James P. Cannon

Amter Will Get Your Money Back?

(November 1931)

Written: November 1931.
First Published: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 30 (Whole No. 89), 7 November 1931, p. 4.
Source: Microfilm collection and original bound volumes for The Militant provided by the Holt Labor Library, San Francisco, California. Additional bound volumes from Earl Gilman’s collection, San Francisco, California.
Transcription\HTML Markup: D. Walters.
Proofread: Einde O’Callaghan (February 2013).
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The New York municipal election campaign of the Communist Party has not been without its funny side, even if the joke has been at the expense of communism. This was to be expected with Israel Amter as the head of the ticket. Amter is the candidate for borough president of Manhattan. If he is not elected it will not be because he did not try; not because he stopped short of extravagant promises. The revolutionary Marxists have always regarded elections as an opportunity for revolutionary propaganda. Amter has been demonstrating how they also can be utilized for the most vulgar reformist vote-catching. We are well enough acquainted with the typical American bourgeois politician, among whom the reformist Socialists can be included, who promise the voters anything and everything. It is a strange role for Communists, however, and not an edifying one.

The Daily Worker of October 27 reports the appearance of our candidate at a meeting of depositors of the U.S. Bank who are still whistling for their money. It was evidently an enthusiastic gathering. “A great ovation was given Amter when he was introduced,” says the report. And the jubilation of his hearers did not stop there. “Several times during his speech he was loudly applauded.”

If these cheers were for communism one could only be glad. But this, unfortunately, was not the case. The depositors had something far more immediate in mind when they shouted for the standard-bearer of the revolutionary party. They were simply excited at the prospect of the recovery of their lost deposits, and were hailing the man who dangled this prospect before them.

The report in the Daily Worker quotes Amter as saying: “The Communist Party pledges to you that if I be elected I'll use all my official power as borough president to organize all the 400,000 workers and small depositors for a militant fight to get their money back.” Such are the campaign arguments of Stalinist Communism.

With all due respect to the intentions of the candidate, we do not think he could make good on this promise even if he is elected borough president. We go further and say such promises should not be made by a Communist in any case. It would be far better and certainly far more in keeping with the elementary conceptions of communism to explain to the depositors that the expropriation of small owners by bank swindles is just as much a part of the capitalist system as their ruin by competition, and that salvation lies in the revolutionary overthrow of the regime and not in the promises of a city official to halt its normal processes and restore that which existed yesterday.

Communism is the doctrine of the socialization of property, including the banks. The small proprietor, engrossed with his little store, his little farm, or his little bank deposit, is not a communist. He can become one only insofar as he comprehends the hopelessness of the contest with centralized capital and adopts the property viewpoint of the proletariat. Communist propaganda among the members of these doomed classes should emphasize this idea all the time. Such events as the bank failure create favorable opportunities for its reception. Therein lies their chief value to the revolutionists.

The Stalinists, who stand everything on its head, have not made an exception of this question. In their frenzied endeavors to mobilize the petty bourgeoisie for the election they do not stop at holding out to the small owner the illusion of security in his possessions. They even promise to restore that which has already been taken away. And this, mind you, under the existing capitalist regime, in which the progressive expropriation of the small owners and the small producer proceeds by a law of the system itself. By such methods the petty-bourgeois masses will not be won over to communism, but the party itself will be dragged into the petty-bourgeois swamp.

Last updated on: 9.2.2013