Max Shachtman

Fight in ALP Subject
of Talk by Shachtman

(March 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 13, 27 March 1944, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

NEW YORK CITY – Max Shachtman, national secretary of the Workers Party, wound up in this city his current national speaking tour on the need for independent labor political action and for an Independent Labor Party. Before an audience of one hundred and fifty workers he spoke on the situation in New York’s American Labor Party.

Comrade Shachtman pointed out that the key problem before the American working class today is the establishment of a political party of its own, independent of the capitalist parties and politicians, with to independent program and independent labor leadership.

At every point today, labor finds that its possibilities for economic action become more and more limited. It comes into headlong conflict with the government on all issues of work – wages, working hours and conditions and on every conceivable phase of social and even personal life.

The speaker made clear the contradiction between the advanced state of organization of American labor in the trade union field, where it is the strongest in the world, and its lack of organization on the political field, where, by and large, it continues to support the parties and politicians of capitalism.

The capitalists protect their interests through their government and their political parties. Labor cannot protect itself, said the speaker, except through a government of its own, which can only be achieved if labor has its own fighting independent political party.

Evaluating ALP Fight

The Workers Party evaluates the significance and importance of the present fight in the ALP from these considerations. Comrade Shachmian made clear that the ALP is not a working class party nor the vehicle of independent labor political action.

It was organized as a labor auxiliary of the Democratic Party, as a vote-getting machine for Roosevelt in his first presidential campaign in order to corral labor votes – which could not be done on the old discredited Democratic ticket. The ALP was, therefore, set up to prevent the development of independent labor political action, and has been maintained in the same spirit.

Nevertheless, it was pointed out by the speaker that those interested in independent political action must be interested in the fight now going on in the American Labor Party on the issue of “the Hillman plan.” Both wings of the ALP – on one side Hillman and the Communist Party; and on the other, the “right” wing of Dubinsky, Counts and Rose – have the same political program. They both are pro-Roosevelt, pro-New Deal, pro-war. Is the fight over the Hillman plan, then, merely a fight for power between rival political gangs?

The Hillman plan, which means putting a trade union base under the ALP, is, in principle, sound, Comrade Shachtman stated. He pointed out that the right wing position, which would keep control in the “branches” and in the hands of certain liberals, is essentially undemocratic since it would prevent the organized workers, on which a Labor Party is supposed to be based, from controlling their own party.

Against Hillman and Stalinists

In spite of the correctness in principle of the Hillman plan, Shachtman pointed out that those who are interested in a genuine Labor Party cannot support Hillman and the Stalinists. They want control of the ALP in order to prevent its developing in the direction of a genuine Labor Party. Hillman and the Stalinists are both on record against independent political action by labor, against any labor party and against even any third party.

Shachtman made the comparison that to give this combination control of the ALP would be like giving control of a labor union to those who are committed to company unionism – which is preposterous.

Comrade Shachtman analyzed the role of the Stalinists as the extreme right reactionary wing of the labor movement today. They want to destroy the ALP even as a potentially progressive force and to prevent any development toward a genuine Labor Party. The Stalinists need and want the ALP as a machine for winning influence in the Democratic Party in the interests of the Russian bureaucracy. The issue before New York labor right now is, therefore, to prevent the Stalinists from winning control of the ALP – WHICH WOULD THEN BECOME A TOOL OF THE KREMLIN AND THE RUSSIAN FOREIGN OFFICE.

The right wing, Shachtman stated, does not dare tell the whole truth about the Stalinists because both wings support the war and because of fear of offending their Russian ally.

The Workers Party answer is one, Comrade Shachtman declared, which cuts across both bureaucratic groups. Its answer to both is: Trade union control of the ALP by those unions that are FOR a Labor Party, FOR independent labor political action. That is what progressive unionists must devote their efforts to obtaining, that is the real issue and the answer to the problem.

Until this idea gains widespread support in the unions, which it does not now have, Comrade Shachtman said, we cannot ignore the fate of the ALP.

All legitimate means must be used to prevent its capture and use by the Stalinists to serve the Kremlin. This means supporting the Dubinsky group in the present primary fight for control of the ALP.

However, this is not giving it support politically in the November elections. For no worker believing in independent class political action by labor can support at the polls an auxiliary of the Democratic Party – which the ALP now is. The task remains to gain more and more adherents to the idea of a real Labor Party, based on the unions, controlled by the union rank and file, and entirely hostile to all capitalist parties.

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