Editorial Notes

Communism and Syndicalism

(April 1931)

Written: April 1931.
First Published: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 8, 15 April 1931, p. 2.
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The new pamphlet, Communism and Syndicalism, seems to have hit its mark. It has already gained a fairly wide distribution and has enriched the life of the radical labor movement with a fresh and animated discussion of fundamental questions of principle. Industrial Solidarity, the official organ of the I.W.W., devotes four columns in its April issue to a review of the pamphlet. And this fact alone bears eloquent testimony to the profound interest which comrade Trotsky’s masterful presentation of the Marxist position on the trade union question has aroused within the ranks of the syndicalistic workers.

The Stalin faction in charge of the official party has been attempting to settle the dispute between syndicalism and Communism in the gutter of gang fights. In this they have only succeeded in compromising Communism and playing the game of the reactionary elements at the head of the I.W.W., whose position depends on an atmosphere of confusion, prejudice and unreasoning hostility. The publication of the new pamphlet has served to elevate the question again to the level of ideological struggle, – the plane upon which Marx fought Bakunin, and Lenin fought the Economists. The Opposition demonstrates in this question also that it is the real heir of the great teachers.

The unsigned review in Industrial Solidarity is written in the spirit of the editor, John Gahan – a petty-bourgeois phrase-monger of the Sandgren stripe – and that is to say it is written from a reactionary standpoint. It begins, in the heading, with a reference to Trotsky as the “author of the Kronstadt massacre” and implies thereby a solidarity with the ill-fated attempt at counter-revolutionary overthrow engineered in 1921 through the medium of the Kronstadt sailors. And this implication goes over to direct expression of the idea in the statement, “the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, which is an instrument of oppression.”

The reviewer protests against our reference, in the introduction to the pamphlet, to the “denegeration” which has taken place in the leading circles of the I.W.W. since the war. But how could degeneration, from a proletarian and revolutionary point of view, be more forcibly expressed and demonstrated than by such an attitude toward the Russian revolution? Of the two great camps into which the world was divided, and remains divided, by the Bolshevik revolution – those who are for it and those who are against it – the reviewer takes his place with the latter. And it is not simply a question of “some other country” in which narrow-minded philistines profess a lack of interest. We have here only an advance notice of how the logic of false conception will work out at home. It should not be lost on those who still retain the idea of a workers’ revolution in America.

The outspoken opponents of Communism and the Stalinist bureaucrats who distort its meaning and soil its banner have some things in common, despite the noisy and indecent brawl which passes for the “intellectual” struggle between them. Gahan and Co. agree with Foster, Inc. that a club over the skull is more effective than an idea directed to the brain. And in this review they take another leaf from the Foster book and allow themselves just a little misrepresentation. They accuse the writer of the introduction to Communism and Syndicalism of saying, “The party is the unified minority group of intellectuals to guide, advise and lead the trade unions.” No, we never said that because we don’t think that. We believe with Marx and Lenin that the party is the vanguard of the proletariat, the organization of the class-conscious and revolutionary workingmen.

We do not think of the party as a special body of “intellectuals”. This idea is falsely imputed to us by the pseudo-intellectuals of anarcho-syndicalism. The whole argument against a proletarian party rests on this shaky foundation. Misrepresentation of the issue and an appeal to prejudice are the sole weapons of the bankrupt leaders of reactionary syndicalism, of Gahan and similars.

It is a miserable armament and cannot stand a real contest. What is needed for such a contest is simply an able presentation of the Marxist position. Comrade Trotsky has made this presentation, from all sides and with incomparable clarity and logic, in his pamphlet, Communism and Syndicalism. It will make its way.

Last updated on: 14.12.2012