Philip Coben

Books in Review

Their Morals and Ours

(October 1948)

From The New International, Vol. XIV No. 8, October 1948, pp. 255–256.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

American Communism
by James Oneal and G.A. Werner
Dutton, New York, new rev. ed., 1947.

Frankly, I am not interested in reviewing this book as a whole but only in calling attention to one chapter of it. The book, by a leading light of the Social-Democratic Federation who was for long the editor of the New Leader, is one prolonged social-democratic scream of anguish at the bad Bolsheviki who split the nice Socialist Party in 1919, and now look at them! Its value even for rock-bottom facts will also be evident.

One of the new chapters added to this revised edition of Oneal’s old diatribe is Chapter 14 on Trotskyism in America. Oneal’s almost psychopathic hatred of any form of revolutionary Marxism is well enough known – or was when I was in the SP in the ’30s – and need not give pause; nor is it worth discussing. What is remarkable about the chapter is the fact that this social-democratic exponent of Honesty, Morality and Truth has put together a harangue on Trotskyism which is (literally!) rivaled only by the Stalinist garbage on the subject for unmitigated ignorance, outright falsification and slander taken right out of the CP’s incinerator.

The information that Trotsky’s son was named “Gedov” and Stalin’s name is “Dzkugashvili” might be passed over as typo bloopers for Sedov and Djugashvili; but we are also told that “In his threefold capacity as Chairman of the Russian Communist Party, head of the Soviet State, and Executive Secretary of the Third International, Lenin wielded dictatorial power ...” (Lenin, of course, never held any but the second of these posts.) Oneal: “Trotsky did not accept his defeat with good grace. He retreated, ‘for his health,’ to a village in Turkestan, Alma Ata ...” (One would imagine that even an ignoramus could find out that Trotsky was exiled by Stalin and did not “retreat for his health.”) Oneal: “His [Trotsky’s] oratory [at Brest-Litovsk] attracted the attention of the world but had very little effect on Germany.” Oneal: “The Kerensky Revolution occurred in 1917 ...” (There wasn’t any Kerensky Revolution; Kerensky became head of the provisional government only after the March revolution.)

On page 240 the doddering author has a more or less accurate sentence about how the Trotskyists were expelled from the American CP but “decided to remain in the party and organized themselves into a left-wing opposition known as the Communist League of America.” In writing the very next page, however, he apparently fished out a note from a different wastebasket; for we find that these same people at the same time “decided to form an independent party,” “on the advice of Comrade Trotsky,” and not even because they had been expelled but because they “were convinced that the Communist Party would not follow the ‘Marxian’ principles as outlined in the Trotsky program.”

So much for examples of plain ignorance, which is moreover the democratic right of every writer on Bolshevism. When Oneal canters on to the Moscow Trials, we get a horse of a different smell. Contrary even to the wont of his social-democratic colleagues, the reader will not find him charging the Stalinists with a frame-up – no sir, not when it’s Trotsky who is framed up: “Trotsky was at that time in exile in Mexico, but his enemies, the Stalinists, feared that he was directing a world-wide conspiracy against the Soviet Union.”

Did they indeed “fear” this so much that they invented all the details of the conspiracy themselves? Oneal won’t say; he quotes the GPU’s accusations, gives a bit of the floor to the Dewey investigating commission, and winds up:

“Dr. Dewey was laboring under the illusion that if American labor ‘knew the truth, the truth would make them free’.”

Such cynicism, Mr. Social-Democrat!

The smell, however, becomes overpowering in the following precious passage. If something of this sort were perpetrated by a Marxist against one of Oneal’s highly moral social-democrats, it would undoubtedly reverberate down the pages of the New Leader as a stock example of Bolshevik dishonesty. These are Oneal’s actual words:

“In the labor movement they [the Trotskyists] have gained a name for themselves as the ‘Trotskyite Fifth Column,’ especially among their ‘friends,’ the Stalinites. George Morris, a Communist, exposed their activities in the labor unions, as well as their anti-government activities during the Second World War, in a pamphlet published by the New Century Publishers [CP press – P.C.], 1945.”

This pamphlet by the Stalinist hack Morris, entitled The Trotskyite 5th Column in the Labor Movement, which is also openly and brazenly cited as the source of other “facts” by our rabidly anti-Bolshevik author (even though he cannot even quote its title correctly), is a real curiosity for the collector. The leading “Trotskyite” lambasted in this typical piece of Stalinist filth is – Tucker Smith, the present vice-presidential candidate of the Socialist Party! Indeed, he is honored with a special appendix of three pages quoting an “exposé” of his Trotskyite wrecking activities by no less an authority than Dan Tobin’s executive assistant. Two other “Trotskyites” exposed are Oneal’s friends, Max Eastman and Alexander Barmine. Outside of the Minneapolis Trial defendants, there is not another “Trotskyite fifth-columnist” named in the pamphlet!

Such is the “job” done on the Trotskyists by one of the leading figures of that group which specializes in deducing the ills of the world from the detestably dishonest habits of Leninism and Leninists. No, we do not claim to be “the only moral people” in politics but ... honestly, there aren’t very many others!

Last updated on 2 August 2018