Source: The Militant, Vol. II No. 4, 15 February 1929. Original bound volumes of The Militant and microfilm provided by the Holt Labor Library, San Francisco, California.
Transcription\HTML Markup: Andrew Pollack.
[The following document for the Sixth National Convention of the Workers (Communist) Party
and signed by James P. Cannon, Arne Swabeck, Martin Abern, and Max Shachtman, was published in The Militant. – Editor]
The present position of the Russian revolution and its Marxist-Leninist foundation is the dominating factor in the world movement that must determine the course of every communist and revolutionary worker. It overshadows all other questions. An examination of its present status and an analysis of the conditions of its development are prerequisites to the solution of all other main problems of the strategy and tactics of the revolutionary movement. Just as the revolutionary communist movement all over the world was molded and hardened in estimating the significance of the events of 1914–17, marked by the collapse of the Second International and the rise of the Bolshevik revolution, so world Bolshevism, its maintenance and growth, is conditioned upon the estimation of the course of events in the Soviet Union and the Communist International in the period of the last four to five years. All other questions are subordinated to this and flow from it.
The collapse of the Russian revolution as the dictatorship of the proletariat would signify the retardation for decades of the revolutionary movement in Europe and America and the uprisings of the colonial peoples, whose main point of support today is the victory of the Russian October. A collapse would be followed by an unequalled reign of reaction throughout the world and would entail a restoration of world imperialist rule without precedent in the last two or three decades. Our primary concern is therefore with the fate of the Russian revolution, which directly affects the fate of all the Communist parties. The defense of the Russian revolution against external attacks and internal dangers is therefore the first and foremost task of all communists and every conscious worker. We are defenders of the Russian revolution since 1917. There is no break in the continuity of our position, for our present fight is directly connected with and follows from our whole previous line.
The attitude of official optimism and light-minded equanimity which finds that all is as it should be, without inquiry as to the actual facts and the basic trends of development – and seeks to prohibit such inquiry – is the worst kind of “support” that can be given the revolution. This attitude is actually one of criminal neglect, and results in disarming the proletariat before its enemies and deluding it before difficulties. To base oneself only on faith and precedent is to drug oneself into impotence. Communists must give conscious and understanding help.
The origin of the present crisis in the Soviet Union lies in the contradiction between the existence of a Soviet regime in a country with a predominantly peasant economy, and the pressure of the capitalist encirclement. This crisis has been sharpened and aggravated by the false policies of the leadership. These policies are rooted, further, in the overestimation by the present leader ship of the duration and depth of the temporary stabilization of capitalism, which began after the defeat of the German and Bulgarian proletariat in 1923. Our entire epoch is one of capitalism in dissolution, of imperialist wars, and of the socialist revolution of the proletariat. Imperialism is the final stage of capitalism, of the domination of finance capital, monopolies, and international trusts, of the division and redivision of the world among the imperialist powers, wherein the only method of “remedying” the disproportion between productive development and capital accumulation on the one hand and the division of markets, colonies, and spheres of influence on the other, is the resort to imperialist war. In sharpening the contradictions between the productive forces of world economy and national state barriers, imperialism evoked the last war and is preparing the next. This does not exclude, within the period of decline of capitalism, the possibility of a partial economic revival or even the development of productive forces. Lenin, at the Second Congress of the Communist International, rightly pointed out that there was “no absolutely hopeless situation.” The state of preparedness of the proletariat to wage a revolutionary struggle for power is a determining factor in the destruction of capitalism. Thanks to the treachery of the reformist Social Democracy, to the strategic though temporary postwar concessions of the bourgeoisie, and to the weakness or bad leadership of the Communist parties, the bourgeoisie has been able to achieve the present relative stabilization of capitalism.
But this estimate of the current stabilization differs radically from that implied in the Stalinist, revisionist “theory” of socialism in one country, that is, a stabilization for decades, for a whole epoch. This conception, which is an approach to the Social Democratic view of capitalism as organically stabilized, found expression in the resolution of the Fourteenth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on Stalin’s political report, which declared that “in the domain of international relations, it is quite clear the period of ‘respite’ is transforming itself into a veritable epoch.” Later, the resolution of the Enlarged Executive of the CI of July 1927 spoke without restrictions of the technical, economic, and political stabilization of capitalism. History’s answer to this estimate was the Chinese revolution, the British general strike, the Indonesian uprising, and the Vienna events, not to mention the millions of unemployed. The estimate of stabilization given at the Sixth World Congress is so eclectic that it permits of varying interpretations.
Upon this essentially erroneous estimate was based the theory of the possibility of the complete construction of a socialist society in one country (Russia), a theory entirely alien to the teachings of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, and directly contrary to every principle of revolutionary internationalism. Integrally combined with this reactionary “theory” is the idea that a self-sufficing national economy can be maintained if only the danger of imperialist military intervention is warded off. That this inevitably leads to opportunism before the world bourgeoisie (particularly before the United States, which is the basic counterrevolutionary force in the world today) is shown in the signing of the Kellogg Pact by the Soviet Union and the notorious Litvinov proposals. That it leads to the abandonment of all that Lenin taught on the revolutionary struggle against war and the role of the labor bureaucracy is shown in the capitulation of the Russian trade unions in the Anglo-Russian Committee. That it leads to the subordination of the Communist Party to the national bourgeoisie and the abandonment of Leninism on the national and colonial questions is shown by the catastrophic course followed by the Comintern in the Chinese revolution. That it leads to the conversion of the Communist parties into pacifist instruments of defense instead of instruments for organizing the armed insurrection in their own country primarily, is shown by the petty-bourgeois anticruiser petition campaign of the German party.
All these lines of policy are consciously or unconsciously based on the need of preventing military intervention against the Soviet Union so that an isolated socialist construction can be completed there. The net result of this opportunist conception and course is the increasing danger of imperialist war against the Soviet Union, for revisionism here as everywhere brings neither revolution nor reform.
The growing war danger comes at a time when the crisis in Russia is reaching a sharp point. The departure from the proletarian revolutionary path, coincident with the beginning of the fight to cut the Leninist Opposition led by L.D. Trotsky from the party, has reached a stage where the enemy classes have grown to an alarming extent and exert a tremendous pressure upon the party and state apparatus. From Bukharin’s “Peasants, enrich yourselves” and the theory that the kulak would grow into socialism, it has been a short step to the present situation where the exploiting elements in the village (the kulaks) have stepped forth into the arena with confidence, boldness, and arrogance to demand increased concessions and political rights. From the brutal campaign to suppress party democracy in the fight against the Leninist Opposition it has been a short step to the consolidation of a bureaucratic apparatus through which the new bourgeoisie exerts its ever-increasing pressure. Never before have the kulaks, the nepmen, the bureaucrats been so strong, so imperious in their demands, so threatening in their progress. The policy of the Stalin regime, which is based less and less on a class foundation, and more and more on a bureaucratic agglomeration, is undermining the positions of the proletarian dictatorship and permitting the rapid advancement of the classes alien to the proletariat whose program is the breakdown of the foreign-trade monopoly; the recognition of the tsarist debts; entrance into the League of Nations; unlimited concessions to international capital – particularly a rapprochement with American imperialism; the moderation of the pace of industrialization; penetration of the cooperatives and the Soviets; and the attainment of the suffrage hitherto reserved to the toiling masses. This is the program and the danger of Thermidor. It is the restoration of capitalism, in the beginning, probably, still under the present social forms.
The line of the present Stalin regime in this situation is a zigzag between capitulation in deeds to the right and temporary jumps to the left – that is, one step forward and two steps backward.
The Leninist Opposition, on the contrary, has been fighting tooth and nail against this imminent danger to the revolution. It has unfurled the banner of Leninism and stood by it in the face of an unprecedented campaign of slander and persecution. In the struggle against the Opposition and away from the line of Bolshevism, the present regime has by its very nature been compelled to resort to the bureaucratization of the Communist International, for under normal conditions of party democracy and free discussion, such caricatures as are now offered the revolutionary workers in the name of Leninism would be categorically rejected by the members of the International. To maintain its unprincipled domination, the present regime has therefore resorted to the suppression of discussion, the expulsion of communists, violence, arrests, imprisonment, exile, and deportation. In the name of Bolshevization, a campaign has been carried on particularly since the Fifth Congress of the Comintern which has as its net result the elimination of all elements who questioned the opportunist course of the Comintern. It has abolished party democracy and replaced it by control from above by irresponsible, appointed functionaries. Bureaucratic command and decree have been substituted for ideological discussion and leadership. The mechanical reorganization of party leaderships solely on the basis of their unhesitating readiness to endorse whatever is done by the Stalinist regime and to condemn whatever is done by the Leninist Opposition, is a daily occurrence. The influence and strength of the most important Communist parties have been reduced to an alarming extent (Germany, Czechoslovakia, France, England, United States, etc., etc.). It has brought about the development in the leading parties of the Comintern of rightwing or centrist leadership and line and the rending of these parties by violent factional struggles that are reflections of the internal struggle in the CPSU. The expulsion of the Leninist Opposition in all countries was achieved. The revisionist theories behind the opportunist line of Stalinism (socialism in one country, etc., etc.) flowered to full bloom.
To conceal the essence of its right-wing deviations and bureaucratic misdeeds, the Stalin regime invented the myth of “Trotskyism,” which it represents as the real danger to Leninism. Trotsky’s differences of political line with Lenin were liquidated in 1917, on L. D. Trotsky’s acceptance of the April Theses of Lenin and his entrance into the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party on the basis of his agreement with the tenets of Bolshevism. But even those prerevolutionary differences were never as great as the differences of the Stalin-Bukharin regime now with the principles of Leninism. Differences between Lenin and Trotsky after 1917 rose out of the efforts of the two leaders of the revolution to solve concrete problems on the basis of the same theoretical program, and were never so great as the differences between the present ruling faction and Lenin. The Opposition will fight against the falsification of the history of the party and the revolution for factional ends, which has assumed such monstrous proportions in the demagogic campaign against L.D. Trotsky, in whom we recognize Lenin’s chief collaborator in the leadership of the Russian revolution and today the foremost representative of Leninism in the world.
The Opposition is not conducting a war for “Trotskyism”; such a political tendency does not exist. It is fighting for the principles of Leninism. In the Soviet Union, under the rain of calumny and repression, the Leninist Opposition, led by its inspiring leader Comrade Trotsky, has fought persistently against all forms of revisionism and opportunism and for Bolshevism. The Opposition has sounded the alarm against the Thermidorian danger and proposed a correct policy to combat it in favor of the further socialist development of the country – in the period of retarded world revolution – through a correct policy of the distribution of the national income, through taxation of the nepman and the kulak to accelerate the process of industrialization and to improve the conditions of the workers, through credits and other cooperative assistance to the poor peasantry, through a correct price policy, and so forth. The Leninist Opposition is organizing the workers for the defense of the Russian revolution on two fronts of essentially the same enemy: against imperialist intervention from without and against the danger of Thermidor from within. Such a real defense, based on a correct class policy, can be accomplished only if the deepgoing reforms proposed by the Opposition are adopted and an end is made to the splitting of the Communist Party and the imprisonment and exile of thousands of the best Bolsheviks. The leadership which organized the defense of the Soviet Union under the direction of Lenin is still best able to carry it out today.
The problem of the defense of the Soviet Union and the victory of October is inseparably bound up with the struggle against the danger of war. The inevitability of imperialist war inherent in the basic contradictions of capitalist society is not removed by the temporary and partial current stabilization. Indeed, the war danger proceeds from the innate contradictions of the stabilization process – that is, contradictions and antagonisms of capitalist imperialism which have again grown acute by reason of the world struggle for markets. What we are witnessing in the present period is an intensified, feverish armaments and militarization race preparatory to the actual outbreak of war. Combined with this is the customary accompaniment of imperialist jockeying for positions, formation of alliances and breaking of others, and diplomatic jugglery. In this prewar period, the imperialists in their respective countries have the open or semiconcealed support of the Social Democrats and the labor bureaucracy (armaments program of the German SDP; Boncour’s militarization plan in France; Henderson, MacDonald, and Company in England; the American Federation of Labor’s open pro-imperialist, pro-militarist position, and the endorsement by the Socialist Party of the Kellogg Pact, etc., etc.). To complete the picture are the innumerable conferences that help delude the workers and develop pacifist illusions among. them: Locarno and Kellogg pacts, “disarmament” proposals, and the like.
The existence of the Soviet Union, with a proletarian dictatorship supported by the foreign-trade monopoly, bars the way to a “free market” for capitalism of one-sixth of the globe. This intensifies the antagonisms of the whole of the imperialist powers against the USSR and the tendencies toward the formation of an anti-Soviet bloc for intervention, which has so far been retarded by the mutual rivalries of the imperialist powers and their desire for a more “favorable” moment of internal difficulties of the Soviet Union, and through fear of the revolutionary action of the masses at home. The opportunist policies of the Stalin regime have weakened the international position of the Soviet Union. The by no means unavoidable defeats of the Chinese revolution and the great British strikes have enhanced the confidence of the bourgeoisie and weakened the power of resistance of the workers. The best defense of the Soviet Union is the building of the revolutionary capacities of the Communist parties. The fear of an insurrection at home, led by the Communist Party, is the greatest restraining influence upon the bourgeoisie against intervention.
The events of the past two years have made it necessary to restate the Leninist viewpoint on the revolutionary struggle against imperialist war. The policy of the Stalin regime has, in theory and practice, forsaken this line. It has set up a conception of some superhistorical recipe to be used in fighting the war danger. The fight against the war danger and intervention in the USSR has been abstracted from the general revolutionary struggle of the proletariat. Considerations of a “diplomatic nature,” for “Soviet State reasons,” “for special circumstances” have been advanced to replace the basic and permanent considerations of general revolutionary policy, instead of the one being an indivisible part of the other. This was true in the Stalin-Bukharin policy in the Anglo-Russian Committee, where they capitulated before Purcell-Hicks-Citrine and Company, because the latter would allegedly prevent Chamberlain and Baldwin from conducting their imperialist intervention policy. Reformist methods here also produced catastrophic results. It was true in the policy followed in the Chinese revolution, where the revolutionary movement was sacrificed by the Stalin–Bukharin line for the sake of maintaining alliances with the “anti-imperialist” generals of the Chiang Kai-Shek–Feng Yu-hsiang stripe. It remains true today in the nonLeninist policy pursued in the so-called League Against Imperialism, where uncritical combinations are made from above with petty-bourgeois, reformist, and nationalist elements who are in many instances neither more nor less than the bellwethers of imperialism. It is true in the case of the Soviet Union’s signing of the Kellogg Pact without denouncing it as a cover behind which the imperialists are preparing the imperialist war and the antiSoviet intervention. This opportunist line only adds to the illusions of the masses, and disarms them before their enemies.
The only road for the revolutionary struggle against war is that indicated by the teachings of Lenin on the question, in his writings during the last war, so admirably summarized in his “Theses of Instructions to Our Delegation to the Hague Conference.” The communists must relentlessly combat all pacifist illusions among the workers, point out to them the inevitability of imperialist war, teach and train them that it can be overcome only by the socialist revolution of the proletariat. We must show that there are no “exceptional circumstances” to justify an opportunist or capitulationist policy in which the interests of one section of the proletariat result in sacrificing those of the proletariat as a whole.
The impending war situation makes the American communists particularly responsible and their tasks especially great and difficult. This is especially so since the present situation is characterized by a world struggle essentially between American and British imperialism. The antagonisms between these two powers become sharper and more intense every day, and may lead to the actual outbreak of military operations at a least expected moment.
Every estimate of the present situation must proceed from the fact that the world center of economic gravity has shifted to the United States. American imperialism now levies tribute from practically all the capitalist countries of the world. This development, which has risen to its height in the period after the world war, has bound up the fate of American imperialism with the economy of the whole world in an inextricable form. No analysis of its future economic course, internally as well as externally, can be made without a consideration of its international position.
The effect of America’s direct intervention in European affairs after the war was the temporary, partial stabilization of European capitalism. This stabilization occurred in direct connection with the defeat of the German proletariat in 1923 and resulted in the consolidation of Social Democracy for the time. In turn it enabled the United States to avoid the convulsions that would have affected it inevitably in the event of the development of the revolutionary wave in Europe.
The United States has expanded its productive capacity, which has brought about a further contraction of markets for European capitalism and consequently a contraction of the European market itself. The postwar chaos of Europe has made it impossible for the debtors of that continent to present a sufficiently consolidated united front, to which they are inclined. The very strength and expansion of American imperialism has laid the foundation for the most violent struggles in Europe and in the colonial countries. The European powers must fight among themselves for a larger ration in world economy, and against the United States for the same reason. The pacifist effect which American intervention had upon the European situation in the beginning is now being transformed by the processes of development into a revolutionizing effect. American imperialism is now beginning to look for a solution of its own approaching internal convulsions at the expense of Europe, and primarily of Germany, and increased exploitation and imperialist raids on Latin America and China.
The present Experts’ Conference on the Dawes Plan is becoming a focal point of this contradiction. The report of the Reparations Agent in Germany of 1928, which, contrary to the 1927 report, gave an optimistic analysis of the situation, was made with an eye to “solving” the conflict between reparations payments and the Allied debt to the United States by increased pressure on Germany. The proposal to issue bonds protected by lien on the German railways, to cover the Dawes payments – and by payments of reparations to the Allies to enable the latter to pay their debts to America – will only lead to the multiplication of difficulties. For the United States to carry even one-half of such a bond issue, involving something like two billion dollars for its share, would mean that the important banks of this country would add almost 20 percent to their present holdings in investments and in government and other securities. An absorption of such an amount by the American banks, which, according to the Magazine of Wall Street, are “today water-logged with securities which they never ought to have bought at all,” would result “at this critical moment of our financial history” in bank inflation.
The inability of the “experts” to solve the reparations and debts problems in a satisfactory manner is an earnest of the developing position of the United States with regard to Europe.
At the same time, in the desperate struggle of the European powers to maintain their heads above the wave of American world domination they have even succeeded to a partial extent in regaining their position in world production. As between the periods of 1920–24 and 1927, the share of Europe in world production of anthracite, iron, steel, and the consumption of cotton has increased an average of 9.22 percent, while the share of the United States has decreased an average of 7.55 percent. A most bitter competition for markets is becoming sharper in every corner of the world, primarily between the United States and Britain. There has even developed the movement to raise the already tremendously high tariff walls of the United States in the coming session of Congress.
It is not necessary nor is it correct to view the United States as “about to reach the apex of its growth” in order to see and understand the maturing crisis in the country. American imperialism, by the very fact that it is developing in a different period from that of the rise of Great Britain – the period of war and revolution, and national and colonial uprisings – is therefore doomed to a much more rapid tempo of the development of its internal and international contradictions than was England. And this is true precisely because of the phenomenally rapid expansion it has experienced in the past decade.
The present economic situation in the United States is characterized by the following features:
The fate of American imperialism, we repeat, is now bound up with its dependence on world economy. Conversely, the situation in Europe is directly linked with the development of American national economy. The United States will seek to use Europe as a shield to take the blows of its own difficulties. This will in turn create such situations in Europe, above all in Germany, where, with proper revolutionary leadership, a new wave of proletarian revolt will be initiated, or the relations between England and America will come to the breaking point. This rapidly materializing process will change the correlation of forces in the United States in favor of the revolutionary proletariat, by undermining the base of the American labor aristocracy.
Meanwhile, the internal contradictions of American imperialism, bound up with its world economic interdependence, are maturing a severe crisis which is foreshadowed by the current partial industrial depression. The present situation, which is only the harbinger of this coming crisis, has already brought to a high level the process of rationalization and attack upon the standards of the working class that is causing it to move progressively away from its previous inertia into a period of struggles. The realization of, the crisis, which will intensify the process of rationalization, increase unemployment, and lead to more severe attacks on the living standards of the workers, will result in an even broader basis for the radicalization of the American workers and their entry into struggle. This process of radicalization is taking place now. It is a process which must be analyzed not only in comparison with the leftward movement of the European workers, but chiefly in comparison with the historical backwardness of the American working class. Upon this development is conditioned the coming period of struggles of the American workers and the necessity for the revolutionary party to understand it and prepare itself properly for it.
The results of the recent presidential elections were nothing but a barometer – and a weak, inaccurate, distorted barometer – of the developments and perspectives outlined above. The victory of the Republican Party and its candidate, Hoover, signified the still growing power – accompanied though it is by sharpening contradictions – of American capitalism, and the grip of the main party of the bourgeoisie on the masses. This power was sufficient for the Republicans to break through the “solid South” for the first time since the Civil War, aided by those irresistible economic forces which have been undermining the social-political basis of the traditional Democratic Party for the past decades.
The election as a whole, however, makes it impossible for anyone to speak unconditionally of a “conservative landslide” or a “victory for reaction” or a “defeat for Smith.” The vote for Smith by no means represented entirely a vote of satisfaction with the present state of affairs. The nature of the Smith vote disputes this. In the first place he received such a tremendous vote as has rarely before been received even by a winning candidate, which does not contribute at all to the theory of the “destruction” of the Democratic Party. His vote, furthermore, was composed largely of workers in the big industrial centers, where he made tremendous gains, and of the hard-pressed petty bourgeoisie and farmers.
Millions of workers saw in Smith, his record, and his program, a possibility of change from the rule of finance capital, the eight-year orgy of corruption, reaction, and imperialist policy of the Republican wing of capitalism. Votes which would otherwise have been cast for the Socialist and even the Communist parties went this time to Smith on the basis of the popular American belief that “he has a good chance to get in.” It is entirely true that the workers who cast their votes for Smith were deluded and betrayed, that Smith in actuality is as much the instrument of imperialism as Hoover. But hundreds of thousands if not millions of workers did not vote for him as an instrument of reaction and an opponent of change. Smith, with his hypocritical “friendship” for labor, his “prolabor” record and program, succeeded in deceiving his working-class support into voting for him as an “opponent” of the current reaction.
The vote against Hoover expressed to a certain extent the growing radicalization of the masses on an American scale, and with parliamentary limitations. Political developments have lagged historically behind economic developments. Proceeding from the fundamental viewpoint of the historical backwardness of the American workers it is apparent that the anti-Hoover vote was a political – that is, an insufficient, a distorted, an even reactionary – expression of the radicalizing processes taking place in the economic life of the American working class. In the present period, a leftward drift of the workers in Europe will express itself, for example, in a desertion from the Social Democracy and a growth of the power and influence of the Communists. In the United States, such a drift assumes much more moderate and backward forms.
Neither does our analysis signify that the elections were the best available barometer of the radicalization of the workers. On the contrary, it was one of the poorest. The indications of the radicalization process, which is bound to be accelerated in tempo in the coming period, are to be found chiefly in the daily economic life and struggles of the workers of this country. They are to be found in the movement for the formation of the new industrial unions, in the growing discontent of the workers even in the old AFL unions, and the growing mood for struggle that is partly exemplified by the increasing participation in strikes.
Relative to the possibilities, the Communist Party made a poor showing in the elections, which cannot be explained away solely on the basis of the disfranchisement of foreign-born workers and Negroes. In the 1924 elections the party was on the ballot in fourteen states and received 33,361 votes. The vote for the party in the same fourteen states in the 1928 elections was only 31,128 – that is, a decline of 2,233 votes. For the same fourteen states we received .001146 of the total vote cast in 1924; in 1928, we received only .000846 of the total vote cast in the country. Thus we lost in those states (the most important ones, too, like New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc.) absolutely, in number of votes received, and relative to the total vote cast. Our total vote in 1928 in all the thirty-four states where we were on the ballot was 45,710, an increase over 1924 not at all commensurate with the fact that in this election we were on the ballot in twenty additional states, that is, more than twice as many as in 1924.
This alarming showing cannot be explained, either, by the “Smith sweep,” for there was a “La Follette sweep” in 1924. It cannot be explained by the terrorism of the bourgeoisie or vote-stealing; that condition also existed in 1924. In addition, it must be remembered that in the period between the two presidential elections, the party had more opportunities for growth, popularity, and influence than ever before. It led a number of the most significant strikes and mass movements: Passaic, the miners, New Bedford, the Sacco-Vanzetti agitation, and so forth and so on. The real explanation for our failure is in the fact that the Stalinization of the party, here as elsewhere, has had terrific results. The party has been corrupted and weakened by factionalism and opportunism, finding its chief source in the Lovestone-Pepper leadership supported by the Comintern. It has brought about a steady decrease in party membership, factional distrust, irresponsibility and dilettantism, and has weakened the party in the class struggle in every instance. It is the greatest obstacle in the crystallization and growth of the Communist movement in this country. There is no other basic explanation for our parliamentary decline and can be no other.
We deal here only with main lines, and omit the repetition of such points as the opportunist and corrupt parliamentary methods of the Lovestone–Pepper clique, the buying of signatures and electors, the false conception of the labor party and its role in the election, the failure to act with sureness and speed in selecting our candidates and putting our ticket into the field, the factionalism rampant throughout the campaign, and so forth. We have dealt extensively with these features of the election in other documents, notably The Right Danger in the American Party and articles in the press.
Due to the strong position of American capitalism, which has enabled it to bribe large sections of the workers and to provide a higher general standard of living than that of the other capitalist countries, the American workers, from a class standpoint, are in a primitive stage of development. The American workers are not class conscious, they have not yet developed even the concepts of social reformism or independent political action, and, on the whole, are permeated through and through with the ideology of capitalism. These incontestable facts are the starting point of the communist approach and indicate our fundamental task: to struggle for the creation of a class movement of the American workers, for the development of class consciousness, and to lead them toward revolutionary concepts in struggle.
The fight for a class movement of the American workers is in the first place a fight against the capitalist ideology which dominates them. The labor bureaucrats of the AFL and the unaffiliated unions of the same type are the direct bearers of this ideology in the working class and must be fought as such. The labor bureaucracy is a part of the capitalist rationalization and war machine – its “labor” wing. De Leon’s classic definition of the reactionary labor leaders as “labor lieutenants of the capitalist class” holds doubly good today. The distinctive features of these labor leaders in comparison to the social-reformist leaders of Europe consists in the fact that they are outspoken defenders of the whole capitalist regime and all of its institutions, without “socialistic” pretense or class-struggle phraseology. Their program is a program of stark reaction. They repudiate the class struggle in words as well as deeds. They oppose any kind of independent political action. They support the whole military program of American imperialism and will indubitably be a powerful ally of the capitalists in lining up the workers for the coming war and demoralizing the struggle against it. They decline affiliation with the reformist Amsterdam International. They oppose even the mildest proposal for social legislation and reform, and sharply differentiate themselves from all of its advocates. The condemnation of the Brookwood Labor College at the last convention illustrates this attitude.
This bureaucracy is the chief influence against the class movement within the workers’ ranks – the strongest, the best organized, and the representative of the most reactionary program. The specific nature of the American labor bureaucracy – its present source of strength – also makes it the more vulnerable in the period of growing radicalization. The very first steps of the workers towards a class movement can be taken only in direct struggle against them. The relentless and irreconcilable fight against the AFL leadership, based on a correct analysis of its specific role as the outspoken bearer of capitalist ideology, is a prerequisite for effective work in developing the struggle of the workers, increasing their class understanding, and leading them to the fight for broader political aims.
The indiscriminate lumping together of all the various forms and methods of deluding the workers and holding back their class development, and the elements that represent them (capitalist welfare schemes, AFL program, La Folletteism, liberal churchmen, liberals and progressives, Republican and Democratic parties, bourgeois economists and efficiency experts, etc.), under one head, as is the current policy enunciated in the theses of the two factions, is profoundly erroneous. It glosses over the distinctive features and specific role of each and consequently makes impossible an estimate of their relative importance at the moment and the formulation of the most effective tactics of struggle against them.
The Socialist Party has progressively degenerated since the expulsion of the communist left wing in 1919, and in great labor struggles of recent years, particularly in the needle trades, became the open ally of the employers and the AFL bureaucracy. It appealed for votes in the last election campaign on the basis of petty-bourgeois liberalism. The union struggles as well as the election campaign showed its influence to be in decline. In view of its tradition and its phraseology, however, its potentialities as an influence against the class movement of the workers are very great. The Communists must fight the Socialist Party on all fronts in the most direct and irreconcilable manner. A correct estimate of its position and function is necessary for this. The Socialist Party is not dead, and its possibilities for a new growth in a period of growing radicalization of the workers will be greatly strengthened by false tactics of the Communists. The Socialist Party fights on the side of imperialism against the workers in its own way, but it is wrong to describe it as an organic and indistinguishable part of the AFL machine. It is true it will always form a united front with the latter against any serious movement of the workers, but there is an important difference in function and division of labor between them.
The function of the AFL bureaucrats is to stifle all progressive tendencies in the working class and to defend capitalist institutions as they are. The function of the Socialist Party and of the related social reformists is to exploit these progressive tendencies under more or less “radical” phraseology and to divert them into harmless reformist channels which avoid a real collision either with capitalism as such or the AFL bureaucrats. The new “campaign” of the Socialist New Leader against the Civic Federation policies of Woll and the Progressive Manifesto of the Labor Age group, are highly significant expressions of this specific role of these social reformists. The influence of these groups at present is weak, but the growth of discontent of the workers and their mood for struggle will give them the possibility of expanding it on a wide scale. The Communists must unmask them and make their deception clear to the workers. Otherwise there is great danger of them gaining the leadership of workers’ movements and strangling them.
The main reservoir of labor militancy is the masses of unskilled and semiskilled workers in the unorganized, basic industries. The full horror of the capitalist rationalization falls directly upon them, and the attacks of the capitalists in the present depression and coming crises strike them first and hardest. The party must turn its face to these unorganized masses, put itself at the head of their struggles, and lead in the work of organizing them into new industrial unions. This historic task must be accomplished in the fire of struggle against the capitalists and their state power as well as against their agents in the labor movement – the reactionary bureaucracy of the AFL, the Socialist Party, and allied groups of social-reformist elements. In this protracted struggle on all fronts extending over a period of years, the decisive break of the workers with the ideology of capitalism will be effected and the genuine class movement of the workers will be built.
A correct policy on the trade union question and its consistent execution by a sound Communist leadership are decisive for the expansion of the party as the leader of the struggling masses. Moreover, the tactics of the left wing led by the party – a dynamic force of gigantic importance – will be one of the most vital determining factors in the future course and development of the trade union movement.
The narrowing base of the AFL and the increasingly reactionary conduct and policy of its leadership raise before the party and the left wing the problem of organizing the unorganized workers in the basic industries, primarily the unskilled and half-skilled, who are becoming radicalized and ready for struggle. It is the task of the party and the left wing to lead in the work of organizing these masses into new industrial unions. The center of gravity in our trade union work belongs in this sphere. This has been indicated by the whole situation for some time, and the long delay of the party in shaping its course in this direction, due to the resistance of the leadership, has already had extremely harmful consequences.
The history of the party has been also the history of continuous struggles for the correct line on the trade union question. Isolation from the masses in their struggles was the price paid by the party for its false trade union policy in its earlier years. The trade union program adopted in 1920, which called for a boycott of the AFL and support of the IWW, was corrected only after a stubborn and protracted struggle conducted by the main nucleus of the present Opposition. It was not until the Unity Convention of June 1921 that a realistic program steering the party into the trade unions and outlining the plan for the formation of a broad left wing was finally adopted. The entrance into the party of a number of experienced trade unionists was facilitated by this decision and this in turn gave a great impetus to its practical execution. Isolation gave way to a speedy penetration of the party into the trade union struggle, to the wide expansion of the Trade Union Educational League as a bona fide movement of the left wing, and to the appearance of the party as an important factor in the labor party movement.
The rich results of this policy adopted at the 1921 convention were in themselves an irrefutable proof of its correctness. It was not executed, however, without one-sidedness and distortions. In reacting against the basically false policy of the 1920 convention, which called for the “destruction” of the AFL, the party went to another extreme and developed an AFL fetishism. “Dual unionism” became a bogey, and practically all independent unions and movements were labeled as such. This very terminology graphically illustrates the great concessions to the labor reactionaries implicit in the one-sided policy, for it is their language. “Dual unionism” is their time-worn epithet for all revolting groups of militants. This fetishism blinded the party to its tasks and duties in the unorganized fields and narrowed its base of operations too much to the organized, more-or-less skilled workers. It was a factor in the delay of the party shaping its course toward the unorganized and shifting its center of gravity there – a course made imperative by the changing circumstances.
This shift of emphasis to the formation of new unions of the unorganized has been accepted in words after a long and stubborn struggle of the opposition for this line. But the work has not yet begun in earnest. The practice of the party leadership in this field is marked more by sporadic spurts and spectacular stunts than by planful, systematic, and deliberate work. Moreover, the turn of the emphasis to new unions of the unorganized, which ought to be indissolubly bound up in one comprehensive policy with the intensified work in the old unions, is already being interpreted and applied one-sidedly.
The work in the old unions has been virtually abandoned. This fact is clearly revealed in the almost complete disappearance of party representatives from trade union gatherings. Still worse, the leaders of the factions are competing with each other in the elaboration of “theories” which preclude the idea of serious work in the old unions in the future.
The factions are outdoing each other in irresponsible striving to be “left” in this burning question. These theories and practices are a menace to the party and threaten to put it off the track again. It is time to sound a warning and begin a determined struggle against them. The building of the new unions and the work in the old unions must be carried on together and not the one set up against the other.
The role of the AFL leadership as the outspoken agents of American imperialism in peace, in war preparations, and in war, does not at all obliterate the fact of three million members in its affiliated unions. The new “theories” are attempting to rationalize the AFL out of existence as a federation of unions and to arbitrarily preclude the possibility of its future expansion and growth in an organizational sense. The unrelenting struggle against the labor agents of imperialism in general and an unceasing exposure of their role as a bulwark against the working-class resistance to war is an obvious necessity. The struggle against them for the organization and leadership of the unorganized workers is the main aspect of the fight. But the matter does not end there.
The workers organized in the AFL unions have an enormous strategic importance. We must fight the bureaucrats for influence over them from within, no matter how arduous the task, no matter how severe the persecution and discrimination against us. The abandonment of this struggle now taking place under cover of high-sounding “radicalism” will only prevent the crystallization of an insurgent movement within the old unions and free the hands of the bureaucrats for more effective sabotage of the organization of new unions, for these two processes are bound together. The net result will be to strengthen the effectiveness of the AFL bureaucracy as a part of the capitalist war machine.
The decline of the AFL in membership and influence during recent years is an incontestable fact. But it still represents a powerful force, both in an organizational and ideological sense, on the side of reaction. And its further expansion in a period of growing mass struggles and serious work by the left wing in the building of new unions, particularly in the event of war, is by no means excluded. The assertions to the contrary, conjured up to support the new “theories,” are purely arbitrary.
The obvious fact that the big employers under “normal” conditions prefer their own company unions to the most conservative trade unions and fight militantly to destroy the latter is not of itself sufficient ground for such a contention. The whole rationalization process, with its unbearable and increasing exploitation, drives the workers to revolt and to the endeavor to form class organizations. The coming period will see such struggles on a large scale. Under such conditions it is not only possible but even probable that employers, who reject the conservative trade unions now, would accept them as an alternative to new unions under militant leadership and would even collaborate with the bureaucrats in their formation.
Such a possible perspective in no way “removes the base” for the building of new industrial unions of the unorganized workers as the main task of the party. On the contrary it makes the energetic execution of this task all the more imperative. The greater the progress the party makes with this work, combining it with increased activity in the old unions, the stronger will be the barriers against the betrayals of the coming revolts by the AFL machine.
The attempt to classify the entire membership of the AFL unions as aristocrats of labor, immune from class-struggle agitation, which is implied and even partly stated in the new “theories,” is likewise false. Deep currents of discontent, full of potentialities for future struggles, already exist in the old unions, and they will increase in the coming period. The recent manifesto of the pseudoprogressive group of Labor Age is primarily a reflection of this discontent in the ranks of the unions, which the reformists seek to divert into harmless channels. The appearance of the new movement, even in a nebulous form, with pseudoprogressives at its head, is a sign of the abdication of the Communists and the left wing, who in recent years have led these movements. It is a warning that continued neglect of the struggle in the old unions clears the road for the reformist stultification of potentially revolutionary movements within them.
The party must clarify its tactics on the trade union question without delay. The organization of the unorganized into new unions, the foremost and basic task, must go hand in hand with intensified work in the old unions, including those which exist alongside of new unions, and a revival of the discarded united front tactics. The party must penetrate every movement of opposition and revolt against the bureaucracy, forming united fronts with all honest progressive workers, exposing the particularly deceptive and dangerous’ role of pseudoleft and pseudoprogressive leaders, and struggling against them for the leadership of the opposition movements.
In 1925 the present Opposition conducted a struggle against the narrowing of the TUEL into a purely Communist body with a Communist program, and for broadening it into a united-front organization. This was one of the most progressive struggles in the history of the party. The revival of the left wing in the miners’ union and the subsequent leadership of the party in a great miners’ mass movement were the result of the change in course brought about by this struggle. That basically correct line must be restated and insisted on in view of the departures that have been made from it recently.
The TUEL, which, thanks to false policies, has degenerated into a mere shadow of the party existing on paper, with little or no organization or life of its own, must be revived as a bona fide united-front organization of the party and nonparty militants in the unions, the organizing center of the new unions and the left wing in the old. The actual participation of influential nonparty workers in the activities of the TUEL and in its leading committees is one of the absolute prerequisites for this proper functioning of the TUEL on a genuine basis of broad organization. And this holds good with a hundredfold emphasis in regard to the new unions which are being formed. The leading role of the party in the new unions and in the left wing of the old unions is necessary for their development into higher forms of struggle. But the construction of the leading staff of these movements on a narrow party basis with mechanical forms of party control – above all mechanical faction control, which is the growing practice under the present party regime – is fatal to the growth and development of these movements.
In the work of forming new unions of the unorganized workers, no less than in its work in the AFL, the party must revive and apply the united-front tactic. Maintaining always its independence and freedom of criticism, the party must form alliances with groups and organizations willing to cooperate with us on a minimum class-struggle program, and win the nonparty militants over to the platform of communism by degrees in the course of joint struggle. An approach to revolutionary syndicalist workers in the spirit of Lenin is especially necessary.
The party must strive to establish its decisive influence and leadership in these united-front struggles by its initiative, superior tactics, and conscientious, persevering work. These methods must replace the growing tendency toward exclusiveness and mechanical, monopolistic party control, which result only in the narrowing down of the base of the new movements and organizations, in their degeneration into impotent cliques, in their isolation and defeat. Under the present conditions and relation of forces, the party cannot put forth the demand for arbitrary and mechanical control without endangering the developing movements and blocking its own approach to the awakening nonparty masses. The leadership of the Communists, which is alone able to steer the new movements on a correct course, must be won in struggle.
The chief danger to the progress of the party in its trade union work is the opportunist leadership of the party. Constantly oscillating between conservative passivity before the AFL and adventurist plunges in the formation of new unions without adequate preparations in advance, regarding the workers as objects for maneuvering rather than as class brothers in arms, dabbling with mass movements in dilettante fashion, and permeating all the trade union work with corrupt and poisonous factionalism, the Lovestone-Pepper leadership has already proved itself ten times over to be a positive barrier in the path of the party and the left wing, and a weight in the scale against the proletariat. Its potentialities for harm in the impending struggles, with all their vast difficulties and possibilities, are enormous.
The Lovestone–Pepper leadership rejected the proposal of the opposition in May 1927 to begin preparations for the mobilization of the left wing in the United Mine Workers through a national conference, and followed a do-nothing policy month after month while the strike was being cut to pieces by the operators and the Lewis machine. It was not until April 1928, after the strike was a year old and had already spent its force, that a national conference was finally held. It resisted the course toward a new miners’ union and did nothing to begin organizational work in the unorganized fields. (Conservative passivity, fear of the labor fakers, lack of faith in the masses.) Then it plunged into the calling of the strike in the unorganized fields in April 1928 without the slightest preliminary organization. (Adventurism and irresponsibility.) It sabotaged and delayed the proper organization of relief work for months out of internal party factional considerations. It excluded and discriminated against the most qualified and authoritative leaders of the miners’ movement in the formation of the leading bodies of the new union. It pushed aside real organizers of the workers and flooded the coal fields with incompetent faction agents. It reduced the party fraction at the convention of the new union to a fiction and decided all questions in advance through a small steering committee of the CEC selected on a faction basis and comprising a majority without experience or authority in trade union work. (Criminal factionalism, callous disregard of the basic interests of the movement.) The Lovestone-Pepper leadership lost interest in and virtually withdrew from the new union at the most critical time, immediately after the convention. It made no serious attempt to provide the necessary financial help for the necessary organizational work. Even funds which properly belonged to this work were diverted. The Lewis machine was thus given the opportunity to entrench itself again through lack of real competition from organizers of the new union. (Dilettantism and irresponsibility.)
The same methods have marked the course of the party leadership in other trade union fields. The formation of the new union in the needle trades was unduly delayed while opportunities were lost and the right wing advanced. Here a bloc of crass opportunists is maintained in leadership while the left wing of genuine communists is suppressed. In the textile industry a policy of passivity before the old unions was followed by the sudden formation of a national textile union prematurely, without sufficient preparation and without an adequate base in local organizations.
These evil methods, repeated systematically, are accumulating into a crushing weight upon the party and the left wing, and leading to failure and collapse at the time when the possibilities are greatest and the demands heaviest. They directly threaten to discredit the idea of new unions, to demoralize the workers and destroy the prestige of the party for years to come. The Bolshevik struggle to organize the workers cannot be separated from the struggle to reorganize the leadership of the party on a proletarian communist basis.
The perspective of coming mass struggles involves the question of developing these struggles in a political direction and unifying them in a centralized form. The movement for a labor party is today at low ebb as a result primarily of the passivity of the workers and the decline in movements of struggle in the past period. The coming period of developing economic struggles will very probably be reflected in tendencies toward the revival of the labor party movement.
It is not reasonable to expect that the masses of the American workers, who are still tied ideologically and politically to the bourgeois parties, will come over to the Communist Party politically at one step in a period not immediately revolutionary. All past experience, and particularly the recent experiences in the mining, textile, and needle trades industries, where the workers who supported Communist leadership in strikes did not vote for the Communist ticket, do not sustain such expectations. The perspective of a labor party as a primary step in the political development of the American workers, adopted by the party in 1922 after a sharp struggle in the party and at the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, holds good today, although the forms and methods of its realization will be somewhat different than those indicated at that time.
It is therefore necessary to keep this perspective of a labor party before the eyes of the party and the working class. We speak here not for the immediate formation of such a party, and surely not for the adventurism and opportunism that has characterized this work in the past, particularly in the organization of fake labor parties that had no genuine mass basis. The labor party must have a mass basis and must arise out of struggle and be formed in the process of struggle. To this end, the propaganda slogan must be really revived, and as soon as it has found roots in the masses and their experiences in the struggle, it must become an agitational and finally an action slogan.
The labor party must not be an enlarged shadow of the Communist Party. It must have a mass basis, else it will be a caricature. It must permit the freedom of action, independence, and criticism, of the revolutionary elements within it. It must not have an exaggerated importance attributed to it as the “leader” of the working class to liberation, and so on, for no illusions about its role can be permitted except at the expense of the revolutionary interests of the working class. It must not be based on individual membership.
The organization of two classes in one party – a farmer-labor party – must be rejected in principle in favor of the separate organization of the workers, and the formation of a political alliance with the poor farmers under the leadership of the former. The opportunist errors of party comrades in the Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota and other states flowed inevitably from, and were secondary to, the basically false policy of a two-class party, pursued by the party leadership, in which farmer and worker are ostensibly on an “equal basis,” but where in reality the petty-bourgeois ideology of the former actually dominates.
The struggle for a labor party, as part of the struggle for the development of a class movement of the American workers, requires an intransigent fight against the AFL leadership and the Socialist Party, who represent obstacles to this development. The main base of the future labor party will be the new industrial unions formed in the coming struggles against the employers, the government, and the labor fakers and reformists. The left wing, organized in the old unions, will also play a very important part. The radicalizing effect of these struggles and the circumstances which give rise to them will create the conditions for the formation of the labor party and for the effective participation of the Communists and their independent struggle for leadership of the masses.
The party as a whole has always greatly underestimated the tremendous importance of revolutionary work among the Negro masses. The American Negroes are destined to play a great role in the coming revolution. The Negro proletariat of the North and the great mass of Negro peasantry in the South form a tremendous reservoir of revolutionary force which has hitherto remained untapped. What is needed is a recognition of the importance of this work, a correct policy in it, and serious attention to it.
It must be the main task of the party in this field to mobilize the white workers to fight for the rights of the Negro masses to full social, economic, and political equality and to unite with them in their struggles. Not an attitude of liberal paternalism but an attitude of comradely support in a common battle, will give an impetus to the movement of struggle and resistance among the Negroes and will pave the way for the expansion of party influence among them. The organization of the Negro masses for struggle goes hand in hand with the mobilization of the white workers for the defense of the Negroes against persecution and discrimination.
A prerequisite for this is the persistent struggle against race prejudice (white chauvinism), which is sedulously cultivated by the ruling class and dominates large sections of the white workers. It is even reflected in certain sections of the party. This can be rooted out only by a broad ideological campaign explaining the reactionary, anti-working-class origin, nature, and result of the bourgeois “theories” of “white supremacy,” and utilizing every concrete instance in this sense. Such a campaign has not yet even been begun in our party press. The attempt to deal with the question by purely mechanical methods is false.
The Negro question is also a national question, and the party must raise the slogan of the right of self-determination for the Negroes. The effectiveness of this slogan is enhanced by the fact that there are scores of contiguous counties in the South where the Negro population is in the majority, and it is there that they suffer the most violent persecution and discrimination. This slogan will be the means especially of penetrating these Negro masses in the South and of mobilizing them for revolutionary struggle. The party must at the same time decisively reject the false slogan of a “Negro Soviet Republic in the South” at this time, raised by Pepper. This theory is still being propagated in the party press and in official party literature despite its rejection even at the Sixth Congress of the Comintern.
The work among the Negro masses must from the very beginning be based on leadership by the Negro proletariat and not by the Negro petty bourgeoisie. The party’s orientation in the past has been based more on the latter than the former. Only through the domination by the Negro proletariat in the movement will the party be able to advance the work of organizing the Negro peasants, tenant farmers, sharecroppers, etc., in the South in an effective and revolutionary sense.
The departure of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from the line of Lenin has been reflected in the Communist International and all of its sections. The Stalinization of the Comintern, which is the evil fruit of the demagogic and unscrupulous struggle of the Stalin–Bukharin revisionists against the Bolshevik Opposition led by Trotsky, is represented by opportunist politics and a bureaucratic internal regime in the Comintern and in the parties. Stalinization has brought about an enormous and absolutely unprecedented bureaucratization in the apparatus.
The weaknesses of the Communist International and its national sections, and the faction struggles which undermine them, flow directly from the faction struggle in the Russian Communist Party. Stalinization carries schism and disintegration into all the parties. This is the main source of the evils in our party. A recognition of this fact is the only key to the understanding of our party problems and the organization of a communist fight to solve them. The struggle for the regeneration of our party, for the correction of its policies and the formation of a proletarian communist leadership, is an international fight. All attempts to wage this fight on purely national grounds, within the framework of Stalinist “legality,” are unprincipled and futile.
The direct responsibility of the Stalinist faction for the Lovestone-Pepper regime in our party and all its corrupting consequences, is clearly demonstrated by the facts of party history in recent years.
This leadership was established in the party in 1925 by cable of the ECCI plus the jesuitical machinations of Gusev, the representative of the ECCI, after it had twice been decisively rejected by the party membership. Again in 1927 a cable from the ECCI prohibited a majority in the Central Committee (the bloc of Cannon–Weinstone–Foster groups) from exercising their right to reorganize the Polcom and elect party officers – thus safeguarding the Lovestone control. The Supplementary Decision cabled to the party later in 1927 called upon the party to support the Lovestone group after the ECCI had been compelled to reject its main line.
Further help in mobilizing the party for the Lovestone faction was given a little later by cables hypocritically protesting against the “factionalism” of the opposition while ignoring and condoning the most criminal and corrupt factional practices of the Lovestone group. Ewert, present leader of the “conciliators” group in the German party, in his capacity as representative of the CI to our party in 1927, helped the Lovestone faction to gerrymander and steal the party convention in Tammany fashion. The secretarial decision of the ECCI after the Sixth World Congress in 1928 ignored all the big political questions and simply declared the contentions that the Lovestone leadership follows a right-wing line (which were proven to the hilt in the. Opposition document The Right Danger in the American Party) to be unfounded and thus again indicated its political support of this faction.
By all these means – by political pressure, by direct organizational interference, by abusing the confidence of the party members in the Communist International, by tricks and machinations – the centrist leadership of the CPSU and the Comintern has strengthened and supported its American counterpart and entrenched its control in the American party.
This Stalinization of the party has reduced the dues-paying membership from 16,325 in 1925 (convention report January–June) to 7,277 in 1928 (financial reports January–August), in a three-year period which offered abundant possibilities for the party to grow. It has brought about a particularly heavy loss of native American and trade union elements, reducing the proportion of such elements in the party, always far too small, to insignificance. Party democracy does not exist. There is far less freedom of expression in the party today, working under legal conditions and during a preconvention discussion period, than there was normally in the underground, illegal party. Bureaucratization has become a cancer eating out the party life. The class composition of the party has deteriorated and the main sections of the party leadership, its decisive upper strata, are predominantly petty bourgeois. Permanent factionalism rages in the party year in and year out, and absorbs its main energies. The whole course of disruption and disintegration is being crowned now by the wholesale expulsion of the Opposition – proletarian communists, founders of the party, and its most loyal, reliable, and tested militants.
The “self-criticism” of the ruling faction consists in making tardy admissions of the least significant of the errors they committed, without indicating any connection between them, or the basis upon which they arose. The important and more dangerous mistakes committed by them are “admitted” only under the most severe pressure, and even then, in most cases, they are falsely ascribed to the opponents of the very errors. The nature of the errors, the reasons and responsibility for them, are never established. The result is that they are either repeated in the same form, or else they are repeated in an inverted form caused by irresponsible swings to the opposite extreme.
A genuine Leninist self-criticism is a primary prerequisite for the establishment of clarity, the raising of the ideological level of the party, and the elimination of the distrust and cynicism caused by its absence. Instead of self-criticism, the party leadership has instituted a regime of diplomacy, concealment, distortion, and self-praise. Its own “achievements” are paraded and exaggerated in the most revolting shopkeeper’s manner. A blank check of immunity from any error or crime is an automatic premium to any of its faction supporters.
In this poisonous atmosphere the disparity between words and deeds grows greater every day. Resolutions, theses, and motions are made primarily for the record and not to be carried out. They remain on paper in the party archives, to be pointed to only to justify this or that action, after the fact. They are carried out only insofar as they are in harmony with the temporary, opportunist interests of the leadership. The absolute impossibility of making the deed conform with the word in the present situation lies in the fact that any correction of party line or improvement of its condition can be made only in the sharpest struggle against the present party leadership. Since the present leadership is exclusively interested in its self-preservation at all costs, the word remains a hollow, farcical gesture.
The absence of any genuine self-criticism in the party goes hand in hand with the growing bureaucratization of the leadership and functionary staff of the party, its deproletarianization, and the increasing lack of workers’ democracy in the ranks.
The wholesale expulsion of proletarian fighters goes hand in hand with the steady recruitment of all kinds of dubious petty-bourgeois careerist and half-baked intellectual elements. The class composition of the party, particularly in the New York district, where almost half of the party membership is concentrated, has been seriously affected by this process in recent years and has had a direct expression in the opportunist policies of the party and the strengthening of the opportunist elements generally.
In the upper circles of the party, in the party apparatus, this increased proportion of nonproletarians is enormously expanded. Under the Lovestone regime these elements are appearing more and more on all sides as party representatives, officials, managers, directors, teachers, supervisors. Coming to these positions without sufficient prerequisites, they bring with them the detestable careerist attributes of insolence, arrogance, and pride of office, antagonizing and alienating the worker elements and thrusting them aside.
Accompanying this is the alarming growth of the tendency to replace in various positions those comrades who have built and worked in the party since its formation with those who have only recently joined the movement from the Socialist Party, the Zionist movement, liberals, etc., etc.
The party must examine these questions in direct connection with the struggle against the right danger and the opportunist leaders who are its bearer. It is necessary at once to take a complete registration of the party membership, with the object of precisely determining its class composition. A reorganization of the party apparatus from top to bottom, up to and including the Central Executive Committee, placing the overwhelming majority of the positions in the hands of experienced and tested party workers of proletarian origin, must be effected at once. In this connection, the party must reject categorically the gross mockery of proletarianization which the Lovestone-Pepper group is carrying out. It consists of the formal addition to certain party committees of unknown comrades who are never intended to function in the committees except to serve as proletarian window dressing behind which the opportunists and petty-bourgeois careerists can work with greater security. For the next period, until a proletarian stabilization has been achieved in the party and its apparatus, the party membership must be closed entirely to nonproletarian elements. Even then their admittance into the party must be strictly supervised.
An analysis of the number of comrades employed in the apparatus (in the party national and district offices, in the party press and their administration, in the large number of auxiliary organizations, in the numerous cooperative institutions, etc., etc.) will reveal the striking fact that the party has a staff of paid functionaries and technical workers equal to more than 10 percent of the party membership, who are not employed in industry or in agriculture. This bureaucratic crust is smothering the party.
The fight for the party is a fight against the systematic opportunist policy of the leadership and the bureaucratic regime with which it fortifies itself against control and correction from below. This internal regime is tied up with the external opportunistic line and is an expression of it. A serious struggle for a correction of the opportunist external policy which weakens the party and consequently the class before their enemies is impossible without the most determined, stubborn, and relentless fight for party democracy. Party democracy is the means whereby the policy of the party can be corrected and its leadership reorganized on a proletarian communist basis.
The raising of the issue of party democracy and the education of the party membership on its meaning and significance are made all the more necessary by the confusion that prevails on the whole question of party government, of forms of working-class organization, of centralization and discipline. This confusion is fostered by the monstrous distortions of Lenin’s teachings disseminated by the party leadership and is the direct result of them.
The present leaders and “teachers” of the party distort and misapply these conceptions. They totally neglect to take up this burning problem at all in their respective faction theses. They substitute the idea of discipline in the formal, mechanical sense for the Leninist doctrine of democratic centralism. Our party, which ought to be the champion of workers’ democracy throughout the entire labor movement, is making the very word taboo. All democracy is indiscriminately labeled bourgeois democracy. Party democracy, of course, does not exclude but presupposes centralization and discipline. It is just the bureaucratic distortions and mechanical conceptions of discipline which give rise to syndicalist prejudices in this respect.
The party must make an end of this situation by struggle against the leadership that fosters and expresses it. The first step is to break down the disruptive expulsion policy and to reinstate the expelled communists with the right to express their views in the party by normal means. The policy of administrative gagging, suppression, and terrorism must be overthrown. The worker communist must be able to feel at home in his own party. He must have the right and feel the freedom to open his mouth and say what he thinks without being called into the office of some petty official or other, like a recalcitrant workingman in a factory, and threatened with discipline. All talk of party democracy in the face of suppression on all sides and the wholesale expulsion of comrades for their views is a swindle.
As a result primarily of historical conditions, the American Communist movement was from the beginning predominantly a movement of foreign-born workers, whose revolutionary and socialist traditions had a European background. Their passage to communism was fundamentally a reaction to events in Europe, above all the Russian proletarian revolution, and this reaction was not closely connected with the class struggle in the United States. In its formative years the party stood aloof to a very large extent from the great mass struggles of that time – the steel strike, the general strike of the miners, and so on – and did not recruit its forces from them. The left wing in the Socialist Party and the Communist Party into which it evolved were dominated by foreign-language federations. The “American” leaders, for the most part, were the “English expression” of this movement.
This anomalous situation imparted to the early movement an unrealistic and extremely sectarian character and caused deep internal contradictions and struggles. The long struggle against federation domination and the federation form of organization, although formally an organizational question, was fundamentally a political struggle for the Americanization of the movement. It was closely bound up with the struggle against sectarianism: for a realistic trade union policy, for “legal” activities and a legal party, for the labor party, and for the predominance of American workers in the leadership.
This character of the party and its leadership in the formative years militated against its effective participation in the class struggle and greatly weakened its recruiting power among the American revolutionary workers. The IWW movement of that time, which was a great reservoir for communism and a large part of the natural base for an American Communist movement was not attracted, and the anticommunist strategy of the reactionary anarcho-syndicalist leaders was greatly facilitated. The party failed likewise, for these reasons, to recruit thousands of revolutionary-minded American workers in the Socialist Party and in the left wing of the trade unions.
The violent internal struggles were called forth by the contradictions between the composition, tactics, and leadership of the party, and the conditions for its existence and effective functioning in the class struggle. The struggle of a minority to overcome these contradictions, in which the present Opposition was in the forefront from the very beginning, received powerful support from the Communist International, particularly in 1921 and 1922. The new course of the party – its emergence from the underground, its adoption of a realistic trade union policy, and its participation in the labor party movement – was the result of this struggle. The recruitment of native workers and active trade unionists began and, particularly under the leadership established at the 1923 convention, developed progressively.
The disruption of the leadership and the alteration of the course of the party in 1925 halted this development; and the past three years have seen a retrogression. The proportion of native workers in the party and its decisive leadership today is insignificant, and the recruiting power of the party among these elements has greatly declined. Even in great mass struggles like that of the miners, the party is unable to gain, and still less likely to keep, any considerable number of new members of this type. It remains primarily a party of foreign-born workers with its decisive working-class membership narrowing more and more to the needle trades. This state of affairs, bound up with the problem of party policy and leadership, is fatal for the growth of the party as a factor in the class struggle in America.
It is necessary to state these facts openly and fearlessly, and to insist on a change of course in the most resolute manner. The new course for the Americanization of the party in the communist sense must be adopted. Conscious, deliberate, and systematic efforts must be made in all class-struggle activities by every member of the party to attract native workers into the party and into its leadership in all of its spheres. The selection of party representatives, the methods of approach, and so on, must be decisively influenced by this aim. There must be a simplification and popularization of propaganda and agitational work. Far greater attention to simple, modest tasks of a movement in its elementary stage of development. Greater responsibility and concentration on main struggles and activities, and less sensation-mongering, less pretentiousness, bombast, exaggeration, fake campaigns, and “high politics.” Use of language comprehensible to the American workers and more related to their traditions.
The problem is to unite the inspiration of the Russian revolution, which is and has been the strongest influence on the revolutionary wing of the American labor movement, with a realistic approach to the specific tasks of the American communists. This now applies especially to the defenders of the Russian Opposition, which is the representative of the victory of the Russian October. This unity will be the means of permeating the American workers with the spirit of internationalism while strengthening and developing the communist influence in the class struggle in America.
The efforts made in the past to pervert the revolutionary essence of this program to adapt the party to its specific tasks, have served only to justify the present composition of the party and the laxness in improving it, but have in no sense invalidated the correctness of our proposals, which are as vital today as ever, if not more so.
The party today is in the throes of a factional crisis which has raged continuously since 1923. This factional struggle, which the ECCI frequently declared “has no basis in principle,” is the product of the Stalinization of the party and the imposition upon it from above of an artificial and incompetent leadership. At bottom this struggle, which numerous “unanimous” resolutions could not stop and which broke out afresh after each proclamation of “unity,” has been a conflict between the proletarian and the petty-bourgeois tendencies.
As a result of the failure to understand the struggle in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which is the main source of the factional situation in our party, the proletarian tendency has made numerous mistakes and has not always been able to formulate the issues clearly, since this could be done only with an international orientation and perspective.
The ruling faction in the party, on the other hand, was strengthened by its international connection with the Stalin–Bukharin regime and received direct and continuous support from it. The Lovestone–Pepper faction is an American replica of the international faction which is undermining the Comintern and weakening the position of the Soviet Union. This faction of Lovestone–Pepper is a combination of the old ultraleft and “Goose Caucus” elements of the underground party (who fought the formation of the legal party) and the centrist leaders of the “Workers’ Council” group (who fought the underground Communist Party). The Lovestone–Pepper group of intellectuals balanced between them, “reconciled” their differences, and shifted the leadership of the combination to the petty-bourgeois, intellectual, and careerist elements. This faction was patched together for the purpose of securing and holding “power” in the party at all costs and under all circumstances. It has no roots or traditions in the working class and no firm or definite line of policy. Its course is an opportunist – adventurist shifting from day to day according to factional and inner-party exigency, to which its external policies are always subordinated. In the struggle against the Opposition Communists the party leadership has already resorted to methods of a pronounced fascist character (gangsterism, burglary).
The personal records of the leaders of this faction are so malodorous as to render them absolutely ineligible for leading positions in a communist party, which must gain and hold the confidence of the workers to such a large extent through its leaders. Pepper, the Moscow representative of the faction, was a social patriot during the war, a war correspondent of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Prior to the Hungarian Soviet Republic he was a minister in the bourgeois government who arrested communists, denounced them as “left counter-revolutionaries,” and advocated mass terror against them. Lovestone, while a member of the Central Executive Committee of the party in 1920, testified for the state of New York in the trial of Harry Winitsky, securing thereby the dismissal of two indictments against himself while Comrade Winitsky went to prison. Wolfe ran away from the party during the Palmer raids in 1919 and disappeared for two years. After the Bridgeman raid in 1922 he again deserted the party and went to Mexico against party instructions, returning in 1925. Wicks made a renegade speech before a body of businessmen in Gary, Indiana, in the winter of 1920, during the height of the terror against the Communists, as a “reformed red” and “exposer” of the Communist movement and the steel strike. Olgin fought the Russian revolution and the communists in the columns of the yellow Jewish Daily Forward. Minor attacked Lenin and the Bolshevik revolution in the capitalist press. Trachtenberg, Engdahl, and Kruse fought on the side of Berger and Hillquit against the communists during the split of 1919 and for two years afterward. At the Socialist Party convention in 1921 Kruse protested against and branded as a lie the accusation that he wanted to join the Communist International without reservations. Kruse expelled communists from the Socialist Party and the Young People’s Socialist League – and is expelling some of the same comrades from the party in the Chicago district today.
Almost the entire editorial staff of the Freiheit was trained in the school of the Forward and the reactionary Zionist press, and conducted there the same kind of a campaign against the Communist Party that they now conduct against the Opposition. An examination of the records of many of the lower and district functionaries of the present regime will reveal similar facts. The Lovestone–Pepper faction leaders are a distinct type of adventurers in the movement. These are the people who expel and calumniate us.
The Foster–Bittelman group represents a section of the forces organized in the beginning of the struggle in 1923 which signalized the crystallization of the proletarian tendency. It is now dividing itself into two parts – the Foster wing and the Bittelman wing – and this process will go deeper as a result of the contradictions in its position. Its attempt to struggle against the ruling faction on purely “national” questions while supporting the regime in the International which this faction represents, renders its whole position untenable.
Lack of principle, characterlessness, intellectual and political cowardice on the part of the Foster–Bittelman group of “leaders,” so clearly and so disgustingly revealed in the whole preconvention and “anti-Trotsky” campaign, are the manifestations and the result of their contradictory and impossible position.
The support these leaders have received in the preconvention struggle represents in the main the effort of the proletarian tendency within the party to find a “legal” expression for its opposition to the Lovestone–Pepper regime. These proletarian elements who have not yet developed the full implications of the struggle and do not yet understand its international character have mobilized around the Foster–Bittelman faction. The leaders of this faction exploit these proletarian tendencies for picayune factional aims and the struggle for organizational positions. They thus play the part of a shield for the opportunist adventurers who control the party. Their role is to restrain and confuse the proletarian tendency; to muddle up the issues and hold back the struggle into channels prescribed by the international Stalin regime; to prevent an understanding of the great world questions which are bound up with the conflict between the proletarian and the petty-bourgeois tendencies in our party.
This faction of inner-party opportunists, lacking firm principle, has a deep internal conflict between the impulse for struggle against the party regime, which comes from below, and the mood for capitulation in the top circles, and is constantly staggering back and forth between them. Their frequent and contradictory “statements” and “declarations” reflect this antagonism, from which the faction cannot escape and which it cannot reconcile. Their difficulties grow from day to day, and a collapse of the faction, foreshadowed by the Foster–Bittelman split, is by no means improbable at the party convention.
An attempt to continue the faction struggle after the convention will bring new blows from the Communist International and organizational persecution. The leading circles of the faction, strongly bureaucratized, stand in deadly fear of this, and they are preparing to capitulate and withdraw their thesis that the Lovestone–Pepper leadership constitutes the right wing and the main danger to the party. On the other hand the proletarian supporters of the faction demand a continuation of the struggle and will revolt against a capitulation, and move closer to the Opposition, which fights on a principled line.
The “politics” of the faction leaders consists of the search for an expedient formula to reconcile this conflict. But the whole situation excludes and prohibits such a reconciliation. In any case, further splits and disintegration of the faction which has based itself on temporary expediency are inevitable.
The Opposition is a nucleus of communists who have participated in the founding of the party and who have played a decisive and progressive part in all the work and struggles of the party since its inception. Most of them were active in the revolutionary movement for years before the party was organized. They constitute a group of comrades who have worked together on a common line for a longer time than any group that ever existed in the party.
The present Opposition was in the forefront of the party struggles against underground sectarianism. It formulated and fought in the front ranks for the correct trade union policy, for the legal party, and for the labor party. Four of the expelled communists – Cannon, Swabeck, Abern, and Edwards – were delegates to the Fourth Congress of the Communist International and led the successful fight there on these questions after a protracted struggle in the party. They were the first to take up the fight against the Federated Farmer-Labor Party and the adventurist politics connected with it in 1923. They were the organizers of the revolt against the Pepper regime and the movement which began then to form the proletarian tendency into a group. The present Opposition led the fight in 1925 against the narrow base of our trade union work and thereby helped the party to again break its isolation and get the miners’ mass movement under way. The Opposition as at present constituted has worked together as a unit for a consistent line of policy which has been in the main correct, and works today along the same line.
The decisive role of the present Opposition in the historic struggle against underground sectarianism and trade union “leftism” is in no way contradictory to our present stand. We see no more virtue in “left” radicalism now than we saw then, and we offer no ultraleft panaceas to the party. Our main fight now is on another front because the circumstances have placed the danger of centrism and opportunism in the foreground (although sectarianism, particularly on the trade union and labor party questions, is by no means liquidated).
The present struggle in our party and in the entire International is before all a struggle against opportunism and bureaucratic corruption, which are undermining them. The struggle against these deadly perils takes precedence over all others. The struggle facing the communist vanguard in all parties today is the struggle to preserve the Communist movement. This is the historic mission of the Opposition on an international scale. The task of the Opposition is to fight with all its power against the opportunist and bureaucratic degeneration of the party, without slipping onto the side track of sectarian isolation. This requires first of all firmness of principle and a realistic line of tactics based on fundamental principles.
This, the actual line of the Opposition, is perfectly clear to the Social Democrats as well as to those elements within the party who stand furthest to the right. The whole centrist group of the Workers’ Council, which joined the party as late as 1922, the opportunist trade union leaders in the needle trades, the entire bureaucracy of the Finnish section – all these have unanimously and enthusiastically denounced the Opposition. Those elements of the Finnish section in New York and Massachusetts who have come into conflict with the party regime on questions of the Finnish movement, have likewise rejected the platform of the Opposition. All these facts are known.
The attempt of the party leadership in its statement in the Daily Worker of February 15 to make the Opposition responsible for alleged combinations with reactionary and antiparty elements against the party (“The American Trotskyists, the renegade Cannon group, have now formed openly an alliance in the Finnish co-operatives with the fascists, with the white guardist followers of Mannerheim, the bloodhound of the Finnish proletariat, with the fakers of the Salvation Army and with the Social Democrats gathered around the Raavaij against the Workers (Communist) Party of America”) is a deliberate slander worthy only of the school which invented the infamous tale about the “Wrangel officer” and the Russian Opposition.
All tendencies to break away from the party to the right, to moderate the struggle against the Socialist Party, or to form an indiscriminate combination of opportunist and antiparty elements against the party have nothing in common with our views or aims. Our line is a principled line. We fight as a detachment of the International Leninist Opposition for the regeneration of the Communist movement in the struggle against opportunism from without as well as from within the party. While excluded from the party we carry on our revolutionary work in the class struggle on the basis of our platform.
The Stalin–Bukharin regime converts the faction struggle into a game of befuddling the party membership and pulling wires from Moscow. The Opposition in the American party, uniting with the line of the Russian Opposition, breaks through this disgraceful and corrupting game. It brings clarity into the party struggle and gives the proletarian tendency a firm guiding line. It elevates the struggle to an international principled basis, gives it a revolutionary content, and begins the education of the party in struggle for Leninist fundamentals on the great world questions of the period.
Our fight as a part of the International Opposition for the Leninist line on a world scale is at the same time a fight to preserve the Communist movement in America and to build it into a working-class power able to fulfill its great historic mission.
The present Opposition fought for the Russian revolution since 1917 and for the Communist International since the first day its banner was raised. Our fight today is a continuation on the same line and for the same basic principles.
We raise before the party convention the question of restoring the party membership of the expelled comrades of the Opposition on the basis of the foregoing statement of aims and views. We also propose to the convention that it take a stand for the reestablishment of the unity of the Communist International by calling for the reinstatement of the Russian and International Opposition, and for the immediate cessation of those measures which especially undermine the party and the proletarian dictatorship and strengthen the enemies of the working class – the arrests, exile, and banishment of the Russian Opposition.
The organization of the party, in the party units and in the trade union and language fractions, represents today a state of chaos and demoralization. The execution of the reorganization and the functioning of the party from top to bottom since that period have brought confusion, inaction, and indifference into the party ranks.
The basis of party organization today is the shop nucleus and the street nucleus (international branch). This is correct. The organization of street nuclei (international branches) where shop nuclei cannot be organized had as its purpose an accelerated political development and general activity on the part of all members. The former language branches formally were liquidated in order that the foreign-speaking member might be brought into the sphere of general American labor and political activity and party life, and get away from the narrow existence of his national grouping.
But what do we find actually? The street nuclei or international branches are for the most part non-functioning bodies in a political sense. Organizationally, there is the anomaly that three, four, or five street nuclei, with twenty or more members each on the record book, will meet in the same room or hall at the same hour, often mixing or combining their work (New York district). Presumably the street nucleus is organized on the territorial (living area) basis of the members. Generally throughout the party the street nuclei are formally organized in that manner. Actually the street nucleus (international branch) loosens this practice and membership becomes general regardless of residence. This, however, is not the main defect. The defects are so outstanding, and known to any member who wants to see, that it is but necessary to mention them in general outline form. The functions conducted by the street nuclei are mockeries of workingclass activity and political life. It is common practice that the party members at their unit meetings find themselves confronted with an orgy of ticket-selling, money-collecting, and similar technical activities, till they feel that they are petty salesmen and agents instead of active communists concerning themselves with the vital issues of the working class. Bureaucratism is rampant; the functions of political activity, discussion, and decision are usurped by the committees and officials.
It is necessary that the party organization be overhauled. Shop nuclei must be formed in such places where there are sufficient members working to make it possible for the nucleus to function actively (issuance of a shop paper, organization of the unorganized, etc.).
The street nuclei (international branches) must be constituted on a genuine territorial basis and have a membership of not less than twenty-five or more than fifty. The party shall emphasize the character of work of the nucleus. Namely, that the units shall concern themselves with political and labor problems (discussion and action on shop problems, trade union questions, parliamentary activity, strikes, etc.). All technical work, such as payment of dues, other financial collections, etc., shall be placed as a subsidiary part of the agenda and conducted at specific periods only, and in such a manner as in no way to interfere with the main tasks.
The general vitalization of party life for each member is essential. Each member must feel himself as a factor and contributor to the life and needs of the party. The practice of thinking and administering from above, without real consultation and participation by the membership, must give way to the opportunity for each member to contribute his ideas. Mere orders are not sufficient to produce healthy party life and participation in the class struggle. Thought from the membership is a prerequisite. The membership must have the opportunity through more frequent membership meetings (on a city or section scale, depending on the size of the membership) to take up the major issues and campaigns of the party in order that they may thoroughly understand the party’s objective and better be able to carry out its aims. The practice which has made the meetings of functionaries (officials) almost the main and the only medium of discussion must be liquidated. Such practices are breeding grounds for bureaucracy, for separation of the rank-and-file members from the officialdom, both high and low. More frequent membership meetings will make it possible for the rank-and-file worker to contribute his views and to check the functionary; at the same time the officials thereby can obtain a clearer picture of the actual views of the membership and the resources and capacities of the party, and the party work can thus be better carried out. All organizations, and the party organization too, tend to develop always a certain inertness and tradition that conservatize. These tendencies must be guarded against by a continuous reinvigoration from below.
The trade union fractions of the party, where they are not utterly liquidated, are lifeless, functioning usually only in time of union elections. In a large measure this is due to the virtual liquidation of the work in the existing trade unions and the wrong line being developed in the party in this respect. Functioning trade union fractions in every trade and industry, in each local union, district council, etc., are absolutely essential for the extension of party influence in the trade unions. Lifeless or nonfunctioning trade union fractions foster the development of a noncritical attitude toward the so-called progressives and leftwingers in the labor movement, of an easy-going opportunism and adaptability on the one hand and a completely “leftist” or sectarian attitude on the other. The latter tends to confine activity in the trade unions and among the unorganized to the Communists alone.
The trade union fractions must be organized and brought to life in the unions. The TUEL must become a genuine organization and not remain just a Communist body. The party center must put this work in the foreground, and work out also for each industry a concrete program around which and through which the fractions may be vitalized and become the real instruments of the trade union work.
The severe crisis in agriculture, with all its sharp consequences for the masses of poor farmers and farm wage workers, has not been entirely overcome by American capitalism. It has remained one of the chief sources of weakness in the armor of the American bourgeoisie, and a broad field for agitation and organization for the Communist movement which has not been taken advantage of except to an insignificant extent.
The party has indeed followed a consistently opportunist line in this field of work, having gone so far as to give virtual endorsement to the hypocritical McNary–Haugen Bill and other bourgeois “remedies.” It has further failed’ to separate the various strata of the agricultural population from each other, and has therefore not succeeded in approaching any of them properly. The farmers have been looked on “as a mass” solely as objects for maneuvering in farmer-labor party movements. It is necessary to change the course of the party in this respect.
The first step the party must take is to obtain contact with the agricultural wage workers, the proletarians on the farm. It is the primary duty of the party to carry on this work, and especially to have a correct approach to the syndicalist workers (the IWW), who have been the only organized force in this field up till now.
The ranks of the party must be open to only those farmers who accept the proletarian viewpoint on property. It must concentrate its chief efforts among the farmers, upon organizing the tenant and heavily mortgaged farmers, who feel the heavy oppression of the bankers, railroads, mill owners, and big farmers. A guarantee for the proper functioning of the movement of the poor farmers, that they will remain on the correct path of struggle instead of succumbing to the pressure of the big farmers, is that the proletarians and semiproletarians on the land shall have the preponderance of leadership in the movement.
The Negro tenant farmers, sharecroppers, and those who are slaving under a system of virtual peonage in the South, must receive the special attention of the party. It is possible to organize them: this has been demonstrated in the past by the fact that organizations of the Negro poor farmers have arisen spontaneously in the South. It is possible to unite them with the poor white farmers: this has also been demonstrated by past experiences even in the reactionary South, where, in Texas for example, strong organizations of Negro and white poor and tenant farmers existed and functioned for some time.
The situation in the Young Workers (Communist) League merits the deepest attention of the entire movement. The leadership and line of the league have merely been a miniature replica of the factional and corrupt party regime. The evils of the Lovestone–Pepper leadership in the party have appeared in an even more grotesque form in the Zam–Herberg (Lovestone) leadership in the league. Rampant factionalism, petty-bourgeois cynicism and super-sophistication, occupation with “high politics” are corrupting the league like so many diseases. The league has become nothing more nor less than a faction agency for the Lovestone regime. Instead of the league being in the forefront of the struggle against opportunism in the party, it is always ready to endorse it unconditionally.
In every struggle where splendid opportunities for growth were presented, the league failed signally to take advantage of them. In the face of the growing exploitation of the working youth and the possibilities for the development of struggle, the league has either lost membership or stood still. There is an increase in the mood of passivity among the league members, and the inner life of the league becomes constantly more barren and withered. The leadership of the league has been a dead hand on the organization.
A symbol of the situation is the fact that the founders of the Communist youth movement in this country, and its leadership at the period of its swiftest and healthiest development (Abern, Carlson, Edwards, Shachtman, etc.) have now been expelled. In their stead has been placed a leadership which cannot have the confidence of the mass of the membership or the young workers, which has brought only disintegration, factionalism, and degeneration into the league. Instead of helping to turn out this leadership and replace it with a sound proletarian core which alone is able to solve the difficulties with which the league is pressingly confronted, the Executive Committee of the Young Communist International has followed a course which has in actuality resulted in the entrenchment of the Zam-Lovestone leadership in the league. The same course has been followed by the party leadership in its relationship to the youth.
The league (and even the Pioneers!) is at present being mobilized against so-called Trotskyism, that is, against the fundamental tenets of Leninism. Instead of the Communist youth being permitted to develop freely their natural inclinations against opportunism and revisionism, they are herded into blind support for the liquidation of the basic teachings of Bolshevism. The main task of the league members is to fight relentlessly for the line of revolutionary principles now being defended by the Leninist Opposition. An additional prerequisite is the eradication of all corrupt, petty-bourgeois tendencies in the league, of opportunist following in the path of the party faction regime, of “smart-Aleckism,” cynicism, and playing with the working-class movement.
Last updated: 10.8.2012