Max Shachtman

In This Corner

(13 June 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 41, 13 June 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

An indignant but anonymous reader takes as to task for our not overly enthusiastic comment on the pathetic campaign which the paper of the Lovestoneites is making for uniting into a single organization the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party and the Independent Labor League of America (the Lovestoneites).

We do not know how many workers have been taken in by this patently fraudulent campaign, but since, as Lester F. Ward used to say, nothing is too absurd to be believed, we will assume that there are a few who find that the proposal is not without attraction.

As far as the Trotskyist movement in this country is concerned, it has no need to apologize for its record on the question of unity. While it never blubbered sentimentally over the phrase or waved it as a catch-penny slogan, for the more than ten years of its existence it has stood for genuine unification on the solid foundation of principle.

Our Record on Unity

Despite the brutal blows, the calumny and provocation of the Stalinist machine, directed first by Lovestone and then by Foster-Browder, we offered, on the day after our expulsion from the Communist party for “Trotskyism,” to give up our separate existence, our own organization, and return to the ranks of the C.P. as simple members, enjoying nothing more than the rights of any other member. We carefully refrained from forming a new or rival party, believing as we did that it was still possible to straighten the helm in the C.P., to set its course towards international socialism, to free it of the bureaucratic ballast that threatened to sink it and finally did.

After we had broken irrevocably with the Communist International in 1933, we continued to work for the union of all revolutionary forces on a principled basis. The then Communist League of America gave up its separate organization in 1934 and merged into the new Workers Party together with the young American Workers Party (Muste group).

As sections of the Socialist party moved to the left and sought a clear-cut Marxian position, we did not content ourselves with calling upon them to leave their party and join ours. Without abandoning a single principle of our program, we dissolved the Workers Party and entered the Socialist Party to work, side by side with the old S.P. left wing, towards a common revolutionary program and a common revolutionary party. If that aim was not accomplished under the name of the S.P. – it was realized under the banner of the new Socialist Workers Party instead – it was only because the vote-catchers for LaGuardia and the toadies of the needle-trades unions’ bureaucracy could not tolerate revolutionists in their ranks and proceeded autocratically to expel us en masse.

There, briefly, is our record, in action, on the question of unity.

Lovestone: Trickster

Now Lovestone knows that there is as much chance of the three organizations he names fusing into one as there is of the proverbial camel passing through the eye of a needle. Lovestone knows perfectly well, that an instructive experiment was just concluded in the unity field between the Thomasites and the Trotskyists, the former of whom brutally expelled the latter. He knows this so well, that he finds in the call for unity a most inexpensive device for acquiring popularity at the expense – he calculates – of both Thomas and the Trotskyists, whom he will singly and jointly blame for the failure to adopt his proposal. But like all cheap gadgets, this device is too poorly constructed to work.

It is not necessary to dwell here on all the basic political questions which divide us from the Lovestoneites, questions which their leaders apparently consider organizational trifles: the Popular Front, support of bourgeois candidates in the elections, war, trade union policy, the International, etc. These have been dealt with more than once in our columns.

But it is interesting to point out that save for the purely hypocritical advocacy of “unity,” Lovestone hasn’t changed his attitude towards the Trotskyists by one iota. It was he and his clique who expelled us from the Communist Party which he then led – expelled us merely because we had the audacity to ask for a discussion, on the eve of a party convention, of the problems raised by the Russian Left Opposition. Before that, he helped to organize the international machine of Stalin-Bukharin for expelling the Trotskyists everywhere else in the Communist International.

He is still dedicated to that aim in life! As shown by the Paris letter we printed last week, his main concern, during his visit in France to the P.S.O.P., was to help the right wing and centrists – the Freemasons, pacifists and all other varieties of muddleheads – to expel the Trotskyists from that organization. He loudly proclaims his solidarity with the right-wing leadership of the P.O.U.M. which, although itself expelled from the Comintern years ago for “Trotskyism,” is now engaged in expelling its revolutionary critics on the same grounds.

At the same time this trickster has the effrontery to instigate and encourage in his paper a campaign for “unity” with the S.W.P. in this country!

Engels on Unity

“We must not let ourselves be misled by the clamor for ‘unity’,” wrote Friedrich Engels to August Bebel on June 20, 1873.

“Those who have this word most often on their tongue are the greatest instigators of discord, like the Swiss Jurassian Bakuninists at this very moment, the instigators of all the splits, who clamor for nothing more than for unity. These unity-fanatics are either feeble-minded people who want to mix everything into a shapeless mush which needs only to settle in order to bring back all the differences in much sharper conflict, because they are then all together in one pot (you have a fine example in Germany in the people who preach the reconciliation of the workers and the petty bourgeoisie), or else they seek to falsify deliberately. That is why the greatest sectarians and the greatest squabblers and scoundrels are at certain moments the loudest unity-shouters. In all our life we have never had more trouble and spite than from the unity-howlers.”

Sound words then; sound words now.

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