From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 15, 14 March 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
In our first article dealing with the Communist party’s explanation, in the Daily Worker, March 3, of why it boycotted the anti-Nazi demonstration of Feb. 20, we dealt with two important points: 1. That the Popular or Democratic Front policy of the Stalinists always gives the “progressive” capitalist-democrat the final say in what the workers do or do not do, and 2. That the “progressive” capitalists have always, everywhere, and continue now in America, to oppose the use of militant methods of fighting fascism. A number of other points are equally important:
3. The workers who demonstrated on Feb. 20 had it proved on their heads and backs that the “progressive” capitalists are opposed to anti-fascist demonstrations. LaGuardia’s police, not losing their heads but coolly and deliberately attacked the demonstration. Why? The Stalinists, ready to defend their “Democratic front” alliance with LaGuardia and his cops, foully accuse the workers of “provocations.” The workers, we are told to believe, insisted on running their heads into the cops’ clubs, and on rolling themselves under the horses hooves. The Trotskyists, presumably, hypnotized fifty thousand workers to a point where they enjoyed being beaten and kicked.
The Stalinist alibi for the cops, however, is punctured by authoritative testimony from many quarters that the cops assaulted the picket lines. Even the Jewish Morning Journal and the Jewish Daily Forward were constrained to report the police’s unprovoked assaults on the demonstrators.
Even the New Republic felt impelled to publish James T. Farrell’s letter to LaGuardia, testifying as an eyewitness to the police brutality. The Nation, consistently hostile to the Trotskyist movement, nevertheless declared editorially:
“But the sinister aspect of the Bund affair is that the city police not only protected the Nazis in their right of free speech: they interfered with the rights of the demonstrators outside and inside to voice their opposition to the Nazi doctrine.
“We are all too familiar with the actions of the police bent on ‘law and order’; the alarming thing in this case is that the city administration, for all Its anti-fascist convictions, gave sanction to the police in what has become their occupational antagonism to all picket lines. Newbold Morris, acting mayor, issued a statement asking the public to show their support of democratic institutions by shunning the assemblage as ‘one would a pestilence.’ A pestilence is not overcome by shunning it; the only effective popular answer to such meetings as that of the Bund is counter-demonstration. The two left groups, the Socialist Workers Party and the Young People’s Socialist League, who insisted on exercising their right to picket, discovered that they and not the Nazis were the ‘enemy.’ They were dispersed by force – and the police become the heroes of the newspapers, of Mayor LaGuardia, and unquestionably of the German-American bund.” (The Nation, Mar. 4, 1939)
As a matter of fact, Jerome unconsciously reveals that he takes for granted such behavior of the police, when he says that a Communist party demonstration – which would presumably not be led by provacateurs – “would have incited a direct collision not only with the Bund, but with the city administration and the police who were present to enforce the decision of the city administration.”
Jerome and the Communist party leadership know that everywhere – in Italy, Germany, Spain, France – the police, no matter who is at the head of the capitalist government, always concentrate their fight on the workers instead of the fascists. The police’s “occupational antagonism to all picket lines”, and the fundamental loyalty of “progressives” to capitalism lead them inevitably to side in action – no matter what they say – with the fascists against the workers.
4. “Every result since the meeting confirms the wisdom of the Communist position,” says Jerome.
“The Bund is far more exposed now after the meeting than before it; even notorious reactionaries and pro-fascists are frying for the moment to disassociate themselves from its activity. This will make it more difficult for the Bund to organize such meetings in the future. Exactly the opposite would have been the result had the Communist party ignored the welfare of the whole democratic camp and mobilized its tens of thousands of members and friends around the Garden on Monday night.”
By this Stalinist logic, therefore, the way to end the fascist movement is for the fascists to hold more meetings at which they “expose themselves” and for the workers not to mobilize against the fascists. The same conclusion was drawn by the yellow Social-Democratic Jewish Forward and the Jewish bourgeois press.
But this is a lie! The whole development of fascism in Europe warns us that the road pointed out by the Stalinists ends up in the concentration camps.
The only way to fight the fascists is by mass struggle, by bringing the workers out into the streets and the neighborhoods where the fascists rally, by thus organizing the power of the working class in direct conflict with the fascists. Once this is understood, the best of the workers must be organized into Workers Defense Guards, prepared and trained to smash the fascist gangs. There is no other way. The fascist gangs do not believe in abiding by the results of the ballot-box, or by any other peaceful procedure. On the contrary, the fascists plan to come to power by physical violence against the labor movement and anti-fascists generally. To appeal to “democracy” against the fascists is like trying to stop bullets with the biblical edict that “Thou Shalt Not Kill.”
But the road of struggle is barred to the members and sympathizers of the Communist party by their leaders. Tied hand and foot to the LaGuardias and Roosevelts, they prefer unity with these fake “progressives” to uniting the workers against the fascists.
The Stalinist leaders do not, however, dare to bare their full line, for it is so alien to the militant instincts of the workers that the Communist party would be stripped of every real anti-fascist if the meaning of this “Democratic front” became fully clear. Hence the Stalinists seek to confuse the issue by impugning the motives of those who called the anti-Nazi demonstration. “It is a literal fact,” says Jerome – and that use of “literal” reveals that what he is going to say is so preposterous that he cannot just say, “It is a fact,” but must add “literal” as underpinning – “that the Trotskyite ‘pickets’ were part and parcel of the Bund plan for provocation; the Trotskyite ‘pickets’ were the outside auxiliary of the Bund within the Garden.” Who believes such vile nonsense? Certainly not the cynical hireling, Jerome, who writes it.
The cry of “Trotskyists-fascists” will certainly not go far with the thousands of Communist party members and sympathizers who, defying their party’s orders, joined us in the Feb. 20 demonstration, and side by side with us stood up against the cops and the Nazis. But they must also learn to understand why the Stalinist leadership uses name-calling: to cover up its inability to answer our indictment of the cowardly and anti-working class course of the Communist party. We were driven out of the Communist party because the lackeys of Stalin could not debate the issues with us, and they will drive out of the Communist party every sincere worker who raises these vital questions.
We do not ask the Communist party members to take our word for it. Let them open a discussion of the Feb. 20 demonstration in their party units, let them fight for a militant policy in the struggle against fascism, let them demand an end to the policy of servile obedience to the LaGuardias – and they will learn in the course of the discussion that they belong with us in the Socialist Workers Party.
Last updated on 28 November 2014