From The Militant, Vol. V No. 39 (Whole No. 133), 24 September 1932, p. 3.
Also published in Class Struggle, Vol. 2 No. 7, August 1932.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
(Continued from last issue)
On the general question of Centrism, we feel that our differences are not very great and in some respects are only of a formal character. In giving the name “centrism” only to those groupings which occupy the place between the official camps of reformism (social democracy) and the official camp of Communism, we have used the term precisely as Lenin used it. However here the whole question seems to be one of name and we do not wish to quarrel over that.
What we emphatically deny is the implications in your statement that “we were concerned to efface the difference between the official party, the Right wing fraction (Lovestone group) and even the American League” and the further statement. “This makes it easy for you to remain in an eclectic position and defend your right of a bloc with the Lovestone group.”
First of all, it is not true that we do not distinguish between the Right wing and the Party. We consider ourselves a fraction of the PARTY and not of the Right wing. In the very begin, ning of the organization of our tendency, in January 1931, in his debate with one of the American League, our representative declared:
“It is true there is a difference between the Communist party (Stalin-Browder-Foster faction) and the Communist party .(Majority group) (Bucharin-Brandler-Lovestone faction). These differences can be summarized broadly as follows: 1. The ‘official Communist party’ has more members, more good militant fighters who must be won over, has more influence in the fadical movement, etc. 2. The opportunism of the Communist party takes on a different form from that of the C. P. (Majority group). 3. The tempo of development of their opportunism differs. These differences the Communist League (Opposition) must take into consideration. Its tactics must be to stress the winning of the ranks and file of the Communist party for there are the principal ranks of the militants today.”
What we wish to affirm is that Stalinism, or “Bureaucratic Centrism” is also on the whole a form of centrism that is to the right of Leninism, in spite of ultra-Left zigzags, and is moving toward Reformism. The fact that Stalinism rests upon the Soviet bureaucracy still tied to the workers by the frame of the proletarian revolution in the Soviet Union means that on the one hand this centrism has a more permanent base than the ordinary forms of centrism which are by their very nature ephemeral and transient, and that, on the other hand, it will be a tendency capable of movements of yielding to the pressure of the working class and thus having leftward zigzag peculiarities.
If we ask whether Bureaucratic Centrism is more to the right or to the left of the Right wing, our answer must depend on a concrete analysis of the given time and place and set of circumstances and not on an abstract generality Certainly it would be most mechanical and formalistic to declare, as the American League has done, that everywhere Stalinism is a tendency between us and the Right wing. The problem is not quite the same in Sweden as in Russia, in Germany as in America. A dialectical approach to this question must be a concrete one.
In regard to the question whether the Right wing of Communism is dynamically further away from Marxism than Left Socialists this depends on concrete circumstances in which we must examine (a) the direction, (b) the tempo, (c) the distance covered by the different groups, on the roads which they have elected to travel. You yourself declare that under a normal regime in the Comintern, Right wing Communists would not be expelled from the Communist party, and it is a moot point to be determined concretely whether the fact of the expulsion of the Right wing, etc., has forced it into such a position that it can no longer be taken back into a Communist party or considered nearer to us than Socialists.
And here we must energetically emphasize the fact that we have never proposed a BLOC with the Right wing (Lovestoneites), meaning by a bloc a general value alliance. In our general thesis we wrote:
“In the meantime the Communist League of Struggle must try to effect a united front so that all Communist groups can work together on concrete issues on the basis of the recognition of the Communist character of each group. This will also help to re-establish mass work, to resist the violent tactics of the party officialdom, and to place the Communist groups on a correct path.”
When, some time later, Lovestone issued a call for “Communist Unity” we replied (Class Struggle, Vol. II, No. 4, April 1932):
“But first of all we want to ask Lovestone: FOR WHAT do you want to unite? To fight the organization of the unorganized as you are doing everywhere? To destroy the new unions such as the textile? To cover up the fakers such as you did in Paterson and elsewhere? Is it for this that you want unite? ... Are you not like Kautsky and the other opportunists in your shouts for unity without specifying on what program and on what basis? ...”
Is it not clear, from these quotations, that in our struggle against the terrible disintegration taking place within the ranks of the Communists, that we proposed a united front not with the Right wing alone but with all Communist groups, and not a general vague alliance, but only on specified concrete questions?
Further it is recognized by everyone here that in a number of instances we alone actually fought against the Right wing when the Communist League of America was not even present.
We are in accord with you when you write: “To conclude a bloc with the Lovestone group would mean to augment its general authority and by that to help it to fulfill its reactionary historic mission.” We are also of the opinion that it is not for us to raise into prominence the question of a united front with an organization such as the Right wing which in America is barren and without masses. However, it is quite possible that circumstances may arise where it will be advantageous for us to form a united front including the Right wing even where the Party refuses to join or even fights it. Here again it is the concrete circumstances that decide. The fact that the Communist League of America finally was forced to organize such a united front (Marine case) is proof of the correctness of our position.
In our general thesis we have declared that the Communist League of America also was a Right wing organization. We reached this conclusion on the basis of its first thesis and actions. Since the time of our criticism the Communist League of America has made some steps in correcting its past errors but its general practice, its methods of correction, its last general theses, its present unprincipled internal factional fight, etc., show that it has a long way yet to go really to deserve being part of the International Left Opposition.
We wish to raise the general question: Is it impossible for a group to agree to certain formulae of the Left Opposition and yet fill these formulae with such a Right wing content as to nullify them? Such a situation can readily result from the present general weakness of the Left Opposition. Under such conditions it is quite possible for groups to sign general international declarations and yet annul them in their national practice.
It is not correct to say that our serious charges against the leadership of the Communist League of America, which we believe are based on facts and which we stand ready to prove when necessary, and our criticism of the Communist League of America made us an enemy of the International Left Opposition. Quite the contrary, it was because we wished to further the interests of the International Left Opposition that we made this criticism. Certainly comrade Trotsky, you must recognize that without a congress, without a strong and authoritative political bureau, the International Left Opposition has not pressed its sections sufficiently to carry into effect its principles that the sections must behave as Communists sections in the struggles of the workers, and that propaganda must be put forth not in a sectarian manner but on the basis of active participation in the entire life of the proletariat.
In this respect permit us to state that we have endorsed the organizational statutes worked out by our representative, comrade Weisbord, during his discussions with you and that we are sending you further a special report on the condition of the sections of the International Left Opposition embodying certain recommendations that we believe can aid the situation.
Finally we must declare the actions of the Communist League of America have materially contributed to the sharpness of our criticism. Our collaboration has been steadily rejected, no aid given us when our class enemies attacked us, we have been ridiculed in a most vulgar and low manner, our headquarters has been raided and partially wrecked, we have been denounced as agents for the police, etc. Do you believe we could reply to these provocations without sharpness? On the other hand never have we taken a sharp tone to the views of the International Left Opposition itself, although the Secretariat, under Mill, behaved toward us in an extremely hostile and unwarranted manner.
It is on the question of mass work, a most important question to us active Communists used to field work, whose very life medium is the working class to which we are indissolubly bound, it is on this question that we most heartily welcome your statement: “I am ready to admit that your group would be able in that respect to complete the work of the American League.” What an enormous difference between this statement and the attitude of the leaders of the Communist League of America? It was this false view of the leaders of the Communist League which more than anything else, we believe, has alienated many honest workers and Communists from the Left Opposition of the U.S.
In this connection permit me to stress the fact that the leadership of the American League in pursuing the sectarian policies (sectarian in the worst sense of the word) has been guilty not merely of failing to apply principles which it did not “theoretically” deny, but of gross theoretical errors as well, errors totally in disharmony with the Left Opposition and which only strengthened its false line.
In agreeing with you that we can complete the work of the American League we do not wish to deny that in the course of existence we have made some serious errors both in our general program (for example on the Labor Party question, our mistake in allowing the impression to get abroad that we wished a bloc with the Right wing, and our mistake in ignoring on certain questions the great critical activity already done by the Left Opposition, etc.) and in our practice. However we do affirm that you must recognize that on the whole we are part of the Left Opposition and belong inside it
You write that we “must keep clearly in mind that the road to the International Left Opposition leads through the American League.” We have always fought for closer relations with the American League. As long ago as December 31, 1931 we made the following proposals to the American League:
“1. That joint membership meetings be held to discuss the differences between both organizations ...
“2. That special place be allotted in both the Class Struggle and the Militant for articles from representatives of both groups ...
“3. That opportunity be given in the Forums conducted by both groups for speakers of each group to state their positions ...
“4. That both organizations cooperate as closely as possible in all united front activities and rally to mutual defence when attacked by capitalist forces ... In all united fronts it is necessary not only to separate Communism from Menshevism as a whole but to separate the Communists of the right from those who adhere to the views of the International Left Opposition. In all united fronts where other labor organizations are present, both groups should strive to effect a unified policy agreeable to both groups and to act as a unit.”
We believe that in the framework of the Left Opposition we shall be able, in a loyal and helpful way, to struggle for that viewpoint which can round out the work of the American Section and help it live up to its historic mission. We ask that you and the various sections of the Left Opposition aid us in this task.
We cannot close without expressing our warm appreciation for the hospitable and friendly reception given our representative, and for the autographed photograph and greetings which you have sent us. We are confident that our discussions will substantially contribute to our formal entrance into the ranks of the Bolshevik-Leninists.
Communist League of Struggle
Last updated on 10.1.2014