James P. Cannon

Centrist-Right Wing Unity?

(May 1932)

Written: May 1932.
First Published: The Militant, Vol. V No. 19 (Whole No. 115), 7 May 1932, 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: Andrew Pollack.
Proofread: Einde O’Callaghan (June 2013).
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The party members who have taken the official fulminations against the Lovestoneite “renegades” in good faith may be somewhat surprised to learn about the secret unity negotiations between the party CEC and these same “renegades,” which have been going on now for some time. The letters printed on another page of this issue of the Militant from two sources give the essential facts about these negotiations.

Behind a barrage of official denunciation of the Lovestoneites on the one side, and accentuated protests against the “ultraleft course” on the other, the chiefs of the centrist and right-wing factions are calmly talking business together. This much is clearly established. Of course the party members, who – so to speak – have an interest in the matter, were neither consulted nor informed about the negotiations. It has been a long time since the bureaucrats of Stalinism found it necessary to take the Communist workers into their confidence or to seek their approval before an action.

There is nothing really surprising, from a political standpoint, in the fraternal conferences of the right-wing and centrist factions. Neither is there any principled barrier to an actual consummation of the unity between them, although this does not appear the most probable outcome at the moment. The theoretical premise of each of the opportunist factions is the same – the reactionary theory of socialism in one country.

Lovestone’s “exceptionalism” for the United States is only an American translation of Stalin’s exceptionalism for Russia. Revolutionary internationalism is a dead letter for both. Stalin doesn’t care a fig for the policy of the American party as long as its support for his regime in the Russian party is assured. Lovestone will vote for anything in Russia, China, Germany, and all the rest of the world as long as he can have the American part to play with. In this mutual accommodation of special interests there is the basis for a bargain. It happened before. Why can’t it happen again? Such are the real thoughts in the minds of the horse traders as they sit down quietly together to talk over terms.

Lovestone would prefer to wait for further developments in the American movement before taking any decisive steps one way or another. But he is not allowed to forget for a moment the fearful insecurity of his group’s position. He is shaking under the pressure of the discontent in his own ranks like the lid on a steaming kettle. The debacle of the right wing on an international scale could not fail to have powerful repercussions within the Lovestone group, which includes not a few workers devoted to communism. The reaction of these workers against the orientation toward Muste and the SP “Militants” convinced Lovestone that a decisive step in that direction could not be made without great internal difficulties. The shuttling back and forth between the left-reformist groups and the party – which characterizes the Lovestone politics – reflects the contradictions within the membership which have already resulted in numerous defections and small splits.

The Stalinists are not restrained from another deal with Lovestone and Company by scruples over principle, since they have no principles or, to put it more precisely and correctly, no principles of their own. Their entire equipment in this respect consists of ideas furnished to them by the right wing and those borrowed in snatches from the Left Opposition by the method of routine denunciation. In the trade union field, and especially in the strategically important sector of the needle trades, the Lovestoneites, feeding on the crude errors of the party and adapting themselves to the pseudoprogressive wing of the bureaucracy, have strengthened their position. The Stalinists, confronted with a collapse of their policy in the trade unions, are seeking a way out by means of maneuvers and deals. Why not a bargain with Lovestone, which includes, it must be remembered, Zimmerman?

Who is there to object to such a proposition in the leading circles of the party, and for what reason? Certainly not those who shared the responsibility for the whole perfidious course of Lovestone over a period of years and left him only at the last moment, under command of Stalin. A serious objection on principled grounds can hardly come from Foster, who, we are informed in a recent article by Minor, is now “the foremost leader of the party.” Foster believes in the “third period” trade union policy as much as we believe in reincarnation after death. Foster once proposed a bloc with Sigman. Why should he gulp over a bargain with Lovestone and Zimmerman?

The whole affair is a shocking revelation of the hollowness and futility of the official party campaign against the right wing. Those who were deceived by this “left turn” – which was calculated to disorient the proletarian elements in the party and arrest their development in the direction of the Left Opposition – may begin to come to life again and reexamine all that has transpired. There are signs of this.

A unity with the right wing – even though it takes the form of an organizational capitulation, as in Russia – will not be without a serious political effect. It is the method of Stalinism, which has no independent line and is incapable of formulating one, to appropriate, in whole or in part, the platform of opponents after their organizational defeat. The “defeat” of Bukharin and his retention in the party was followed by a swing to the right. Let the revolutionary workers in the party look out for such a “defeat” and “capitulation” of Lovestone and his group.

Last updated on: 16.6.2013