Felix Morrow

War Cliques Split New York Labor Party

Patriots Divide on Support of Axis or Allies

(13 October 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 78, 13 October 1939, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The two warring camps in the American Labor Party have spent the week hurling charges and countercharges, setting up dual executive committees in New York County, and filing separate nominating petitions.

Amid the tumult, the several hundred thousand trade unionists who constitute the American Labor Party by virtue of the affiliation of their unions, are finding it hard to determine what is the issue which has caused the split. For the rival belligerents are not particularly interested in telling the truth. Each camp is as anxious as the other to avoid frank statement of the real issue.

The ALP bureaucrats – speaking for the officialdom of the needle trades – attempt to exploit the feelings of the progressive (and especially Jewish) trade unionists against the Hitler-Stalin alliance; they say they are fighting the discredited Communist party for its reactionary defense of the Hitler-Stalin axis. They say as little as possible about the basic sections of their resolution – the pro-war sections.

The Stalinists, likewise,blur the real basis of the conflict. In the New York County fight they try to hide behind the reactionary state laws which create electoral machinery separate from that of the trade union base of the ALP,which gives the Stalinists the pretext for designating the October 4th city conference called by the ALP leadership as “having no legal status under the election law.” In refusing to accept the ALP resolution, Michael J. Quill attacks Chamberlain, but says not a word about the Hitler-Stalin alliance, and, in typical Stalinist fashion when confusion is deemed necessary, identifies himself with Roosevelt’s policy as against the Antonini-Rose policy (needless to say, Antonini and Rose, in their pro-Ally position are the more “legitimate” followers of Roosevelt). At the October 4 city conference the Stalinist spokesman, Irving Potash, made his main point a plea that, since the ALP had never expressed itself before on international affairs, it should not do so now! To make confusion worse confounded, the Stalinists name (without his consent) Adolph Held as county treasurer – Held, president of the war-mongering Forward Association!

Stalinist supporters in the fight raise a cry against the“Hitler methods” of the ALP leadership. One of them – Ross Kenyon, ALP nominee for General Sessions judge,makes a brilliant contribution: he approves Roosevelt’s cash-and-carry proposals, “But I cannot see that the platform of the American Labor Party or of any political party is the place for a bitter attack on Germany and Russia, both nations with which the United States is still at peace.” Another ALP candidate, for municipal court judge, Allan Goodwin, deplores “a controversial foreign issue which has no place in the party’s resolutions.”

In a word, both of the contending camps in the ALP are conducting themselves in thoroughly unprincipled fashion, blurring the issues, hiding the facts. Neither one wants to conduct the fight on the ground on which it really stands.

Why? Because neither one dares admit the truth. The truth is that each side is a war-mongering partisan of one of the contending imperialist camps. Each side attempts to pose as a lover of peace, but each side is actually for the victory of one of the contending imperialist camps. The ALP leaders are partisans of Anglo-French imperialism and of Roosevelt’s proposals to begin aligning America with that camp. The Stalinists are partisans of the Hitler-Stalin bloc. The antagonisms of the two warring camps in Europe are reflected in this fight in the ALP; each side serves one of the camps. In the face of the widespread anti-war sentiment, however, neither dares admit its real aim. Hence the deliberately spread confusion.

The Real Facts

However, no smoke screen can conceal the real facts. No amount of shouting against the deservedly-hated Stalinists can conceal the real meaning of the ALP resolution of October 4. Its criticism of the Hitler-Stalin pact is a democratic-imperialist criticism and has nothing in common with a working class critique of the reactionary role of the Stalinist bureaucracy.

As long as Stalin adhered to the democratic-imperialist camp, the ALP leaders slept cheek by jowl with the Stalinists in the ALP and the unions; none of Stalin’s crimes of his “democratic” period – the Moscow trials, the purges and massacres, the betrayal of the Spanish revolution, the smashing of the great movement of the French proletariat, and in America the undermining of the militancy of the labor movement in the service of Roosevelt, etc., etc. – all these crimes the ALP leaders either supported, condoned or passed over lightly. They lived at peace and in collaboration with the Stalinists through all these terrible events.

Only now do they break with the Stalinists. And why? Have the ALP leaders perhaps repented of their reactionary position on all the great events of these years? Not at all. They remain grooved in that reactionary course. Their sole grievance against the Stalinists is that Stalin has deserted the camp of Anglo-French imperialism for the camp of German imperialism.

No smoke screen can conceal from the workers of America the fundamental motivation of the ALP resolution. It identifies itself with “the cause of the Western democracies that are fighting for the preservation of those democratic values and liberties which we in this country treasure so dearly,” and goes so far as to say that “the great majority of the American people have looked forward to the day when the remaining democracies on the European continent would find the strength to resist the brazen aggression of Hitlerism.”

This is war-mongering in the most literal sense of the term. From it logically follows the endorsement of Roosevelt’s proposals for lifting the embargo to aid Anglo-French imperialism. From it logically follows any and all other steps to aid Anglo-French imperialism, including American entry into the war. The resolution hypocritically refrains from going the whole hog only because the anti-war sentiments of the masses are too well-known to the ALP bureaucrats. They follow, instead, the Roosevelt tactic of taking, step by step, actions which will, in the end, lead America into the war.

We need mention here only in passing how deliberately false is the rose-colored picture of the“democracies” painted in the ALP resolution. That Britain and France are the greatest slave-holding empires in the world, subjecting the masses of Africa and Asia to an even lower living standard than bestial fascism has been able to impose at home upon the German and Italian workers; that only in the “mother countries” is there even a semblance of democracy; that Anglo-French imperialism facilitated the victory of Hitler and preferred it to a socialist revolution in Germany, etc. – of all this there is not a hint in the idyllic picture of the “democracies”painted by the cynical bureaucrats of the ALP.

“Left Wing” Cover

At the October 4 city conference at which the fight was precipitated, a “left wing” cover for the ALP bureaucrats was provided by the Norman Thomas Socialists and Lovestoneites present. Two or three of them took the floor to make a point or two in differentiating themselves from the more flagrantly war-mongering aspects of the official resolution, but not one of them exposed the dishonest strategy of the ALP bureaucrats – and they voted for the resolution. “Subscribing to and reaffirming” the war-mongering resolution has been put as an ultimatum to all ALP candidates. Two members of the Socialist Party, Harry W. Laidler and Frank Crosswaith, are ALP candidates. The press reports that Crosswaith “expressed unqualified approval for the resolution.” Neither the Socialist Party nor the Independent Labor League (Lovestoneites) has yet expressed itself officially; we await their official statements and will comment on them. Their strategy is, however, made clear by their shameful conduct at the city conference: whatever their perfunctory reservations, they are going along with the ALP bureaucrats, as they voted with them on October 4.

Can one conceivably justify this course on the ground of opposition to Stalinism? To attempt to do so is utterly dishonest. By this course the Stalinists are aided, not crushed. It enables the Stalinists to pose as fighters against “war incitement.” Quill is able to appeal to the Irish-American workers, Ford to the Negro workers,who know what their brothers endure under British imperialism. The Stalinists are everywhere losing ground because, with a sure instinct however inarticulate, the masses consider the Hitler-Stalin alliance a betrayal of the world working class. Precisely at this point the ALP provides the Stalinists with a rallying-point. Saying as little as possible about their support of the Hitler axis and as much as possible about the ALP leaders’ support of the Anglo-French axis, the Stalinists are able to hold part of their shattered ranks together on this issue. The ALP leaders have done for the Stalinists what they could not do for themselves: provided them with a good issue. Once again we are taught an important lesson: the struggle against Stalinism cannot be conducted by the equally-corrupt reformist labor bureaucracy, and their Social-Democratic, Socialist or Lovestoneite servitors.

There Is a Third Camp

The war-mongering position of the ALP leaders is NOT a lesser evil than the war-mongering position of the Stalinists. Just as we refuse to make any basic distinctions between the camp of Chamberlain and that of Hitler, so we refuse to make any distinction between the war camp of Antonini-Rose and that of Quill-Stalin. Neither represents the interests of the working class. Both lead to war and the decimation and destruction of the working class.

The genuine anti-war sentiments of the masses in the New York needle trades cannot find its expression through either the ALP bureaucrats or through the Stalinists. If those anti-war sentiments are not to be perverted – to Hitler’s service by the Stalinists, to Chamberlain’s service by Rose and Antonini – the anti-war forces in the unions must express themselves independently of either of the two cliques. Neither the “left wing” apologies for the ALP bureaucrats nor the pseudo-radical phraseology now employed by the Stalinists should hide this basic fact: neither of the warring cliques speaks for peace. In every union affiliated to the ALP the workers should begin discussing, not merely the pro-war positions now contending for control,but the THIRD position: the anti-war position which represents the present and future interests of the working class. The third camp – the camp of the genuine fighters against war, against all imperialisms – is the only camp worth supporting and fighting for.

Last updated on 15 February 2018