From Fourth International, Vol.15 No.1, Winter 1954, pp.3-9.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
WHEN Eisenhower was sworn in a year ago, the most authoritative newspapers confidently predicted that the General would squelch McCarthy without any difficulty. But the Wisconsin upstart, whose name has become synonymous with witch hunting, has by no means been squelched. On the contrary, his power has grown enormously in one year of the Eisenhower regime.
Two questions deserve close attention from the outset of any analysis of McCarthy and McCarthyism: What is the nature of his power and what is its source?
One school of thought, represented in high circles of the Republican and Democratic parties, contends that McCarthy is absurd and McCarthyism is a hoax. The stock in trade of this school is to measure McCarthy’s “accomplishments” with their own witchhunt rule: “How many Communists has McCarthy caught?”
McCarthy, they point out, began his career in big-time witch hunting with a sensational stunt at Wheeling, West Virginia, Feb. 9, 1950. Speaking to the Ohio County Women’s Republican Club, he announced,
“I have here in my hand a list of 205 ... a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”
In one day the charge was altered to 205 “bad security risks,” and “57 card-carrying Communists.” Ten days later this was reduced to “three big Communists.” Then it was raised to “81 cases.”
The proponents of the “absurdity” theory of McCarthyism triumphantly point out that to this day not one “Communist” has been uncovered in the State Department as a result of McCarthy’s “exposé.”
The same point is made about McCarthy’s investigations at the Fort Monmouth radar research project. Headlines blared “Spy Ring,” “McCarthy Charges Soviet Got Secrets,” “Monmouth Figure Linked to Hiss Ring.” McCarthy reported 12, then 27 suspended victims as if they were “spies” caught red-handed.
Again when the smoke cleared, not one “spy,” or one proved “Communist” had been discovered. McCarthy blithely shifted his story to “potential sabotage.” His opponents scornfully exposed these maneuvers. In the meantime, McCarthy set up shop, and alerted every fascist hoodlum and reactionary bigot in the United States that he was their man.
Alongside the theory of “absurdity” is the “madman” theory of McCarthy-ism. How could anyone but a madman accuse Truman, Acheson, Roosevelt and Eisenhower, along with war-time Chief of Staff Marshall, all in one breath, of a Moscow-directed conspiracy during World War II?
Most of the anti-McCarthy Republicans and Democrats attack McCarthy’s type of witch hunting as “irresponsible,” “reckless,” and “unfair.” They accept McCarthy’s premise, the internal and external “red menace.” But they don’t fully realize what they are accepting.
Another group of opponents of McCarthy, such as I.F. Stone and the liberals of the Nation, say flatly that McCarthy’s “red menace” in America is a hoax. They grant the international “red menace,” but describe the internal domestic menace as sheer fabrication. This group doesn’t fully realize what it is rejecting in McCarthyism.
McCarthy’s witch hunting has a character basically different from all others. Leaving aside the common denominator of a reactionary, pro-war, pro-capitalist program, McCarthy proceeds from different premises, and has different objectives. Before McCarthy, the large-scale witch hunt was motivated as a “security measure.” Its primary aim was to depict the world anti-capitalist revolution as a “Kremlin conspiracy” and to smear in advance all actual or potential anti-capitalist opposition at home as a “fifth column.” In other words, Truman’s witch hunt pursued the actual aim of lining up the American people for Wall Street’s counter-revolutionary cold war; the ostensible aim was to prevent internal treachery.
McCarthy has a different formula. He contends that “great treachery” has already taken place. It must now be uncovered and avenged. A repetition of the “great treachery” must be prevented. For McCarthy, the number one task in the “security” field is to root out the traitors who sold us out during the last war.
There is a big difference between this and the witch hunt started by Truman. Superficially the difference appears to be merely a question of quantity. It looks like McCarthy is using the witch hunt against some of the chief witch hunters. And that is true as far as it goes.
But there is a deeper aspect to the problem which explains the source of McCarthy’s power and the difference between McCarthy and the run-of-the-mill capitalist reactionary.
In order to fix precisely McCarthy’s place in American politics it is necessary to trace briefly the recent economic and political evolution of the American middle class.
During the last dozen years the middle class has swung steadily to the right. Aside from ups and downs, and taking into account notable exceptions, the middle class has profited by the Second World War and the post-war armaments boom. The comeback of the Republican Party of Big Business is the political expression of this swing. The big capitalists were able to offer the country a war prosperity. This attracted a large section of the farmers and small businessmen and even a section of the workers to the party which is openly the instrument of Big Business.
The Second World War seemed to open the perspective of a long reign of prosperity based on America’s conquest of the world. Every other country was ruined, but didn’t the US come out on top once again? The Luce publications even projected a “Pax Americana,” an “American Century,” and drew comparisons with the Roman empire of antiquity and the British of modern times.
But conquest turned into bitter defeat. The world revolutionary anti-capitalist upsurge, the elimination of China and Eastern Europe from the capitalist orbit, the growth of the Soviet bloc, destroyed the perspective of endless national enrichment at the expense of the world. The rosy dream of an American century turned into a nightmare of fear and insecurity. McCarthy was the first to seriously tap the elements of social fury building up in the disoriented middle class as a result of this unforeseen turn of affairs.
In a speech to the US Senate, June 15, 1951, McCarthy posed the question of “why we fell from our position as the most powerful nation on earth at the end of World War II to a position of declared weakness.” His answer was. very simple: It is the result of a Kremlin-directed conspiracy, headed in the United States, not by Browder and Foster, but by Roosevelt, Truman, Acheson, the State Department and war-time Chief of Staff Marshall.
The answer to why the US fell from power, said McCarthy, cannot be obtained “without uncovering a conspiracy so immense and an infamy so black, as to dwarf any previous such venture, in the history of man.”
In a television appearance, shortly after the Senate speech, he elaborated on this theme:
“In view of the fact that we’ve been losing, losing this war to international communism at the rate of 100 million people a year in a general war and losing the Korean war, a disgraceful planned disaster, that perhaps we should examine the background of the men who have done the planning and let the American people decide whether these individuals are stupid, whether we’ve lost because of stumbling, fumbling idiocy, or because they planned it that way.”
In a word, he left it up to the American people to decide “whether these individuals (Roosevelt, Truman, Marshall and Eisenhower) have been dupes ... or whether, they are traitors.”
Such is McCarthy’s explanation in a nutshell: All our troubles, the cold war, the Korean war, inflation, strikes, the threat of depression, the farmers’ troubles, the anxieties, the fear of atomic annihilation, the fear of “Communist aggression,” and any other ills, real or imaginary, are due to “Communist” treason in high places.
We were sold out by “traitors,” “dupes” and “eggheads.” We were betrayed by “perverts” in the State Department, and by the “twisted thinking intellectuals (who) have taken over both the Democratic and Republican parties.”
The conclusions flowing from McCarthy’s formula are ominous and sweeping.
To the ruling capitalist politicians they present an awesome prospect. It means a complete overhauling of the government apparatus, from top to bottom. It doesn’t matter that McCarthy’s formula is even a bigger lie than Truman’s. The important thing is that McCarthy has a sizable audience who find in this lie a rationalization for their fury and frustration.
At first sight it appears that McCarthy’s formula of “high treason” is a matter of purely internal interest to the capitalist class. One group of politicians accuses the other of the worst crimes. Of what concern is this to the workers? Actually the question is of tremendous importance to the workers.
In an atmosphere of impending social crisis, when the props have been taken out from under the world conditions for the economic stability of American capitalism, McCarthy’s formula is a ready-made premise for a fascist program. The middle class feels betrayed and insecure. It feels the hot breath of depression on its neck. It must, find a new orientation. McCarthy makes his bid for the support of this mass, and offers a way out – destroy the traitorous gang in power and replace them, with leaders bathed in the fire of McCarthyism.
With this formula McCarthy lays the groundwork for posing as the crusading enemy of the scoundrels in high places.
By accusing the previous Democratic administration, the Democratic Party, and half the Republican Party of treachery, dupery, bungling, corruption and blundering mismanagement, he bids to become the champion of the “small people” who are Justifiably suspicious of the “big shots” in high places.
He hopes to become the champion of the discontented and the opponent of the status quo.
This kind of demagogy by McCarthy, when taken together with other symptoms, signifies an attempt to rally a mass movement around a fascist banner.
The “big shots” of course have an out. They can avoid being smeared as “traitors” by the simple device of joining McCarthy, and many of them have taken that course. Or they can stave off the day when they will be smeared bv keeping out of McCarthy’s way and hoping he won’t notice them, and many have taken that course.
The theme of “Communist” treason in the top institutions of government can be turned high or low according to the political situation and the extent to which McCarthy is ready to develop his independence from the Republican Party. But there are corollaries to the theme which can be kept going at all times.
Rooting out “spies” and “Communists” who were covered by the high traitors (through deliberate intention or criminal stupidity) is a year-around business for McCarthy. It keeps the pot boiling. It creates the atmosphere of hysteria and terror that he needs.
“High treason” in foreign policy has its inevitable counterpart in “high treason” in domestic policy. Here, McCarthy does not have to be original. He can simply lift the point out of the Republican program. McCarthy has “revealed” that the Democratic administration was selling out the country to the Russians. But the Republicans have long said that the New Deal-Fair Deal was “creeping socialism.”
McCarthy, who is not interested in fine distinctions, has a ready-made hook-up. While the Democrats were selling out the world position of America to the Russians, they were at the same time introducing “Communism” at home.
And then it is well known that practically all the trade union officials supported the New Deal-Fair Deal. Obviously they were in on the “great conspiracy.”
McCarthy, like every fascist before him, will say: “I am not opposed to unions. I am only opposed to the ‘Communist traitors’ who run them.” He can very well prove his friendship for unionism by pressing for “free” 100% American unions, to replace the “Communist infested” AFL and CIO.
And with a mob of fascist supporters, McCarthy will set out to destroy the “Communist” unions, by direct action, in the good old-fashioned American way, so much admired by lynchers, the Klan and vigilantes.
If anyone thinks such prospects are “fantastic” they had better read McCarthy’s speeches more closely.
Thus we come to the conclusion: The source of McCarthy’s power is a large layer of the middle class who are deeply disturbed by the world and domestic crises. This layer is often decisive in the balance of electoral power. That is why McCarthy wields such great power within the Republican party.
But McCarthy is distinguished from the rest of the reactionary capitalist politician’s. While arising out of the general atmosphere of the witch hunt, McCarthyism is yet different from it. McCarthyism is the American fascist movement at a particular stage of development.
The most convincing evidence of this is the inability of the old-line political machines to stop McCarthy. All attempts have ended in fiasco, with McCarthy stronger than ever. It isn’t that the machines don’t want to break him. They can’t break him.
McCarthy brawled his way up from the political bush leagues of Wisconsin to a position of great power in the US Senate. He reduced Robert Taft, “Mr. Republican” himself, to the position of a henchman. Eisenhower is impotent before his power.
And the Democratic Party opposition periodically collapses and capitulates, each time more miserably than before.
Imprudent Congressmen who dared to cross him have had their hides nailed up on the walls of Capitol Hill as warning to all future critics: If you want to stay in office, don’t tangle with McCarthy.
McCarthy conducts his intervention in election campaigns along the same lines as he conducts his investigating committee. If a witness or a candidate is not a stool-pigeon or a McCarthyite captive, he is automatically an agent of the Kremlin. The mildest thing McCarthy can say about such people is:
“It appears that (the accused) never actually signed up in the Communist Party, and never paid dues ...”
The capitalist political machines can break any upstart who is a part of their machine. But when a fascist political machine arises, then it is a different matter.
If the Republican and Democratic party machines have proven impotent in curbing McCarthy by direct attacks, their attempts to eliminate him by outflanking maneuvers have proved nothing less than catastrophic. The most dramatic example of this was, in the recent Republican-sponsored spy-smear of ex-president Truman by Attorney General Brownell. The Republican high command thought it could kill two birds with one stone. It could use McCarthy’s technique to win a badly needed election victory in California. And at the same time, it could deflate McCarthy by stealing his thunder.
McCarthy was the real gainer in the whole episode. After Truman tried to defend himself in a national broadcast, McCarthy demanded and got $300,000 worth of free radio-TV time, attacked both Truman and Eisenhower, and brought the issue right back to where he wanted it – for McCarthy or for the “spies.”
McCarthy’s fascist machine cannot be broken by capitalist politicians. The only political force that can destroy McCarthy is one completely independent from the Democratic and Republican parties; namely, the working class, organized in its own political party.
The point is that capitalist reaction has developed a split personality. The ruling power itself has developed pronounced police-state features. The enormous growth of the FBI secret police, the vast increase in the power of the military hierarchy, and the increasing concentration of special powers in the Executive (Truman’s unauthorized declaration of War in Korea) are all features of a growing Bonapartist tendency in the capitalist state.
HARRY S. TRUMAN
The witch hunt under Truman already evinced the inability of capitalism to rule by the old methods. In addition to repressive laws against labor’ and the increase of direct intervention by the state in economic affairs, the Truman regime was compelled to launch an offensive against all democratic traditions, become more and more “anti-popular,” isolated and estranged from mass support. The crisis of the 20-year coalition between the labor bureaucracy and the capitalist state began under Truman.
The rupture of that coalition was consummated under Eisenhower.
But alongside the “police statification” of the structure of capitalist rule has come the first significant signs of the emergence of a fascist mobilization. McCarthyism, while playing the role of pace-setter in the witch hunt, is at the same time developing a marked independence from the traditional parties of capitalism and from the old state apparatus.
McCarthy swings a club over the heads of the old-line capitalist politicians. It is the club of the mass movement that has rallied behind him. This is the most important element of the political situation in the United States today. It is a symptom of the results of prolonged delay in the formation of an independent Labor Party. It is a sign of the emergence of a new and far more threatening anti-labor machine.
The emergence of an independent fascist movement, headed by a powerful political machine in Congress, with a platform based on the theme of “national betrayal” by the war-time leaders, with powerful financial backing, and the coalescence of the fragmented fascist organizations of the past under its banner, is the warning-signal to the American working class: Once again history is posing the choice – fascism or socialism.
It is important to recall that Hitler began in Germany with the theme of “betrayal from within.” And this remained the basic ingredient of all Nazi demagogy. The “Communist conspiracy,” the “international Jewish bankers,” “Russian aggression,” were all linked to the central theme: Germany was defeated in the First World War because of “betrayal at Versailles.” In order to restore Germany to its rightful place, the criminal authors of this treason had to. be exposed and extirpated.
Hitler’s social demagogy was also built around this theme. Hitler didn’t merely compete with the Social Democrats and Communist Party in social demands. He linked the demagogic promises of the Nazi party with the action crusade necessary to save Germany and destroy the “treacherous conspiracy from within.”
The analogy to Hitlerism, is valid if we understand its limitations. The most important of these pertains to the stage of development. It could give rise to the most serious errors to identify McCarthyisrn with the Hitler movement of 1931-32, in the period of its march to power.
Hitlerism, as all fascist movements which became fully developed mass organizations, matured to the degree that the working class defaulted a series of revolutionary opportunities and failed to resolve the social crisis through socialist revolution. In Germany, the attempts of the working class to take power in 1918, 1923, and to a certain degree even as late as 1929, failed as a result of the successive defaults of proletarian leadership.
It was this failure which gave rise to a tumultuous mass growth of fascism and the possibility of its taking power and crushing the working class through civil war. With the default of working class leadership, the middle class, frustrated in its hopes for a solution to its problems under the leadership of the Working class, became easy prey for fascist demagogy and was attracted to the anti-capitalist facade of the fascist program. Thus they became raw material for an anti-labor militia. In the name of anti-capitalism the fascists mobilized the middle class of Germany to do the work of monopoly capitalist reaction. Subsequently the mass organizations of the middle class, particularly their armed organizations, were beheaded and demobilized, but only after they had accomplished their mission of destroying the organizations of the working class.
If we study closely the history of the United States since the birth of the CIO we see -analogous elements of default. The CFO displayed tremendous attraction for the “small people” of the country. CIO was the “magic” symbol of new life for the oppressed.
Fascist and semi-fascist formations that tried to directly challenge the CIO were hurled back. But with the breaking of the Little Steel strike by a type of fascist campaign, modeled on the Mohawk Valley Formula in the spring of 1937, the pendulum began to swing toward the appearance of more aggressive fascist activity. This swing was helped by the failure of the CIO to fulfill its promise of becoming an independent political party of the workers.
On the basis of this “default,” the economic recession of the late Thirties and the social instability preceding the outbreak of the war gave rise to such figures as Mayor Hague of Jersey City, Father Coughlin, Pelley, and Gerald L.K. Smith.
The Second World War cut across this development. War by its very nature rallies all the potential fascist elements to the existing state apparatus. It puts a uniform on the discontented and frustrated middle class; it offers, in its own distorted way, some hope of change; it provides action to the middle-class and de-classed youth; it vastly expands the officer corps. In addition, the war brought full employment to the workers and enrichment to the middle class.
With the end of the war, in anticipation of demobilization, the fascists began an intensive exploratory operation. Would-be fascist veteran organizations sprang up everywhere. The prospect of using veterans, as anti-labor shock troops was very tempting to big capital and to a new crop of fascist contenders.
But the colossal strike wave of 1945-46 answered this fascist dream. American labor mobilized the veterans on the picket lines.
However, the fact that the official leadership of the labor movement supported the war and the no-strike pledge, and continued its adherence to the capitalist parties, constituted a manifest default in working-class leadership which laid the ground for the current stage of political development.
The years of post-war prosperity are giving away to symptoms of economic crisis. Above all, confidence has been destroyed. And the first signs of major disturbances in the middle class are observable. These signs are contradictory. On the one hand, there is the indubitable popularity of McCarthy, a sign of grave importance. On the other hand, there is the recent tendency of the middle-class vote to swing to the Democratic Party.
These and other contradictory symptoms are indicative of the immaturity of the situation for the emergence of a full-fledged fascist mobilization. The world crisis of capitalism has not yet erupted in full force in the United States. With the outbreak of the crisis the pendulum will undoubtedly swing to mass working class radicalization, before it swings to fascist reaction. And it will never swing to the fascists if the working class carries out its mission, breaks with capitalist politics, mobilizes the people of the United States behind a socialist program and takes the power into its own hands.
But the basic elements of the contradictory alternative of the future – fascist victory or socialist victory – are already implicit in the current political situation. The contest will not take place in separated time sequences – first a pure working class radicalization, and then, if it fails to reach its historic goal of workers power, a pure fascist mass mobilization. The tendencies toward socialist revolution and fascist counter-revolution will run concurrently. The American workers will have to cope with fascism from, here on in. Whether it will be “incipient” fascism, or full-blown mass fascism, with all “classical” features in full evidence, will depend on the working class, on how successfully it wages the struggle.
The European experience teaches us that the fight against fascism will fail if it is not based on a revolutionary anti-capitalist program and the perspective of workers’ power. But part of the education of the working class, in the process of acquiring such a program, is the direct struggle with the fascist threat.
When McCarthy came to Washington in 1946, before he was even seated as a junior Senator from Wisconsin, he called a press conference. Two capable journalists, Jack Anderson and Ronald May, in their book McCarthy, The Man, The Senator, The ’Ism, tell how startled the reporters were at this arrogance of a “rookie” Senator: “The reporters were so amazed at his audacity that they showed up mainly out of curiosity.” The subject of the press conference was the strike of the coal miners.
“Now then,” said McCarthy, “about this coal strike, I’ve got a solution. The army should draft the striking coal miners. That would solve the problem.”
“What about Lewis?” asked a reporter.
“Draft him too.”
“And what if they refused (to mine coal)?” asked another reporter.
“Then they could be court-martialed for insubordination, and you know what that means.”
Anderson and May report:
“The newsmen could hardly believe their ears. One of them, searching for a headline, asked: ‘You mean you would line up men like Lewis and have them shot?’ Joe (McCarthy) shrugged his shoulders as if to say ‘what else?’”
JOHN L. LEWIS
A few days later the New York Times quoted McCarthy:
“... I believe the President should use his powers to immediately draft John L. Lewis into the armed services. Lewis should be directed to order his miners to mine coal. If he does not do that, he should be court-martialed. We should go straight down the line. If subordinates of Lewis fail to order the miners back, they should be court-martialed. All this talk about you can’t put 400,000 miners in jail is a lot of stuff. They won’t go to jail. They will mine coal first.”
This was McCarthy’s first venture in making national headlines. The anti-labor theme is significant. McCarthy subsequently abandoned this direct anti-labor belligerence. After all, such fire-eating statements about action against strikers are not suitable to the fascist demagogue in the period of his rise to prominence. As a matter of fact, McCarthy today maintains a studied silence on the question of labor. In a Congress bristling with Taft-Hartleyism, he is conspicuously silent about such legislative anti-labor measures.
His approach is different. In the specific McCarthyite formula of witch hunting, the attack on the labor movement is oblique, and therefore, for the time being, more effective. This was demonstrated in. his “investigation” of General Electric.
Opponents of McCarthyism are fond of citing such historic precedents as the witch hunt in England in the 17th century and the Salem, witchcraft trials. In their book, Jack Anderson and Ronald W. May devote a chapter to an historic episode:
“Three hundred years ago, England was swept by a wave of hysteria against witches. Fear and suspicions haunted the people ... Then a man named Matthew Hopkins appeared on the scene with a new and ‘infallible’ method of detecting witches; it consisted of some original techniques in torture. Within a short time he became one of the most powerful men in England, feared even by the King himself, who conferred upon Hopkins the title of ‘His Majesty’s Witch-Finder General’ ... No one dared to oppose him, for he had power of life and death over all ‘suspects’ brought before him to be ‘tested.’ Those who failed his tests were put to death; and for each victim Hopkins was paid a sum of money ... But his fees grew more exorbitant, and the atmosphere more chaotic, until a group of officials took matters into their own hands and arrested the Witch-Finder General himself – as a witch. He was subjected to a series of tests so severe that his health was completely broken, and soon afterward he died and was buried at Mistley, August 12, 1647.”
The inference of this historic parallel is that McCarthyism is a virulent stage of a disease which will run its course and destroy itself. The trouble with the analogy is the different historic settings. England of the 17th century was at its infancy as a capitalist nation, the United States of 1953 is part of the world capitalist system, in its death agony.
The historical tendency of capitalism in its ascendency was to throw off the dead hand of medievalism with its witches and witch hunters. This was part of the main trend after the English revolution led by Cromwell. The capitalists sought to change all social and political relations in the interests of freedom for investment of capital. The power of witchcraft vanished in face of the new forces. Democratic parliamentarism became the form of political rule most suited to capital at this stage.
In the period of capitalist decline which set in with the First World War, capitalism inclined to shed its historically acquired democratic forms. It showed the closest affinity for every reactionary, semi-feudal relic in world culture. It became retrogressive. Declining capitalism in Europe thrust nation after nation into fascist barbarism.
Now the threat of fascism has become manifest in the US With a fascist victory in this country the historic cost would be incalculable. The barbarism of Hitlerism would prove to be a mere dress rehearsal for the barbarism of American fascism. A fascist America, with an enslaved working class, would threaten the whole world with barbarism.
But the time is not yet ripe for counter-revolution in the United States. Socialist revolution will have its chance before fascist counter-revolution. However, if the socialist revolution is to succeed, a sharp turn must be made in the policy and leadership of the working class.
The failure, after the formation of the CIO, to organize an independent Labor Party, opened the reactionary swing of American politics, which in turn helped mature the conditions for the reappearance of a more powerful fascist movement. This failure was not written in the stars. It was thrust upon the workers by a bureaucratic caste of “leaders” who fell under the influence of the American capitalist politicians and proved incapable of tearing loose.
Even now it is clear that the formation of an independent Labor Party would change qualitatively the whole political situation. McCarthyism would be scattered to the four winds, and before it could assemble the pieces for a counter-offensive, the workers could take political power in the United States with the vast majority, of the people behind them. Such are the objective possibilities.
But everything depends, not on these objective possibilities, which have long been ripe, for a socialist reorganisation of society; everything depends on the subjective factor, that is, on the factor of working class leadership, consciousness and will – in a word, on the revolutionary party.
As the social crisis deepens – and the objective factors guarantee that this will happen – the working class will seek the way out on the road of radical solutions. The labor bureaucracy will stand in their way. And standing in the way of the working class mass surge toward the revolutionary road, it will stand in the way of the united front of the working class and the middle class on the program of socialist opposition against Big Capital.
If the bureaucracy succeeds in preventing the junction of an anti-capitalist front of workers and farmers, the road will be opened to the mass growth of the McCarthyite movement far beyond its present dimensions.
Thus the problem of leadership becomes the problem of overthrowing the dead weight of the existing bankrupt bureaucracy and building a new revolutionary left wing leadership in the American labor movement.
The policy of the labor leadership of all wings, except the revolutionary socialist, is a compound of cowardly silence, capitulation and dependence on the Democratic Party in the fight against McCarthyism.
It would seem that the labor bureaucracy, including the Social Democrats and the Stalinists, is bound and determined to commit the very mistakes in the United States that paved the way for the victory of Mussolini, Hitler and Franco in Europe. The bureaucrats are in no mood to profit by the tragic experience of the European labor movement.
Is it a hopeless cause then to think that we can prevent the victory of McCarthyism?
Not in the least! We do not depend in the slightest on “convincing” Reuther and Meany. But we do depend on the fusion of the ideas, experience and cadre of the Socialist Workers Party with the mass of workers in the United States. As the social crisis deepens, the workers will move to radical solutions. But they will encounter not only the obstacle of the right-wing bureaucracy; they will also find an enormous advantage in the left-wing leadership built around the SWP. This junction of the radicalized worker mass and the revolutionary socialist left wing will seal the doom of the bureaucracy.
The American Trotskyists have never been and never will be mere “talkers” on the question of fascism. We have the only consistent record of action in the struggle against the American fascists. We already possess a large fund of experience in the fight. And our party is determined to imbue the whole American working class with the spirit of militant combat against the fascists ...
Our conception of fighting the fascists is to crush them in the egg. Never give them a chance to become powerful antagonists. For every blow the fascists deliver against any section of the working class or minorities, we propose that labor strike back with ten blows.
The fact that there are deep traditions in the American working class that support such a program was demonstrated to the whole country by the militant action of the San Francisco longshoremen last Nov. 3 when they organized a 24-hour protest strike against the McCarthyite House Un-American Activities Committee.
This model action of the San Francisco longshoremen shows that once the American workers start moving and recognize the McCarthyites for what they are, they will make short shrift of American fascism.
Meanwhile, left-wing workers must pitch with all their might and hasten the mobilization of a working-class, fighting, anti-fascist front. Above all we must fight for a revolutionary socialist program against McCarthyism. For it is only through the adoption of such a program by the working class that, a final victory against fascism will be possible.
January 18, 1954
Last updated: 14 April 2009