IN THE preceding chapters we have seen that world capitalism, of which American capitalism is an integral part, sinks deeper and deeper into general crisis, with consequent widespread impoverishment of the masses, development of the menacing danger of imperialist war, and growth of a world-wide revolutionary upsurge by the exploited masses of toilers. We have seen, further, that every effort of the world bourgeoisie to halt or reverse these conditions only results, in the long run, in their intensification. Special measures to ease the present economic cyclical crisis—inflation, international moratoriums, State budget reductions, etc.—cannot permanently cure the basic general crisis of capitalism. This general crisis, with each recurring cyclical crisis, deepens and spreads.
In revolutionary contrast, we have seen the striking success of Socialism in the Soviet Union. There the workers and farmers have overthrown capitalism and established the dictatorship of the proletariat; they have found the solution to the economic, political and social contradictions which are undermining the capitalist world. As the capitalist system internationally sinks deeper and deeper into crisis, the Socialist system in the U.S.S.R. achieves an even faster rate of progress to higher stages of well-being and culture for the masses.
The implications of all this are clear: to escape the encroaching capitalist starvation and to emancipate themselves, the workers of the world, including those in this country, must and will take the revolutionary way out of the crisis. That is, they will carry out a militant policy now in defense of their daily interests and, finally, following the example of the Russian workers, they will abolish capitalism and establish Socialism.
BY THE term “abolition” of capitalism we mean its overthrow in open struggle by the toiling masses, led by the proletariat. Although the world capitalist system constantly plunges deeper into crisis we cannot therefore conclude that it will collapse of its own weight. On the contrary, as Lenin has stated, no matter how difficult the capitalist crisis becomes, “there is no complete absence of a way out” for the bourgeoisie until it faces the revolutionary proletariat in arms.
For the capitalists the way out of the crisis is by forcing great masses of unemployed into semistarvation, driving down the wage levels of the employed, waging desperate imperialist war, and instituting a regime of Fascist terrorism. This is the way the whole capitalist world development goes. For the workers, the capitalist way out means deeper enslavement and poverty than ever.
The capitalists will never voluntarily give up control of society and abdicate their system of exploiting the masses. Regardless of the devastating effects of their decaying capitalism; let there be famine, war, pestilence, terrorism, they will hang on to their wealth and power until it is snatched from their hands by the revolutionary proletariat.
The capitalists will not give up of their own accord; nor can they be talked, bought or voted out of power. To believe otherwise would be a deadly fatalism, disarming and paralyzing the workers in their struggle. No ruling class ever surrendered to a rising subject class without a last ditch open fight. To put an end to the capitalist system will require a consciously revolutionary act by the great toiling masses, led by the Communist party; that is, the conquest of the State power, the destruction of the State machine created by the ruling class, and the organization of the proletarian dictatorship. The lessons of history allow of no other conclusion.
It is the historical task of the proletariat to put a last end to war. Nevertheless, the working class cannot itself come into power without civil war. This is not due to the choice of the toilers; it is because the ruling class will never permit itself to be ousted without such a fight. “Force,” says Marx, “is the midwife of every old society when it is pregnant with the new one; force is the instrument and the means by which social movements hack their way through and break up the fossilized political forms.” The Program of the Communist International thus puts the matter:
“The conquest of power by the proletariat does not mean peacefully ‘capturing’ the ready-made bourgeois State machinery by means of a parliamentary majority. The bourgeoisie resort to every means of violence and terror to safeguard and strengthen its predatory property and its political domination. Like the feudal nobility of the past, the bourgeoisie cannot abandon its historical position to the new class without a desperate and frantic struggle.”
The Social Fascists make a great parade of their theory of the “gradual” evolution of capitalism into Socialism through a process of peaceful parliamentarism. Thus Mr. Hilquit, the millionaire leader of the Socialist party says: “In the more democratic countries, especially those in which the Socialist and labor movements constitute important political and social factors, the necessary transitional reforms, or at least a large part of them, may be gradually conquered through the direct control by the proletariat of important organs of the State, such as municipalities or legislatures, or through the indirect influence of the growing labor movement.”1 Mr. Hillquit, like Social Fascists generally, goes on to say that the present imperialist government is actually the “Socialist transitional State, although it would be impossible for us to say just when we entered it.”
We have seen in the previous chapter just what this “gradualness” theory of the Social Fascists means in practice—simply the creation of a united front with the capitalists to throw the burden of the crisis upon the workers, to try desperately to save the capitalist system and to crush back the revolution. Nor does the future hold any better perspective for this theory so far as the workers are concerned. Nowhere in the experience of the world class struggle can any justification be found for the conception that the capitalists have permitted or ever will permit themselves to be shifted from their ruling position without an open struggle. On the contrary, the evidence is entirely in the other direction. The capitalist class always brutally uses its armed forces against rebellious workers, meanwhile throwing its democracy and parliamentarism into the waste-basket.
What the capitalist class does when it is in a revolutionary situation is conclusively shown by the experience in Italy. In 1920 the Italian capitalists found themselves confronting a revolutionary crisis. Hence, they made no delay in scrapping their whole parliamentary system, adopting a program of Fascist violence and proceeding with fire and sword against the working class, previously betrayed and demoralized by the Socialist party. Workers and peasants were murdered and a reign of terror instituted on every front. Parliamentary representatives were expelled or assassinated, unions and cooperatives broken up, etc. Who but a political illiterate or a plain betrayer of the working class can assert that these Italian Fascist capitalist bandits can ever be voted out of power?
The situation in Germany teaches the same lessons. The German bourgeoisie, fearing the revolution, are developing Fascism to drown it in blood. The Reichstag is only a democratic sham to hide the almost naked Fascist dictatorship. In England, although the crisis is not so far developed, Fascist trends are beginning to be seen. The English bourgeoisie, like the German, French, and others, will not surrender without the bitterest war against the proletariat. Or perhaps India and China present valid examples of how the toiling masses can achieve their emancipation without struggle? Chang Kai Shek would be especially responsive, mayhap, to parliamentary action by the workers and peasants?
But the history of the American capitalist class offers ample evidence that the toilers can defeat the ruling class only in an open struggle. The American bourgeois revolution of 1776, even as the Russian Bolshevik revolution of 1917, was carried through on the basis of armed struggle. This fact the patriotic ladies of the D.A.R., fearful of the “bad” example set to the rising proletariat, would like to forget. “American history gives us another example of the same principle when, by the election of Lincoln, the overwhelming majority voted out of power in the United States government the southern slave holders, these slave holders took up arms to maintain their particular system of exploitation against the will of the majority.”2
Nor has the American capitalist class ever hesitated to use violence against the toilers whenever its smallest interests were involved. Have we not seen that time and again when workers have struck against actual starvation conditions they have had to face troops, as well as armies of police, gunmen, etc.? Ludlow, Paint and Cabin creeks in West Virginia, Gastonia, Kentucky, and innumerable other examples of the use of armed force tell their own story. If the capitalists of this country pass so quickly to the use of violence against the workers when the latter are fighting for the simplest economic demands, what will they do when they face a revolutionary situation in which their whole system is at stake? To ask the question is to answer it.
In view of the universal lessons to the contrary, it is a crime to teach the workers that they can defeat such a ruthless capitalist class without open struggle. The Social Fascist theory that the economic and political contradictions of capitalism, will of themselves, by a gradual democratization of the State, bring about the automatic, peaceful, and painless transformation of capitalism into Socialism paralyzes the struggle of the workers and facilitates the rule of the bourgeoisie. The social Fascists, with the help of the Trotzkyist, Max Eastman,3 vainly try to distort Marx in support of their theory.
This Social Fascist theory of “gradualness” is the most insidious that the workers have to deal with. But there are many others, if less important, that tend in a similar direction. Among these are the “folded-arm” general strike conception of the Syndicalists; the sectarian scholasticism of the Socialist Labor party and the Proletarian party; the petty bourgeois Anarchist theories of individual violence;4 Gandhi’s non-cooperation, non-violence program; the capitalistic Utopias of Carver, Gillette and others for the workers directly to buy out the capitalist industries (expressed in their books respectively, The Present Economic Revolution in the United States and The People’s Corporation); the fatalism of Veblen who, in The Price System and the Engineers, maintains that capitalism will eventually, through the working of its inner contradictions, get into such a chronic and devastating crisis that in desperation society will spontaneously call upon the engineers to take over the operation of the industries and the government.
The question of the revolution is not merely one of a ripe objective situation. Such is, of course, a first requisite for the revolution. But the subjective factor is no less decisive. Capitalism will not grow into Socialism. The great masses of toilers must be in a revolutionary mood; they must have the necessary organization and revolutionary program; they must smash capitalism. This all means that they must be under the general leadership of the only revolutionary party, the Communist party. The real measure of a revolutionary situation in any given country is the strength of the Communist party.
Capitalism established itself as a world system by force. It defeated feudalism and laid the basis of its own power in a whole series of revolutionary civil wars in England, the United States, France, etc. Moreover, it has lived by violence, its regime being marked by the most terrible exploitation and devastating wars in human history. And capitalism will die sword in hand, fighting in vain to beat back the oncoming revolutionary proletariat.
Now LET us see if there are enough latent revolutionary forces in the United States to carry through the revolution, and what progress has been made in organizing them. In Chapter I we have seen how deep is the impoverishment of the toiling masses of workers and farmers and how tremendously this is being intensified by the economic crisis. We must, therefore, examine how extensive these impoverished classes are; see, in fact, who owns America, and who has a stake in the revolution.
The Labor Fact Book, basing its conclusions upon the report of the Federal Trade Commission, says, “The richest 1% of the population in the United States owns at least 59% of the wealth; the petty capitalists, (12%), own at least 31% of the wealth; and the great mass of industrial workers, working farmers, and small shop keepers, or 87% of the population, own barely 10%.” These figures, constantly developing more favorably for the rich and spelling deepening exploitation, poverty and misery for the poor, show graphically enough who has a real stake in the country and who has not.
The choicest “flowers” of American capitalism are such multi-billionaires as the House of Morgan, which controls corporations worth $74,000,000,000, including innumerable railroads, banks, insurance companies, auto plants, steel mills, etc.; the Rockefellers with their billions in oil, chemicals, railroads, banks, etc.; the Mellon family, whose wealth control is estimated by W. P. Beazell, in the current World’s Work, at eight billion dollars; the great Ford fortune, etc. “In 1929, 504 millionaires had incomes of $1,185,100,000, or more than the selling price of all American wheat and cotton in 1930.”5
It is among the great masses of the 87% who own only 10% of the national wealth that the revolution will find a sufficiency of forces to overthrow capitalism. Capitalism in this country will learn to its undoing that the producing masses will not tolerate a condition where they are forced to work and starve while the great wealth they produce flows automatically, by the operation of the capitalist system, to still further swell the fortunes of a handful of wealthy social parasites. “Wars and panics on the stock exchange; machine gunfire and arson; starvation, lice, cholera and typhus; good growing weather for the House of Morgan,” says John Dos Passos, in his book, 1919, and the same can be said for capitalists generally. The statistics of the distribution of wealth in the United States and the general worsening of the toilers’ standards are figures and conditions that speak in terms of eventual revolution.
In analyzing the potentially revolutionary forces the first group to be considered are the workers. They are the very heart of the revolutionary movement and lead it in all its stages. Including the agricultural wage workers, the total number of wage and salaried workers in the United States is about 35,000,000, out of a total of approximately 43,000,000 “gainfully employed.” With their families they constitute at least 70% of the total population of this country. Overwhelmingly they are low-paid unskilled and semi-skilled workers who are manifestly being radicalized rapidly under pressure of worsening conditions. The so-called skilled workers, although somewhat better off than the rest, are losing their privileged position. Unemployment, wage-cuts, etc., are also radicalizing these skilled workers, whose position in industry has steadily become less strategic through specialization, mechanization, etc. Their aristocratic isolation from the rest of the workers is being broken down; the crisis is unifying the working class. The most conservative sections of the working class are the office workers, who comprise about 10% of the whole. But here again, rapidly worsening conditions are having their inevitable results. Although in the first phases of the crisis these white collar elements offer a recruiting ground for Fascism, eventually, as events in Germany show, their trend is, in the main, in the direction that the working class travels.
Next to the workers in revolutionary importance are the poor farmers. Although not wage workers themselves, the poor farmers play a decisive revolutionary role in all countries as the allies of the proletariat. Especially important are they in the United States where agriculture occupies such a large position in the national economy. The estimated farm population on Jan. 1, 1931, was 27,430,000, a decline of 4,500,000 since 1910. The great masses are poor and getting poorer. The income of the whole group, including the richer farmers, amounts only to about 10% of the total national income of all classes in the United States, although the farmers comprise about 22% of the entire population. Capitalism has nothing to offer the poor farmer except more and more pauperization. An official of the Federal Reserve Bank, quoted in Current History, Mar., 1932, brutally states this as follows: “Our farmers should stop buying radios and Ford cars and live like peasants.” Talk about collectivization of the farms under capitalism is Utopian; this can take place only under a Soviet system. The way to the big farm under capitalism is by the starvation and expropriation of the small farmers, which goes ahead ever faster. Mr. Pitkin is wrong when he declares in The Forum, Aug., 1931, that “The American farmer must go the way of the coolie or the corporation.” He will go neither way, but to Socialism. The American small farmer will play a vital role in the developing Communist movement in the United States.
The Negroes also constitute a great potentially revolutionary force. Comprising about 12,000,000, they are the poorest of the poor. They are made up of the most impoverished farmers, the lowest paid workers in the industries and in domestic service. They are the most bitterly exploited and persecuted element of the whole population. There is no section which has to confront such terrible economic, political, and social conditions. At his every turn the Negro faces a system of the rankest discrimination and exploitation. His outrageous position in society is a blazing indictment and exposure of the sham American capitalist democracy.
In industry the Negro is forced to take the hardest, dirtiest work for the lowest wages; he is denied access to the skilled trades; he is the last to be hired and the first to be fired during industrial crises; when unemployment relief is distributed he is shamelessly discriminated against. As an agricultural worker and share-crop farmer in the South, he is subjected to an almost chattel slavery exploitation and terrorism from landlords, bankers, etc. In his political life he is disfranchised; he is denied the right to hold office and to vote; he is refused the right of trial by jury; he is savagely lynched by mobs of whites, led by business men and landlords, and the State condones these shocking murders; in court his word counts for nothing against a white man’s; when convicted, he receives sentences two or three times as severe as white men get for similar offenses. Socially the Negro is ostracized. Not only in the South but also in the North. He is systematically Jim-Crowed in hotels, restaurants, theatres, etc.; he is denied the right to an education; he is made to live in the most unsanitary sections of towns; his women-folk are the object of unpunished insult and assault from the whites.
The capitalists try to keep the Negroes isolated by cultivating race prejudice among the white workers; but this cannot permanently succeed. The white workers will learn that only in the most complete solidarity with the Negro masses can they make headway in defending their interests. The Negro masses will make the very best fighters for the revolution. The manner in which they are turning to the Communist party for organization and leadership constitutes one of the most important political facts in American life. The Negro petty bourgeois leaders are non-plussed by it. In a symposium of 17 non-Communist Negro editors in The Crisis, (April, 1932), a Social Fascist journal, on the issue of Communism among the Negroes, W. M. Kelly declares: “the wonder is not that the Negro is beginning, at least, to think along Communistic lines, but that he did not embrace that doctrine en masse long ago.”
The revolution will not fail to recruit many supporters also from the ranks of the lesser city petty bourgeoisie. The advance of capitalism inevitably crushes down into the proletariat great masses of the small tradesmen, petty manufacturers, professionals, intellectuals, etc., that make up this big class. The steady progress of trustified capital in industry has long since broken the backbone of the petty bourgeoisie in this field, and now the chain store is ruthlessly invading its greatest stronghold, retail trade. According to Ray B. Westerfield in Current History, (Dec., 1931), there were in 1930 in the United States 7837 chains of stores with 198,145 units, and the movement is growing like wildfire. This wholesale ruin of the petty bourgeoisie, brought about by the normal development of capitalism, is hastened by the industrial crisis, during which the process of the concentration of capital proceeds faster than ever. Large masses of the petty bourgeoisie are being impoverished. These elements are the natural recruiting ground for Fascism, but the Communist party does not surrender them to the Fascists. Experience, especially in Germany, where the expropriation, proletarianization and even pauperization of the petty bourgeoisie has developed to unprecedented degree, shows that great numbers of these people logically become convinced that capitalism holds no hope for them and that only in Communism is there a prospect for life and happiness. The recent significant mass protest against the proposed Federal sales tax was principally a movement of the discontented petty bourgeoisie.
Especially is there a trend among the petty bourgeois intellectuals towards Communism. This is shown by the many prominent writers in Europe and the United States who in the past few years have declared for Communism. In the past period American imperialism provided a good living for the intellectuals and professionals generally. Those already carrying on their active work had easy pickings; those who were graduating from the innumerable colleges and universities found soft berths awaiting them. So the American intelligentsia, almost unanimously, united in a hymn of hundred percentism. But the capitalist crisis has changed all this. Many intellectuals and professionals now find their means of making a livelihood either wiped out or drastically curtailed, with consequent heavy drops in their standards of living. “A short time ago,” says The Nation, (Mar. 3, 1932), “it was revealed that 45 members of the Detroit Bar Association were on-the-welfare—recipients of municipal charity.” It is such conditions of keen competition, inferior remuneration and actual unemployment that the budding intellectuals still in the schools and colleges have to face. It is not surprising, therefore, that currents of radicalism begin to develop among intellectuals generally. Of this the recent student strike at Columbia University was an example. Even the intellectuals are being compelled to think. At first, in this discontent there may be strong Fascist or semi-Fascist currents, but eventually much of it will develop in the direction of the revolution and Communism.
In measuring the potential forces for and against the revolution, naturally the question of the role to be played by the army and navy is one of fundamental importance; for, in the final showdown, it is upon them that the bourgeoisie relies to maintain its control. If it loses the armed forces, then all is lost. Here, certainly, the revolution will recruit powerful forces, with fatal effects to capitalism. The armed forces are not impervious to Communism simply because they have patriotic propaganda dinned into their ears and are subjected to a rigid discipline. The great bulk of these forces originate in proletarian or farmer families and they eventually respond to the sufferings and miseries of their close relatives. Especially is all this true of conscript armies. Besides, they have their own deep grievances in the service. Experience teaches that such workerpeasant forces are very unreliable for the bourgeoisie. This was exemplified by the armies of the Czar and the Kaiser in the Russian and German revolutionary situations. It was only a few months ago that the capitalists of the world got a shiver of fright and a foretaste of the future by the revolts in the British and Chilean navies.
Within these great blocs of the population—the workers, farmers, Negroes, lesser city petty bourgeoisie—there are sufficient potential revolutionary forces to put an end to capitalism. They constitute the overwhelming majority of the people. And the deepening capitalist crisis will revolutionize them. The objective that the Communist party aims at in the mobilization of these forces is the winning of the majority of the working class. With a majority of the workers, which in a revolutionary situation would necessarily carry along with it large numbers of the other revolutionary elements, the Party would be within striking distance of the revolution.
But, of course, the American Communist party is only making a beginning in the accomplishment of this great task. Formed in 1919 by a split-off of the left wing of the Socialist party, it is now laying its foundations among the workers. Although the Party is still lagging very much behind the objective possibilities and has by no means mobilized the masses who are ripe for its leadership, it is, nevertheless, substantially increasing its membership and influence in all the key industries and localities. The actual strength of the Communist movement in the United States is not something that can be accurately stated in just so many figures. It has to be measured largely by the gen230 eral mass influence of the Party and its program.
The membership of the Communist party is approximately 15,000. To this should be added 5,000 members in the Young Communist League. These figures represent the number of dues-payers, the body of Communists who are thoroughly conscious of the necessity of maintaining a permanent, disciplined Party. But the influence of the Party stretches far and wide beyond the limits of its actual membership. Thus the nine daily papers of the Party have a combined circulation of about 200,000. Besides this there are 20 weekly, semimonthly, and monthly papers with about 100,000 circulation. This is the Party press proper. In addition, there are a large number of weekly and monthly papers in the revolutionary unions, defense, relief, fraternal and other organizations, with at least another 100,000 circulation.
In the 1928 elections, with the Party on the ballot in 34 states, it polled 48,770 votes. In the “off-year,” 1930, in 18 states it polled 82,651. The Fish committee, in its report, with great alarm pointed out that there was an increase of 229% in 16 states. In the 1931 elections considerable increases were scored in many localities, two Communist councilmen being elected in Ohio and four in Minnesota. Doubtless, the 1932 national elections will register a large increase in the Party vote. But elections, for a number of reasons, are not an exact register of the Party strength. For one thing, large numbers of the poorer-paid workers, to whom naturally the Party makes the strongest appeal, are disfranchised because of shifts of residence, through unemployment, through tax delinquencies and foreign birth. Also, in a great many cases Communist votes are scornfully ignored by the usual ultra-reactionary election machines and are not counted. Moreover, in the ranks of revolutionary workers there are many who underestimate the great importance of voting in the elections.
The real power of the Party is seen in the mass movements which it initiates itself, or which, initiated by other revolutionary organizations, it gives its full support. The biggest of these are the movements of the unemployed. In the March 6th, 1930, national demonstration for unemployment insurance no less than 1,250,000 workers participated throughout the country. This huge outpouring was followed in the ensuing months by many large local demonstrations, state hunger marches, etc. A demand upon the federal government in 1930 for the adoption of the Workers’ Unemployment Insurance Bill contained approximately 1,000,000 individual and collective endorsements. The big National Hunger March of December, 1931, put in motion during the many hundreds of local demonstrations held in connection therewith, at least 1,000,000 workers. The unemployed councils, organized under the National Committee of the Unemployed Councils and made up of workers of all political opinions, number at least 75,000 members.
The Communist party also exerts a wide and growing influence in the trade union field. Its main support is given to the building of the revolutionary unions of the Trade Union Unity League. It also lays great stress upon the formation of revolutionary minorities and movements inside the A.F. of L. unions. During the past several years the revolutionary unions and minorities have conducted a number of large mass struggles. Among these were the New York cloak (35,000) and fur (12,000) strikes in 1926-7, and the Passaic textile strike (15,000) during the same period. In the United Mine Workers of America, in 1926, the left wing candidate polled 101,000 votes, or an actual majority, but was robbed of the election by the corrupt Lewis machine. In the big U.M.W.A. strike of 1927-8 at least 100,000 miners followed the lead of the left wing. The important strike of the Gastonia textile workers in 1929 was conducted by the revolutionary National Textile Workers Union. In Lawrence, in Feb., 1931, the N.T.W.U. led a short strike of 10,000. It has since led a dozen smaller strikes in many New England textile towns and played a big role in the strikes later in the year in Paterson and Lawrence. During the Spring and Summer of 1931 the National Miners Union of the TUUL conducted a strike of 40,000 miners for three months in Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio and Northern West Virginia. At present it is leading the heroic strike of the Kentucky miners. The foregoing are some of the larger struggles of the revolutionary union forces. The total membership of the unions of the TUUL is approximately 40,000, the minorities in the trade unions, less definitely organized, are double or triple that number. In the case of the TUUL unions and minorities, as with all the revolutionary organizations, their influence over the masses extends far beyond the borders of their actual membership.
Among the Negro masses the Communist party is developing a wide following. In the unemployment campaigns, especially in Chicago and Cleveland, many thousands of Negroes militantly participated. In the 1931, N.M.U. mine strike more than 6,000 of the strikers were Negroes. The Party leads the fight to defend the nine Scottsboro boys, whom the Southern capitalists are trying to legally lynch. It is estimated that no less than 1,000,000, a large percentage of whom were Negroes, took part in the innumerable mass meetings in which this case played a central role. The Negro membership of the Party and the Party’s influence among the Negro masses are rapidly on the increase.
The Communist party also conducts movements and supports revolutionary organizations in many other mass activities and struggles. It is a strong and leading factor in the fight for the release of political prisoners, including Mooney and Billings, the Kentucky miners, the Centralia and Imperial Valley prisoners, etc. It has organized great demonstrations against imperialist war. Among the farmers, the Party carries on considerable work and is gradually laying the basis for a mass organization.
The foregoing facts and figures give at least a general idea of the strength of the Communist party at the present stage of the development of the class struggle in the United States. While they indicate that the Party has only made a start at the mobilization of the potentially revolutionary forces in the United States, they, at the same time, sum up into a picture of a Party gradually entrenching itself among the masses, especially the most exploited sections, and slowly building youthful bone and muscle in preparation for the gigantic revolutionary work that lies ahead.
THE COMMUNIST PARTY is the only Party that represents the interests of these toiling masses of workers, farmers, Negroes, lower city petty bourgeoisie. It alone fights for their welfare now and provides the means for their ultimate prosperity and freedom. The other parties and groups—Republican, Democratic, Progressive and Socialist—are the enemies of these classes and the tools of the big capitalists.
The Republican party is the party of finance capital, of the great bankers and industrialists of Wall Street, of which the Morgan interests stand at the head. The Hoover government is the instrument of these owners and rulers of America. It uses all its power to oppress the producing masses for the benefit of the capitalist exploiters. The present situation, with its economic collapse and hunger and misery for the broad masses, is the logical result of this capitalist policy. From the Republican party no relief, but only a worsening of existing conditions may be expected.
The Democratic party is no less the party of the big capitalists. Raskob, the dictator of the Democratic party, is notoriously the representative of the Morgan-General Motors-Dupont interests. The corrupt and reactionary Tammany Hall of New York City is indistinguishable politically from the rotten Republican Vare machine in Philadelphia. The Democratic party is directly responsible for the unspeakable regime of lynching, Jim-Crowism and discrimination against the Negro masses in the South, although in this it has the full support of the Republican Federal Administration. Wherever the Democratic party is found in power its practical policies are identical with those of the Republicans and they sum up into a defense of the interests of the capitalists at the expense of the producing masses.
In recent years the Democratic party has ever more clearly exposed its big capitalist character. It long ago abandoned its demagogic attacks on the gold standard, imperialism and the trusts. And then, when the Morgan representative Raskob took over the party leadership a few years ago, this was immediately followed by the giving up completely of the old Democratic policy of low tariffs and the adoption of a high tariff policy on the Republican model. The thoroughgoing political unity of the two capitalist parties was further emphasized by growing tendencies to link them up organizationally without, however, abandoning the two-party principle which is so valuable to the capitalists. This developing organizational unity reached its highest point in the open alliance between the heads of both parties in the present Congress to put across the Hoover-Wall Street program of subsidizing the great banks, starving the unemployed, cutting the wages of the employed, shifting the tax burden upon the masses, preparing for imperialist war, etc. All went swimmingly for this two-party machine until it slipped a cog in trying to put across the sales tax.
In 1932 elections, the Democratic party is scheduled to play its historical role as the second party of capitalism. Although its basic policies are identical with the Republican party, it will make a great show of opposition. Large masses of the working class, farmers, Negroes and petty bourgeoisie are deeply discontented at their impossible conditions under the Hoover government. Therefore, it is the task of the Democratic party, with a flood of demagogy, to delude these masses, and to prevent their taking serious steps against the capitalists, by keeping them fettered with the two capitalist party system. This is the menace of the Roosevelts, Garners, Hurrays, Bakers, etc. They are among the most effective instruments of the capitalists to enforce upon the producing masses a continuation of the present hunger regime.
The Progressive bloc also does not represent the interests of the producing masses. It represents the rich farmers and certain sections of small capitalists, and it supports the basic policies of Wall Street. During the present Congress the so-called Progressives supported the elementary proposals of the Hoover government to throw the burden of the crisis upon the producers. Their “fight” against the sales tax developed only when, in a broad movement of indignation, many millions of the small farmers, city petty bourgeoisie and workers demanded its rejection. Then, under the lash of Wall Street, they fled precipitately and proceeded, with later taxation, to undo the defeat of the sales tax. The only fight the Progressives ever make is for a few crumbs from the rich man’s table.
The Progressive leaders, like their reactionary cronies at the head of the American Federation of Labor, fit themselves comfortably into the infamous two-party system. This constitutes a betrayal of the exploited masses into the hands of their capitalist enemies. The “non-partisan” policy is not simply an expression of political timidity, of hesitation to take the initiative in forming a new party; it is essentially based upon a political unity with the capitalists. We may be sure that if and when, under the pressure of the masses, a third party is formed, these elements will adopt the familiar devices of the Social Fascists to render it subservient to the capitalist class.
Practice shows that the Progressive policies are antagonistic to the interests of the exploited masses. They cultivate in the worst forms the democratic illusions so essential to capitalist control. For the unemployed the Progressives have produced the typical masterpieces of the massacre in Dearborn, for which Mayor Murphy, as well as Ford, is responsible; and the Wisconsin Groves Law, which, under the name of “unemployment insurance,” provides even less relief for the unemployed than they now receive in many cities under the Hoover charity-hand-out system. For the employed the Progressives have provided wage-cuts, on the Hoover-Green model; example, the maneuvers of Pinchot in Pennsylvania with the U.M.W. of A. bureaucrats to break the strikes of the miners in the Pittsburgh and anthracite districts against wage-cuts. As for the farmers, the Progressives have kept them thoroughly disorganized by the non-partisan system: the Federal Farm Board, with its wheat and cotton speculation and enrichment of the rural bankers and rich farmers at the expense of the poor farmers, is the fine flower of Progressivism on the farms. Regarding the Negroes, the policies of the Progressives, although dressed up in radical phraseology, are in practice indistinguishable from those of the ultra-reactionaries: sufficient proof of this being the enthusiastic support given to the candidacy of Governor Roosevelt, Progressive Mogul, in the most Bourbon sections of the South.
Progressivism is a grave danger to the working class. This is because of the widespread existence of petty bourgeois illusions among the workers. The LaFollettes, Borahs, La Guardias, Norrises, Pinchots, Murphys, etc., are disorganizers and demoralizers of the workers and poor farmers. The Progressive bloc is just another lightning rod to shield the capitalist profit edifice.
The Socialist party is the third party of capitalism. This is amply demonstrated by its history in the United States and all other countries. The Socialist party has nothing constructive to offer the workers in their daily struggles now or for their ultimate emancipation. The fact that this party hides its capitalist face behind a pretense of radicalism makes it more, not less dangerous.
Already we have dealt in considerable detail with the policies and activities of the Socialist party. Its advocacy of capitalist trustification under slogans of nationalization, cultivation of illusions regarding “planned economy” under capitalism, support of the League of Nations, militarist imperialism cloaked with pacifism, alliance with the corrupt leadership of the A.F. of L., policy of putting through wage-cuts by fake strikes, rule of unions by gangsterism, systematic slander of the Soviet Union and minimizing of the war danger, etc., is all directly antagonistic to the working class.
That is why the capitalists and their press look with ever more favor upon the Socialist party. The Norman Thomases are being groomed to play in the United States some day the role of the Mac- Donalds in Great Britain, Boncours in France, Scheidemans in Germany, etc. The wage-cutting, dole-slashing activities of the British Labor party and the German Social Democracy in their attempt to bolster up the decaying capitalist system present clearly the perspective for which the Socialist party is being built in this country.
The Socialist party all over the world is a main pillar of the capitalist system. Its function is to demoralize the workers’ defense in the face of the capitalist offensive, to break up the workers’ counter-offensive against the capitalist system. The Socialist party is a specialized section of the capitalist machinery for exploiting the toiling masses. It is particularly dangerous in that it takes the workers, just breaking the ideological chains of capitalist slavery, and confuses them with a defense of capitalism under the pretense of fighting for Socialism. The Socialist party stabs the working class in the back. It, together with its fringe elements of Musteites, Lovestoneites, Trotzkyites, etc., has nothing in common with Socialism.
THE TASKS of the Communist party in a given country at a specified time, in carrying out its program of class struggle, are, of course, determined by the objective situation and the state of the workers’ mood and organization. Thus these tasks vary in the several countries, from the building of Socialism in the Soviet Union, open armed warfare in China, and preparations for an early revolutionary crisis in Germany, to the most elementary phases of mass education, organization and struggle in the United States, the stronghold of world capitalism.
In the United States—and this is basic in Communist strategy everywhere—the action program of the Communist party has its starting point in the every-day pressing economic demands of the workers. It is not enough that the Party should propagate its general slogans among the masses and then organize them for the eventual revolution. Such a course, as Lenin so forcefully pointed out in his famous pamphlet, The Infantile Sickness of “Leftism” in Communism, would condemn the Party to isolation and sectarianism. For the workers the class struggle is a never-ending matter of their daily lives; constantly they are confronted with the most urgent necessity to fight against the employers, in defense of their interests. The Communist party must lead in all these struggles. It is in such fights that the workers become class conscious and organized around the Communist party. Never would the masses recognize as their revolutionary Party one that ignored these daily fights and confined itself to a high and lofty agitation of revolutionary slogans.
It is a favorite slander, however, that the Communist party utilizes the daily struggles of the workers merely for agitational purposes. Norman Thomas repeats this, saying that Communist immediate demands are “designed to be impossible and so to ‘show up’ the capitalist system.”6 But the truth is just the opposite: the Communist party always places as immediate demands those manifestly possible of achievement under capitalism and then it makes the most determined effort to win all it can of them in the struggle. This is because the Party has no interests apart from those of the working class; it also realizes that such victories, instead of destroying the militancy of the workers, stimulate it. Lenin called such reforms or concessions forced from the employers “by-products” of the revolutionary struggle. The Party understands clearly that the workers logically expect that a Party which proposes eventually to overthrow the whole capitalist system should know how to organize them to defend their interests here and now. As for “showing up” capitalism, this is done by agitation and propaganda and by the daily experiences of the workers in the class struggle, not by leading the workers to defeat in strikes and other movements.
The Social Fascists try to create the legend that the difference between them and the Communists is that while they fight for immediate demands, the Communists confine themselves simply to ultimate aims. This is not so. The difference is that while the Communists fight for the immediate demands as well as the final goal, the Social Fascists betray both.
In the present stage of development of the working class and of the revolutionary struggle in the United States the fight of the workers is essentially a defensive struggle against the capitalist offensive. On all fronts the employers, with the government in the lead, are worsening the living and working standards of the toilers through wagecuts, throwing millions of workers into unemployment, seizing the lands of poor farmers, shifting the tax burden onto the producing masses, etc. It is the policy of the Communist party to organize the workers and farmers and to lead their resistance to the capitalist offensive, to prevent the capitalists from finding a way out of their crisis at the expense and further enslavement of the toiling masses. That is why the Communist party is to be found everywhere giving its fullest support to all struggles of the workers and poor farmers against the capitalist attack.
But the Communist party policy is not simply to organize the defense; it seeks also to transform the workers’ defensive struggles into a counteroffensive. It strives to unite the scattered fights of the workers into broad class struggles and to give them more of a political character. This politicalization becomes the more urgent with the sharpening offensive of the employers and their increasing use of the State against the workers. The general effects of politicalizing the workers’ struggle are to draw larger masses of workers into the fight, to direct this fight against the State as well as against the employers proper, and thus to strengthen the workers’ struggle in every respect.
This politicalization is brought about by the raising of political demands which grow out of the very struggle itself, not merely by the active propagation of the ultimate revolutionary program of the Communist party. Thus during a strike demands are made for the right to meet, to picket, to strike, for the release of political prisoners, for the adoption, enforcement or repeal of labor legislation, against government arbitration, for the withdrawal of troops, etc., and the workers are mobilized in various ways for mass action in support of these demands. In this way, not only are the workers educated to the class character of the State, but the broadest class front and most militant action is secured in the struggle. In acute conditions of class struggle this line of strategy leads to the development of the mass political strike, during which the more fundamental political demands may be raised. In the question of political demands, as well as of economic demands, the central Communist strategy always turns around the winning of the immediate struggle in hand.
In the present period of intense capitalist offensive against the workers, the question of immediate, partial economic demands becomes of decisive importance. The workers have to fight desperately for the very right to live. Becoming ever more radicalized, they make this fight with constantly sharpening militancy. Even the smallest issues readily blaze into great conflagrations. How quickly economic conflicts develop into major political struggles was evidenced again by the recent mutinies in the British and Chilean navies, both of which began over wage-cuts. It is interesting to recall, also, that the mutiny in the German fleet at the end of the World War, although prepared by the whole course of events, actually began in a flare-up of the men because their ration of soap had been cut off. All of which emphasizes the correctness of the stress that the Communist party places upon the question of practical partial demands and the necessity of developing the scattering economic fights of the workers onto a higher political level.
In thus politicalizing the struggle, the Communists come into sharpest conflict with the labor reactionaries of the Socialist party and the A.F. of L. type. As part of these misleaders’ general policy of choking back the workers’ struggles, they seek to keep these fights upon a purely economic basis. They resist all attempts of the workers to militantly fight the State, thus exposing them to the sharp political attacks of the employers. A typical example of this was the surrender of John L. Lewis to the government injunction in the national coal strike of 1920 under the slogan of “We can’t fight the Government.” Another outstanding example of this treacherous policy was during the British general strike of 1926. In this great fight, with the bosses using every power of the government to break the strike of the 5,000,000 workers, the Social Fascist leaders, eager to find a way to sell out the strike, put out the slogan that the struggle was purely an economic one and they bitterly fought every effort to give it a political character. Thus the government was given a free hand and a terrific defeat was suffered by the workers.
THIS is not the place for a detailed statement of the program of action of the Communist party. But at least an indication of its general character may be given. As stated before, the Party bases its immediate struggle upon partial demands corresponding to the most urgent necessities of the toiling masses. The most important of these demands are concentrated in the Party’s 1932 election platform, as follows:
1. UNEMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL INSURANCE AT THE EXPENSE OF THE STATE AND EMPLOYERS.
2. Against Hoover’s wage-cutting policy.
3. Emergency relief, without restrictions by the government and banks, for the poor farmers, exemption of poor farmers from taxes, and from forced collection of debts.
4. Equal rights for the Negroes, and self-determination for the Black Belt.
5. Against capitalist terror; against all forms of suppression of the political rights of the workers.
6. Against imperialist war; for defense of the Chinese people and of the Soviet Union.
The Communist party puts the question of unemployment insurance in the very center of its immediate program. It demands that the federal government institute a system of insurance, on the basis of full wages,7 for all unemployed and parttime workers, the necessary funds to be paid entirely by the employers and the State and to be raised by the allocation of all war funds, a capital levy, increased taxes upon the rich, etc. The Party, pending the enactment of adequate unemployment insurance legislation, demands special cash relief from the states and municipalities, lower rents, free food for school children of the unemployed, free street car fare, public works at union wages, abolition of forced labor on such jobs, etc. It demands that the insurance and relief systems be administered by the workers themselves. The Party also demands an adequate system of social legislation for old age, sickness, maternity, etc. These demands it supports by militant demonstrations, hunger marches, etc. It endorses the Workers’ Unemployment Insurance Bill.
The Party concretizes its fight against the Hoover wage-cutting program into a militant strike policy. It also fights against the speed-up, against mass lay-offs of workers, for the 7-hour day without reduction in weekly wages, (with a 6-hour day for the youth, for miners, railroaders, and workers in dangerous and unhealthful industries), for the adoption and enforcement of adequate legislation regarding safety and sanitation in industry.
The Party lays the utmost stress upon its demands for the Negroes. It demands full economic, political and social equality for them; it fights to eliminate the entire system of discrimination to which the Negroes are subjected in industry, in the distribution of unemployment relief, in segregated dwelling districts, in hotels and restaurants, in trade unions, in the courts, in political activities; that is, the whole Jim-Crow outrage; it demands death for lynchers, and it fights for the right of self-determination for the Negro nation in the Black Belt of the South.
For the farmers the Party demands immediate emergency cash relief from the government, for those crushed by the burden of low prices, high taxes, usurious debts, etc.; the exemption of poor farmers from the tax burden, abolition of foreclosures upon land for non-payment of mortgages, the full rights of organization and free speech, etc. The Party fights against the monstrous tax burden being heaped from year to year upon the toiling masses and demands that this be shifted upon the rich. It opposes the sales tax and fights for higher inheritance taxes, surtaxes, etc. It demands drastic curtailment in the salaries of government officials and opposes all wage-cuts for government workers.
The Party fights militantly against the growing imperialist war danger. It mobilizes the workers to fight against the robber war in China and to defend the Soviet Union. It demands the withdrawal of American armed forces from China. It demands recognition of and trade relations with the U.S.S.R. It calls upon the workers not to transport war munitions for Japanese imperialism. It fights against all phases of American imperialism’s program to militarize the American people. It gives active support to the masses in Latin- America in their fight against American imperialism. It educates the masses in the revolutionary Leninist strategy against war.
The Party fights against the developing terrorism and suppression of the workers’ rights. It demands the rights of free speech, free assembly, and to strike and picket. It combats injunctions by a policy of mass violation. It organizes workers’ defense corps in mass organizations to defend them from the violence of the employers and their agents. It fights against the finger-printing, deportation and other methods of discrimination used towards the foreign-born workers. It demands the release of all class war prisoners, the annulment of anti-Syndicalist laws, abolition of vagrancy laws, etc.
For the young workers the Young Communist League, supported by the Party, demands the abolition of child labor, the establishment of the 6-hour day, equal pay with adult workers, rest periods in industry, the right to vote, etc. In the various strikes the Y.C.L. always raises special youth demands. In schools and colleges it organizes the students and develops their struggle for better conditions. It also organizes the youth in their own Y.C.L. nuclei, and it works for the organization of special youth sections of local trade unions to deal with particular youth problems and to develop the necessary special activities involved in the organization of the youth.
The Party makes special demands for women workers, including equal pay with men, special protection in industry, maternity insurance, etc., and it incorporates them in its immediate program in given struggles. For the ex-service men it demands the full payment of the bonus; for those now in the army and navy service better wages, food, housing, etc. It demands the repeal of the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act.
In short, in every phase of life where capitalist exploitation and persecution bear down upon the masses, the Communist party comes forward with partial demands corresponding to the most immediate needs of these masses. But in so doing, it does not fail to point out that the final solution of their intolerable situation can be achieved only by the overthrow of the capitalist system and the establishment of a Workers’ and Farmers’ government.
THE COMMUNIST PARTY bases its activities upon the principles of the class struggle, both with regard to its every-day struggles and its ultimate revolutionary goal. It relentlessly fights against the policy of class collaboration practiced by the Socialist party and the A.F. of L. leaders. Worldwide experience has fully demonstrated the fact that the workers cannot go along with the bosses as “friendly partners.” The capitalists and the workers are class enemies, with mutually hostile interests. The exploiters and the exploited are natural political foes. The relations between them depend upon the question of power. The workers can get from the employers only what they have the power to take. The A.F. of L. theory (which corresponds to the Socialist party practice) of the “harmony of interest between capital and labor” is the theory of the surrender of the working class to the bourgeoisie.
Communist action is based upon the slogan of “Class Against Class”; that is, the working class against the capitalist class. This slogan expresses the elementary fighting policy of the revolutionary movement. In applying it, the Communist party actively promotes the mass organization of the workers, regardless of political opinion, into trade unions, unemployed councils, organizations to defend the rights of Negroes, ex-servicemen’s leagues, labor defense and strike relief bodies, leagues of poor farmers, proletarian sports organizations, labor fraternal insurance societies, organizations to defend the foreign born, societies of working class culture, etc., etc. Where no mass organizations exist in these fields the Party takes the initiative in forming them; where such are already in existence and are headed by conservative officials, the Party follows the policy of building an opposition within them and fighting for the revolutionary program and leadership. This is the so-called boring-from-within policy.
The application of the “Class Against Class” policy requires the making of united front movements with workers who, while not prepared to accept the whole revolutionary program of the Communist party, nevertheless are willing to struggle for immediate, partial demands. It also means the carrying on of joint struggles with the poor farmers and impoverished sections of the city petty bourgeoisie. But in all such united front movements the aim always is for the workers to lead and for the attack to be directed against the capitalist class and its government. By the use of the united front the fighting ranks of the workers are extended far beyond the limits of the existing revolutionary organizations; the united front bridges the gap between the organized and unorganized workers and links them up for common struggle. United front organs may take a variety of forms, such as joint strike committees, shop committees, grievance committees, relief committees, defense committees, etc., being composed in each case of representatives of all the unions, A.F. of L. and revolutionary, as well as of the unorganized workers in the given situation. The united front is organized from the bottom; that is, not with the reactionary leaders of the various labor organizations, but with the rank and file workers.
The Communist party bases its work directly upon the mills, mines, and factories. Its principle is to make every shop a fortress for Communism. It follows closely the life of the workers in the industries, adapting its immediate program of struggle to their needs. It concentrates its work upon the heavy industries and those of a war character. The Party and the revolutionary unions are organized especially for this intense shop work. Instead of being based upon territorial branches, as is the Socialist party, the Communist party has as its basic unit the shop nucleus; the TUUL unions are based upon the shop branch, instead of the craft and general locals of the A.F. of L. type.
In carrying out its class struggle program the Communist party practices revolutionary parliamentarism. It places candidates during elections and makes every effort to elect them. It combines its parliamentary action inside legislative bodies with its mass action outside and fights to force all possible concessions from the government. It utilizes the election campaigns to educate the workers and to mobilize them for every phase of its program on the economic and political fields. It seizes upon these periods of general political discussion to confront the reactionary program of the capitalists and their Social Fascist agents with the revolutionary program of the workers. Where the Party elects its candidates to legislative bodies they make use of these public forums to expose the capitalist character of the government and to bring forward the Communist program in its various phases. In all its parliamentary activities the Communist party makes it clear to the workers that the capitalist democracy is a sham and that there must be no illusions about peacefully capturing the State for the working class.
The Communist party organizes its struggles upon the basis of mass action of the workers. It is opposed to individual acts of terror. Such terrorism weakens the workers’ struggle by tending to substitute individual action for mass action and by exposing the movement to the destructive work of agents provocateurs. The workers’ daily struggles are to be won and their emancipation finally achieved, not by the desperate acts of isolated heroes, but by the resolute action of the great masses of workers.
A cornerstone of the Communist class struggle policy is a ruthless fight against the Social Fascist leaders, especially those of the “left,” phrasemongering type. “Class Against Class” implies a war to the finish against such elements, who are part of the oppressive machinery of the capitalist class. They are enemies within the gates of the working class and must be treated as such. They head the labor movement only in order to behead it. They are a menace and an obstacle to all struggle by the workers. With their prestige as labor leaders, their demagogy is especially demoralizing; with their control of the workers’ mass organizations, they are able to effectively sabotage the struggle. It is idle to try to “convince” the Social Fascist leaders or to “force them to fight by mass pressure,” because they are class enemies of the workers. They must be politically obliterated. To accomplish this is a first condition for successful working class struggle and it is one never lost sight of by the Communist party.
The Communist party draws a clear line of distinction between the organized workers and their Social Fascist leaders. It calls upon the workers to take the control of their struggles into their own hands. The policy of independent leadership by the rank and file workers is fundamental in the general Communist action strategy. The Party promotes the formation of the revolutionary opposition in reformist trade unions; it organizes the workers to oust their reactionary leaders, to themselves take over the leadership of their strikes and other struggles, to break through the cliques of gangsters who control the local unions and suppress all trade union democracy, to disregard the maze of trade union legalism that has been built up by the bureaucracy to prevent the development of real struggles.
In the trade union field the necessity for independent rank and file leadership has led to the formation of several independent revolutionary industrial unions in the mining, textile, metal, marine, needle and other industries. These are united in a national center, the Trade Union Unity League, formed in 1929 through a reorganization of the Trade Union Educational League. The old TUEL was made up solely of revolutionary opposition groups in the reformist unions; the TUUL is composed of both revolutionary oppositions and industrial unions, with its center of gravity in the latter. The formation of the independent revolutionary unions was made imperative by the systematic sabotage of the struggle by the more and more Fascist A.F. of L. leaders through open strike-breaking, suppression of democracy in the unions, mass expulsions, betrayal of the unorganized, etc. The TUUL is not a dual organization in the sense of the I.W.W. It does not make war upon the A.F. of L. unions as such, but against their reactionary leaders. With the A.F. of L. rank and file the TUUL makes united fronts and conducts joint strike struggles. It organizes and supports the work of the A.F. of L. opposition movements. The TUUL revolutionary unions concentrate their attention upon the great masses of unorganized who make up about five-sixths of the working class, building separate organizations where the fighting spirit of the workers, lack of mass A.F. of L. unions, etc., make this course the most practical one in defense of their interests. The TUUL is the American section of the Red International of Labor Unions. It is made up of workers of all political opinions. Its relations towards the Communist party are those of mutual support and cooperation in the struggle, without organizational affiliation.
The Communist party of the United States, in line with its program of class struggle, unites with the revolutionary workers of the world. It is the American section of the Communist International. The Communist International carries out a united revolutionary policy on a world scale, with the necessary adaptations for the special conditions in the various countries. The Communist International is a disciplined world party; only such a party can defeat world imperialism. Its leading party, by virtue of its great revolutionary experience, is the Russian Communist party. In its general work it applies the principles of democratic centralism, even as its affiliated parties do in their respective countries. That is, the policies of the International are worked out jointly with the several parties and then applied in the usual disciplined Communist way. Charges of the Matthew Woll brand that these parties “take orders from Moscow” are ridiculous. The united world revolutionary policy of the Communist International differs fundamentally from that of the Socialist Second International, whose autonomous sections follow the policies of their respective national bourgeoisie.
It is only with the foregoing Communist principles and program of class struggle that the workers can defeat the efforts of the capitalists to find a way out of the crisis through more unemployment, wage-cuts, and mass starvation, more Fascist terrorism and the unleashing of devastating war. Under the leadership of the Communist party and following out its class struggle policy, the workers can defend their interests here and now and they will ultimately traverse fully the revolutionary way out of the crisis by overthrowing capitalism and establishing a Soviet system.
THE CAPITALISTS and their henchmen in this country are very certain of the innate conservatism of the American working class. They confidently assure themselves that, no matter what may happen in other countries, the toiling masses here will have nothing to do with Socialism. And, on the surface of things, the workers of the United States are the most conservative of any great industrial country. This is primarily because, living in the land of the most powerful and rapidly rising imperialism, their standards of living have been somewhat higher than those in other countries. Besides, their class consciousness has been greatly hindered by the so-called democratic traditions in the United States, harking back to the days of free land. There has also been a retarding influence in the lack of homogeneity among the workers—many races, many nationalities, many traditions. All of which factors capitalism has thoroughly understood how to exploit in the unparalleled flood of propaganda that it has poured into the workers through the countless newspapers, schools, churches, labor leaders, politicians, radios, motion pictures, etc.
But this conservatism is more apparent than real; it is merely a surface and temporary indication. It is only a few years since the capitalists of Great Britain and Germany also boasted about the conservatism of their workers. They could do this because both of these countries were on a rising curve of imperialist development. It was possible at least for the masses of their workers to live. Illusions about the possibilities of capitalist development flourished among them. But now how changed is the situation. In Germany the workers are rapidly becoming revolutionized and in Great Britain they are traveling the same road, if at a somewhat slower tempo. This revolutionizatiqn of the workers develops because Germany and Great Britain have been caught deeply in the maelstrom of the general capitalist crisis: Germany, crushed by its imperialist rivals, approaches a revolutionary upheaval; Great Britain, ousted from its position as world industrial leader, slips deeper and deeper into chronic crisis. The erstwhile “conservative” workers of these countries, now facing mass starvation, are beginning to see the logic of the situation and are gradually preparing themselves for the fight to overthrow capitalism and to establish Socialism.
The American workers inevitably must go in the same direction and for the same reasons, although, for the causes above-mentioned, their pace is as yet much slower. A sure radicalization is being brought about by 30 to 40 cents a day wages for Kentucky miners,8 $3.50 wages for a 70-hour week for Southern textile workers,9 and similar conditions in the other industries. Starvation wages are destroying the capitalistic illusions of American workers and 25 cent wheat is making the poor farmers their allies. Especially are the hunger policies of the Hoover government in the unemployment question a potent factor in the growing radicalization. The time will come when the capitalists of this country will realize that one of the greatest mistakes ever made by a ruling class was that of forcing the millions of unemployed to go without the necessaries of life while the warehouses were bursting with riches.
Under the pressure of the deepening crisis the workers are throwing off their conservatism with a speed and decisiveness that will soon startle the ruling class. The British bourgeoisie were astounded at the recent sudden and significant mass upheavals in St. Johns and Auckland. In Chapter I we have pointed out some of the signs of the new radicalization. But doubtless the process has gone faster and farther than the open signs indicate and than even the closest observers realize. The radicalization is largely hidden because the American working class, almost completely unorganized industrially and politically, shamefully betrayed by the trade union leaders and terrorized in the industries, has great obstacles in the way of expressing its discontent. It has to be of an explosive character before it appears upon the surface. The pressure now rises dangerously.
The capitalists are congratulating themselves upon the lack of great mass struggles of the workers against the wholesale reductions in their living standards during the present crisis. The Wall Street Journal, (Jan. 5, 1932), states: “It is doubtful whether so rapid and extensive a deflation of the wage earner’s income has ever before taken place in the United States, with so nearly a total absence of open conflict between masters and men. . . It seems a far cry back to the Homestead riots of 1892, to the Pullman and railroad strikes of 2 years later, or even to the Colorado mine disorders of 1914.” Bourgeois economists and writers ascribe the dearth of big strikes to a lack of militancy on the part of the workers, and characteristically, the Socialist, Norman Thomas, agrees with them by giving as the reason “the docility of labor.”10
The fallacy of this argumentation is readily apparent. At the door of the American Federation of Labor lies the chief responsibility for the failure of the working class to develop greater mass resistance against the huge lowering of their living standards. Had this organization, with its 2,500,000 members and its standing as the traditional labor movement, issued a call to strike against wage-cuts and to fight for unemployment insurance undoubtedly many big strikes and unemployment demonstrations would have occurred. But the A.F. of L., on the contrary, has used all its power and prestige to prevent struggle. Repeating the arguments of the bosses, it has unresistingly accepted wage-cuts and the unemployment hunger program of the government. Besides, it has unhesitatingly used strike-breaking methods (among the worst of which were the fake strikes, or lockouts in the Socialist-controlled needle trades) to defeat the workers who tried to beat the wage-cuts by struggle. This deadening influence of the A.F. of L. extended far beyond the ranks of its organization into the unorganized industries. The A.F. of L. leadership has been the principal instrument of the bosses to force the workers to accept lower conditions of living. All of which goes to show the great value of this leadership to the employers and to explain their systematic support of it.
The intensification of the crisis will inevitably bring with it a sharpening and broadening of the class struggle, despite all efforts of the bosses, the government and the A.F. of L.-S.P. leadership to check it. Consider the meaning of the Ford Hunger March, in which four workers were killed and many wounded by the police; just a few years ago the workers in the Ford plant were rated the best off in the world. Now they find themselves starving and ruthlessly shot down when they demand relief. Their answer is a violent mass resentment and a rapid building of the Communist party, the Unemployed Councils and the revolutionary Automobile Workers’ Union.
Or take the case of the Kentucky miners: facing starvation wages, murderous terrorism by company gunmen and police thugs, wholesale arrest and railroading of militant workers, flagrant betrayal by the U.M.W. of A., they turned to the Communist party and the National Miners Union for leadership. These miners, almost without exception, are American-born. They and their forbears for generations back are of the old pioneer stock. They are intensely patriotic and religious; race prejudice against the Negro has been cultivated amongst them from their earliest childhood. The coal operators, realizing these facts and believing that they made the miners immune to revolutionary leadership regardless of their grievances, met the advance of the National Miners Union into the Kentucky-Tennessee coal regions with a franti2 appeal to the prejudices of the miners. They made it appear that the developing strike was an attempt to overthrow the government, that it meant wiping out religion and the establishment of Negro domination. But the miners stood firm in the face of this unprecedented “red hysteria”; the strike went on despite all the demagogy and terrorism. Communism has established itself firmly among the American miners of the Kentucky and Tennessee coal fields.
Which way the farmers will go may be gathered from the report of Professors Hutchinson and Holt on conditions in Michigan: “Then there are the farmers now talking the language of revolt. Their backs are against the wall and it will take only a few dramatic mortgage sales of lands held by families for two generations to start the fireworks. For them the passing of the American farmer to peasantry will not happen without a struggle in the spirit of 1776.”
It is an illusion to think that the conservative American workers must first pass through the stage of social reformism before they will accept the Communist program. Doubtless, large numbers of them will fall victims to social reformism, hence, the great danger of the Socialist party and the A.F. of L. leadership. But experience already amply demonstrates that the Communist party, with its program of partial demands and united front policy, coupled with its ultimate revolutionary objectives, can and does successfully mobilize masses of these workers just breaking from the influence of the two old parties.
Dearborn, Kentucky, England (Ark.), Lawrence, Pittsburgh coal strike, etc., reflect the new spirit of the American class struggle. The capitalists, in the midst of the sharpening general crisis of capitalism, are determined to force the living standards of American toilers down to European levels, or lower. The workers will respond to this offensive by increasing class consciousness and mass struggle. More and more they will turn to the Communist party for leadership, and eventually they will be joined by decisive masses of the ever-more ruthlessly exploited poor farmers. The toiling masses of the United States will not submit to the capitalist way out of the crisis, which means still deeper poverty and misery, but will take the revolutionary way out to Socialism. The working class of this country will tread the path of the workers of the world, to the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a Soviet government. Lenin was profoundly correct when he said in his Letter to American Workingmen, of Aug. 20, 1918:
“The American working class will not follow the lead of its bourgeoisie. It will go with us against its bourgeoisie. The whole history of the American people gives me this confidence, this conviction.”
1. Socialism in Theory and Practice, p. 103.
2. Statement of Communist Party to the Fish Committee.
3. Marx and Lenin.
4. See Living My Life, by Emma Goldman, to learn how remote petty bourgeois Anarchism is from the proletarian revolution.
5. America Faces the Future, p. 356.
6. America’s Way Out, p. 152.
7. In 1929 average American wages yearly did not exceed $1200, a figure ranging from $300 to $1000 less than bare cost-of-living budgets of the Labor Department and other capitalist institutions.
8. Theodore Dreiser, Harlan Miners Speak.
9. American Federationist, Mar., 1932.
10. As I See It, p. 166.
Next: 5. The United States of Soviet America