Max Shachtman

In This Corner

(6 June 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 39, 6 June 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Some of our readers may be aware that the Lovestoneites are carrying on a shamefaced campaign for union into one organization of themselves, the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party. Shamefaced, because the I.L.L.A. and the editors of the Workers Age do not take a position on the question yet – that’s their idea of giving leadership – but, with mock humility, they print inspired “letters from the rank and file” ia which the standpoint in favor of union is given the better play.

On another occasion, our own opinion on tfae question will be put forward at greater length. Suffice it for today to print a communication which shows the lengths to which Lovestone is going in his anxiety to unite with the “Trotskyists” – a letter just received from an old friend in Paris, under date of May 21. It reads in part:

“I come to a less pleasant subject, Lovestone and his lecture. It was reserved for a half hundred members of the P.S.O.P., plus several invited guests, I among them. You can well imagine that under the circumstances Lovestone had nothing of the ‘innocent abroad’ about him. The aim he assigned himself, on the basis of an exposition of the American trade union situation, was visible from the beginning to the end of his lecture but only if one were a little familiar with this situation and with things in America in general. It was a bit long and tiresome because Lovestone does not speak French and his translator wanted to translate bit by bit and himself spoke very slowly, sometimes haltingly. But he was a true colleague, who did his all to accentuate, by his tone, the points that L. smothered over, here and there, and you know our proverb that ‘c’est le ton qui fait la chanson’ (It’s the tone that makes the song).”

Such “Honest” People!

“On every point he was obviously tendencious. Even when he pointed out, at the outset, that there were now two trade union movements in the United States, he insisted on the fact that they were two genuine movements, nothing like what the Comintern had tried to do formerly when it sought everywhere to split the existing trade unions. Similarly with respect to the trade union work of the members of the Lovestone group. Ninety percent of them are unionists – the other ten percent being ineligible – and eighty percent hold trade union positions, often modest ones but permitting them to carry on a good work of education, he said. They are model unionists, disciplined and respectful of the rules and regulations. To be sure, they defend their points of view and try to have them prevail, but if they are in the minority, they submit and apply the decisions adopted. They never maneuver to impose their proposals ‘from above’ as was the case with the wicked Bolsheviks. They are true democrats. However, that holds true only of strictly union questions. When it is a matter of political questions – for example, the struggle against the war – they intend to preserve a complete freedom of action, even though the majority decides against them. However, they form fractions inside of all organizations.

“As for the two trade union organizations, the older, the A.F.L., is well known for its conservative tendency. Yet, it is a democratic organization, each affiliated union maintaining the right to act as it pleases. Whereas in the C.I.O. there is no democracy whatsoever.What’s more, when the reconstitution of unity was possible, because the A.F.L. accepted the new principle of organization on an industrial basis, it was Lewis who pulled out, showing thereby that he wanted above all to keep his center, of which he was the all-powerful master. That is why the Lovestone group, after having worked with the C.I.O. and having rejoiced over its creation, moved away from it. Lovestone said nothing, of course, of his activity and of his personal interventions, of his collaboration with Homer Martin, etc. ...

“That’s about all there was in the general exposition. It was already pretty tendencious and the picture of the A.F.L. was rather flattering, just as the picture of the Comintern of the good period was calumniatory. But in the question period, when Lovestone alone had the floor and always the last word, his fire was directed against the American ‘Trotskyists.’ They are only a political sect. Little influence in the trade unions. Only 400-500 members (the Lovestone group has 2,000, he said). The Trotskyists are Stalinists upside-down. Their turns are as abrupt as those of the Stalinists and, if they criticize Stalinism, they get their slogans from the Pope of Coyoacan. For example, after having entered the Socialist party, they abruptly left it, after having caused a good deal of trouble and having weakened it (this said for the benefit of the leaders of the P.S.O.P. who welcomed the French Trotskyists). Similarly in the trade union movement where they at first defended Homer Martin, then attacked him without anyone knowing why. Finally, in this case, a not very flattering portrait but one which will certainly not surprise you. He said not a word, naturally, either of the Twice-Weekly Appeal or of the New International.”

An Embarrassing Question

“Yet one question embarrassed him: Is it true that the. Lovestone group approved the first Moscow trials and changed its attitude only with the third trial, when Rykov and Bukharin were involved? There is no connection, said Lovestone, between this question and the subject of my lecture. But I do not want to evade it. It is true that we were mistaken at first about the Moscow trials. But the I.L.L.A. does not pretend to have reached perfection as yet. It can make mistakes. If it were already perfect, we would no longer have anything to do!”

“Pretty ridiculous, isn’t it? But what could he say?

“Even though the I.L.L.A. was still far from perfection and Lovestone was subject to error, the aim he set himself was certainly no less affected by it: it was to discredit the American Trotskyiste and, by that, to reinforce, in the struggles developing at present inside the ranks of the P.S.O.P., the anti-Trotskyist elements, Freemasons and others who find Trotskyism rather annoying. For me, being only an invited guest, not a member of the P.S.O.P., and respectful of the rules of well-known old French politeness, I limited myself to listening and to recording the fact that I had lost a good evening.”

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Last updated on 17 January 2016