify any Socialist in advocating that the Socialist party refrain from running its own presidential candidate and conducting an independent Socialist campaign?
Will there be a Labor or a Farmer-Labor party of real strength and importance conducting a national campaign this year? Only in the fevered imagination of the Communists is there such a possibility. Even if the Minnesota Farmer-Labor party should decide to initiate the launching of a national Farmer-Labor party and conduct a national campaign (something extremely unlikely) the Socialist party would not be justified in giving up an independent campaign.
But the fact remains that organized labor through its recognized leadership will attempt to drag the workers behind Roosevelt. If some kind of national Farmer-Labor party is created it will have no base in the organized labor movement. And the only possible justification for a Socialist party’s refraining from running its own candidate, that it, its desire to stick close to the heart of labor and not to assume the risk of being blamed for a possible defeat of someone whom the workers consider their representative, will be absolutely non-existent.
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Should we participate in any kind of Farmer-Labor party campaign as a gesture, as a means of rallying all the forces in favor of a Farmer-Labor party so that we may lay the foundation for a real Farmer-Labor party in the future?
To pose the question in this way would show an utter lack of understanding of the nature and purpose of a Socialist campaign. That is the approach of the Communists who assume 1) that a Farmer-Labor party can solve the serious problems confronting the working class and 2) that therefore we must proceed to create a Farmer-Labor party even though it will be one in name only.
The fundamental purpose of a Socialist campaign at present is to build our party to a point where the workers, whenever they are ready to turn away from the capitalist parties, will recognize in our party the instrument through which they can wage a struggle against the conditions that, oppress them. Taking advantage of the interest which millions of workers show in political and economic issues during a presidential campaign, the Socialist party must teach the workers the necessity for socialism as the only solution for their fundamental problems.
This does not mean that we should not have a platform of immediate demands. It means that we insert the most vital immediate demands into our platform and at the same time state clearly and boldly that these demands are merely a stepping stone in the direction of the taking over of political power by the working class and beginning the reconstruction of society on a socialist basis.
As against Roosevelt and his New Deal and as against a Communist-controlled Farmer-Labor party and its reformism the Socialist party must stress the necessity of socialism. The campaign must be primarily an educational campaign on behalf of socialist principles.
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Accepting the above point of view it is of course immaterial that we shall not succeed in putting our candidates into office. Nor is it even material if we do not get a huge vote. There are comrades who are afraid that we might not make such a good showing and that therefore it is inadvisable to run an independent campaign. They point to the formation of the Non-Partisan Labor League on behalf of Roosevelt and also to the fact that the masses will be afraid not to vote for Roosevelt lest a Republican reactionary will be elected. All this, even if true, would not relieve us of the obligation to run our own candidates, and attempt, amongst other things, to teach the masses that those who, like Hillman, Lewis and Dubinsky, plug for the election of Roosevelt are in actual fact preventing the organization of labor on the political field and thus aiding the capitalist class. We , must not under any circumstances put on silk gloves in treating those labor leaders, especially ex-Socialists, who are tying labor to Roosevelt’s chariot.
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What about local elections? In general the same policy should n be followed with reference to local elections as in the national campaign. Wherever it is at all possible the Socialist party should run its own candidates in opposition to capitalist parties and “Labor Tickets.” Concentrating as we should on the broad issues confronting the whole working class and using those issues in connection with our campaign for socialism, the question of local candidates is a minor one. Wherever our presidential candidate is on the ballot there we are assured of the possibility of carrying on our agitation even if we do not succeed in putting local candidates on the ballot.
Without in any way committing ourselves we recognize that there may be an exception to the general rule in some rare cases. There may be certain localities where a bona fide Labor party will actually conduct a campaign on a local scale and where it would be inadvisable to run local candidates against such a party. We do not know of any such exception at the present moment.
But even, in such cases the necessity for conducting an independent campaign on behalf of socialist principles is not at all done away with.
There is a difference between conducting an independent campaign and running our own candidates. The first we must under no circumstances surrender. The second is a matter of tactical consideration. Even where, for some reason or other, in certain localities is might be deemed advisable not to run our own local candidates or where, because of difficult election laws, it is impossible to get our candidates on the ballot, the obligation to conduct an independent campaign is not diminished by one iota.
Where our candidates do not appear on the ballot we can at best give critical support to any bona fide Labor or Farmer-Labor party. This means that we conduct our own campaign, on our own platform, criticising the program and platform of every other party and at the same time urging the workers to vote for the labor party candidates.
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By far not the least important reason for insisting on an independent Socialist campaign at the present, time is the condition of our party. The old guard is leaving us and organizing a new Social Democratic party. This will take quite a few members away. As we explained above, that will not hurt the party. Nevertheless there will be a certain uneasiness in the minds of the more timid party members. By a vigorous campaign for the principles of socialism we can dispel that uneasiness; we can increase our membership to more than make up for the loss of the old guard followers; we can strengthen our party in numbers and in morals; we can begin the process of building it into an effective revolutionary instrument.
Revolutionary Socialists at the convention and in the party as a whole dare not for a moment compromise with any suggestion to refrain from running our own candidates and conducting an independent campaign for socialism. It should be our aim, within the next few years, to build a party so powerful that the necessity for any kind of Labor party will no longer exist.
Last updated on 12 July 2009