Joseph Hansen

Bridge the Gap: From This Point to Socialism

(30 March 1940)

Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 13, 30 March 1940, p. 4.
Transcription/HTML Markup: 2018 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: Joseph Hansen Internet Archive 2018; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

Far from being an “unprincipled and demagogic appeal to the backwardness and illusions of the masses” as the Lovestoneites assert, the demands which the Socialist Workers Party suggests labor make of Congress constitute a most revolutionary program which will lead, once launched on a mass scale, inevitably to the sharpest posing of the question of establishing socialism in the United States.

The links in this process can be outlined briefly as follows:

  1. The demands are the absolute minimum that can provide the unemployed the youth, the underpaid workers, the disabled, and the aged with a decent living. The necessity of granting these demands is self-evident. Not only does every member of society have the right to a decent living, but the means for providing such a living are right before our eyes.
  2. But the capitalist system cannot grant these demands without making some drastic changes. These changes are:

    a) Opening the idle factories and operating them at full capacity.

    b) Expropriating the Sixty Families who at present operate and control the nation’s industries and wealth for their private benefit.
  3. The vast toiling masses will sooner or later come to realize that these few simple steps would provide the means to grant their demands. When they understand this, a powerful movement can develop, to force the realization of these demands, which will sweep everything before it and bring the nation’s industries under the control of the workers.
  4. If the capitalists are forced to grant these demands, a death blow will have been dealt to the capitalist system, and the beginning stages of socialism will be established from coast to coast.
  5. If the capitalists persist in refusing to grant these demands in the face of an organized mass movement insisting upon them, this movement can easily direct its energies to press these demands with such forcefulness that the parasitic stockholders standing in the way would be swept aside. In this case, too, the question of establishing socialism will be on the order of the day for the toiling masses.

Our Bridge to the Masses

The demands we propose are really our answer to the most acute problem now facing the American revolutionary movement: By what means can the toiling masses be brought to understand that the establishment of socialism offers the only road out of the suffering imposed on them by the capitalist system?

Economically the United States was ready for socialism years ago. Industry has reached a pitch of socialist organization in form that far exceeds that of any other nation. Whole industries have become so intricate, so highly organized that the government itself must intervene to keep them functioning – public utilities, railways, etc. Industry has reached the stage where it can no longer advance under the fetters of private ownership. As a result the toilers suffer from mass unemployment, starvation wages, hunger, all the desperate and hideous ills of an economic system in its death agony.

But politically the masses are not yet ready for socialism. They do not yet understand that the capitalist system is in its death agony. They do not yet understand that it is no longer capable of feeding, clothing, or sheltering them. Because of this political backwardness they are capable of seeing only their immediate ills, and hence are capable of making only immediate and emergency demands.

Because of the political backwardness of the American toilers, the revolutionary vanguard leading the struggle for socialism is small and isolated. The burning problem of the day, therefore, that means life or death not only for the revolutionary party, but for millions of the toiling masses themselves – is to construct the bridge between the present political backwardness of the masses and the socialist revolution in America.

Taking the Masses as They Are

We must therefore start from what the masses are capable of seeing today. They can see the surrounding plenty. They can see the fertile fields heavy with food. They can see the packed warehouses, the idle machines. And they can see just as clearly the empty plates at their dinner table. They can hear their children crying for food. They can feel the rain beating on them through the holes in the roof of their shack – if they are lucky enough to have a shack. They can feel all the horrible misery of the rotten conditions, the shame and degradation in which they are compelled to live.

There is no time to give them a long series of lectures which through their perfectly logical presentation of the problem would lead to socialism. If the revolutionary movement doesn't show them how they can get the security they want and get it now, show how it is feasible to get it immediately, then the fascists will succeed in heading their revolutionary energy into a different path, the path of suicide for the toiling masses in America.

The program advocated by the Socialist Workers Party is precisely the program which will stamp out capitalist war and the fascist menace and launch the working class on the road to socialism in the United States. The Socialist Workers Party is the only party in the labor movement which has worked out and which advocates such a program. That is the most certain token that the Socialist Workers Party will be at the head of the movement for socialism as it gains momentum in the United States with millions of followers. The program outlined by the Socialist Workers Party will make these millions invincible.

(This is the third and last article in this series.)


Last updated on: 18 July 2018