Balance SHeet of Trotskyism in the United States, 1940-1947 by C L R James 1947
Conversations With Trotsky On Transitional Program
We reprint below all relevant portions of the discussion in 1938 which preceded the adoption of the Labor Party slogan by the. S.W.P. and the draft of the Transitional Program. If, in 1938, it was possible to oppose what these conversations signified, the world of 1947, opposition is no less than betrayal of the proletariat in its hour of crisis. (Stenographer’s note on discussions: “these are very rough notes of discussion held: The stenogram has not been checked by any of the participants.”)
L.T. – This question is very important and very complicated. When for the first time the League considered this question, some 7-8 years ago -: whether we should favor a Labor Party or not; whether we should develop initiative on this score, then the prevailing sentiment was not to do it and that was absolutely correct. The perspective for development was not clear. I believed that the majority of us hoped that the development of our own organization will be more speedy. On the other hand I believe no one in our ranks foresaw during that period the appearance of the CIO with this rapidity and this power. In our perspective we overestimated the possibility of the development of our party at the expense of the Stalinists on one hand and on the other hand we don’t (didn’t) see this powerful trade-union movement, and the rapid decline of American capitalism.
These are two facts which we must reckon with. I can’t speak from my own observations but theoretically. The period of 1924 I know only through the experience of our common friend Pepper. He came to me and said that the American proletariat is not a revolutionary class, that the revolutionary class are the farmers and we must turn toward the farmers, not toward the workers. That was the conception of the time. It was a farmers’ movement – the farmers who are inclined by their social nature to look for panaceas – populism, FLPism – in every crisis. Now we have a movement of tremendous importance – the CIO; some 3,000,000 or more are organized in a new, more militant organisation. This organization which began with strikes, big strikes, and also involved the AFL partially in these strikes for a raise in wages, this organization at the first step of its activity runs into the biggest crisis in the U.S.. The perspective for economic strikes is for the next, period excluded, given the situation of the growing unemployed ranks, etc. We can look for the possibility that it will put all its weight in the political balance.
The whole objective situation imposed it upon the workers as upon the leaders, – upon the leaders in a double sense. On one hand they exploit this tendency for their own authority and oh the other they try to break if and not permit it to go ahead of its leaders. The NPLL has this double function, I believe that our policy need not be theoretically revised but it needs to be concretized. In what sense? Are we in favor of the creation of a reformist Labor Party? No. Are we in favor of a policy which can give to the trade unions the possibility to put its weight upon the balance of the forces? Yes.
It can become a reformist party – it depends upon the development. Here comes in the question of program. I mentioned yesterday and I will underline if today – we must have a program of transitional demands, the most complete of them is a workers’ and farmers’ government. We are for a party, for an independent party of the toiling masses who will take power in the State. We must concretize it – we are for the creation of factory committees, for workers’ control of industry through the factory committees. All these questions are now pending in the air. They speak of technocracy, and put forward the slogan of “production for use.” We oppose this charlatan formula and advance the workers’ control of production through the factory committees.
Lundberg writes a book, “60 Families.” The “Analyst” claims that his figures are false. We say, the factory committees should see the books. This program we must develop parallel with the idea of a labor party in the unions, and armed workers’ pickets, i.e. workers’ militia. Otherwise it; is an abstraction and an abstraction is, a weapon in the hands’ of the opposing class. The criticism of the Minneapolis comrades is that they have not a concretized a program. In this fight we must underline that we are for the bloc of workers and farmers, but not such farmers as Roosevelt. (I do not know whether you noted that in the official ticket he gave his profession as farmer.) We are for a bloc only with the exploited farmers, not exploiter farmers, exploited farmers and agricultural workers. We can become the champions of this movement but on the basis of a concrete program of demands. In Minneapolis the first task should be devoted to statistically show that 10,000 workers have no more vote than 10 intellectuals, or 50 people organized by the Stalinists. Then we have to introduce 5 or 6 demands, very concrete, adapted to the mind of the workers and farmers and inculcated into the brain of every comrade, workers’, factory committee’s and then workers’ and farmers’ government. That’s the genuine sense of the movement.
M.A.J. – Would we Propose now that the unions join the NPLL?
L.T. – Yes, I believe so. Naturally we must make our first step in such a way as to accumulate experience for practical work, not to engage in abstract formulas, but develop a concrete program of action and demands, in the sense that this transitional program issues from the conditions of capitalist society today but immediately leads over the limits of capitalism It is not the reformist minimum program, which never included workers’ militia, workers’ control of production. These demands are transitory because they lead from the capitalist society to the proletarian revolution, a consequence insofar as they become the demands of the masses as the proletarian government. We can’t stop only with the day-to-day demands of the proletariat. We must give to the most backward workers some concrete slogan that corresponds to their needs and that leads dialectically to the conquest of power by violence.
M.I.N. – How would you motivate the slogan for workers militia?
L.T. – By the fascist movement in Europe – all the situation shows that the blocs of the members of liberals, radicals and the workers bureaucracy is nothing in comparison with the militarized fascist gang; only workers with military experience can oppose the fascist danger. I believe that in America you have enough scabs, gun-men that you connect the slogan with the local experience; for example by showing the attitude of the police, the state of affairs in Jersey. In this situation immediately say that this gangster-mayor with his gangster policemen should be ousted by the workers’ militia. “We wish here the organization of the CIO but against the constitution we are forbidden this right to organize. If the federal power cannot control the mayor, then we workers must organize for our protection the workers’ militia and fight for our rights.” Or in clashes between the AFL and the CIO, we can put forward the slogan for a workers’ militia as a necessity to protect our workers’ meetings. Especially as opposed to the Stalinist idea of a popular front, and we can point to the result of this popular Front – the fate of Spain and the situation in France. Then you can point to the movement of Germany, to the Nazi camps We must say: You workers in this city will be the first victims of this fascist gang. You must organize, you must be armed.
M.A.J. – What name would you call such groups?
L.T. – You can give it a modest name, workers’ armed pickets.
M.A.J. – Defense Committees.
L.T. – Yes. It must be discussed with the workers.
M.A.J.-The name is very important. Workers’ defense committees can be popularized. Workers militia is too foreign sounding.
M.I.N. – There is not yet in the U.S. the danger of fascist which would bring about the sentiment, of such an organization as the workers’ militia. The organization of a workers militia presupposes preparation for the seizure of power. This is not yet on the order of the day in the U.S.
L.T. – Naturally we can conquer power only when we have the majority of the working class, but even in that case the workers’ militia would be a small minority. Even in the October Revolution the militia was a small minority. But the question is how to get this small minority . . . organized and armed with the sympathy of the masses. How can we do it? By preparing the mind of the masses, by propaganda. The crisis, the sharpening of class relations, the creation of a workers’ party, a Labor Party signifies immediately, immediately a terrible sharpening of forces. The reaction will be immediately a fascist movement. That is why we must now connect the idea of the Labor Party with the consequences – otherwise we will appear only as pacifists with democratic illusions. Then we also have the possibility of spreading the slogans of our transitional program and see the reaction of the masses. We will see what slogans should be selected, what slogans abandoned but if we give up our slogans before the experience, before seeing the reaction of the masses, then we can never advance.
M.A.J.(ii) – I wanted to ask one question about the slogan of workers’ access to the secrets of industry. It seems to me that needs to be well thought out and carefully applied or it may lead to difficulties .which we have already experienced. As a matter of fact one of the ways of reducing the militancy of the workers is for employers – we had one such case – to offer to show us the books and prove that they are standing a loss, whether honestly or not is not the question. We have fought against that, saying it is up to you to organize your business; we demand decent working conditions. I wonder what then would be the effect of our slogan of workers’ access to the secrets of industry.
L.T. – Yes, the capitalists do in two instances, when the situation of the factory is really bad or if they can deceive the workers. But the question must be, put from a more general point of view. In the first place you have millions of unemployed and the government claims it cannot pay more and the capitalists say that they cannot make more contributions – we want to have access to the bookkeeping of this society. The control of income should be organized through factory committees. Workers will say: We want our own statisticians who are devoted to the working class. If a branch of industry shows that it is really ruined, then we answer: We propose to expropriate you. We will direct better than you. Why have you no profit? Because of the chaotic condition of capitalist society. We say: commercial secrets are a conspiracy of the exploiters against the exploited, of the producers against the toilers. In the free era, in the era of competition they claimed they needed secrecy for protection. But now they do not have secrets among themselves but only from society. This transitional demand is also a step for the workers’ control of production as the preparatory plan for the direction of industry. Everything must be controlled by the workers who will be the masters of society tomorrow. But to call for conquest of power – that seems to the American workers illegal, fantastic. But if you say: the capitalists refuse to pay for the unemployed and hide their real profits from the State and from the workers by dishonest bookkeeping, the workers will understand that formula. If we say to the farmer: The bank fools you. They have very big profits. And we propose to you that you create farmers’ committee to look into the bookkeeping of the bank, every farmer will understand that. We will say: The farmer can trust only himself; let him create committees to control agricultural credits – they will understand that. It presupposes a turbulent mood among the farmers; it cannot be accomplished every day. But to introduce this idea into the masses and into our own comrades, that’s absolutely necessary immediately.
M.I.N. – I believe it is not correct as you say to put forth the slogan of workers’ control of production nor the other transitional slogan of workers’ militia – The slogan for the examination of the books of the capitalist class is more appropriate for the present period and can be made popular. As for the other two slogans, it is true that they are transitional slogans, but for that end of the road which is close to the preparation for the seizure of power. Transition implies a road either long or short. Each stage of the road requires its, own slogans. For today we could use that of examination of the books of the capitalist class, for tomorrow we would use those of workers’ control of production and workers’ militia.
L.T. – How can we in such a critical situation as now exists in the whole world, in the U.S. measure the stage of development of the workers’ movement? You say it’s the beginning and not the end. What’s the distance – 100, 10, 4, how can you say approximately? In the good old times the Social Democrats would say: Now we have only 10,000 workers, later we’ll have 100,000, then a million and then we’ll get to the power. World development to them was only an accumulation of quantities: 10,000, 100,000 etc. etc. Now we have an absolutely different situation. We are in a period Of declining capitalism, of crises that become more turbulent and terrible and approaching war. During a war the workers learn very quickly. If you say we’ll wait and see and then propagate, then we’ll be not the vanguard, but the rearguard. If you ask me: Is it possible that the American; workers will conquer power in 10 years? I will say, yes, absolutely possible. The explosion of the CIO shows that the basis of the capitalist society is undermined. Workers’ militia and workers’ control of production are only two sides of the same question. The worker is not a bookkeeper. When he asks for the books, he wants to change the situation, by control and then by direction. Naturally our advancing slogans depends upon the reaction we meet in the masses. When we see the reaction of the masses, we know what side of the question to emphasize. We will say Roosevelt will help the unemployed by the war industry. But if we workers ran production, we would find another industry, not one for the dead but for the living. This question can become understandable even for an average worker who never participated in a political movement. We underestimate the revolutionary movement in the working masses. We are a small organization, propagandistic and in such situations are more sceptical than the masses who develop very quickly. At the beginning of 1917 Lenin said that the party is 10 times more revolutionary than its CC and the masses 100 times more revolutionary than the ranks of the party. There is not in the United States a revolutionary situation now. But comrades with very revolutionary ideas in quiet times can become a real brake upon /the movement in revolutionary situations. ... A revolutionary party waits so often and so long, for a revolution that it gets used to postpone it.
M.A.J. – You see that phenomenon in strikes – they sweep the country and take the revolutionary party by surprise. Do we put forward this transitional program in the trade unions?
L.T. – Yes, we propagandize this program in the trade unions, propose it as the basic program for the LP. For us it is a transitional program but for them it is the program. Now it’s a question of workers’ control of production. But you can realize this program only through a workers’ and farmers’ government. We must make this slogan popular.
M.A.J. – Is this also to be put forward as a transitional program or is this a pseudonym for the dictatorship of the proletariat?
L.T. – In our mind it leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat. We say to the workers and farmers: You want Lewis as president – well that depends upon his program. Lewis plus Green plus La Folette as representative of the farmers? That too depends upon the program. We try to concretize, to make more precise the program, then the workers’ and farmers’ government signifies a government of the proletariat which leads the farmers.
M.I.N. – How do you reconcile this with the original statement that we cannot advocate the organization of a reformist Labor Party? I would like to get clear in my mind what concretely does our comrade do when his trade union is affiliated to the NPLL and he is sent as a delegate to the LP. There the question comes up of what to do in the elections and it is proposed: “Let us support La Guardia.” Concretely how does the matter present itself to our comrades?
L.T. – Here we are in a trade union meeting to discuss the affiliation to the NPLL. I will say in the trade union: First, the unification of the unions on a political plan is a progressive step. There is a danger that it will fall into the hands of our enemies. I therefore propose two measures: 1) that we have only Workers and farmers as our representatives; that we do not depend on so-called parliamentary friends; 2) That our representatives follow out our program, this program. We then map out concrete plans concerning unemployment, military budget, etc. Then I say, if you propose me as a candidate, you know my program. If you send me as your representative I will fight for this program in the NPLL, in LP. When the NPLL makes a decision to vote for La Guardia, I either resign with protests or protest and remain: “I can’t vote for La Guardia. I have my mandate.” We get large new possibilities for propaganda.
The dissolution of our organization is absolutely excluded. We make absolutely clear that we have our organization, our press, etc., etc. It is a question of the relationship of forces. Com. D says we cannot yet advocate in the unions support for the SWP. Why? Because we are too weak. And we can’t say to the workers: Wait till we become more authoritative, more powerful. We must intervene in the movement as it is . . .
M.I.N. – If there were no movement for a Labor Party and we would be opposed to the creation of one, how does that affect the program itself – it would still be our transition program. I don’t understand when you say we can’t advocate a reformist party but we do advocate and become champions of LP movements for the purpose of imposing the workers’ will politically.
L.T. – If would be absurd to say that We advocate a reformist party. We can say to the leaders of the NPLL: “You’re making of this movement a purely opportunistic appendage to the Democrats.” It’s a question of a pedagogical approach. How can we say that we advocate the creation of a reformist party? We say you cannot impose your will through a reformist party but only through a revolutionary party? The Stalinists and liberals wish to make of this movement a reformist party but we have our program, we make of this a revolutionary -
M.A.J. – How can you explain a revolutionary Labor party? We say; the SWP is the only revolutionary party, has the only revolutionary program. How then can you explain to the workers that also the LP is a revolutionary party?
L.T. – I will not say that the LP is a revolutionary party, but that we will do everything to make it possible. At every meeting I will say; “I am a representative of the SWP. I consider it the only revolutionary party. But I am not a sectarian. You Are trying now to create a big workers’ party. I will help you but I propose that you consider a program for this party. I make such and such propositions.” I begin with this. Under these conditions it would be a big step forward. Why not say openly what is? Without any camouflage, without any diplomacy.
M.A.J. – Up until now the question has always been put abstractly. The question of the program has never been outlined as you have outlined it. The Lovestonites have always been for a LP, but they have no program, it’s combinations from the top. It seems to me that if we have a program and always point to it –
L.T. – First there is the program, and then the statutes that assure the domination of the trade unions as against the individual liberals, petty bourgeois, etc. Otherwise it can become a Labor Party; by social composition, a capitalist party in policy.
M.A..J. – It seems to me that in Minneapolis it’s too much an organizational struggle, a struggle for the control of the organization between the Stalinists and us. We have to develop in Minneapolis a programmatic fight against the Stalinists in FLP., as we yesterday utilized the vote about the Ludlow amendment.
M.I.N. – Now with the imminence of the outbreak of war the Labor Party can become a trap. And I still can’t understand how the LP can be different from a reformist, purely parliamentary party.
L.T. – You put the question too abstractly, naturally it can crystallize into a reformist party and one that will exclude us. But we must be part of the movement .We must say to the Stalinists, Lovestonites etc. “We are in favor of a revolutionary party. You are doing everything to make it reformist.” But we always point to our program. And we propose our program of transitional demands. As to the war question and the, Ludlow Amendment, we’ll discuss that tomorrow and I will again show the use of our transitional program in that situation.
L.T. – In the preceding discussions some comrades, had the impression that some of my propositions or demands were opportunistic, and others that they were too revolutionary, not corresponding to the objective situation. And this combination is very compromising and that’s why I’ll briefly defend this apparent contradiction.
What is the general situation in the U.S. and in the whole world? The economic crisis is without precedent, the financial crisis of the separate States the same and the war danger is approaching. It is a social crisis without precedent. For years we believed that American, capitalism will show more resistance but facts show that American capitalism, that is apoplectic capitalism is possibly nearer to collapse than some others. The American crisis is a social crisis, not a conjunctural one. This social crisis – now called recession – received features of extreme acuteness. It is not the end of the recession.
Financial difficulties of the States – naturally the nation is very rich and the State can borrow from the nation, but it signifies that on the basis of the financial crisis we have a crisis of the State. We can say that we have a political crisis of the ruling class. Prosperity is gone; nobody believes it will return. And this fact is reflected in the political crisis of the Democrats, the Republicans. The ruling classes are disorganized and they look for a new program. Roosevelt’s program is experimental, not to say adventuristic in a capitalistic sense. That signifies a most fundamental premise for a revolutionary situation. It is true for the world and it is true for the U.S. and possibly it’s especially true for the U.S.
Now the question of the proletariat. We have a very great change in the situation of the working class. In some articles in the “Socialist Appeal” and in the “New International” I learned with interest and pleasure that now the sentiment of the American worker that he is a worker is growing, that it is not the old pioneer spirit that he is a worker only for a time; now he is a permanent worker, and even a permanent unemployed .That is the basis for all the other developments in the working class. Then we had the sit-down strikes. Those I believe were unprecedented in the labor movement of the U.S. As a result of this movement, the creation and growing of the CIO. Also we have the tendency to build the Labor Party, the NPLL.
I do not know sufficiently well the past nor present of the labor movement of America. But generally in 1924 I can say that the movement was more imposing but the social premises are incomparably more mature now. That is why the significance of the LP is more important now. But I will not say that all the conditions are developed to the same degree or the same level. We can say, if we take the general world situation – the imperialist contradictions – the position of American capitalism, the crisis and unemployment, the position of the American State as an expression of American economy, of the American bourgeoisie, the political state of mind of the ruling class, the disorientation, and the position of the working class, we can say if we take all these into consideration, that the premise is more mature for the revolution.
Insofar as we advance from these fundamental premises to the superstructure, to the policies, we remark that they are not so mature. The inner contradictions of American capitalism – the crisis, and unemployment are incomparably more mature for the revolution than the consciousness of the American workers. These are the two poles of the situation. We can say that the situation is characterized by an over-maturity of all fundamental social premises for the revolution, a fact I personally didn’t foresee 8-9 years ago. On the other hand, thanks to this rapidity and growth of the decomposition of the material conditions of the U.S. the mass consciousness – in spite of the fact that we can here also establish important progress – remains backward in comparison with the objective conditions. We know that the subjective, the consciousness of the masses, the growth of the revolutionary party is not a fundamental factor. It depends upon the objective situation, that in the last instance the subjective element itself, depends upon the objective conditions but this dependence is not a simple process.
We observe in France during the last year a very important phenomenon, and very instructive for the comrades in the U.S. We can say the objective situation was almost as mature as in the U.S. The workers’ movement had received a tremendous impetus. The trade unions grew from less than a million to 5 million during several months. The sit-down strikes in France were incomparably more powerful than in the U.S. The workers were ready to do everything, to go to the limit. On the, other hand we saw the machinery of the Popular Front – for the first time we could demonstrate the historical importance of the betrayal of the Comintern. Insofar as for some years the Comintern had become a machine for the social conservation of capitalism, the disproportion between the objective and subjective, factors received a terrible acuteness and the Popular Front became the greatest brake in order to canalize this great revolutionary stream of the masses. And they succeeded to a certain degree – we can’t foresee what will be tomorrow – but in France they succeeded in capturing the movement of the masses and we see now the results; the movement to the Right, Blum becomes a leader, the one who forms national governments, the union sacrée for the war but it is a secondary phenomenon. The most important is that we have in the whole world as we have in the U.S. this disproportion between the objective and subjective factor but it was never as acute as now.
We have in the U.S. a movement of the masses to overcome this disproportion; the movement from Green to Lewis; the movement from Walker to La Guardia. This is a move to overcome the fundamental contradiction. The CP plays the role in the U.S. the same as in France but on a more modest scale. Rooseveltism replaces Popular Frontism of France. Under these conditions our Party is called upon to accomplish, to help the workers overcome this contradiction.
What are the tasks? The strategic task consists of helping the masses, adapting their mentality, politically, psychologically to the objective situation, of overcoming the prejudicial traditions of the American workers and adapting it to the objective situation of the social crisis of the whole system.
In this situation, taking into consideration the little experience and then viewing the creation of the CIO, the sit-down strikes, etc., we have the full right to be more optimistic, more courageous, more aggressive in our strategy and tactics – not adventuristic – but to advance slogans that are not in the vocabulary of the American working class.
What is the sense of the transitional program? We can call it a program of action but for us, for our strategic conception it is a transitional program – it is a help to the masses in overcoming the inherited ideas, methods, forms and adopt them to the exigencies of the objective situation. This transitional program must include the most simple demands. We cannot foresee and prescribe local and trade union demands adapted to the local situation of a factory, the development from this demand to the slogan for the creation of a workers’ soviet. These are two extreme points, from the development of our transitional program to find the connecting links and lead the masses to the idea of revolutionary conquest of power. That is why some demands appear very opportunistic because they are adapted to the actual mentality of the workers. That is why other demands appear too revolutionary because they reflect more the objective situation than the actual mentality of the workers. It is our duty to make this gap between objective and subjective factors as short as possible. That is why I cannot over-estimate the importance of the transitional program.
You can raise the objection that we cannot predict the rhythm and tempo of the development and that possibly the bourgeoisie will find a political recess – that is not excluded – but then we will be obliged to realize a strategic retreat. But in the present situation we must be oriented for a strategic offensive, not a retreat. This strategic offensive must be led by the idea of the creation of workers’ Soviets to the creation of a workers-farmers government. I don’t propose that the slogan be launched immediately for Soviets for many reasons and especially because the word has not the significance for American workers that it had for the Russian workers – in order to proceed from this to the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is very possible and probable that in the same manner that we observe in the U.S. the sit-down strikes, we will observe in a new form the equivalent of Soviets. Probably we will begin by giving them a different name. In a certain period Soviets can be replaced by factory committees, then from a local scale to a national scale. We can’t foretell but our strategic orientation for the next period is the orientation toward soviets. The whole transitional program must fill up the gaps between conditions today and the Soviets tomorrow.
M.I.N. – Would you elaborate the prospects of war internationally and to the relation of the U..S. today?
L.T. – In this strategic perspective the war signifies, as Lenin expressed it, a tremendous accelerator of the movement. If the U.S. were involved in a war it would at first signify isolation of us but not for years as in the last war but only for months. Then a tremendous wave of sympathy for us will transform our party into a national revolutionary center within a short period. In this sense the approaching war is one of the fundamental factors of a pre-revolutionary situation and that the war will change the mentality of the American workers in 6 months more than we could have done in 6 years or more will create for us exceptionally favorable conditions, provided we have a strategic attitude, foreseeing it, preparing our own cadres, and not only absorbed in small questions. Naturally it’s a tremendous acquisition that we are rooted in the trade unions but it’s very important not to lose our world strategic line. Every local, partial, economic demand must be an approach to a general demand in our transitional program and especially on the war question; as we mentioned yesterday, the control of war industry and the arming of the workers and peasants.
M.I.N. – Two other questions: What is our relationship to the farmers, and, secondly, what is the party’s relation to the urban middle class?
L.T. – I believe it is a question of explaining to the workers the situation of the farmer and how we can ameliorate the situation. We are too weak to devote bur forces directly to the farmers but it is necessary that our workers have a clear comprehension of the situation of the farmer and there too we have a transitional program connected to that of the workers. We have to explain that we will not impose collectivization; that we hope to convince them. Insofar as they wish to remain independent, we will help them through credit and we begin with the slogan that the state must intervene in favor of the farmers, not the trust. Then we say: When we are in power, it is not a question of violence against you; you will choose your own methods. It is transitory only in the sense that it bridges the present situation of the farmers to the collectivization of agriculture, but we say: If you don’t wish to go further, we’ll wait.
With the middle class of the cities it is the same. Insofar as it is the commercial elements, the little men of industry: You will remain independent. You are now depending upon the trust. You will be dependent upon the State; it will give you commodities and you will sell them. If you wish to transform your shop into a state shop, we will arrange the matter with you. We will give you a period to choose but it will be a good period as it is not a State in the interests of big capital. You will then be in the service of the people. In America you will at least conserve your social privileges for a time.
Naturally we cannot say to the technicians that they will become technocrats – no, we cannot permit a new aristocracy but they will be an important part of society.
M.E.X. – There is a stratification also among the engineers who get less money than the plaster men. That means right now they are plain workers and that is better for us.
L.T. – The stratification in the professions is very important.
M.A.J. – What would be the effect of the war?
M.I.N. – Supposing it is a European war in which the U.S. does not yet enter?
L.T. – In that case the U.S. will have a postponement of the economic collapse. What is clear is that the countries involved in the war the collapse will come not in 4-6 years but in 6-12 months because the capitalist countries are not richer but they are poorer than in 1914, materially; technically they are richer, they will spend 5, 10 times more for destruction than they did during the world war because the new war will begin where the last war finished. The psychological factor, that the old generation that participated in the last war are living; nobody will believe that it will signify happiness, full rights, destruction of militarism and that production will be for humanity. These lessons exist even in the younger generations. That is why the patience will not last long. And the revolution will come not after 4 years but much earlier, after some months. If we enter into this war tempered, steeled, and we are capable of surmounting the obstacles of the first period with courage, we will become the decisive force in the U.S. as elsewhere.
M.A.J. – Can expropriation be considered as nationalization that used to be spoken of by the reformists?
L.T. – We must emphasize that if the power is in the hands of Roosevelt, it is not in our hands. We must underline the class element every time. We must contrast our formula to that of the reformists; nationalization? Yes, but in whose hands.
M.A.J. – How long can the U.S. stay out of war in your opinion?
L.T. – I believe that if will not intervene in the beginning but it does not depend on the U.S. – it depends on the activity of Japan and the attitude of Great Britain. It is very difficult to say but we must count for much shorter intervals than in the last war when it took them 2 years to intervene. Now in 2 1/2 years there will be a total collapse. If they wish to influence the war they must intervene in a much shorter period and on an unprecedented scale in Europe and everywhere and concentrate forces ten times more powerful than the forces of Wilson who didn’t have 10 or more million unemployed. You can say that all these unemployed will be absorbed in the war industry but that signifies the creation of a terrible pump of absorbing all the riches of the nation.
M.I.N. – Is it your opinion that the Soviet Union will be with one State against another or the imperialists will allow Hitler to attack on the West and Japan on the East?
L.T. – I don’t believe they will have such a reasonable plan. I believe the war will begin with the S.U. in one of the camps and during the war they will smash the S.U. – by allies or by enemies does not matter unless a revolution occurs.
M.I.N. – Then how explain the change in policy of G.B.?
L.T. – It is an attempt – it is vital for Italy as for G.B., if they can come to an agreement and if they do whether the agreement will last for more than 3 months; whether Italy will remain in expectation as in the last war and join the stronger or those who seem to be stronger. I have taken up the question of possible alliances and line-ups in case of war in an article for the bourgeois press hut it was not published. ...