Max Shachtman

In This Corner

(28 February 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 11, 28 February 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Now that all the reports are in about the Madison Square Garden rally of the Nazis and the counter-demonstration called by our party, it is easier to cast up at least a tentative balance-sheet.

The press of the Jewish bourgeoisie and its social-democratic echo united in a joint plea to the Jewish workers of New York to shun the vicinity of the Garden on Monday night. These snivelling cravens haven’t learned a thing from the horrifying events in Europe and still hope that if they crawl on their bellies or stick their heads in the sand or play dead, the fascists will either forget they exist or, if they remember, have mercy on them.

Stalinists Feature Morris Statement

The Stalinists and Thomasite and Lovestoneite press preserved a dignified silence on the counter-demonstration. Every child knows that if the Stalinist press in particular had issued a call to its supporters to come out to the Garden, the Nazi mobilization could never have taken place, and New York labor would have registered a tremendous and inspiring victory.

Instead, after days of silence, it featured prominently the appeal of another professional democrat. Acting Mayor Newbold Morris, who urged the people of New York to stay away from the demonstration.

The bourgeois press took pains to underscore the fact that neither the Communist nor Socialist party was supporting the counter-demonstration, that “only” the Trotskyists were behind it.

In a word, everything was done by the “official” anti-fascist leaders to discourage attendance at the counter demonstration.

Results Show S.W.P. Was Correct

Notwithstanding all this pressure, tens of thousands of workers did come to the demonstration in response to the appeal of an admittedly small organization, the Socialist. Workers Party, which does not yet have at its disposal the large numbers who follow the Communist party.

Now who, in light of the results, was correct: the Stalinists and their like, who called on the workers to hide in their basements, or the Trotskyists, who called upon them to come out?

Let us call as witness in our behalf two of the writers on the Daily Worker staff, reporting the demonstration in the Wednesday, Feb. 22 issue:

“The Nazis came out of the Garden in little groups under police protection,” writes Lester Rodney, “and scurried for the subways like rats for their holes.”

“Though brave inside, the Nazis slunk from the Garden,” writes Lowell Wakefield. “They gave their swastika banners, even the American flags they displayed, to little boys and to young girls to carry home. They felt the tenor of New York’s thoughts. I am not talking about the blood-brothers of Hitler, those nasty little provocative knots of Trotskyites [Well said, well said! But where were the non-provocative Browders and Hathaways? – M.S.] but of the thousands of silent anti-fascists, the after-theater crowds, the workers on the way home from late shifts who make the streets around there the city’s busiest towards midnight.”

What If There Had Been No Demonstration?

The Nazis “slunk from the Garden”; they “scurried for the subways like rats for their holes.” That part of the Daily Worker’s report is entirely accurate.

But suppose for a moment that the tens of thousands who joined the S.W.P. around the Garden had heeded instead the appeals of the Jewish Daily Forward, the Morning Journal, the Day, the Daily Worker and Newbold Morris? Suppose the Garden had been left completely free of the surrounding workers?

Would the Nazi thugs have slunk away under those circumstances? Would they then have scurried for the subways like frightened rats? Would they have gone home with the fear of the working class in their hearts?

Not for a minute! Rather, they would have said to themselves:

“We put over a bold and impudent provocation on the New York workers, on the Reds, on the Jews. We shook our fists right under their noses, and they ran away from the scene. They slunk away from work, they scurried for the subways, they beat it for home in the hope of avoiding a meeting with us. Here we are – just getting started, and our numerous enemy already fears an encounter with us.”

And they would have acted accordingly. They would have strutted home from the Garden, imbued with new courage, self-confidence, insolence towards the workers.

The outpouring of New York’s workers was the first important and salutary lesson taught the fascists in this city. And we have learned enough, I feel, from the shortcomings of the demonstration, so that the next lesson the workers teach the labor-haters and anti-Semites will be a decisive one.

To Victory with the Party!

That there were defects in the organization and carrying through of the demonstration, is undeniable. Some of them are pointed out elsewhere in this issue by Dwight Macdonald. But without being smug about our satisfaction, it is important to say: Everything in proportion.

We are frank to say that this was our first truly big mass action in New York, organized without the possibility of knowing in advance all the factors involved. At comparatively short notice, all our forces were mobilized for a bold action which proved successful far beyond all hopes because our party knew how to mesh the small gear which it represents into the huge gear which the militant workers of New York represent, thus setting the latter into motion.

Next time we will do better. But only on the condition that the “small gear” is strengthened and enlarged. The place of every militant worker, of every revolutionary intellectual who means business, is in the fighting ranks of the Socialist Workers Party. We do not have an eternity before us, and even if we did, “history” would not do our own job for us. Into the party, into the tight, and on to the victory!

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Max Shachtman
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