Max Shachtman

In This Corner

(28 March 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 19, 28 March 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

When they cannot conveniently find anything else to say against “Trotskyism,” the amateur wits among our opponents in the labor movement try to make merry over our international organization. It does not, you see, have a million members in its ranks; it does not have a powerful and well-financed apparatus; and it does not always function with that perfect unanimity displayed, let us say, by a Stalinist Congress.

Now, all this is true. But it is no less true that our International, which has suffered for more than ten years from a double-barrelled persecution such as no section of the labor movement has ever experienced, has nevertheless succeeded in preserving and extending the only revolutionary organization functioning in the world today. It is simply a statement of fact when we say that the banner of the Fourth International is now unfurled in almost two-score countries, and on every continent of the globe. The Third International has no banner; its sections are able to wave only the pay-checks of the Kremlin bureaucracy or their respective national capitalist flags. As for the Second International, the only banner its sections have in common is the white flag of surrender.

A Very Quiet Funeral

There is of course the Lovestone “International.” More accurately, there was – for it is now at an end. And it would be hard to imagine a quieter funeral, so few are the mourners at its bier and so nonchalant the gravediggers. The announcement of the burial is made in the current issue of the Workers Age, and since it is a family affair in Potter’s Field there is not even a request for flowers.

Although the death seems to have occurred in the bright daylight of December 19, 1938, there were evidently so many more important trifles to take care of that Lovestone didn’t get around to making the announcement until three months later. In the intervening period Lovestone was so busy clinging to Homer Martin’s heels, from which he has just been unceremoniously kicked away, that the corpse of his “International” was allowed, to lie around without even public notice of its demise.

We learn now that last December 19, Lovestone’s National Committee wrote a letter to the German Brandlerites (C.P.O.) which, in effect, called the whole thing off. The reasons seem to be the mistaken “organizational methods” employed by Brandler in dealing with his own dissidents, and a dispute over the attitude of the International Communist Opposition (the Lovestone-Brandler organization) towards the British Independent Labour Party. Brandler appears to favor support to his own tiny “left wing” in the I.L.P.; Lovestone piously opposes “boring from within.”

“If you are so ready to reject such people as Fenner Brockway as revolutionary socialists, where will you ever find the people with and through whom a new revolutionary International could possibly be built? Our attitude is quite different. Our experience with Fenner and others like him (it is not a case of Brockway personally) convinces us that it is here we must look for the cadres of the future.”

Painting Broadway Red

The mental picture of Lovestone making a revolutionary Marxist out of old Fenner Brockway by buttering his joints and stroking his locks, surpasses anything you can find in the comic strips. The real bosses of the I.L.P. are its incorrigible Parliamentarians, like Maxton. The party proposes, but Maxton disposes. He flouts the wordy “radical” decisions of the party with impunity, and doesn’t hesitate to blackmail the membership into submission to his private policy by threats about what the party would be without the blessings of his presence.

Brockway’s role in the past few years has been that of mediator between the Maxtonians and the militant I.L.P. membership – what’s left of it. That is, he is the chain that binds the rank and file to Maxton’s wagon. And Lovestone’s whole policy in England centers around constructing a “revolutionary International” with this incurable centrist. When he gets through with Brockway – or rather, when Brockway is through with him! – his recent experience in trying to make a militant labor leader out of Homer Martin, and by the same methods, will look like a model success.

Lovestone launches his inspiring campaign ... by breaking with Brandler.

“We have already notified you of our proposal to dissolve the I.C.O. altogether and to have the constituent elements join with the constituent elements of the London Bureau into a new International Center.”

A Balance-Sheet of Lovestoneism

The old-time Lovestoneite may well say: “This is where I came in!” He might also ask for an analytical balance-sheet of almost ten years of existence of the Lovestone-Brandler International, which was not, praise the Lord, as sectarian as the Trotskyist world movement. Since he will not get it from Lovestone (silence is golden), here it is in brief:

M.N. Roy, the “Indian section,” is now a 100% Stalinist, without recognition from Stalin. David Wijnkoop, the “Dutch section,” is now a 100% Stalinist, with recognition from Stalin. The whole Czech section went to the Second International years ago. Willi Schlamm, the “Austrian section,” turned democratic patriot. The Swedish section turned social-democratic and is all but affiliated with the Second International. The Alsatian section, Huber and Co., is pure Alsatian nationalist and withdrew from the I.C.O. The hoped-for French section – Party of Proletarian Unity – just didn’t materialize. The Swiss section – in Schaffhausen – is finished. The Mexican section – vanished years ago. In Latin America, nothing. In Africa, nothing. In Asia, nothing. In Australia, nothing.

Left in the I.C.O.? Lovestone plus Brandler? Now even that’s at an end. What Lovestone couldn’t accomplish with Brandler, Thalheimer, Hais, Roy, Samuelson and colleagues, he is starting all over again to accomplish with Brockway, Maxton, Gorkin ... and Balabanova.

We would send condolences to him on the recent death if the coolness with which he takes the loss didn’t show that he has no use for them.

We would wish him luck on his new enterprise if we didn’t realize that not even Lovestone – he will pardon us the mangling of an old adage – can make a silk purse out of the London Bureau.

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Max Shachtman
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Last updated on 29 Novemember 2015