Max Shachtman


In This Corner

(11 July 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 49, 11 July 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The action of the Stalinist youth organization’s representatives on the resolutions dealing with “dictatorship” at the American Youth Congress, offers a significant commentary on the development of the Communist Party line, and on politics in general.

The Stalinists began, a few years ago, to deck themselves out in “democratic” garments for a very deliberate and well-thought-out purpose. The wild-eyed adventurism of the “Third Period” had ended in disaster. The hope that friendly relations could be maintained with the Hitler regime, on the basis of Russia’s (and the Comintern’s) traditional hostility to the Versailles Treaty, was speedily dispelled by the Nazis’ belligerent avowal of designs upon Soviet territory. With the signing of the Franco-Soviet pact, the Seventh Congress of the Comintern in 1935 decreed that henceforward Bolshevism was equivalent to support of class collaboration, a passionate attachment to “democracy” and a holy war against fascism.

How Serious the Change

Virtually at a stroke, the workers were denied both their independent and their leading roles and assigned the part of voting and fighting cattle of the “democratic” bourgeoisie. The French Stalinists resurrected Joan of Arc and Browder re-discovered his childhood affinity for George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson and that other Great American, the Fourth of July spieler. Communism became Twentieth-Century Americanism, Roosevelt the torch-bearer of Progress, and all C.P. members – vehement Democrats.

How was this drastic change of policy carried through so easily in the C.P.? In the first place, it was not so easy. How many members quit the party in disgust will not be known for a long time, because published figures are not yet available. But it is no exaggeration to say that those members who did swallow the new line did so because it was whisperingly explained to them that it was not to be taken seriously.

Not to be taken seriously? Exactly. We don’t believe in this “democracy” stuff, it goes without saying, but it ought to make us popular with a lot of people and gain us a large number of recruits and sympathizers. And, once we have won them on that basis, why, it should be a simple matter to teach them to be “real reds.” At the same time, it will take the edge off bourgeois criticism and attack, and enable us to penetrate into circles that would otherwise be closed to us. Our “democratic” pretensions will be, so to say, the Trojan horse which will be innocently allowed to enter into the very heart of the masses and within which will be concealed our “revolutionary” ideas. This is not fantastic speculation; it is substantially how Dimitroff outlined the strategy of the Stalinists at the Seventh C.I. Congress; it is how it was explained for a long time, with a knowing wink, by rank and file communists.

Apart from all other considerations, the main trouble with this cunning scheme was that it was conceived in violation of the laws of nature and of politics. No matter how clever and staunch its originators may have thought themselves, no matter how sure the sincere rank and filer was that he would remain, in his heart of hearts, a real revolutionist and that he would “come out with it” as soon the situation warranted throwing off the shrewd disguise – the murderous logic of the position adopted developed with full and predictable force.

Even though he still believed he was playing an astute game, still deceiving both the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, Browder let more of the cat out of the bag than he thought when he testified before the McNaboe investigating committee in New York. Quite rightly – at least in one sense – he pointed out that it is “impossible to reconcile the accusation of hidden revolutionary aims with the fact that the people recruited by the C.P. nowadays are won to its fold by the emphasis on capitalist Democracy and the need of preserving it. But he was right in only one sense; and wrong in another, namely, in that he secretly believes that if it is ever decided to make another “left turn” in policy, all those recruited by the C.P. on the “democratic” basis will string along merely because Browder’s apparatus so decrees.

The Logic of Politics

There is a logic in political lines that no person, no movement can escape. Once the Stalinists took their “democratic” course, they were confronted with such widespread skepticism that, ever since, they have had to spend most of their time going to the most radical extremes in order to prove their “sincerity.” Where the ordinary bourgeois politician, for example, merely states his patriotism, the Stalinists find themselves compelled to shriek to the pitch of blatant chauvinism. Where an ordinary bourgeois democrat merely states, in a quiet and unostentatious manner, that he is not a believer in dictatorship or fascism, the Stalinists are now compelled to eat course after course of crow and even to denounce communism and dictatorship in the same breath with fascism and Nazism.

That’s the meaning of the ignominious, self-humiliating posturing of the Stalinists at the American Youth Congress. To prove that they were not reds, that they were blown-in-the-bottle democrats, they were forced to vote for a resolution which, in sum and substance, places communism in the same bag with fascism. Hitler’s regime, Mussolini’s regime, were denounced in the same terms as Stalin’s regime and, for that matter, the regime of Lenin in the early years of the revolution. For, as we understand it, in those years at least both Lenin and Stalin called the Soviet republic a dictatorship of the proletariat.

“Be it resolved that this Congress of youth record its opposition to all forms of dictatorship, regardless of whether they be communist, fascist, Nazi or any other type, or bear any other name.”

That’s the resolution Gil Green, boss of the Young Communist League voted for. Unbelievable? Yes, yes, but literally true nonetheless. Far more unbelievable is the fact that his organization still bears the name “communist.”

We have said for some time: There is nothing communist about the Communist party except its name. How long will we have to wait before it becomes possible to drop those last three words?

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