[Max Shachtman]

Stanley Disappoints Lovestone

(June 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 11, 1 June 1931, p. 6.
No author is given, but a remark within the text is signed “S.”, a pseudonym regularly used by Shachtman.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The current issue of the Lovestone sheet, under the title S.P. Militants Collapse at City Meet; Fully Endorse Hillquit Stand, begins its comment by saying:

“As foreseen in the columns of the Revolutionary Age (we shall soon see what this “foresight” consisted of. – S.], the failure of the ‘militant’ movement in the Socialist party to make a vigorous struggle along the entire front against the leadership of the S.P. and against its anti-socialist policies and for a policy of revolutionary socialism has led to a decided deterioration of this movement and to the success of the efforts of clever Hillquit bureaucracy to ‘kill it with kindness’.”

The article goes whimperingly on to explain how the recent city convention of the S.P. adopted a disgracefully reformist resolution on the “city investigation” with the support of an alliance between the “militants” and Hillquit.

“The fact that the same individuals who voted for this resolution,” continues Lovestone, “only a few months ago introduced a resolution criticizing the reformist character of the socialist party’s election campaign, that they spoke openly of the proletarian dictatorship, of the development of socialism in the Soviet Union and of the necessity of ending [!] the reformist role of the socialist party, indicates the truth of the contention of the Revolutionary Age. Either a consistent and logical struggle against the reformist theories and practises as a whole and thus an approach to Communism or back to the swamp of Hillquit-Thomas reformism.”

One can scarcely have imagined so rapid a denouement of the tragi-comedy staged by the leaders of the Lovestone group and the ridiculous disappointment of these Menshevik impresarios at the unexpected turn taken by the “militant” actors whom they had advertised so widely. From the Communist viewpoint, the Stanleys, the McAllister Colemans, the Leonard Brights and their stock company were dismissed at the very outset as frauds masquerading as radical politicians. From the standpoint of the Lovestoneites (i.e., of the epigones of Communism), the “militants” were played up as just a shade or two short of being perfect Communists.

How and what did the Revolutionary Age “foresee”? It foresaw nothing. It did not warn the Communist workers, and even worse, it did not warn the workers in looking for a way out of the reformist swamp, that the “militant group”, composed of a clique of second and third class leaders would only keep the workers anchored in the swamp. On the contrary, the whole policy of Lovestone faction was calculated to keep the dissatisfied S.P. workers tied to the “Left” wing reformists by perpetuating their illusions about the latter. The Lovestone policy was calculated upon recruiting support for Stanley, Porter and Shapiro (who are in turn the props of Hillquit, Thomas and Lee), and not upon winning the workers away from them. For the Lovestoneites to speak of “foresight” and the “truth” of their contentions is a perfectly shameless gambling upon the short memories of their readers.

What did these chagrined and disappointed Mensheviks say about the “Militants” and their activities a brief three or four months ago? From Herberg:

“The resolution [on Russia] introduced by the Stanley group was thoroughly pro-Soviet not merely in sentiment but in revolutionary class content ... It is clear from a mere reading of both resolutions [Lee’s and Stanley’s] that on this question the differences have already [!] reached the point where they cannot remain within the bounds of one party ... The Left group manifests as its chief feature a continuous ever changing dynamic character. This fundamental feature also distinguishes the Leftward movement from classical centrism.” (No. 7, Rev. Age)

From the editorial: The Stanley resolution “basing itself on the proletarian character of the Soviet state very closely approximates a Communist position.” (No. 6, Rev. Age)

From Gitlow:

But the differences between the ‘Militants’ and the Oneals, Hillquits, Lees and Thomases are differences of principle of such a character that they cannot be reconciled within the realms of one party.” (No. 9, Rev. Age)

A bare four months ago, therefore, our “foresighted” politicians solemnly established the “militants” as: 1. Distinguished from classical Centrism by a “fundamental feature”; 2. Having differences which have “already” reached the point and are of such a character that “they cannot be reconciled with the standpoint of Hillquit; 4. Having a position on the proletarian dictatorship in the Soviet Union which a “thoroughly pro-Soviet” in its “revolutionary class” content, and “very closely approximates a Communist position”. Not a single word about how the minority leaders were abusing the discontentment of the workers following them; not a word of warning about the counter-revolutionary attack on Bolshevism for “exterminating” the Mensheviks, which Stanley made in his resolution; not a word to distinguish the workers from the leaders; not a word of criticism or warning, in short, of the whole reformist character of His Majesty Hillquit’s Loyal Oposition. Just the opposite: a deliberate exaggeration of its “radicalism”, a glowing embellishment of its “virtues”.

Now, after weeks of tooting the horn for the “militants”, the Rev. Age collapses like a pricked balloon. Overnight, the virile revolutionists of the S.P. have “decidedly deteriorated”. In less time than It takes to tell, Hillquit has succeeded in killing it – no less. The difference that could not be reconciled within the realms of one party” are ... reconciled. Instead of approximating a “Communist position”, Stanley and Co. are bitterly reproached by their eulogists of yesterday for adopting a ... Hillquit position. Those fundamentally distinguished from classical Centrism turn out to be – to Lovestone’s amazement – blood brethren to Hillquit and Co.

How could so monstrous a transformation take place within so brief a period? Nobody, least of all the Lovestoneites, can solve this conundrum, because it is falsely put. There has been no transformation – at least no radical one. The essence has remained the same. The actors are the same. Only the costumes are slightly changed. The only part played by our Right wing liquidators was to drum up trade for the reformist montebanks in the hope of making some political capital out of the affair for themselves. They foresaw nothing, or more accurately, they analyzed, foresaw and foretold incorrectly. They simply repeated on a small American scale the policy of Menshevism pursed by the Stalin-Bucharin regime towards the national bourgeoisie of China and the “Left” wing labor fakers of the British General Council of trade unions. The consequences of Lovestone’s blunders in this field are less, it is true, but no slighter in their treacherous contempt for Communist principle.

Those who believe Lovestone has learned anything from the miserable debacle with the New York “militants” are doomed to the same disappointment as Lovestone himself suffered. In the same issue where Lovestone so pitiably bewails the “collapse” of his white hopes in New York, he published a laudatory footnote on a new set of “militants”, this time in Virginia, where the S.P. state convention, following the Stanley policy of “dumping” their radicalism abroad at cheap prices and leaving none for domestic consumption, passed resolutions of pious praise for the Soviet republic. The real political caliber of these Virginia “militants” of the S.P. is known to almost everybody even slightly acquainted with the composition of Hillquit’s party. But for Lovestone, it is any port in a storm. How many weeks will it take this time for the Rev. Age to “discover” that the Virginia port was a poor one, after all; in fact that it was no port at all, but rather another social democratic swamp?

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