Joseph Hansen

Lovestone Weeps with Pity for the Bankers

(16 March 1940)

Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 11, 16 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.

Not the least vociferous among Stalin’s attorneys up until the time the Dewey Commission investigated the Moscow Trials were the Lovestoneites. They defended Stalin’s hideous frame-ups. They defended Stalin’s murder of the entire generation that led the October revolution. The only thing about Stalinism they didn’t defend was the refusal of the rotten and corrupt Comintern to reinstate them as members.

After an embarrassed silence following the hearings of the Dewey Commission, they finally spoke of the Moscow Trials as frame-ups and sanctimoniously raised their eyes heavenward at the crimes of Stalinism. But Jay Lovestone and his cohorts never offered anyone the slightest explanation for this sudden repentance from supporting Stalinist morality.

This background sheds a grim light upon the article entitled Trotskyites Put Forward Own Super-‘Ham-and-Eggs’ Plan, printed in the March 2 issue of their official organ, the Workers Age.

“The policy of both the Stalinists and the Trotskyists is of supporting the Ham and Eggs movement in California,” declares this article, “has nothing in common with socialism. It only indicates that again and once again the Stalinists and Trotskyists have something in common – an unprincipled and demagogic appeal to the backwardness and illusions of the masses.”

Naturally the Workers Age fails to mention the actual circumstances which dictated our critical support of “Ham and Eggs.” There was a mass movement in California for social security, actually mobilizing hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of desperate, poverty-stricken people. The Workers Age didn’t mention that the demands of these masses were entirely justified and reasonable. It didn’t mention that the inability of capitalism to feed and clothe and shelter these people gave their demands a revolutionary significance. It didn’t mention that a revolutionary party has the duty to support such demands of the masses – although sharply criticising the unrealistic means proposed to attain them – in order to direct these demands toward their only real means of achievement – socialism. It didn’t mention that above all a revolutionary party stays with the masses and goes through their experiences with them, precisely in order to hasten their development toward socialism.

Attacks Our “Transitional” Program

Lovestone’s organ however does not stop at these distortions. Something weightier is needed to “prove” that Trotskyism is but another manifestation of Stalinism. To this end the Workers Age points to the first thing on the first page of the Socialist Appeal: the program which the Socialist Workers Party proposes Congress should enact as EMERGENCY legislation for the relief of those in dire need – $10,000,000,000 for the unemployed, a 30 hour week at minimum pay of $30, disability and old age pensions of $30 a week, and $3,000,000,000 for the youth.

This program is attacked by arguments that Calvin Coolidge would have heartily seconded. They add up to this: our program is economically impossible, and therefore “unprincipled and demagogic.”

With the aid of an adding machine the Workers Age proceeds to “prove” this: the Roosevelt administration doesn’t get enough income from its system of taxation; the national income is too low under capitalism in its death agony; hence, it concludes, there is not enough money available at present to foot the costs of our program.

In addition to reading us this adding machine tape, the Workers Age appeals to the truth expounded in the labor movement ever since the Communist Manifesto was written almost a hundred years ago, that “only through the establishment of a socialist society is it possible to bring about any substantial and lasting improvement in the conditions of the masses.” We agree with this truth one hundred per cent. It is precisely the aim expressed in this truth which motivates every word written in the Socialist Appeal.

What Is the Road to Socialism?

But that doesn’t happen to be the question at issue. What is at issue and what must be answered by whoever would lead the revolutionary movement in the United States is: How achieve this end?

Inasmuch as we could not find a single slogan in the Lovestone organ calling for armed insurrection in the United States or even so much as a polite bid for revolutionary terror against Ford, Rockefeller, Morgan, and the rest of the Sixty Families who dominate American industry, we take it that the Lovestoneites do not believe the American working class has yet been convinced that revolution is the only way out of the capitalist system of war, hunger, and fascism.

Can the workers be convinced of the necessity of revolution by calling for armed insurrection tomorrow? The Lovestoneite article seems to imply that anything less than that is an “unprincipled and demagogic appeal to the backwardness and illusions of the masses.” Then out of their own mouths the Lovestoneites are proved demagogic and unprincipled, for in that very article they include the main plank of the Lovestone Ham-and-Eggs program: “Keep America Out of War.” Is this program realizable under capitalism? Can America be kept out of war so long as the capitalist system endures? We say no, and we do not have to appeal to an adding machine to prove our contention – today’s headlines are demonstrating it. Our slogans, on the contrary, such as turning all war funds over to the unemployed, would destroy capitalism. But there is a world of difference between being for these demands without labelling them impossible of complete achievement under capitalism, and the Lovestone-Norman Thomas propaganda that it is possible to have peace under capitalism. Their “Keep America Out of War” committees thus directly propagate a harmful lie, while our campaigning for the popular referendum on war specifically refrains from promising that it will keep America out of war. The distinction between us and Lovestone-Thomas on this question is the distinction between reformism and revolutionary Marxism.

The crime which the Lovestoneites commit in creating illusions about peace under capitalism is the one they accuse us of in advocating our economic demands. But we are not at all guilty of their crime. Nowhere do we promise that these demands are compatible with capitalism. We create no such illusions. These demands are, indeed, a “transition”, a bridge, to a full socialist program.

(A second article on this question will appear next week.)


Last updated on: 18 July 2018