Oneal Discovers “Trotskyism”

Socialist Locals Come Out for the Fourth International

(February 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 9, 24 February 1934, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

A sacred flame flickers in the weekly column of the socialist organ, The New Leader. It is kept alive by the oracular commentaries of the editor, Mr. James Oneal. Every week, Cassandra croaks a warning to one or another group in the flock which threatens to stray from the barren pastures fenced in by the high priests of the Socialist party. One would think that a shepherd who has had such unrelieved bad luck in the past fifteen years would shut up shop and go into a business more suited to his talents. But not Mr. Oneal.

Local Denver for 4th International In the New Leader of February 10, 1934, the smallest available type in the most obscure corner announces the not unimportant fact that

“Local Denver has endorsed the Springfield (Ill.) resolution to withdraw from the International and join the Fourth (Trotsky) International.”

Elsewhere we learn that, at least in New York, branches of the Socialist party are listening to speeches on Trotsky and the Fourth International. At all events, the highly encouraging news that two branches as far apart as Springfield and Denver have adopted resolutions in favor of the new revolutionary International, would indicate that there is a distinct – if as yet a weak – current in the ranks of the Socialist party for a clean break with the Second International and association with the Fourth

Into the breach rushes Mr. Oneal In his column of February 17, he writes:

“A resolution has been adopted by a few (A few! – s.) Socialist locals which declares that the Labor and Socialist International, ‘commonly known as the Second International, has an unbroken record of disservice to the working class of the world, beginning with its support of the nationalistic and imperialistic ambitions of the bourgeoisie before and during the war of 1914–1918, followed by its attempt (altogether too successful) to restore order and harmony to the disrupted capitalist economy in the defeated nations, and this at the expense of the proletariat.’

“Then ‘the strategy and tactics of evolutionary socialism and reformism have proved its inability to withstand the advance of Fascism’ which destroyed ‘all the reforms and advantages that labor unions and political action have gained in decades’. Therefore, it is urged that the party withdraw from the L.S.I. and join the Fourth International.”

— And what would this mean? Mr. Oneal is not easily deceived

“Party members should understand that the Fourth International is a project of the Trotsky Communists and that it means that the Socialist Party should affiliate with a new Communist International. The resolution conceals this important fact.”

Oneal Distorts Facts

But who is Mr. Oneal to cast a stone? He not only conceals facts of no lesser importance, but alas! he distorts several more. The merits of Communism versus Social Democracy are today far less a matter of only theoretical dispute than they were over a decade ago when Oneal engaged in debate in the New Star Casino in New York and proclaimed that he would never join an International which harbored Noske and Scheidemann. There is today a far vaster store of factual material by which to judge than existed a decade ago – and there was more than enough even then.

As an historian of early colonial life, Mr. Oneal has delved as meticulously into facts as his un-Marxian mind would permit. Whenever he has occasion to touch upon the nistory of Communism and proletarian revolution, however, he becomes a disseminator of myths. To the erring “Trotskyists” in his party, therefore, he lectures as follows:

“That situations have been misjudged at times by the movements abroad may be granted, but that Communist ideology and methods have been wise and have served the working class is not true, as Bavaria, Italy, Hungary and Germany show ... The Bolsheviks judged wrongly and paid the penalty in Bavaria, Italy, Hungary and Germany. The Labor Party in England miscalculated its duty in office and paid the penalty. The Socialists in Germany and Italy had not only their own choice to make but that choice was also limited by what the Communists decided to do.”

Social Democratic Legends

If by “Communist ideology and methods” are meant the ideology and methods of Lenin, Trotsky and the Communist International which they founded, we don’t know what Oneal is talking about. If he is referring to the legend created as a cover for socialist treachery, it should not take more than a few sentences to explode it.

  1. The revolution in Bavaria was not led by the Bolsheviks a all, but by the Independent Socialists under Kurt Eisner, later murdered by Count Arco-Valley. Into the Eisner cabinet entered, upon the urging of agents of the Berlin Chancellery, the notorious social democrat Auer, who later sent a bouquet of flowers to Count Arco. Auer did not “miscalculate”; the Bavarian revolution was drowned in its own blood – but not because of the Bolsheviks.
  2. It was not the Communists but the social democratic head of the Italian trade unions, D’Aragona, who quit the meeting of their National Council (where for five days and nights the Right wing had been trying to find some way of calling off the two-weeks’ old occupation of the factories) in order to proceed secretly to Turin to meet with Prime Minister Giolitti. It was these two who stabbed the Italian movement in the back at the moment of its highest ascent, on the basis of Giolitti’s promise that a Factory Council Law would be proposed to parliament and carried – which it never was. Two weeks after the factories were cleared, the big Fascist offensive was launched which ended with the march on Rome. Nor was it as a result of “Communist ideology and methods” that D’Aragona boasted that he had remained within the Socialist party in order to prevent the revolution; or that Turati ran to the King in the hope of staving off Fascism by a coalition; or that Baldesi was ready to enter the first Mussolini cabinet. Despite all errors they may have committed in the early period of their party existence, the Italian Communists do not bear the responsibility for the crimes of Italian reformism.

The Case of Hungary

  1. Hungary is just as poor a case for Oneal, because it was never an example of Communist methods. This is sufficiently indicated by the mere fact that the Hungarian Soviet republic represented a division of power between the Communists (if that is what the group around Bela Kun can be called) and the Socialists. The dictatorship was proclaimed after the conclusion (in half a minute!) of an agreement between the socialist leadership and Kun’s group. In the council of five which actually directed the affairs of the Soviet republic, the socialists had the majority! The telegraphic inquiry of Lenin, who was deeply concerned about this union with the perfidious social democrats, was answered by Kun with a deceptive assurance that the Communist position in the government was adequately guaranteed. As to the role played by the Austrian and Czech social democrats when the counter-revolution crushed the Soviets – perhaps Oneal would like to spend a couple of paragraphs on the subject ...
  2. As for Germany, one must be possessed of a monstrous insolence to compare, let us say, the miscalculations of a Liebknecht with the “miscalculations” of an Ebert or a Noske, or fourteen years later, a Wels and a Stampfer. We will not affront our readers by elaborating on this theme!

Stalinism Is Not Communism

Mr. Oneal is disturbed, and properly so. He is not dealing here with Stalinists, you see. He cannot foist upon the “Trotskyists” the onus of any of the idiocies and crimes of the bureaucracy which disgraces the good name of Communism. He is unable to resort to the trick of dangling, before the discontented Socialist militants the misshapen form of Stalinism and labelling it Communism, in order to frighten back his ranks from the path which leads to a revolutionary position. He must therefore fumble around in his memory for the tattered legends about the “failure” of “Communist methods” – “even under Lenin and Trotsky.”

We do not think that those militants in the Socialist party who stand in the revolutionary vanguard by the very fact that they have properly put the emphasis on the key problem of the day – the International – will worry greatly over Oneal’s oracular admonitions. They are obviously past that stage. And the ranks will swell of those who see that there is an uncommon amount of yellow in Oneal’s guttering sacred flame.

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