National Tour Shows
League Influence

(June 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 23, 9 June 1934, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

One of the features of the recently completed national tour was the gratifying success obtained in those localities where hitherto the League had never held a public meeting. To cite a few examples will serve to indicate how vast are the possibilities of rebuilding the movement in the United States on a truly revolutionary basis.

Tonawanda and North Tonawanda are twin cities a few miles north of Buffalo. We have one lone comrade doing the spade work there – a locality which does not have a substantial labor movement. Through the efforts of this pioneer, a meeting was arranged by the local unemployed organization, organized largely by him, which was attended by well over a hundred workers. Most of those present were in the organization as their first connection with any form of the labor movement. Nevertheless they followed through attentively the presentation of the Communist League position on the problem of unemployment, and though jobless, indicated their sympathy with a good financial response. One of the significant results of the meeting was the invitation extended to the speaker, comrade Shachtman, to address the forthcoming district conference of the Paper, Pulp and Sulphite Workers Union, which has a good measure of strength on both sides of the Niagara Falls.

An even better example is Winnipeg. At no time had a public or private meeting under our auspices ever been held in this historic labor community. If the initial reception accorded our meetings during the tour is any index at all, Winnipeg promises to outstrip many of our established branches in short order. The meetings were arranged by less than half a dozen sympathizers and friends, who did an excellent job, too. One meeting, on the fundamental question of our differences with Stalinism, attended mostly by Jewish workers, brought down 75. Another meeting was arranged where Shachtman spoke on the unemployment program of the League to a semi-official district conference of an organization embracing over 7,000 workers. The main meeting, chaired by the most popular revolutionary educator in the city, comrade Bloshtein, was packed by more than 350 workers, at which the sympathy for our standpoint on Stalinism, social democracy and the Fourth International openly expressed by a large section of the audience, was both surprising and unexpected in light of the fact that this was the first time it had ever been expressed from a Winnipeg platform. A fourth meeting was held at the weekly forum of the Independent Labour Party of Fort Rouge, an industrial outskirt of the city, where over 100 proletarians actively participated in a lecture and a following discussion on the collapse of official Communism and social reformism. At a fifth meeting, held privately, a branch of the League was finally established, including two of the most prominent and active representatives of the Communist movement in Winnipeg for years, comrades Pat McKeown and Cecil Spence, both of whom are in active leadership of an imposing unemployed movement, and a number of active militants in the Ukrainian labor movement who have broken conclusively with Stalinism. A number of more intimate discussions held during the stay there resulted in the establishment of close, promising connections with several other militants who are prominently associated with an active and formidable anti-Fascist organization in the city. If the unforgettable traditions of Winnipeg are to be re-established in struggle, and they shall be, our young branch will not be the least effective factor in that work.

Still another instance: Williston, North Dakota. This farming community of 5,000 population packed the courtroom – judge’s bench, jury box and all, with an overflow into the corridor – with as fine an audience as the tour produced anywhere. The meeting went on from 8 p.m. (sharp! by the way) to midnight. The C.P., which once had a stronghold here, is obliterated, to all intents and purposes. A carload of C.P. members came down from Plentywood, Montana, to hear our standpoint presented, and at the end of the meeting expressed themselves in unreserved agreement with it. The ravages of Stalinism have been so malignant in Plenty-wood, whereabouts a strong movement existed, that it has produced a strong and almost spontaneous reaction which is headed towards us.

The west coast especially disclosed unlimited possibilities for our movement. In neither of the two main centers had a League meeting ever been held. Both our units – San Francisco-Oakland-Richmond and Los Angeles are of very recent origin. But they make up for their “tardiness” by exemplary vigor and determination. At the ’Frisco meeting, the tradition of the Labor College was broken by the fact that although the caretaker grew increasingly irascible, the meeting did not end at the regular 10:30 time, but at midnight, and then only because the lights were finally shut out. The lively discussion of the more than 300 in attendance can be pictured from this fact alone. Our first meeting there was a bull’s eye. Exactly the same can be said for Oakland, where over 100 attended, including most of the active C.P. militants, and in highly industrial Richmond, where virtually the whole C.P. unit turned out to listen. Both in Frisco and Richmond, the C.P. distributed scurrilous mimeographed leaflets against us in an effort to counteract the favorable sentiment. In the former city, a counter-meeting was arranged by the party for the purpose of “exposing Mr. Shachtman”; if their efforts at “exposure” at our meeting proper is anything to go by, their own meeting must have been a saddening spectacle.

The meetings which the hooligans disrupted in Los Angeles has already been referred to. But after all, that is only half the story. The meeting which remained unmolested was held the night before and attracted some 300 workers, including representatives of every important group in the city. The good turnout, in spite of the petty Stalinist trick of euchering [sic] us out of the hall originally contracted for, and in spite of the column of 150 Stalinists headed, by their chief, Lawrence Ross, who marched up to the door and marched right back again when they saw who was guarding it, was a result of the systematic plugwork of a solid and experienced group of comrades in the branch who are soundly supplemented by an active group of younger members. In both the Pacific centers (and the number of them is guaranteed to increase if only a third of our plans materialize by half!), the work of our units in the trade unions, on the picket lines, and in the unemployed movement is a model of the kind of work that must be done if the League is to grow and win. Everywhere it is being gotten under way, in some places well under way, and the initial result? show a vitality and potentiality of the League which, properly guided, will lay more than one solid foundation stone for the new Communist party in the United States.

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