Max Shachtman


For the Communist Ticket

(August 1924)

Published in The Young Worker [Chicago], vol.3, no.15 (Aug. 1, 1924), p.3.
Transcribed & marked up by D. Walters & T. Davenport for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The nomination by the Workers Party of America of William Z. Foster for President and Benjamin Gitlow for Vice President on a Communist ticket for the first time in the political history of this country will be welcomed by every real class-conscious worker in the United States. The workers in this country face a peculiar alignment of political forces which directly explain the reason for the Communist nominations.

The convention of the Republican Party in Cleveland nominated Coolidge and Dawes, both reactionary to the core, representing the big capitalists and financiers of America, Dawes being directly a part of the big Morgan financial group.

The next convention held was that at St. Paul, June the 17th [1924], which, while it laid the basis for a broad class party of the workers and exploited farmers, failed to rally all these elements immediately on the basis of a class party and program. It nominated its tentative candidates, Duncan McDonald and William Bouck, tentative in the sense that a possible change was to be made in the event that a group of the honest Farmer-Labor forces still affiliated to the Conference for Progressive Political Action would break from it and create the possibility for a united front Farmer-Labor ticket in the coming election.

Then came the convention of the Democratic Party. That poor collection was forced to stay in session until it took 103 ballots for the Presidential nomination. It was so confused, so torn between the various economic forces still adhering to the party, that the firm organized group of financiers of the same Morgan chain finally won out with the nomination of John W. Davis, Morgan lawyer for President, and Charles Bryan for running mate. The petty bourgeois and Democratic labor politician elements went down in defeat by their failure to nominate either McAdoo for the Presidency or George Berry of the Pressmen’s Union for the Vice Presidency. The Ku Klux Klan, which has failed to become a real anti-labor factor by its nonsensical – from the capitalist point of view – exclusion of such honest anti-labor elements as the Catholics and the Jews, also failed to get across its candidate, McAdoo. The issue of “wet” versus “dry” was, of course, a fake, and had no fundamental bearing on the nominations or the platform.

The convention of the Conference for Progressive Political Action that followed at Cleveland was in some respects very decisive. It was of course merely a ratification meeting on the candidate named in the private chambers of Robert Marion LaFollette, that is, Robert Marion LaFollette himself. The writer, who attended the sessions of the convention, recalls the frequent embarrassment of chairman [William H.] Johnston, who waited the final word from LaFollette and in order to prevent any action being taken by the delegates, kept on feeding them with “keynoters,” one after the other. The only vote of importance came on the nomination, if one can call it that, of LaFollette, and that vote was unanimous. Everyone, from the millionaire supporter of the Wisconsin Senator, Rawleigh, to the “revolutionary” Socialist Party, shouted “Aye!”

This marks the betrayal of the movement for independent political action by the workers and exploited farmers of this country. The Socialist Party, which is supposed to be on record for the formation of a labor party, joined wholeheartedly in the betrayal. Other organizations, especially of the trade unions, which had repeatedly gone on record for independent political action, concurred in the attempt to place the workers under the leadership of the petty bourgeois idol, LaFollette.

The concluding nail was the convention of the tottering Socialist Party, held the day after the meeting of the CPPA. That there were over 150 delegates present is no indication of the strength of the SP. The delegates were practically all delegates also to the convention held the day before. However, there they were. The leaders of the Socialist Party had maneuvered their party into the position where it had to go along with the LaFollette campaign or else lose what little they had gained from affiliation to the gang of labor fakers of the CPPA. The SP could go along and forego nomination of its own candidates, something which it had religiously done for the last score of years; or else it could continue its independence, and lose its last opportunity to recuperate from the loss of revolutionary blood by a transfusion of tolerant support by the aristocratic labor leaders, who, at the heart, despise the lickspittleism of the Hillquiters. And since no institution or organization will willingly give up existence, even at the expense of honor and integrity, the SP joined; the SP did not nominate a Socialist candidate; the SP gave up its political independence to a candidate who is notorious for his reactionary economic program which attempts to drag capitalist development back about 100 years, a positive impossibility.

* * * * *

The nomination of McDonald and Bouck had been made, as stated, in the hope that the Farmer-Laborites still affiliated to the CPPA would break away when they learned that no party was to be organized. This hope was not realized. They went along. The mirage of LaFollette seemed too strong for them.

The situation is now clear. The Communists and their close sympathizers have remained true to the idea of independent class political action. The idea of the independent Farmer-Labor Party has been betrayed by the leaders of the CPPA and by their Socialist supporters. The principle of the labor party has been dealt a death blow by the actions of LaFollette, the CPPA, and the Socialist Party. In such a situation, the Workers Party raises the banner of real class political action in the coming election. The Workers Party firmly holds the standard and goes forward in the struggles. The Communist candidates now stand alone as the representatives of the revolutionary proletariat.

The opportunity for Communist propaganda in an electoral campaign of national scope was never better. The lines are drawn clean.

* * * * *

In this new line of policy that the Central Executive Committee of the Workers Party has laid down, and which has been endorsed by the National Executive Committee of the Young Workers League, there is a danger, a danger that is present in practically every tactic a Communist Party pursues, a danger that must be vigilantly guarded against. The danger is that the policy will be falsely understood.

It must be emphasized that the united front tactics in America, the formation of a mass class labor party, is still a problem of the hour for us. But just as the formation of such a party is not the end of all of our activity, just as much is this new policy only a means to an end; a mass revolutionary, Communist party for the achievement of the revolution of the proletariat. During and after this Presidential election, with the added strength that the Communist movement gains by placing independent candidates in the field, the drive for the Farmer-Labor Party will have to be continued and intensified.

As has already been made public, the National Committee of the National [Federated] Farmer-Labor Party has endorse the Workers Party Presidential candidates. It is our duty to get all local bodies to do likewise.

In the meantime, we must concentrate every ounce of energy in carrying on Communist propaganda during the election. While we recognize the limitations of “democratic elections,” we realize that it affords a greater opportunity than usual for spreading our message, that it gives us relatively more liberty than ordinarily.

Every member of the Young Workers’ League into the campaign! The Communist candidates against the entire field! The Communists against the bourgeoisie!

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