WHAT SHALL WE DO WHEN WAR COMES?
The Line-Up in the Present War………Albert Weisbord
Prospects for an Internationalist Communist Center
Report of European Tour……….Vera Buch
The Breaking-Up of the Workers Party………A.W.
How can We Americanize Communism (III)
Continuing the Important Series WHEN WAR COMES
Legislation in War Times…………Roger Bellamy
Also: Letter to the I.W.W.—The Textile Clerks Organize
Our Discussions with the Bordighists—etc.
WHAT SHALL WE DO WHEN WAR COMES?
Reprint from “Modern Monthly” September, 1935
This depends on the kind of war.
It is the duty of the revolutionary movement to support the revolts of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. The wars of the colonials against the imperialists and the struggle of the workers of the Soviet Union against their capitalist attackers.
In the case of a war between imperialist powers, of which America is one, whether these imperialist powers are Fascist (under Hitler or Mussolini) or “Democratic” (under Wall Street, Downing Street, or the Paris Bourse) it is the duty of the revolutionary organization in each imperialist country to throw all their forces into the movement of revolutionary defeatism. The workers of each imperialist country must turn their guns against their real enemies, the capitalists of their own country, so safely in the rear. Thus we must brush aside the Socialists and others who oppose this policy.
Wherever the proletariat must support the war, as where America declares war on Japan presumptively at war against the Soviet Union, it nevertheless still remains the paramount duty of the American proletariat to overthrow the American capitalist system. To overthrow American capitalism is the only way really to mobilize the entire toiling population to turn the war into a war against all imperialism and capitalists, and is the only adequate method to defend the Workers’ State against imperialist aggrandizement. Thus we must liquidate the Communist Parties of Stalin who prevent this with their Franco-Soviet pacts.
To sum up, under no circumstances, whether the workers are for or against the war itself, can they postpone for one moment the struggle against Wall Street and its capitalist government that enter the war for their own imperialist purposes and would use the working class as their cannon fodder.
Where the war is between imperialist countries only, say where “democratic” U.S. is fighting another imperialist nation such as Fascist Germany, the main revolutionary tasks of the American workers must be:
a) To organize strikes and physical demonstrations of every sort for the termination of the war, the strikes to culminate in general strikes and struggles of a nature that will paralyze entirely the capitalist system.
b) To organize mutinies and rebellious in the armed forces of the capitalist state, so that the soldiers will turn on their own officers and refuse to shoot the workers of the other imperialist country, but will call on these other workers to start the revolution as we do ours.
c) To organize struggles against conscription and universal military service.
d) To organize armed labor defense corps against the Fascist or Vigilante groups that would terrify the working class into submission.
Where America is fighting a war historically progressive, as where it is supporting the Soviet Union, (still a Workers State today in spite of Stalinism) against Japan, here the tasks of the revolutionary forces are different. They must include:
a) The abolition of the standing or conscript army and the arming of the entire people into a huge Workers’ Militia with its own control and elected officers.
b) The seizure of the factories under the control of the workers; the complete abolition of the profits of the capitalist class of the country; the entire industrial machinery of the country put at the disposal of the toilers and of the Workers’ Militia formed.
c) The organization of Soviets as the best form for the mobilization of the whole people to carrying out of the war and to insure that the war will be an anti-imperialist war in which the workers will smash capitalism throughout the world.
d) While the working class is forcing through the above measures, it is absolutely imperative for it to continue its intransigent struggle against the American Bourgeoisie, to expose the reactionary character of the bourgeois methods of conducting the war. Through strikes and physical demonstrations of every sort, the working class must compel the turning over of the war to the proletariat so as to make it a war for Socialism and for the abolition of the capitalist system.
Other groups may approximate our program in phrases. In deeds, they will not have the slightest ability to carry through such a program. Their past betrayals, their present methods of work, their social composition, all are the best guarantees of a new collapse on their part.
Thus, in all this work, it is necessary to build up a new Communist International and a genuine Communist Party without delay. Such genuine Communist forces will know how to unite the masses in struggle and how to wipe out the resistance of the opportunists and Centrists of every variety.
Unceasing struggle against the historicaly defunct socialist and Stalinist parties and Trotsky capitulators, stern preparation for illegal activity, iron discipline and firmest adherence to Marxist methods become more decisive then ever.
Statement of the Communist League of Struggle—A.W.
THE LINE-UP IN THE PRESENT WAR
by Albert Weisbord
The Italian-Ethiopian conflict is rapidly preparing the ground for a general European conflagration for which it is but the opening act. All nations are now scurrying to make their alliances in preparation for the inevitable development of the present war in Africa into a new world wide Armed struggle. The Italians will not be able to win the war against Ethiopia very easily. It will take a long time and prove extraordinarily costly to Mussolini in both men and money before that country will be taken and held by Italian imperialism. And before that time all Italy will be ready for a revolution that is bound to upset all the dreams of the European imperialists. It is for this reason, too, if for no other, that all the imperialist powers must now and as soon as possible throw all their forces into the conflict for the mastery of the world resources for themselves. It is either victory or death for the respective capitalist classes in the various countries now pushed to the wall by the pressure of historic events.
The present war in Africa has exposed the following situation in Europe, a situation that can do nothing else but cause the victorious powers of the Versailles Treaty the utmost concern. In the first place, it has become very plain that there is now no force in eastern Europe capable of stopping the German advance toward the East. Up until now, it was Italy that was to have been a counter weight to German ambitions in Austria and Hungary and in the Balkans. Now that counter weight has been taken away. By the actions of England and the League of Nations, Italy has been brought even closer to Germany than before the war in 1914. There is now the possibility of Italy and Germany working together for common action in Austria and on the Danube.
The second point that is becoming clear is that Central Europe belongs to Germany. The new Reich emerges much stronger economically and politically than it was before the last war. The way Germany goes, the rest of Central Europe must go. Already Germany has been able to break up the Polish-French alliance and lay the basis for smashing the little Entente. Under the aegis of Fascism all of Central Europe is being mobilized for the holy united front against the Soviet Union.
The French and British were able to lead in European affairs only because Germany was dismantled and disarmed. But the fatal Marxian law that politics must eventually follow economics will manifest itself in Europe as well. Not forever could the economically weaker countries, like France and England, drain the life blood of German capitalism and keep it down. At least before the war these two countries could rely on a czarist Russia. Now there is no such reliance. The old European equilibrium of power has been broken down by the October Revolution in Russia. France and England must work feverishly and desperately to restore a stable capitalist regime in Russia if they are to counter balance Germany. Until that time comes, they can only work for the destruction of the workers state so as to be able to secure a firm ally. And until that time comes, it is German capitalism that must play the winning hand in continental Europe.
This situation is rendered more acute by the very provisions of the Versailles Treaty, which Balkanized Europe and cut it up into little fragments. It was through these fragments from Finland, the Baltic Provinces, Poland and Czechoslovakia to the Danube and the Balkans that France and England tried to compensate for the loss of their ally Czarist Russia and to try to put up a wall against Bolshevism, and a ring around Germany. As a wall it was able to hold up against Bolshevism, with the support of the German socialists—but as a ring it can never hold out against a resurrected German imperialism. These very small countries must now run to cover and beg for peace with the Germans. The ring has been shattered to its original tiny fragments which are now ready to be seized piece meal and digested by the German system. We are now in a position to take up these small countries of Europe one by one and analyze the position they will be forced to take as the present war develops on a European and world scale.
The Struggle for the Baltic.
Two capitalist imperialist systems strive for the mastery of the Baltic: The British and the German. The Baltic countries themselves may be divided into two main groups: The Scandinavian countries, Norway, Sweden and Denmark on the one hand and the old Baltic provinces, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on the other, with Finland and Poland standing somewhat apart of both groups. We deal first with the Baltic Provinces, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which were hacked away from the Soviet Union by the Germans at Brest Litovsk and later made into independent republics by the Versailles Treaty.
Estonia as the Baltic Province nearest to the Soviet Union and occupies a very strategic position in relation to Leningrad. The ruling class of Estonia owe their independence entirely to the victory of the counter revolution over the Soviets in that part of the country. At the time when France and Britain and the League of Nations were the chief war mongers against the Soviet Union, Estonia naturally depended heavily upon the support of these imperialist countries. Today, however, when it is Germany that has taken on the role of Chief Defender of the Faith of Capitalism against Communism, the ruling class of Estonia, caught between the fire of Fascism and Communism, cannot hesitate for one minute, but turn to the side of the German ruling class. This is all the more easy for the rulers of Estonia to do since the ruling groups of the Baltic provinces are all either of German extraction or heavily connected with German influence and interest.
Accentuating this tendency to drift with the German system as against Russia, is the fact that Estonia is purely an agrarian country producing precisely those things which Russia produces and thus having cause to complain bitterly of “Russian dumping". Further, Estonia is intimately bound up with German economy, even more so than with British economy. The figures of exports and imports are as follows: 32% of her total imports come from Germany; 13.8% from the United Kingdom; 26.2% of her total exports go to Germany and 36.7% go to the United Kingdom.
With the desperate situation of German capitalism in the beginning of Hitler’s rise, the German system was forced to curtail imports very strictly and thus to bar the products of Estonia in favor of its own peasant producers. Thus the influence of England increased. But by now Germany can put forth the great pressure of boycott against all the Baltic Provinces so that she is able to whip them into line at any time, even against the United Kingdom. The fact is that none of the Baltic Provinces can endure for long against the strain of German Pressure, German trade, German economic ties. German imports are absolutely vital to the needs of these small countries. And always there is to be kept in mind the basic fact that it is not the ships of England but the armies of Fascism that keep the waves of Communism and Revolution from engulfing the capitalists of these small principalities.
Within the country class relations have been exceedingly strained. A military dictatorship exists, the martial law which was introduced in 1934 being extended throughout the year 1935. Large numbers of Communists have been arrested and mass trials have taken place. Increasingly stern is the pressure against the Communists, and therefore increasingly closer to German Fascism must Estonia swing.
Next to Estonia is Latvia with a population of 2 million, about 35% of which is urban, making Latvia the richest of the three Baltic Provinces. Here even more than in Estonia is the German blood and culture predominant among the ruling class and wealthy elements of the country. The Lativian aristocracy is bound by a million ties to the Junkers of the school of the Kaiser. At one time Riga was the chief source of all anti-Soviet propaganda in Europe and throughout the world and was the veritable center for white guards interventionaries
Here too, economically, Latvia can be annexed by no other system save the German. The import and export figures for 1931 and 1932 as between Latvia and Germany and the United Kingdom are as follows:
1931: 37.1% of all Latvian imports came from Germany, 8.5% from the United Kingdom.
1932: 35.6% of all Latvian imports came from Germany and 13.9% from U.K.
1931: 27% of all Latvian exports went to Germany and 25.4% to England etc.
1932: 26.2% of all latvian exports went to Germany and 30.8% went to Britain etc.
These figures, among other things, show how during the crisis Great Britain was able to win markets by going off the gold standard and driving Germany to the wall, compelling her to restrict her imports to the minimum. Yet beneath all the figures one must see the vital economic thread—that ties Latvia to Germany as to no other country. The breakdown of the Versailles Treaty in the case of Latvia as in the case of Estonia has thrown the country into the hands of the German imperialist system.
Since 1934 a military dictatorship under Ulmanis has raged, giving full power to the old German Junker group and making illegal most of the trade unions that had been organized by the workers.
The last of the old Baltic Provinces, and the nearest to Germany, with whom it has had great conflicts, is Lithuania. The Lithuanian Republic, with its agrarian population of about 2 1/2 millions, has been faced with two external capitalist enemies, Poland and Germany. Poland seized the rich city of Vilna by a tour de force and in turn Lithuania pounced upon Memel and Memel-land in 1923, and tore it away from Germany. This act was later approved by the League of Nations which gave Lithuania supervision of the territory. Now that Poland and Germany are coming closer together, this united front spells jitters for the Lithuanian ruling clique that can turn no longer to Russia and can get relief only from the League of Nations ---which can do nothing for it.
The foreign trade of Lithuania ties up with Germany and England in the following manner:
1931: Germany supplied 47% of Lithuania’s total imports, United Kingdom 7.1%.
1932: Germany supplied 40% and United Kingdom 10.7%.
1931: 45.9% of Lithuania’s total exports went to Germany, 33.1% to England, etc.
1932: 39.1% went to Germany and 41.3% went to Great Britain and Ireland.
On the surface it might appear that the relative rise of England and the fall of Germany would mean an increase in the ties between England and Lithuania. What it really did reflect, however, was the terrible strain that the country was under due to the dropping off of normal relations with Germany. Lithuania certainly cannot live without normal relations with Germany and so the ruling class is torn between two fires; it must trade with Germany and yet it must resist turning back Memel and Memel-land to Germany and being digested by Germany. It is clear, however, that if Estonia and Latvia go with Germany, Lithuania could put up really no fight at all.
Recognizing this fact, therefore, under the inspiration of England, Lithuania has tried very hard since 1934 to cement all the Baltic Provinces together in a Baltic Pact that would make Estonia and Latvia defend Lithuania, if attacked by Germany. This 1934 pact, however, is bound to be nullified by the events. Lithuania is doomed. All the more so since her capitalist class can not turn to the Soviet Union for help and the military dictatorship formed in 1926 and lasting until 1929 under Waldemaras and later under others, made the struggle against Communism their chief objective. The society “Iron Wolf”, extremely reactionary and with Fascist leanings, still forms a strong bulwark against Communism and in support of the militarist regime now extant in Lithuania. The weakness of the Lithuanian ruling class was no better illustrated than by the results of the recent plebiscite in Memel.
Sometime ago the Hitlerites furnished the funds to the former dictator, Waldemaras, for a putsch in Lithuania. In return for getting power, Waldemaras was to peacefully turn over Memel and its hinterland back to Germany. The putsch failed, but whether peacefully or violently, Memel will return to Germany and Lithuania will be faced either with joining the German Alliance, or, if it fights the Alliance, to be cut off entirely and rendered harmless at once.
Between the former Baltic Provinces of the Teutonic Knights and the Scandinavian countries stands Finland, no only in geographical sense, but in an economic and political sense as well. We have seen that the Baltic Provinces are definitely German, definitely anti-Soviet, definitely controlled by military machines, as, by the way, are all the countries bordering on the Soviet Union. We shall see later that the Scandinavian countries have been definitely English and strongly pacifist and democratic. “Democracy” is evidently a luxury that the capitalist class could afford only in countries far away from the Soviet border and where the employers felt themselves more safe from Communism and the Red Army of the Proletarian Revolution.
Finland, placed between these two forces, has been confronted by problems which are only now being resolved in a definite pro- German and Fascist direction. Finland, immediately after the war, owed its present independence to the Versailles Treaty and to the help of German arms. The Finnish rulers were able to put down the Communist revolution there. Only by placing the greatest terror over the 3 1/2 million Finnish subjects. Naturally, then, the greatest single fear on the part of the Finnish capitalists has been the Communist, which seemed to have its source of inspiration from its big neighbor in the East. Not content with their present position, the Finnish rulers have developed an itch for expansion at the expense of Russia by the acquisition of the Soviet Province of Karelia.
In our copy of this manuscript page 6 is missing.
Of all the Scandinavian countries, Sweden is the largest and the most important. Like Denmark, which is 45% urban, and Norway, 28% urban, Sweden has more than a million city dwellers and a labor federation of over half a million workers, of which the largest unions are in the mine and metal industries. These facts place the Scandinavian countries in a different position than the Eastern Baltic countries (Finland stands in between here, too) and enable the Socialists and Communists still to play an important role. As in Norway today, where a Labor government controls in the name of the King, so in Sweden in 1931, the Socialists there were able to control 34 city governments and together with the Communists, even the city of Stockholm. However, this united front has been broken and a good portion of the Communists have broken from the Communist International and move towards the Socialists (His Majesty’s Party).
Although of late, a German Party is increasing in strength as Sweden’s difficulties grow, yet there is no question that Sweden is still tied closely to the apron strings of Great Britain and Co., so that the net result in the Baltic is that while Germany has been able to win the poor countries with strong military machines near the border of the Soviet Union, who are ready and willing to spring at the neck of the Workers’ State. England has the alliance of pacifist, democratic, relatively, easy going regimes, which have too much to lose to engage in war and little to gain and whose whole development has been fattened on selling war materials and other stuffs to those who are at war themselves. In this balance sheet it is Germany that has the advantage in every possible way. The countries she has won can help her greatly in a fight against the Soviet Union. The countries England has allied herself with are far removed from the general direction of the coming struggle and can aid the Soviet Union in no way whatever.
Finally, we must include in our calculations of the Baltic lineup that country, which is the most important of all, outside of Germany itself, namely Poland. Like Finland, Poland was saved for capitalism not only by the victorious Versailles Powers, but by German aid as well. While it is true that the existence of the Polish Corridor has been a source of friction between Poland and Germany and one which the French were able to utilize to the limit to unite Poland with France, yet in a very short time, the policy of the Nazis, as expressed by such as Rosenberg, was able to break Poland from its French alliance, and to turn it to a close working agreement with Germany.
The fact is that Poland, now that Germany has rearmed and is taking its place in the imperialist sun, is faced with its old dilemma of trying to survive as an independent entity between capitalist Germany and Russia. It can no more turn to Russian Communism than it could turn before to Russian Czarism, though for entirely different reasons. the Polish bourgeoisie cannot forget the horrible moments of 1918-1919, when under the blows of Trotsky’s Red Army, it seemed as though the walls of Warsaw itself would fall and the proletarian revolution sweep on towards its victorious fusion with the Germans. It is from Russia that the Polish capitalists have most to fear.
This anti-Soviet direction of Polish foreign politics was given much sharpness by the policy of France and England in building up a “cordon sanitaire” around the Soviet Union, hoping to choke Communism to death there. With the Great financial and military help of France, a great war machine was built up in Poland, a machine far stronger than her own economy would have been able to permit. Now that the machine has been built from subsidies wrung from Germany through reparation payments, what was to happen when the French payments stopped? In order to save this machine, all the more necessary would be the policy of attacking russia as soon as possible and allying itself to the strongest military body that could engage in this attack. This strongest military body is none other than the Nazi regime of Germany, a regime that can furnish to Poland everything Poland lacks, and, on the other hand, one that Poland no longer dares offend. In return for losing the Polish corridor that so artificially separates East Germany from the rest of the country, Poland has been offered expansion in the only direction possible to her, namely in the East at the expense of Soviet Ukraine.
Already Poland has been able to seize a portion of Western Ukraine from the Bolsheviks, 7 1/2 million Ukrainians being among the 35 million people of Poland. Why not go farther, why not unite with Rumania to seize the rest of Ukraine down to the Black Sea and thus try to reform the ancient kingdom of Poland that stretched from the Baltic to the Black Seas? In addition there is another portion of Lithuania that can be grabbed with the help of German arms. And it is those considerations that have been decisive with the ruling class of Poland. They have gone over to a close alliance to the German Nazi machine and can be counted on as part of the system of German imperialism in the coming war against the Soviet Union.
The Struggle for the Danube
In the heart of Europe three countries sit astride the Danube, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Hungary. Which way will these three countries line up? All of them were part of the former Austro- Hungarian Empire, which was allied to Germany during the last war, and which was the only empire destroyed by the war. A portion of the territory and population went to Rumania, another to Jugoslavia, a third to Italy, a fourth to Poland, while the rest of the Empire was divided into the three separate entities given above.
The solution of the problem is clearest in regard to Austria. Whether Austria is allied with Italy or not, whether it is under the direction of the Heimwehr, of the Clerical Fascists or of the Nazis, it is clear that the Austrian capitalist class has absolutely no ties that bind them to the victorious imperialist powers of the Versailles Treaty. Austrian Socialism was possible only when Germany was weak, when Bavaria had its Soviet on the one side and Hungary on the other and when France and the ruling powers of europe were pouring money into Austria by the millions to sustain that country. But that situation melted away with the victory of German Fascism. The massacre of the Socialists, the recent growth of the Nazis in Austria can do nothing else but follow Germany in any wars against the Soviet Union or in any struggle against the League of Nations.
The rise of Austrian capitalism could take place in two ways: Through Anschluss with Germany or through a new Austrian Hungarian Empire. Up to the present the only force preventing Anschluss has been the military machine of Italy and the League of Nations, but this opposition is proving insufficient to counter the great attraction between Germany and the seven million German Austrians bound to Germany by many intimate ties and unable to live at all without the close cooperation of Germany. By force of circumstances in the present Italo-Ethiopian conflict, Italy is being drawn more and more into the German system, and thus there is the possibility of some compromise being worked out between Italy and Germany so that Austria, whether a new Empire is created or Anschluss takes place, will be enabled relatively peacefully to be absorbed in the net of German alliances. In any world war lineup, Austria must go with Germany.
And so must Hungary with its nine millions, (not counting the million Magyars in Czechoslovakia, the million and a half in Rumania and the half million in Jugosavia. Only Hungary would far more readily see the restoration of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy or the restoration of the old King to the throne of Hungary than see Anschluss of Austria with Germany. Thus Hungary would more likely be amenable to the game of Mussolini than would the Austrians themselves. These, however, are distinctly secondary considerations. The new Premier, Gombees, has decidedly pre-Nazi tendencies and the ruling class had long ago felt too heavily the hand of the Communist Revolution not to retain the greatest hatred for the Soviets. A war towards the East, that is, against the Soviets, can do nothing else but win the support of the Hungarian ruling classes.
Besides the political considerations, there is the economic factor that with Hungary as with Austria, the economy of the country is intimately bound up with that of Germany, the latter furnishing approximately 38% of the total Hungarian imports and taking about 46% of the total exports.
This leaves Czechoslovakia entirely isolated and in an extremely weak position to resist the German advance. (Somewhat in the position of Lithuania on the Baltic). Of the 15,000,000 population of Czechoslovakia, approximately 3 1/2 million are Germans; one million are Magyars and 1/2 million are Ruthenians. Thus the population is not homogenous and certainly the authority of the Czechs or Slovaks is very poor in relation to the far most cultivated Germans , who occupy key positions in the industries and cities of the country and who can paralyze the country if need be.
It was Marx himself, who as far back as 1848, pointed out the fact that the racial exclave that was the Czech was not capable of maintaining its separate existence, but was coming entirely Germanified. He could not find any progressive character in the struggle of the Czechs for independence. For hundreds of years the Czechs were dominated by other political powers. The native Czechs, who have taken rulership, have not the old traditional prestige that can hold power in central Europe.
Furthermore, the country is heavily industrialized, about seven million people living cities of over 2,000. These industries were built up as part of the Austrian-German scheme of economy. The independence of Czechoslovakia and her alliance to England and France, etc., has caused the delicate subdivision of economic labor in Central Europe to break down to some extent. New German factories have been formed in Germany now to break the rivalry of Czechoslovakia, whereas before the war the industrial might of the country was rather sponsored by Austria and Germany than fought against. Thus the economic development of Czechoslovakia at present has terrific obstacles to overcome and with the complete surrounding of this country by her enemies trade, is bound to suffer increasingly and the country plunged into an endless and profound crisis. Try as she might, Czechoslovakia cannot tear herself from the web of dominant German economic relations. Czechoslovakia could maintain herself only while Germany was weak, disunited and disarmed. She cannot maintain herself indefinitely in the face of a rearmed and mighty German capitalist machine.
The situation of Czechoslovakia is, therefore, frantic. There is no capitalist power in the East, who can save her. She is in imminent danger of being swallowed up. The old Little Entente, which lived with Polish cooperation is now broken up. While she is bound to fight against the German machine, her struggle is a hopeless one unless the tension is relieved by forces from the outside.
Under capitalism the future of Czechoslovakia is a dismal one. She is doomed as an independent nation and race. Only a Soviet United States of Europe would be in a position to save her culturally, as it would the other small countries including Poland as the Balkans and Baltic States, but it is precisely a Soviet United States of Europe that these countries’ ruling classes hate the most.
The Struggle for the Balkans
In the Balkans, only one country can be counted surely on the side of Great Britain in the coming war—Greece, and only one country surely on the side of Germany—Bulgaria, the other two countries which are indeed the important and decisive countries of this part of Europe, namely: Rumania and Jugoslavia, have yet to reveal their definite position on this question. But even in regard to these last two countries, matters are becoming so increasingly clear as to allow a certain amount of prognostication to be safely indulged in.
First, as to Bulgaria: The ruling class of this country can do nothing else, but re-enter into the German system of alliances. Defeated in the last war—in which it took the side of Germany, torn of a good part of its territory,—part of Macedonia going to Jugoslavia and part going to Greece, and cut off from access to the Mediterranean, is it any wonder that the Bulgarian rulers would have constantly plotted a struggle of revenge to gain back their old position? They have never let the Macedonian question rest for a moment but have been behind the incessant turmoil that has stirred this region and made it a veritable nest of intrigue, murder and mass attacks.
Besides, the Bulgarian ruling class knows the menace of Communism full well. It still recalls the days of 1924 and the attempted Communist revolution. It has established a militarist dictatorship for a long time and ever since 1920, put into effect the regimentation of its labor forces into compulsory labor battalions. Only this year mass raids upon Communists have taken place and over 500 arrested. In short, there can be no question but that in any drive against the Soviet Union or against the Versailles Treaty by Germany, Bulgaria with its 5 1/2 millions (not counting the 1/2 million in Jugoslavia etc.) will be mobilized by its rulers in support of Germany as in 1914.
As clearly English as Bulgaria is German, is Greece. And the recent victory of the Monarchical party with the inevitable return of the King of Greece to his throne only accentuates this trend at the present time. As a seafaring nation, it is with England that Greece has most in common while it is competing Italy that she has most to fear. The possession by Italy of the key islands of the Eastern Mediterranean- islands mostly peopled by Greeks—and the possibility that Italy has of dominating the entire Eastern Mediterranean, compels the Greek bourgeoisie to turn to a naval protector, namely Great Britain. In the last war, she took the side of the Entente and it is on this alliance that Greece relies in the case of any attack, whether from Turkey, from Bulgaria or from Italy. The Greek merchant marine, which now ranks 13th in strength and the 6 1/2 millions that the Greek rulers can throw into action are no mean assets on the side of any English alliance that may be set up.
The largest and most important country in the Balkans may be said to be Rumania. Rumania emerged from the war enormously expanded in territory and in population. A good part of the increase was at the expense of the Soviet Union from whom she was able to tear the great province of Bessarubia. Another part was at the expense of Hungary (Transylvania). Thus the population was increased to some 19,000,000. However, of this only 150,000 or so are wage earners, so that the country is almost entirely agricultural and the peasantry is overwhelmingly the predominant class.
The seizure of Bessarabia from the Soviet Union, the incessant attempts on the part of the people of that region to revolt and return to the Soviet Union, the enormous pressure of the Communists upon the Rumanians and the bitter struggles between the two, naturally have compelled the old German-trained Boyards and rulingmonarchical cliques to develop an anti-Soviet bias to the highest pitch. This tendency has been greatly sharpened by the return of the old Germanophile, King Carol, to the throne and the rise of the Iron Guard organization of Fascists.
To a very large extent, the history and the problems of Rumania are quite similar to those of Poland. The rulers of both countries have their future expansion to make only in the East. Both have the most implacable hatred for the Soviet Union. Both countries were organized into a strong alliance by France as part of the “cordon sanitaire” to prevent the spread of “Bolshevism” and both countries must join hands with that power that can most efficiently declare war and destroy the Soviet Union that menaces them all.
As long as France was strong and could deal out rations to these smaller countries, like Poland, Rumania and Jugoslavia, rations in the form of loans that could go to the building up of the State treasuries and the efficiency of the army, and other items of support, these smaller countries could ally themselves with France and the League of Nations system of intrigues. But the end of reparations, the end of money payments, the breakdown of the Versailles Treaty system of status-quo and the end of the hegemony of France on the continent has meant that like Poland, Rumania (as well as Jugoslavia to a lesser extent) has been forced to look for other arrangements and other allies to maintain the enormous military machine established and to secure the precarious position of the State itself.
Between Poland and Rumania, there has been, ever since the end of the war, the closest sort of unified action. Special railway rates have been established between both countries so that freight could move easily from the Black Sea to the Baltic via the railroads of both countries. Military pacts and diplomatic deals for mutual protection have been cemented for a long time. The fact that Poland has been won over to the German alliance makes it very probable indeed that Rumania also would swing along, especially if the stakes are the seizure of the Ukraine to be divided by Poland and Rumania, share and share alike. This is, indeed, the most likely probability, namely that when Germany and Poland enter into the decisive struggle against the Soviet Union, Rumania will swing along as well. This the Little Entente (Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Jugoslavia) has been definitely broken up.
But if we can count Rumania as well on the side of the Germans, we may have to count Jugoslavia on the side of the French although this is less clear than heretofore. Up until recently, it was definitely pro-French, the French having played the dominant role in the Balkans as the English did in the Baltic. As a result of the Versailles Treaty, Jugolavia emerged from the war greatly inflated, having stripped Dalmatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina from Austria, swallowed Montonegro and increased its population to 14,000,000. With the help of the French, Beograd was rebuilt, the army tremendously augmented and kept at the highest pitch of efficiency and a ruthless dictatorship established under the strong hand of the monarchy. No longer fearing any attack from the North, Jugoslavia then entered into a severe struggle with Italy to prevent that country from increasing its influence in the Balkans, on the Danube, and in the Eastern Mediterranean. In this struggle she received the aid of France, who also had begun to fear the growing threat of Italy in South europe.
The great strength recently displayed of the forces leading to the formation of a new Austro-Hungarian Empire, closely connected and under the influence of Italy has given Jugoslavia an endless headache. At one time, the Jugoslavian troops were massed on the border to invade Austria should the Italian troops make any further advance in that direction. The rise of a new Austro-Hungarian Empire can only spell disaster for Jugoslavia as there can be no question but that such an Empire must at once mobilize its forces to regain the lost provinces and to reduce Jugoslavia to the status of old Serbia if not to extinction.
Opposed to the dreams of Italy for a new Austro-Hungarian Empire under its direction are the plans of Germany which call for a direct Anschluss with Austria and close alliance with Hungary. To Jugoslavia this Anschluss is the lesser of the two evils, although the ideal situation for Jugoslavia as for Czechoslovakia would be the permanent ruin and isolation of Austria. This pleasant ideal, however, can no longer be maintained and Jugolavia, forced to face the facts realistically, has been driven to support the German attempts to engulf Austria outright, thus defeating Italy, rather than permit herself to be surrounded by Italy and the new Austria-Hungary and their influences. It is Italy that has been most assiduously aiding the Bulgarians to stir up the Macedonian question against Jugoslavia. One of the big banks in Bulgaria is Italian and a good deal of Italian money has also been loaned to Rumania to enable Italy to have so much the stronger hold on the Danube and in the near east. Thus, menaced on all sides by Italian influences, Jugoslavia would be ready to take the side of Germany as against Italy in Austria were such a struggle actually to take place.
This is all the more sure as of late the Jugoslav central authority, especially since the death of former King Alexander, is in a weak position. The Croation minority in Jugoslavia, much oppressed by the Serbian ruling minority group, has always been a dissident group and now has been impregnated through and through with Italian money and agitators and Austrian propaganda with the result that a great deal of disaffection has been crystallized. In order to appease the ruling cliques among the Croations, the central authority in Beograd undertook to draw them in closer to the government, but this effort has been nullified by the development of world events, especially by the fact that the French diplomatic system has been placed on the defensive and forced into an alliance with Russia.
Thus, we can say, that if Italy were to be successful in her attempts in the Danube and engage in struggle on the side of England and France against Germany on the Austrian question, Jugoslavia would be forced to side with the Germans. This, however, would place her in an extremely difficult position.
The likelihood is, however, that now that the antagonism between England and Italy has reached such a sharp pitch, Italy will be working closer with Germany and Germany will be willing to make some concessions along the Danube, concessions that might take the form of no immediate Anschluss but intimate cooperation between Germany, Austria, Hungary and Italy. This development must drive Jugoslavia again right into the arms of France and England. And such a position for Jugoslavia would not be so dangerous as she would be backed by Greece and together their forces would be able to withstand a considerable assault in case of war.
We can now summarize the forces that would be allied with the German Imperialist system in case of war against the Soviet Union, whether that would entail war with France and England on the side of the Soviet Union or not, and those forces that would be on the side of the old Victorious Powers of the last world war.
CERTAIN FOR GERMANY: The Baltic: Finland--------------------- 3,500,000 Estonia--------------------- 1,250,000 Latvia---------------------- 2,000,000 Poland--------------------- 35,000,000 Total---------------------- 41,750,000 The Danubian Countries in Central Europe: Austria--------------------- 7,000,000 Hungary--------------------- 9,000,000 Total---------------------- 16,000,000 The Balkans: Bulgaria-------------------- 5,500,000 Rumania (Probable)--------- 19,000,000 Total---------------------- 24,500,000 Grand Total of Countries thus far considered about 82,000,000 CERTAIN FOR ENGLAND AND FRANCE: Active: Lithuania------------------- 2,500,000 (isolated) Czechoslovakia------------- 14,000,000 (isolated) Greece---------------------- 6,500,000 Jugoslavia (probable)------ 14,000,000 Total---------------------- 37,000,000 Passive: Norway---------------------- 3,000,000 Denmark--------------------- 3,500,000 Sweden---------------------- 6,250,000 Total---------------------- 12,750,000 Grand Total of countries thus far considered for English alliance in case of war against Germany about 50,000,000.
There still remains to be undertaken a treatment of the great powers themselves, Italy, Germany, France and England and the Soviet Union. This will be dealt with in our concluding article next issue.
PROSPECTS FOR AN INTERNATIONALIST-COMMUNIST CENTER
Report of European Tour by Vera Buch
When the collapse of the Trotsky movement due to its fusion with the Centrist parties left a certain chaos internationally, the Communist League of Struggle decided it was high time to make a definite beginning to locate and if possible to bring together such groups as were still struggling for an internationalist communist line. The isolation had become so great—thanks to Trotsky’s one man policy from the beginning as well as to the other difficulties of our period—that actually we did not know the state of the movement elsewhere. Groups of which we had heard at other periods or with whom we had been in correspondence had dropped out of sight. However, from correspondence renewed with some countries (France, Belgium, Greece) and from new contacts in Scotland and Holland we found groups existing with views sympathetic, on some points at least, to our own. We, therefore, felt there was a basis for attempting a regrouping of the movement and decided to send a delegate for an international tour.
The trip had to fulfill several purposes at once. It was a voyage of discovery, hunting for left groups like Diogenos with his lantern. It was a linking up of such groups as were found and at the same time a preparation for the international conference which we considered an essential step towards the creation of a new internationalist communist center. It may help to clarify matters if a brief summary of the international situation among working class political organizations is given before proceeding to a detailed report on the tour.
Both Communist and Socialist parties may be lumped together today as Opportunist or as Centrist bodies, with little difference in degree between them. They vary from country to country, in some countries the left wings in the S.P. are stronger than in others, but everywhere a convergence is taking place of S.P. and C.P., if not an actual united front. Opportunism reigns supreme in those parties, which still claim the largest influence over the working class. Only a few phrases mentioning Soviets or proletarian dictatorship once in a while classify the Communist Parties as even Centrist bodies; their policies (for example the latest 1935 Dimitrov method of fighting fascism and the plan to appeal to the League of Nations on Ethiopia—see Class Struggle of Oct., 1935) having become thoroughly reformist.
The collapse of the old internationals has brought to the surface everywhere new groupings and fractions within the old parties most of which have to be also classified as Centrist, although some are moving in a left direction. At the present moment we see three such groupings with an international scope:
1. The London Bureau. This grouping includes a fair number of parties: The British Independent labor Party, the Norwegian Labor Party, the Revolutionary Youth Bureau, the Spanish Socialist Party, etc. At its conference held in Paris in February, 1935, this grouping defeated a motion for the immediate formation of the Fourth International at the same time passing a resolution accepting the new international in principle. Their program is everywhere characterized by vagueness and a postponing to the future the tasks which need to be tackled today.
2. Recently a new grouping has appeared, the bloc of the “New Zimmerwald". The S.A.P. (affiliated with the London Bureau) the Pivert group in the French Socialist Party (S.F.I.O.) and the Doriot group in France, constitute this tendency, which does not appear to be tremendously different from the London Bureau, except that it goes one step ahead in calling for an international conference, a “New Zimmerwald". the Doriot group and perhaps others are partisans of the idea of one proletarian party, bringing together all working class parties on a bare minimum basis of communist principles.
3. The Trotskyists from out the shelter of their centrist coverings are calling once more for the formation of the Fourth International (and on the same basis and with the same maneuvers as in 1933, it appears). Their call has been signed by their Secretariat, by the W.P. of the U.S., the W.P. of Canada, the Dutch R.S.A.P. (formerly with the London Bureau) by the Bolshevik Leninist group in the S.F.I.O. Where are all the groups of other countries formerly affiliated with the Trotskyist center? Where is Spain? Where is Greece? Where is Poland? Where is China, South America, etc.? We are forced to conclude that we were correct when we said the fusion policy would rend the Trotsky movement asunder, and what few pieces are left we see here.
There exist also certain independent currents in several countries, among which we must look for the crystallization of a real left at the present time. Not all the groups we shall speak of are in agreement with what we consider to be a correct communist line, and no doubt only time will tell which are the product of disillusionment and have stepped aside from the battle front to criticize and which will actively play a role in the coming revolutionary struggles of the proletariat. Nevertheless, we have considered these groups to be sufficiently close to want to base our coming conference on them. These groups include the following:
1. The Internationalist Communist Tendency formerly connected with the Left Opposition and now independent. Of these we have seen four groups besides our own: two in France and two in Belgium. There exist also three groups in Greece (with one of which we have corresponded and which has declared itself to be in agreement with us) also groups in Poland, Spain and China.
2. The Anti-Parliamentarian tendency of which we have discussed with two groups in Scotland and two in Holland.
3. The Italian Left Fraction (Bordighist tendency) with headquarters in Belgium and groups also in France, Italy and America.
4. Besides these there are two groups in Scotland and the nucleus of a group in England which do not fit into the above classifications, but which have expressed themselves as being in agreement with the program of the C.L.S.
The first lap of the tour was Scotland where I spent a month. Mass meetings were held in the principle industrial cities: Glasgow, Paisley, Coatbridge, Aberdeen and Kirkcaldy at which I spoke on “The Situation in America”, on “The Collapse of the World Communist and Socialist Movements” and “The Need for a New Movement".
The audience at the meetings we held were always thoroughly proletarian, based on the industries of the section, with a big proportion of unemployed. The various points of view were represented: C.P., I.L.P., Labor Party. Even a representative of the British section of the Socialist Labor Party ( or rather one of their sections, since they boast of two ) popped up in one of the meetings, strange to say quite identical not only in his line of talk, but even in appearance with his American brethren, who grace our forums here.
There is great interest in America there, and the bonds between ourselves and the workers of Great Britain are stronger than we realize. Countless workers, who have lived for a time in the States have returned to their native land still retaining their interests and connections in America and constituting a permanent link between this country and their own. But on the other hand, the situation confronting the workers in Great Britain is as different as possible from our situation. They have to deal with an old capitalism, with a full fledged system of reformism, with a ruling class especially well consolidated and clever in keeping the workers in check. Furthermore—and this after all is a decisive though little recognized feature in their life—they are the center of an empire. The British working class sits at the top of a pyramid of which the base is the exploited colonial masses of India, South Africa, etc. Since the collapse of the General Strike in 1926, stagnation has been the keynote of the labor movement, to which the unwillingness of the rulers to provoke the laboring masses. The great resources of the British Empire, the extensive grip of the reformist organizations (including the unions) on the workers, and the extensive unemployment all contribute. Scotland, especially the Clyde Valley—center of heavy industry—is more severely exploited than most of England, and worse hit by unemployment, hence a more favorable center of activity than London or probably any other city of Great Britain.
There also took place a number of discussions with the organized tendencies. Two groups exist (the Anti-Parliamentarian Communist Federation and a recent split-off the United Socialist “Movement” of Aldred). No political reasons exist for there being two groups, as the opinions of both are quite the same. In fact, Aldred was compelled to admit (when questioned at a meeting in Paisley as to why he had left the A.P.C.F.) that the split had only a personal basis. Neither group puts out a paper at the present time. We cannot within the space of this article go thoroughly into the views of any group, and I will therefore simply summarize these views as follows: Belief in the function of the party as a propaganda organization, existing only until Soviets or workers councils are organized and then disappearing; conception of the reactionary character of the peasantry in all cases; against defense of the Soviet Union; conception of Leninism as an essentially reformist ideology and responsible for the failure of the Communist International; reactionary character of the national liberation movements; boycott of trade unions. There is by no means unanimity of opinion among the comrades of these groups, and so many shadings of opinion exist that exceptions may be found to any of the above stated conceptions. Some of the individual comrades are far closer to our own point of view than this summary would indicate. These groups carry on propaganda meetings and circulate quite a lot of literature. Since they refuse to have anything to do with “reformist bodies” they do not do any systematic work among the other working class organizations and to the general handicap of the present period and the stagnation prevailing on their island they add the handicap of a sectarian approach to the movement. Nevertheless there is a sincere attempt to fight reformism, and it is too bad that groups which stand out against the legalism and parliamentarism, which have turned the labor movement in Great Britain into a bulwark of capitalism, should be isolated through any fault of their own. Their conceptions of the movement lead to an abstractness in their approach, to a tendency to dwell on the generalities of Socialism, rather than on the concrete solutions of the problems which press on the workers today.
In Coatbridge—a coal, iron and steel center near Glasgow, a sort of Scotch Cambridge—there is an open forum holding weekly lectures with an average attendance of at least two hundred. The bulk of the workers around this forum have been or still are in the various political tendencies—L.P., I.L.P., and C.P. When the chairman of the forum, at one of the meetings which I addressed, expressed agreement with the views I presented, we called a small meeting of the most interested workers for a discussion of the program. After an exposition of the principles of the C.L.S., the workers agreed to consolidate an organization along the lines of those principles. They also endorsed our attempt at an international conference and took a stand for the Fourth International.
There exists, also, in Glasgow a group of the Scottish Workers Republican Party, inheritors of the group of the well known sturdy revolutionary fighter, John MacLean. This group arranged a discussion meeting jointly with the Esperanto Club and the Workers Study Circle, a meeting attended bay about 75 people. From our discussion, and from the talks I had with Comrades MacIntyre and Renny—the leading comrades of the group—they seem to be quite close to the views of the C.L.S. and endorsed our views on the Fourth International and International Conference. On one point, however, I think we differ with them: They are attempting to carry forward MacLean’s idea of a Scottish Workers Republic, a sort of proletarian nationalism. Where the national differences are on the road to disappearing, as they seem to be in Scotland, to stir them up and accentuate them, to try to stimulate national feeling to this extent would seem to be dividing the workers forces and to play into the hands of reaction. On the other hand the opinion of these comrades that Scotland, and particularly the Clyde Valley—the most heavily industrialized section of Great Britain—can play a leading role in the revolution and act as a spear head against British imperialism, seems very correct and, indeed, provides a real strategy for the movement there.
In Aberdeen, I spoke before a branch of the I.L.P., probably the best branch they have, outside of Glasgow, in all Great Britain. There were about 50 people present constituting the active membership of the branch. I stressed the vague and wishy- washy character of the I.L.P program, its compromising maneuvers with the C.P. and the need for the Fourth International. No one opposed these views in the discussion and after the meeting several members expressed their agreement with what I had said; one in fact requested me to send a bundle of the Class Struggle monthly, which he undertook to circulate.
There are Trotskyists in Scotland—but try to find them! At one of the meetings in Glasgow a youth , who spoke in the discussion identified himself with the L.O. I spoke to him cordially afterward, and he informed me that there were six or seven comrades, who circulated Trotsky’s writings and condemned the fusion policy. Naturally I expressed a desire to meet with this group, but the young man appeared to be on pins and needles to get away, and the moment my attention was taken up by someone else speaking to me, he fled. Neither track nor trace of him nor his group could thereafter be found.
Indeed the Trotskyists altogether were quite illusive. In London, I would have liked to have addressed them as a group, but Comrade Matlow, the secretary of the “Marxist Group” in the I.L.P., with whom I communicated, was obviously unwilling to cooperate with me. No trace could be found of them outside of the I.L.P., in which they function as a rival faction to the Communists (Revolutionary Policy Committee). The “Red Flag” has ceased to wave.
In fact, no group outside the Centrist and reformist parties with the exception of the Anarchists could be found functioning in London. The former Anti-Parliamentarian movement has disintegrated. But there are possibilities of organizing an Internationalist Communist group through the efforts of Comrade John O"Donnell, an Irish revolutionist of long standing, at one time with the A.P. movement but now independent. He and a group of comrades hold street meetings, so that there is a movement existing in a loose form, without definite organization and without an organ. Comrade O"Donnell is thoroughly in agreement with the principles of the C.L.S. and taking steps to crystalize an organization and to put out a paper. Poverty and other obstacles stand in the way, but here is a fighter, who does not shrink at difficulties and who will surely get results in time.
In the small time I spent in Belgium, I was in touch with three groups. A joint meeting was held in Brussels of the League of Internationalist Communists (Hennaut group) and the Italian Left Fraction (Bordighist group). I spoke on “The Situation in America,” on “The Principles of the C.L.S.”, and on “Our Plans for the International Conference". The comrades were at first skeptical, their objections being not in principle, but rather due to disappointment at the collapse of the Trotskyist attempt in 1933 (Paris conference) and to a belief that our forces are still too weak. This I answered with the argument that we are not ready to proclaim the organization of the Fourth International, but rather to create a nucleus, an Internationalist Communist center which can develop the necessary correct program and can help to group together the left elements, which must break away from the old parties as they disintegrate, as well as to attract the fresh elements from the ranks of the workers. The comrades were sufficiently convinced to agree to cooperate with us, and even to undertake the arrangements for the conference.
Both of these groups deserve more attention than we can give them here. Comrade Hennaut was formerly Secretary of the C.P. of Belgium, and with a group of comrades was expelled for supporting the position of the C.P. In 1931, Trotsky created a split in the movement, by endorsing the Charlerei section (the questions involved are too complicated to be gone into here) repudiating the Brussels section of which Comrade Hennaut was the head. This section with groups in various cities has since remained independent, putting out two papers in French and in Flemish.
The Italian Left Fraction, formerly among the founders of the Italian C.P., is one of the oldest opposition groups in the Comintern. Their disagreements with Lenin and with Trotsky were chiefly along the lines of anti-parliamentaryism. They have groups in Belgium, Paris, and the United States, and publish two papers: “II Prometee”, a newspaper in Italian, and “Bilan”, a theoretical monthly organ, in French.
There was not time to attend the meeting of the Internationalist Communist League (Trotskyist) but I interviewed the Secretary, Comrade Vercocken, a worker comrade (as are the leaders of the other Belgium groups) during his day off. Comrade Vercocken’s condemnation of the Trotskyist fusion with the Belgian Labor Party was published in the May, 1935 “Class Struggle". But Comrade Vercocken has still not separated himself clearly from Trotsky. The fusion is to him an incorrect tactic, not a capulation, and he thinks the Fourth International can be built with such elements as the W.P. in America and the R.S.P. in Holland. He definitely accepted, however, the invitation to attend our conference. My impression of our interview was that Comrade Veroocken eventually must find himself on our side of the fence, although it may take more hard knocks to convince him and to break him away from Trotsky.
There is much misery in Belgium, and the inflation and threatened collapse of the government have created great restlessness among the workers. In the Spring of this year, the miners carried on an outlaw strike against the will of the union bureaucrats in which they took over the mines and held them for thirty hours, until beaten down by troops. Comrade Hennaut was expelled from his position as secretary of the Building Trades Union for endorsing the strike. Fighting the DeMann Plan and the reformist it represents, tearing the workers away from the grip of the bureaucracies in unions and political parties, are in general the tasks of the moment there.
The next lap of the trip was a limited stay in Holland, where I was most hospitably received by the comrades of two groups. One of these, the Internationalist Communists, are the descendants of the Gorter-Pannekock opposition in the Comintern. Comrade Gorter is now dead and Comrade Pannekock is too old to function. This opposition was connected with the K.A.P. of Germany which Comrade Lenin considered ultra leftist, but which was defended by Comrade Gorter in his pamphlet, “Reply to Comrade Lenin in the Infantile Sickness of Leftism". While I could not read the literature of the group, the exposition of their views which Comrade Canne-Meyer gave in German convinced me that their opinions are identical with those of the United Workers Party. The other group, the “Union of Communists”, which works closely with this one, has a quite different history, being a split off from the Communist Party, expelled after a period as an opposition within. Its secretary, Comrade Gooharadt, a young man apparently of energy and devotion to the movement, was formerly editor of the party paper. At the present time this group appears to have accepted the theoretical positions of the Internationalist Communists. Both of the above groups have members in various cities as well as in Amsterdam where I met them.
The biggest “left” group in Holland is of course the R.S.A.P. composed of a fusion of the R.S.P. (affiliated with the old S.O.) and the C.S.P. (Independent S.P.—a split off from the S.P.). The comrades took me to see Schmidt and Sneevliet, leaders of this party. Comrade Schmidt, known for his charming manners, was quite elated having been just elected to the municipal council. He graciously consented to see me the next day for a longer interview and, also, failed to show up, when I came to keep the appointment. I did, however, meet Comrade Sneevliet, with whom I would have liked to discuss the situation in his party. Comrade Sneevliet, however, after a few preliminary remarks, was off on a history of the N.R.S. (an independent union movement which is controlled by the R.S.A.P.) and I was convinced that had I been there for ten hours more, I would not have heard anything except the story of his baby, N.R.S.
There is another little group of Trotskyists in Amsterdam, keeping up an independent existence. For what reasons I was never able to find out, for which the comrades tried to arrange an interview for me, these courageous revolutionists refused to see me on the grounds that I could not be anything else than a spy for Sheeviliet! Our friend Sneeviliet must be a potentiate of tremendous power if his spy system is so well organized as to be able to bring spies all the way from America to trap the Trotskyists of Amsterdam!
One interesting point was reported by the Comrades of the Internationalist Communists and Union of Communists, namely the development of a left fraction within the R.S.A.P., whose views they told me were between those of the Trotskyists and the Anti- Parliamentarians.
In France such a multiplicity of groups exists as to be at first a little confusing to the new comer. But after a study of their papers and a little knowledge of their history one can group them and sift out what is really worth while. Let us first take the two groups of the Internationalist Communist tendency which are now functioning independently.
1. L’Union Communists. This is a group which broke away from the L.O. in 1933 at the time of the Paris conference. They conducted the attempt to form the Fourth International, not on principle, but on the grounds of opportunist methods, of basing the attempt upon centrist elements and upon bureaucratic methods of calling the conference, laying out the program in advance, etc. The group has since developed quite a divergence from the views of Trotsky. They emphasize very much the intransigence of principle and vanguard character necessary for the proletarian party. On the Soviet Union they seem to be drifting towards the views of the Bordighist fraction by which Comrade Hennaut also has been influenced. On the French situation the group has a slogan which seems to me must be characterized as dubious, namely: “Break the discipline of parties". They argue that the France Soviet pact and in general the policy of the Front Communists constitute a capitulation as gross as that of the Socialist leaders in 1914, and that we must have a slogan which will bring out to the workers the betrayal which already has been consummated. What is missing is that the workers are not yet ready to respond to such a slogan. It, therefore, becomes a sort of bureaucratic ultimatism. It is perhaps a lack of patience with the rank and file in the C.P. and S.P., an unwillingness for the slow, tedious work of the fraction among the masses of workers who are still bound to the chariot wheels of opportunist groups, which is responsible. It is true that events in France are moving rapidly, the crisis is rapidly approaching, but this fortunately does not bring about a corresponding speed in the workers ideological development. On the other hand, this group has developed a good program on the present situation in France and also on the question of the fight against imperialist war, printed in their paper, “L’Internationale".
The small group of comrades in the French Communist League, who opposed the fusion with the S.F.I.O. remain independent as the “Action Leniniste”, publishing “Le Proletaire d’Avante-Garde". For a brief period during the beginning of 1935 this group was fused with the Union Communists. So many conflicting things were told me by both sides as to their subsequent split that it is difficult to state exactly what took place. The chief reason seems to have been, however, on the question of fractional work inside the S.F.I.O. This the Action Leniniste has tried to do, and the Union Communists apparently is opposed. The A.L. is attempting also to do mass work in the unions and unemployed groups with which its members have connection. The Action Leninists, however, has yet to work out a firm position as a group, to distinguish itself from the Bolshevik Leninists otherwise than by not joining the S.F.I.O. Both of these groups accepted to cooperate with us in the international conference.
2. The Bolshevik Leninists function now only as a fraction inside the S.F.I.O. Already their six youth comrades of the Sonic Federation were expelled, with a few others. Naville, who had at first hesitated, joined later than the others, but Naville assured me the happy family is quite unified now, and everything is rosy as rosy can be. No one would deny that the Bolshevik-Leninists have the most clearly left program of any of the numerous fractions. In influence they cannot compare, however, to the group of M. Pivert, whom they are trying to win over. The B.L.’s are simply one of many groups inside the S.F.I.O., bound by the discipline of the party, compelled to call upon militants to join and build up the socialist party and restrained from any real criticism of the leaders. The expulsion of the youth, public remarks of Leon Blum at the last national congress of the party, and recent restrictions on La Verite all point towards a coming expulsion of the Bolshevik- Leninists as a group.
Treint, old war horse of the syndicatist and Trotskyist movement, has found a resting place within the S.F.I.O., even before the Trotskyists, and there, with a little group around him, puts out the “Lutte Finals” (Final Struggle). Treint’s favorite talking point is the existence of state capitalism in Russia.
We pass over the other groups within the S.F.I.O. as having no significance at present for the formation of the Fourth International.
Rosmer, also one of the founders of the French Trotskyist movement, is no longer a member of any group, but speaks occasionally at meetings and is publishing a book dealing with the record of the labor movement in the last war.
3. The syndicatists in France may be found today in two definite currents). a.) The group around the paper “Revolution Proletarienne". I interviewed some of the leading comrades of this group. This group does no independent organization work. It functions only within the unions of the C.G.T.U. (General Federation of Labor). When I asked why the revolutionary syndicatists had no organization of their own, the comrades became rather apologetic. They pleaded that their views met with little sympathy, etc. b) The anarcho- syndicalists are around the union grouping known as the C.G.T.R.S. (Revolutionary Syndicalist Federation of Labor) which puts out a paper “Le Combat Syndicalists” (The Trade Union Fight). The comrades I met of this organization informed me their chief strength is in Lyons, the silk center, and a few other towns—such as Narbonne—in the south of France. It does not appear to be strong enough to play a decisive role, although there is a large percentage of unorganized workers in France, (probably 9-10ths) which can provide a big field of activity.
4. Two opposition fractions of the Communist movement exist: a) the group around the paper “Quo Faire?". which claims to have a number of functioning fractions inside the C.P. as well as people supporting the paper outside. It is difficult to see what future this group can have. It is definitely opposed to the idea of new parties, and orients itself entirely on the reformation of the C.P. Its criticisms cannot be very drastic, and even should it be able to group a few malcontents around itself, nothing can be done except to throw them against the wall of the Stalinist bureaucracy. b) A much more considerable group in numbers is the Doriot faction. Doriot since his expulsion in 1933 for advocating the united front in the German situation seems to be evolving definitely towards the right. His group, “The Friends of Unity”, publishing a newspaper called “Emancipation”, advocates the one party idea and is linked up with what remains of the “Pupists” (Party of Proletarian Unity)—the French Lovestoneites and also with a group known as “Front Social” (Social Front), which is a split off from the Radical Socialist Party. At the head of the Front Social is one Borgery, who is considered to have Fascist tendencies. Rumors are current that some of the leaders of the Dorist group have had interviews with dissident elements of the Voluntaires Nationaux, a Fascist organization, a subsidiary of the Croix de Feu. There was also an interview with Doriot published in “La Republique”, in which Doriot is said to advocate a war policy in line with that of certain sections of the French bourgeoisie, namely a conciliation with Germany. This policy has also been advocated openly in “L"Emancipation". The Doriot faction is a large one: Besides the members outside the C.P., it controls the majority of the section of the C.P. in St. Denis, a proletarian section on the outskirts of Paris, where Doriot is Mayor. Expulsion does not take place because this is one of the most important sections and the Stalinists cannot afford to lose the members.
A significant step has been taken among the French left wing in the organization of an anti-war conference, (one meeting of which I attended) which has grown to considerable size. Its national conference on August 10th-11th, represented already thousands of workers. The Doriot group, the “Proletarian Revolution Group” and the Teachers Federation appear to be in the majority. Naturally, it was difficult to obtain unanimity of program among a very heterogeneous gathering, and naturally, also, a correct and complete stand on the war question, which would involve condemnation of the policies of more that one group in the conference, is not to be found. The conference, however, is taking a stand against the France-Soviet Pact; it is the first organized move against the Popular Front and as such, if the Internationalist Communist groups are willing to work as minorities in it, should provide a means for winning some workers away from the Communist and Socialist parties.
The above account has dealt only with organized groups, especially with those which seemed to offer some possibilities for our conference. A number of individual contacts also were made, contacts through which the readers of the Class Struggle have been extended and information regarding the movement was obtained.
Even should we go no further, much has already been accomplished through this four months tour. At any rate we know now the state of the movement in the five countries covered (though we have still to establish contact with Spain, Greece, Poland, China and South America). Sympathetic readers have been found for our paper. A better perspective has been obtained on the situation of the labor movement, as we see other little groups going through the same struggle as our own, a struggle above all for a correct ideology, a struggle of truth against error, a struggle involving everywhere terrific difficulties, not merely of withstanding the attacks of the bigger groups, but of overcoming constantly internal weakness and discouragement. We can see ourselves truly as pioneers of a new movement, as the advance guard which is able to understand a situation not yet plain to the majority, which will be won over only as events expose the fatal weaknesses of other groups. Understanding this situation, we see that such groups as ours cannot be otherwise than small groups under present circumstances, though eventually our truth must triumph and our movement be reinforced.
However, we have no intention of stopping now. The first step of our task has been completed; it is now necessary with the cooperation of the groups reached to keep alive the contacts made and to forge ahead with our preparations for the coming conference.
THE BREAKING UP OF THE WORKERS PARTY
by Albert Weisbord
The Plenum of the W.P. held recently in New York City amply demonstrated the fact that this outfit is rapidly breaking up. Very little else new was taken up except the internal question and it was made clear by the unity of the Cannon-Shactman-Muste-Abern- Specter combination that Oehler and Stamm and their followers were to be expelled from the party.
During the past year, the Workers Party has suffered demoralizing defeats on every front. In Minneapolis it conducted a fearfully misled battle in the truck drivers strike, which resulted in a defeat for the men, in the ousting of the union from the A.F.L. and in the discrediting of the Workers Party in the eyes of the workers. This was followed up by the Workers Party endorsing the Farmer Labor candidate for Mayor, Latimer, who immediately proceeded to permit the shooting down of the strikers on the picket line in the very next strike. The net result has been that the Workers Party has been completely exposed and has not even entrenched itself by its servile role among the labor bureaucrats and fakers of the locality.
In Toledo, the Workers Party suffered the same fate. It was responsible for the loss of the automobile strike and in spite of its complete capitulation to the local trade union bureaucracy there, too, it has been excluded from the councils of the A.F.L. and barred from the Labor Party lists drawn up. Among the automobile workers it has lost its prestige almost entirely.
Although the fusion between the American League and the Provisional Committee for an American Workers Party was supposed to double the membership to at least a thousand, the membership today stands perhaps less than 500. It was found that Muste was a bluffer and that he had very little membership to bring in. At the same time there began at once a bitter factional fight that tore the organization to pieces.
A number of Muste’s men found Cannon, Shactman and Co. impossible. Dudenz Left, the business manager of the Militant, Winner, quit, a large number of intellectuals around Muste (Calverton, Salutsky, Hook, Eastman, etc., etc.) soon found themselves out of close contact with the new party formed. Zack was expelled. Except for Muste himself, the Cannon forces gained no new recruit of any special importance.
The composition of the Workers Party is truly miserable. In many localities there is scarcely a worker present, most of them being students and hangers-on of one sort or another. Extremely little work is now being done by any branch, many of the units living a sickly existence. Between the membership and the leaders there exists the sort of cynical double booking that can only lead to the complete disintegration of the organization. At the July Plenum in Pittsburgh Cannon and Shactman were so afraid of the membership that they did not want the actives who had come from all over the country to the Plenum even to be present at the debates and proceedings
A good example of the distrust that each one feels about the other is contained in a private letter that Stamm sent to Olher some time ago in which Stamm exposes the fact that Cannon deliberately hid from the Party the documents that had been sent in by Budenz: “When did he (i.e. Budenz-A.W.) get these ideas? Since he became acquainted with Cannon? I don’t believe it. He is a pretty outspoken man. Cannon reported to the P.C. that Budenz had blown up several times. Isn’t it more than likely that he expressed a number of such ideas? Why wasn’t his attitude reported? What fear moved Cannon to reticence? And the others? How far they are from Lenin’s dictum and Trotsky’s to speak out what is! They aren’t honest even with their own co-leaders….Our object has to be to stamp out this policy and substitute one of honest, forthright dealing with the problems.”
In the field of agitation and propaganda, the Workers Party has fallen down steadily. A number of times the New Militant had missed issues. The contents of the paper are miserable. The New International is filled with articles written from Europe and hardly an item of importance produced by the members of the Workers Party itself. Under the blows of the faction fight the so called “Workers School” has been greatly weakened. Very little new literature has been put out although a great deal has been “promised".
The Non-Partisan Labor Defense, under the guidance of that first water bureaucrat, Cannon, has proved itself an opportunist legalist outfit that has won the confidence of no one. The technique of the N.P.L.D. like that of Cannon and Shachtman when they were running the I.L.D. under the Communist Party auspices is as follows: 1. Collect as much money as you can. 2. Allow no discussions except on the part of a little clique that runs everything. Call no membership meetings. Draw in another organization. Build up as big a bureaucracy as possible. 3. Conduct every case in legalistic style. Play up lawyers. Stage no demonstrations for the defendants. (Robins-Gras case). 4. Make the N.P.L.D. a pure subsidiary organization of the W.P. the way the Stalinists do with the I.L.D.. See that no effort is made to defend anyone except WP members or those who might be won over by the defense. 5. Sabotage every other defense committee set up.
These tactics have been well illustrated in the Ferrero- Sallitto Defense Conference. For many sessions the N.P.L.D. never appeared. Finally Felix Morrow sent a private letter to a member of the conference set up, Valerie, to the effect that it would be good if Valerie could come to see Morrow to discuss ways and means how to make defense of Ferrero-Sallitto more “efficient". This could only be construed by the component organizations of the Ferroro-Sallitto Defense Conference as an open bid to break up the defense united front and turn over the case to the N.P.L.D. For if the N.P.L.D. had really wanted to help it could have taken the only way open to it, namely, to participate actively in the defense work with the other organization. No, that would not suit the Cannonites in the N.P.L.D. Finally, when Morrow did show himself at one meeting, it was to sneer at the committee, to point out that he was an expert in defense and to waste the time of the meeting by the hour while he defended the motion: Why the Conference Should NOT ASK HELP FROM THE UNIONS FOR BAIL MONEY. He declared that he could get the bail money raised easily through his great pull and contacts and that no union would help. It is needless to report that this bragging was able to accomplish nothing, but that the unions did help, one union alone contributing $1,000.
The only other field of work that the Workers Party has engaged in has been the unemployed work. But here with the absence of Budenz and Truax from whole hearted participation, the NUL has gone down steadily. In Toledo they have been turned down by the AFL unions and thus even in Ohio, their stronghold, they are breaking up. In Illinois they were forced to fuse with the Workers Alliance there. In New York they do absolutely nothing. The only active person of the entire membership being Harrison, whose antics have been reported in the Class Struggle in other issues.
Together with this complete breakdown of activity there has been going on a bitter factional fight. Four groups have emerged: A Chicago group with Abern and Weber at the head together with Gletzer and Satayar, (and Specter in Canada) the Cannon-Shachtman group, the Muste group and the Oehler-Stamm group. After the plenum in New York City, some months ago, Cannon has been able to unite forces with Weber and Abern on some of the most important questions and to bring Muste somewhat in line. Thus there is a united front against the left centrist grouping of Oehler and Stamm. How fierce the fight is being waged can be seen from the following letter which the Oehler-Stamm internal bulletin printed in its first number. We quote verbatim the entire letter:
Tuesday, August 6, 1935
Dear Comrade Hugo:
Prepare yourself for a shock, or perhaps you know the Cannonites better than I do.
Goodman and Banks broke into my house today about three o"clock while I was gone. My brother P.Hirsh was the only one home. He was upstairs reading a book and heard some noise. He thought I had returned and did not bother. He heard walking around and decided to speak to me and instead encountered Goodman and Banks walking downstairs with my personal and party documents.
They were nonplused and ignored questions and when ordered to return the stolen material refused. Paul tore them from Goodman’s hands. Goodman ordered Banks to attack and he pulled out a hammer and Banks an iron pipe and beat him over the head and body. The entire hallway and stairs were washed with my brother’s blood (no exaggeration). His underwear and shirt were soaked through and dyed crimson with his blood. Eight stitches were necessary to sew up his wounds.
He fought back for a while and when exhausted shouted for help. Immediately they were panic stricken and bolted for the street. The neighbors seeing the gruesome figure of my brother, who ran after them, dripping blood, made for Goodman, cornered him and beat him.
Paul was taken to the hospital and later to the Police Station where he was questioned. He gave no information and did not prefer charges.
Bring this murderous action immediately before the eyes of the New York membership and the other branches throughout the country. Force Muste and the Political Committee to make a public statement expelling them from the party and exposing their gangsterism.
We have taken action locally to expose this action.
This murderous attack is not even centered around the public actions of gangsterism by the Stalinists, but was an attempt of house breaking, burglary and the ready weapons of hammer and iron pipe show premeditated intention for physical violence. It is only an accident that my brother is not dead. If the iron pipe had hit a little lower he would be dead now.
(signed) Meyer Hirsh
The “Left Wing” of Oehler and Stamm fights against the Cannon group on its policy on the “French Turn” of Trotsky, on its S.P. orientation and on its false road in building up a Fourth International. Most of all does it protest against the criminal organizational policy of the leadership of the W.P. However, the general vacillating and hesitation of the “Left Wing” in its struggle against the Cannon-Shachtman clique shows that it, too, has a long way to go before it can represent itself as a genuine internationalist Communist grouping.
In its factional fighting the “Left Wing” has shown that it, too, is made up of various sub-groups, each going its own way. On the extreme right of this “Left Wing” centrist grouping there are elements who will crack under the strain of the attack by the right, which is reinforced by Trotsky. These weak elements are dissatisfied with the way things are run but they cannot live outside of Trotsky and the Workers Party and would not split. These elements are quite considerable and are indirectly aided by the vacillating character of the leadership itself, particularly Oehler who represents the center in the left wing.
For ten years Oehler has been a factional henchman of Cannon’s. In all of the attacks of Cannon against the Communist League of Struggle, up to very recently, Oehler was in such accord that the crafty Cannon was able to get Oehler to make the attack against us in the paper. It was Oehler who attacked our unemployment program in 1930. It was he who rushed in to attack us in 1932 when we proposed that the American League enter into mass work and united front activity. It was Oehler again who ridiculed our line on the Negro question. Again, Oehler took issue with us on the Fascist germs in the Roosevelt regime, and on the question of issuing the slogan for a one day general strike for unemployment insurance. Never did Oehler stand up against the terrible calumniations and even physical attacks (such as raiding and smashing up our headquarters and stealing our library which Cannon stimulated).
Now the position of the Oehler grouping in the “Left Wing” is really to add fuel to the capitulator and conciliators who will break under pressure and go with Cannon in their treacherous course. It is Oehler who insists that the rotten Declaration of Principles is all right, but the leadership is not living up to it. It was Oehler, who wrote that the fusion with Muste which took place, was a good move after he had originally opposed it. As a reward, Oehler was given a post for a while as director of the school.
The vacillating centrist character of Oehler and his type is nowhere better illustrated than by his reply to Trotsky printed in the internal bulletin of the Workers Party called “International Information Bulletin” No. 2. In his letter to the National Committee of the W.P. Trotsky bitterly excoriates Oehler (you see, they all know where the weak spot really is). He writes: “I do not at all desire to sharpen the atmosphere of the discussion in the W.P. (Oh! No!), but I must state frankly that the attitude of Oehler and his comrades looks very much to us like the attitude of STRIKE BREAKERS (Our emphasis)". In another place he states: “Sectarianism is a cancer, which threatens the activity of the W.P. which paralyzes it, envenoms discussions and prevents courageous steps forward in the life of the workers organizations. I should like to hope that a surgical operation will not be necessary—but precisely in order to avoid expulsions, it is necessary to strike pitilessly at the Oehler group by a decision of an overwhelming majority. This is the preliminary condition of all possible future successes for the Workers Party. We all desire that it remain independent, but before all and above all, independent of the cancer which is eating at its vitals.”
So Trotsky calls Oehler a strike breaker and threatens him with drastic action. And how does Oehler reply? In a most disgustingly servile manner more worthy of a political Uriah Heep than a revolutionary fighter, Oehler makes it a point to declare that Trotsky is still the best revolutionist the proletariat has! (And indeed we suppose the best evidence of the fine character of Trotsky is precisely his estimate of Oehler?)
How can anyone have any respect for such a leadership? Here is Oehler who is rapidly being moved into a position where he is to be expelled and who declares:
1. He is for the Declaration of Principles of the Workers Party.
2. Trotsky is the greatest living revolutionist.
3. Trotsky is committing only an error, a mistake which Oehler hopes to correct.
4. The Workers Party and Trotsky can be “reformed".
5. There are no announced fundamental differences on the vital questions affecting American life: Position of the W.P. towards the trade unions, towards the Negroes, towards the unemployment question, towards Fascist tendencies in the present regime, towards war, towards the S.U., etc. etc. There is no fundamental review of the base betrayals of the W.P. In fact no doubt Oehler and Co. are ready to defend the history of the W.P. and their past actions to a very considerable extent.
Perhaps the extreme left position within this so called “Left Wing” is that held by those supporting Stamm. Stamm is fresher in the revolutionary movement, but is wholly inexperienced and untested. He is sharper in his break with Trotsky and has less servile respect for “old gods". He is more ready to break with the Cannon clique on fundamental issues, etc., and thus displays a healthier tendency not so much tainted by the shysterism of the Cannons. Yet both Stamm and Oehler are sticking close together and it is a question which one of these two nuances will dominate the entire group.
In the light of this situation is it not very plain that the so called “Left Wing” leadership has demonstrated its weakness to lead a serious movement from the very beginning? Its excessive timidity and servility, its inadequate theoretical training and lack of class struggle experience, its vacillating centrist attitudes only show to the average member of the “Left Wing” that it would be suicidal for them to break away from the W.P. If Trotsky is to be reformed and the W.P. Declaration is still correct, if there are no basic differences on policy in the American scene, then why should anyone leave and split the W.P.? The very centrism of the Oehler-Stamm group militates against it bringing out any considerable number from the W.P., when the split actually occurs.
One might ask on what ground then is Oehler disobeying the discipline of the Party? It is on the ground of democracy vs. bureaucracy, the old chestnut that every faker who wants to get into power in an organization constantly uses. But if the general line of the W.P. is so correct then how can their organizational line be so incorrect? And if the W.P. can be reformed in its program, why cannot it be reformed in its organizational procedure? And finally, if the W.P. is basically correct in its program then is it not after all correct for the Cannons and Shachtmans to begin to tighten down the lines of discipline in the organization and to crack down on all those, who are always chattering about this that or the other secondary question without carrying out any action? In this respect it must be brought to mind that the Oehler group has actually carried out the shameful caucus understanding that no member of the Oehler group will do any constructive work in the W.P., but hamper the W.P. as much as possible. This is given as one of the reasons why the W.P. had only one active member, Harrison, in the recent W.P.A. strike in New York City.
The line of action that the Oehler group is taking is playing right into the hands of the shyster liquidators, who now control the Workers Party. Cannon can now bide his time. He will not give the “Left Wing” a chance to come to the convention, but will expel them beforehand, one by one, for “violating discipline". The line of struggle over program will be deliberately muddled over the question of “discipline”, over “democracy versus “bureaucracy”, etc.
Under such circumstances it is possible to predict that the “Left Wing” must steadily lose ground and forces. If it dared to count 300 adherents before, it is doubtful if it can count more than 100 at the present time and it is problematical whether as many as that will be willing to be expelled from the Party with Oehler and Stamm. (Assuming Oehler, too, does not capitulate again). Once the Oehler-Stamm group stand expelled, unless it rapidly begins to differentiate itself from the W.P., it must soon disintegrate entirely, the best elements going over to the position of the C.L.S.
On the other hand, it is quite possible that the Oehler-Stamm group will move consistently to the left. In that case the Communist League of Struggle will be glad to open up discussions with this group for the working out of a common revolutionary internationalist Communist program if possible. We are not worried that such a course may entail for the Oehler-Stamm faction more defections from the ranks since this “Left Wing” also is filled with chatterers and gas bags of the typical New York Cafeteria style. If of the 100 who by the wildest stretch of the imagination, may leave the W.P., 20 remain to carry on genuine revolutionary work, we shall think the split very much worth while.
In the meantime the split of the Oehler-Stamm forces will only accelerate the decay and decomposition of the W.P. By their expulsion policy, Cannon and Co. will have proved themselves “Safe” for the Socialist Party and the right wing reformists of every stripe whose camp these worthies of the W.P. are so anxious to join. Perhaps Muste will return to his old nationalism of “American cult” and go the way of Budenz to whom he has still kept his friendly approach. The whole W.P. experiment will end up in the garbage can, where it was consigned by history from the very beginning.
Requiescat in pace.
LEGISLATION IN WAR TIME
by Roger Bellamy
The world again faces war. Already, invisible tentacles are slowly extending to enmesh America. Inevitably, we will be sucked into the conflict. War to our industrialists is a two edged sword with which to hack profits out of human flesh and blood. At one fell stroke, national income can be converted into huge war profits; international competition can be “rubbed out” and fascism can be initiated with constitutional propriety.
Indubitably, the permanent decline of capitalism has finally overtaken America. Propelled by the inexorable contradictions of the system, our industrialists must seek sanctuary in fascism. The existence in America of an historical liberal tradition and of large democratic elements renders doubtful a fascist putsch. Stymied in their last plans by the tattle tailing of Smedley Butler, big business and Wall Street have realized that they must accomplish the fascist state within the apparent framework of Constitutional sanction. That sanction, they know, will be provided by war.
Americans are wont to believe themselves amply protected against fascism by the Constitution. With unfounded trust, many point out the Bill of Rights as the guardian angel against legislative and executive tyranny. What most of us do not realize, however, is that the limitations imposed by the Constitution on powers of Congress and the President operate in times of peace only. The Constitution was specifically framed to enable both the legislative and executive branches of our Government to wage war, when necessary, without legal restraints. Individual rights were designedly subordinated to the national defense.
“There can be no limitation,” said Alexander Hamilton, “of that authority, which is to provide for the defense and protection of the community in any matter essential to its efficacy—that is, in any matter essential to the formation, direction and support of the national forces.” (See “Lodge’s Federalist”, pages 136, 137). Discussing war emergency legislation in the Harvard Law Review, volume 30, Eugene Wamgaugh states, “As peace and not war is normal, the Constitution, in the absence of words to the contrary, by its express language creating express powers, is understood to intend to create only the powers requisite for times of peace. Conversely, limitations expressly imposed are to be understood prima facie as dealing with times of peace and not war.”
In war times, repressive measures, which in other times would be deemed unconstitutional, are upheld by the Courts in spite of serious objection from those people, whose natural resistance has not been superseded by a subtly incubated patriotism. Any violations of constitutional restraint by Congress or by the President are defended as temporary expedients justified by the emergency. Heretofore, when the emergency has passed, these restraints have been liquidated in substance, but the precedents established thereby, have remained to sustain legally the renewal of similar measures in the future.
Now, however, due to the decline of capitalism, war and not peace has become the ordinary order of capitalist existence. The resultant emergencies will of necessity become more acute, frequent and lasting, and the legal restraints, arising there from proportionately, more extensive and permanent.
No less an authority than Charles E. Huges, now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, has stated the proposition very pointedly in an address to the Harvard Law School Alumni (1920). “We may well wonder,” he said, “In view of the precedents now established, whether constitutional government heretofore maintained in this republic, could survive another great war even victoriously waged.”
American capitalists are plotting fascism by way of war. Future war legislation will be essentially and qualitatively fascistic, and will be calculated: 1) To regiment the masses by conscription, 2) To invest the President with dictatorial powers over industry. 3) To foist the war cost upon the masses, and 4) To repress all opposition.
Even a simple analysis of these purposes and the methods by which they are accomplished reveals that the primary intent of all war enactments is the untrammelled dictatorship of the ruling class.
The unlimited war powers vested in Congress by Article I of the Constitution include the authority to raise combatant forces and to wage war. The Supreme Court of the United States has already held in the Selected Draft Law Cases (245 U.S. 366) that in exercising such power Congress may resort to conscription. During the world war, the draft was applied only to raise actual combatant forces, but there is little doubt that legally it may be, and that during the next war, it will be applied to all those at home in anyway engaged in operations necessary for the waging of war. This can only mean the imposition of military discipline upon millions of people at home, particularly labor, and the legal use of force by the ruling class in control of the war machine to regiment labor as it sees fit.
The actual exercise of conscriptive power is vested in the President as Commander-in-Chief of the military forces. His, too, is the privilege of exemption from the draft, and since he exercises such privilege through agencies of his own choosing, it is obvios that our capitalists will be enabled legally to regulate labor as effectively as any European fascists.
The last war gave ample evidence of the class nature of conscription. Congress, declining to rely on enlistments, on May 18, 1917, passed the Selective Draft Law (declared constitutional by the United States Supreme Court, 245 U.S. 366). This act subjected all male citizens between the ages of 21 and 30 (amended one year later to include those between 18 and 45) to military duty during the “emergency". All men subject to call were required to register, and from these registrants were eventually selected by lot these to be trained and sent to the front.
The Act further made provision for exemptions. Thus, designated Federal and State officials were specifically excluded, as were, under certain circumstances, ordained ministers and theological students. Conscientious objectors, who were members of enumerated religious sects, whose tenets excluded the moral right to wage war, were permitted to perform non-combatant, instead of strict military duties.
In addition, the President was authorized, through local Boards, to make further exemptions. In practice, these boards, consisting of a neighborhood physician, lawyer and business man, administered the act so as to postpone rather then exonerate from military service. Applications were graded and acted upon according to preferred ground for exemption—physical disability, sole support of indigent parents, or actual engagement in activity necessary to the maintenance of “military establishment” or “national interest".
Naturally, decisions of the Boards had a class basis. The first to be sent were those, who were of least importance to the war machine. The unemployed and unskilled workers preceded the skilled workers and were followed by the professional and business men, who were usually given a “reasonable” time to adjust their affairs.
It is not surprising that few of the 3,703,273 men drawn into service up until the time of the Armistice were sons of wealthy and influential families. Unlike the draft legislation of the Civil War, which eventuated in the bloody riots of 1863, the 1917 Act did not permit conscripts to purchase their freedom for $300. Nevertheless a method far more subtle, but quite as facile, was provided to insure a safety to the deserving young capitalists.
As we have seen, exemptions were allowed by the Boards to those actually engaged or employed in work necessary to the maintenance of “military establishment” or “national interest". During the war, the government became intensively bureaucratic. The entire mobilization of the nation was handled by Boards and Bureaus, which sprung up in Washington and every State capital. To them flocked thousands of men to volunteer their services at a dollar a year, more or less. Upon the theory that each man could best serve his country in war by doing that for which he was most fitted, laborers and the illiterate were shunted to the shell torn battle fields, while educated and executively capable social registerites and promising young attorneys were given swivel chairs, with which to fight the war from government sanctuaries.
Somehow or other, the work of these coat-warming dough boys was always found by the draft boards to be service indispensable to the “maintenance of the military establishment or national interest.” Thus, by simple ingenuity, the American ruling class was enabled to conserve its man power, while the ranks of the less astute middle class and proletariat were decimated to fertilize poppy fields at Flanders.
II THE PRESIDENT"S ABSOLUTE POWER TO MOBILIZE INDUSTRY FOR WAR.
In times of war, all other branches of government abdicate in favor of the executive. He is invested with the concentrated omnipotence of a dictator and is empowered to operate the war machine. The government itself resolves into an aggregate of bureaucratic agencies with pure economic functions, while the state and the capitalist class become interchangeable identities.
During the World War, Congress gave the President Carte Blanche. The enabling statutes were purposely couched in the broadest terms, leaving him free to fill in details at his own pleasure. “The whole economic system”, says the historian, Charles A. Beard, “Was placed at his command.” Even those agencies specifically created for the actual exercise of the war power could be severed, consolidated and even abolished in the President’s discretion.
The president operated through a Council of National Defense which was established by the National Defense Act of June 3, 1916. This Council was made up of six cabinet officers, whose departments were concerned most in the production and distribution of supplies for the military forces,—the Secretaries of War, Navy, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Labor. Assisting the Council was an advisory Commission of laymen, regulating mobilization of the nation through six separate division: a) Transportation and Communication; b) Munitions and Manufactures; c) Science, research and education; d) Supplies, food and clothing; e) Labor; f) Medicine and surgery. Subordinate to these agencies was a vast network of Federal and State Boards, Bureaus, Councils and Organizations of every category, organized to keep in high gear the operations of the ten million adults who comprised the “home” army.
The President was authorized to requisition and fix the price of military supplies. He could make contracts for the manufacture of ammunition, uniforms and sundry other necessaries for the fighting forces. He could cancel existing private contracts in favor of government orders, and could take over, equip and operate the factories of recalcitrant owners, who, in addition to the loss of control of their businesses, were subject to a fine of $50,000, and imprisonment. In running the factories, he could hire and discharge labor and could fix wages, hours and working conditions.
Through the Secretary of War, he could, and did, regulate all navigable rivers and, through the Attorney General, he was permitted to condemn land for the immediate building of fortifications and camps without the necessity of a prior hearing in court.
The manufacture of armaments was strictly regulated, and exportation was entirely prohibited without Presidential dispensation.
All government commitments were given priority over private transactions. Telephone, telegraph and cable lines were requisitioned. The President was specifically authorized to take possession of and assume control over all systems of communication, to the exclusion of other traffic. The Interstate Commerce Commission supervised shipments, and all persons interfering with the orderly transportation of government materials were subject to a fine and imprisonment.
A naval reserve was developed under the aegis of the Shipping Board. The sale of private vessels to all, except United States citizens, was prohibited. The President, by proclamation, was empowered to commandeer ships for naval and military purposes and, if necessary, to remove and replace officers and crews.
The prevention of waste and the proper distribution of food products was entrusted to the Secretary of Agriculture, who was authorized by the Agricultural Act (August 10, 1917) to make a comprehensive study of production and consumption.
The Food Control Act, adopted October 6, 1917, sought to prevent monopoly and profiteering. Governmental control was established over grain and other food supplies. Monopolies and hoarding were strictly forbidden and the President was authorized, if necessary, to requisition supplies for the army and navy, to license the importation and manufacture of necessaries, and to take over and operate all manufacturing plants. The use of grain in the manufacture of liquor was stringently restricted.
The Act further provided for the fixing, by the President, of the price of wheat, coal and fuel, and for the control by him of the mines of uncooperative producers. The enforcement of the Act was entrusted to the Food Administration and Fuel Administration respectively.
Commercial intercourse with the enemy was regulated by the War Trades Board, appointed pursuant to the Trading with the Enemy Act. An Alien Property Custodian was designated to take over the properties of alien enemies in this country. This legislation was particularly aimed at the German chemicals trust, which controlled valuable formulae much needed by the American chemical industry. The A.P.C. liquidated these properties and retained the proceeds, less expenses, in trust for the alien owners. The valuable chemical formulae found their way into the control of the Chemical Foundation, which was organized by American chemical interests, and which was headed by the very Alien Property Custodian, who sold these formulae to the Foundation.
In all these enactments, and in their administration, a certain adherence was given to the Fifth Amendment, which requires just compensation for private property taken for public use. The Government did not resort to actual confiscation. It paid the prices fixed by the President. Owners and producers, who demurred to the inadequacy of such prices, subjected their factories, plants and mines to seizure and operation by the President. Where seizure was made, the Government immediately paid 75% of the President’s price. The balance was obtainable by a suit against the Government in the Court of Claims, which determined the reasonableness of the price offered.
On the whole, only a few manufacturers and owners cared to run the risk if being deprived of their property and of having to face the inevitable charge of being a “slacker". Indeed, there was generally little cause for complaint. Government prices were usually generous. Contractors were paid on a cost plus basis which insured a profitable commission without concern over expenses. For that reason, they seldom objected to higher prices of raw materials and wages, since they simply passed such increases on to the Government, as additional cost and thereby augmented their commissions.
As for Organized Labor—it fell hook, line and sinker for the propagandized purpose of the war—“to make the world safe for democracy”, and for the most part, it supported the war enthusiastically. American capitalists were able to be far more adroit in their treatment of their employees than their British compeers, who refused to share any part of their war profits. Consequently, this country was free from the paralyzing miners’ strikes, which harassed Lloyd George in England. Money wages, particularly in the so called war industries, rose, although real wages proportionately did not. The Federation of Labor, under the leadership of Samuel Gompers, (who naively declared that, “This is labor’s war"), was rewarded for its patriotic cooperation by representation on important boards and commissions in charge of industrial relations. Furthermore, its standards for hours and wages were recognized by Government officials and industrialists, thoroughly alarmed over the increasing revolutionary attitude of European labor.
The Government, itself, maintained an employment service and initiated the War Labor Policies Board in order to eliminate strikes by fixating wages, hours and working conditions. Controversies between Capital and Labor were adjusted by the War Labor Board, which could arbitrate, but could not compel enforcement of its decisions. Indirectly, however, it possessed a potent enforcement weapon in the President’s right to seize factories and to deprive strikers of exemption from the draft. Employers and employees alike accordingly found it discreet to postpone temporarily their own internal conflict until after the termination of the greater war.
III THE FINANCING OF WAR
War finance legislation, like other war laws, in effect operates along class lines so as to foist the cost of war eventually upon the masses.
The peace time revenue of the Federal Government, Congress learned during the World War, was grossly inadequate to defray the enormous expenditures. For a short time, Congress flirted with the idea of a capital levy, but quickly yielded serious consideration of such a measure, in the face of vehement protests by the industrialists, who favored conscription of men, but condemned even the thought of conscription of capital.
The War Tax Act, (October 3, 1917) was enacted as a compromise measure. In effect, it sought to placate the lower classes by increasing the income tax rates and retrieving part of the swollen war profits through a corporate excess profits tax; and to assuage the protests of the upper classes by imposing new consumption taxes to be paid, for the most part, by the masses.
As usual, no sooner had the Act become law, than astute lawyers immediately commenced its legal emasculation on behalf of their wealthy clients. The higher income tax provisions were practically nullified by the payment of stock instead of money dividends. Since the act taxed money income only, this simple device conveniently permitted the stock holders to participate in the huge war profits of corporations without being subjected to contribute part of such profits to the cost of the war. As for the corporate excess profits tax,—the computation regulations were so confusing, involved and ambiguous, that most of the larger corporations were able by intricate calculation of their initial investment, to avoid the major brunt of the tax.
The masses, on the other hand, literally paid for the right to enjoy life. War taxes were imposed on all articles of pleasure, which Congress deemed luxuries. Beverages, tobacco, cigarettes, transportation, utilities, insurance policies, motor vehicles, musical instruments, theater and cinema tickets, jewelry, cosmetics, athletic and toilet articles were all assessed. Additional levies were made in the form of documentary stamps, increased postal rates and estate taxes.
There is little argument that the far greater portion of war revenue is contributed by the masses. Consumption or indirect taxes have a very broad base, extending into all elements of the population without regard to income or earnings. As a result, this form of tax contributes the far greater portion, in fact 66% of Federal revenue, whereas direct or income taxes contribute little more that 25%. It is true that 68% of the actual war expenditures between 1917 and 1918 (amounting to more than 30 billions of dollars) was raised by governmental borrowing. Indeed, the per-capita national debt increased from $9.88 before the war to $237.75 after the war. This only means, however, that eventually the masses must pay through consumption taxes two-thirds and more of the sums necessary for the Government to refund and repay this debt and for generations to come will still be paying the cost of the World War, estimated by President Coolidge at $100,000,000 and by more prominent and accurate economists at twice that amount.
IV REPRESSIVE MEASURES
In times of war, the Government breaches no interference. First, an official propaganda agency (such as that headed by the socialist, George Creel, during the last war) is maintained to keep the pot of patriotism boiling over. Secondly, the Departments of War, Navy, State, and the Attorney General and Post Office General organize intelligent bureaus of their own to search out and render harmless, objectors of all categories. Thirdly, alien enemy residents are kept under strict formal surveillance. Fourthly, enemy sympathizers are heavily penalized. Fifthly, sedition is redefined by legislation to include practically any act detrimental to the waging of war, and lastly, criminal statutes are universally interpreted and applied to crush even incipient opposition.
Much of these matters has heretofore been discussed in a previous article published in the “Class Struggle” on civil liberties in war times. Particular mention is made here, however, of the Espionage Act, (June 15, 1917) and the Sedition Act (May 16, 1918), which proved so effective during the World War.
The Espionage Act was particularly aimed at preventing persons from unlawfully obtaining or permitting to be obtained any information affecting the national defense for the use of the enemy. Valuators were subject to a fine of $10,000, and imprisonment for two years. The act further provided that those who unlawfully disclosed to the enemy information affecting national defense in time of war should be punished by death or by imprisonment for not more than 30 years.
The Sedition Act penalized the use of abusive language about the Government or the institutions or the country at large, and those who advocated curtailment of the production of war materials and who by word or act favored the cause of an enemy country. The Act further made unlawful interference with or obstruction of the recruiting or enlistment service; the printing or publishing of any disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive language about the form of government, Constitution, military or naval forces, the American flag, or the uniform of the army or navy; and any act which might tend to hold up any of these to scorn, contumely or disrepute. The Act specifically prohibited the wilful utterance, printing, writing, publishing, of any language intended to incite, provoke or encourage resistance to the United States and the wilful teaching, defending or suggesting of any act which might tend to support of favor the cause of an enemy country. Violation of the law was made punishable by $10,000 fine or imprisonment for 20 years, or both.
A special paragraph of the Act required the head of any department forthwith to dismiss any employee or official of the Federal Government, who committed any disloyal act or who uttered any unpatriotic or disloyal language or who in an abusive and violent manner criticized the army or navy or the flag of the United States.
This Act, although attacked as being more nefarious than the infamous Sedition Act of 1796, was nevertheless upheld by the Supreme Court and was generally so interpreted to permit conviction for a simple overt act without regard to the effect such act might have.
This analysis, brief as it is, should serve to dispel any illusions that America is safe from fascism. We have seen that no reliance may be placed on constitutional safeguards since they are inoperative in times of war. We have seen, further, that the temporary character of repressive war measures tends to disappear as the decline of capitalism becomes accelerated, and that future legal restraints in war time will be as extensive and permanent as the inevitable political crisis of the ruling class.
If we deny the dangerous fascist potentialities of war legislation, we are simply blinding ourselves to reality. War legislation is legal fascism, which threatens to remain permanently after the next war. After all, how much difference is there between totalitarian America during war and totalitarian Germany during peace? Does not universal conscription mean military control over the masses? Do not the mobilization powers of the President, as generalissimo of the war machine, rival the powers of Hitler to regiment industry? Are not the Espionage and Sedition Acts of the World War as ruthlessly repressive as any similar European dictatorial laws? Is the terrific burden of the American masses to pay for war, even if concealed by financial devices such as Liberty Loans, inflation and broad indirect taxes, more bearable because it is imposed by a Congress instead of a Mussolini? Conceding, there is a difference in degree, but we must understand that such a difference will decrease as the exigencies of the capitalist crisis increases.
The struggle against capitalist war is intimately bound up with the struggle against fascism since it is precisely through war development that fascism may triumph in the United States.
HOW TO AMERICANIZE COMMUNISM (III)
How can we Americanize Communism so as to lay the basis for an internationalist Communist movement here? What line should we pursue in really becoming a native product hewn out of one piece with the American proletariat? It stands to reason that the best way to do this is to participate in all of the struggles of the American people against their oppressors. But the question still remains, how is this participation to take place? Only if the Communists show a comprehensive knowledge of American life can they work out the necessary strategy and tactics that will allow them to take leadership in the struggle.
First of all, a genuine Communist organization must be thoroughly conversant with American history and the social forces which have been described in the two previous articles. The influence of the frontier, the homestead and slavery in delaying the domination of capitalism while at the same time laying the basis for its purest development, the simultaneous existence of the covered wagon and the industrial monopoly, the cabin and the sky scraper, the delayed abolition of handicrafts coupled with modern rationalization, the lack of feudal traditions side by side with the omnipotence of the lower middle classes, the rising nationalism of the American at the same time as the country takes on the appearance of an enormous “melting pot” with all sorts of sectional and racial differences. These combinations have given the basis for the enormous contrasts and violent tempo of American life.
Secondly, we must make the closest study of these problems, which are peculiarly American and which no one can know better than Americans themselves. Thirdly, we must understand the unique situation in which we are placed in this country at the present time, a practically unprecedented one, where the country passes from classlessness to open class formations. This peculiar and unique circumstance faces the Communists with problems, which they can solve only if they are completely rooted in American life and are not afraid to pioneer the paths for themselves using the method of Marxism-Leninism as their lantern. Finally, the communist forces must develop a proper understanding of the role of America in world affairs.
Now a few words as to the problems unique to American life which no other proletariat has to solve in the same manner or in the same degree. Of course, we make no pretense of exhausting this subject.
First and foremost there is the negro question. There is no other capitalist country of any importance that has this complicated and difficult question to solve in exactly the manner that we have. Yet there is no more genuine American than the Negro and the failure to give this matter its proper due, the failure to work out a Marxist line for the 13,000,000 Negroes in the United States, is the best sort of test of whether the Communist Party is becoming Americanized or not.
Negro life, Negro histry, Negro problems have been practically ignored or deliberately buried by the American bourgeoisie up to the present. It is for the Communist movement to bring to life the true history of the American Negro, to live in closest communion with negro society, to become part of the very heart of the struggles of the Negros for their emancipation. Here is an acid test of weather the Communist party is becoming Americanized or not.
A party that takes the position of the Workers Party that the Negro question is not worth bothering about or discussing fully does not deserve the name “Workers” and while it may fill its ranks with Jewish kids and smart alecks has no place in the serious struggles of the American proletariat. Or a party, like the Socialist Party, that declares there is no such thing as a special Negro problem shows itself to be immersed in the problems of Europe, but far removed from American life.
A genuine Communist organization must see to it that its members live with the Negro people and intermingle their activities with the oppressed Negro masses in every possible way. An American Communist Parity that had more Negroes than whites would be far better than a party with more foreign born than natives in its midst. We shall be able to judge the Communism of an organization, indeed precisely by the yardstick of how many Negroes are in its ranks and have been developed as militant fighters.
The Stalinists have never been able really to understand this. If they have a farm program, it is a program for Wisconsin and Minnesota, but not for Alabama and Mississippi. While they are quite willing to collect hundreds and thousands of dollars for “defense” work for Negroes they have abandoned all serious work in the south, just as they have all other revolutionary work.
Another unique problem that must be resolved in this country is the relationship of the proletariat to the middle classes. There is no country in the world, where the middle classes have played such an overwhelmingly predominant role in the history of the country. All the other classes, as we have seen in the previous installments, have come from this basic class, the petty bourgeoisie. It is this class that has had the initiative and chief importance in political life in this country. Up until now the proletariat, politically, has been rather dumb.
However, there is another side to this matter. it is true that no where has the proletariat been so bourgeoisie as in this country. But it is also true that no where has the line between middle class and working class been so thin as here in the sense that in this country the proletariat has received training that ordinarily only members of the middle class would receive elsewhere. Thus the gap between the workers and the middle class intellectuals is far more reduced in the United States then, let us say, it was in Russia under the Czars.
In the technically backward agrarian countries of Europe where illiteracy was so prevalent, there was a certain recognition of the importance of the intelligentsia by all groups in society. It was the intelligentsia that was naturally accorded leadership even in working class struggles. The problem in the United States is entirely different, however, since nowhere else is the cultural level so high and the independence from the intelligentsia so possible. Thus the paradox exists in this country, that while the working class so far has never displayed great historic initiative, it is capable of accomplishing the greatest deeds once it is pressed to do so and gains the necessary confidence in itself.
All of this has not only its tactical and strategic implications, but its organizational significance as well. A Communist group that would Americanize itself must understand the American fusion of theory with practice, must place the strictest limits upon chatter boxing within the organization, must see that the intellectuals have traditionally had, namely the training of “starting from the bottom” and of “going through the mill".
It is an evidence of the prevailing “foreignism” that exists in the other revolutionary organizations that all of them treat their “intellectuals” as special privileged characters, that a regular division has been created between the “brain” and the “brawn”, the intellectuals, of course being the “brain". Training themselves for jobs as editors, writers, etc., while the workers are the “brawn”, the shoulders, the backs, the legs, etc., and go from one struggle to another for the organization but are never brought into the general leadership. Such special privileges can find their justification far more readily in the caste-ridden society of Europe than in the social life of the United States. To intellectualize the proletarian and to proletarianize the intellectual, this double process can easily find its way into the practice of the American working class movements.
Linked up with this process is the fact that the bourgeoisie itself has come from the same petty bourgeois class as the proletariat. Thus the wealthy have not the same standing and prestige in this country as they have in Europe where wealth is definitely intermarried with the aristocracy and has an immense social standing.
The problems of the relationship of the workers to the Negro masses and to the middle classes are only part of the many specially developed situations that are peculiar to American life and part of a general background, which has no duplicate anywhere else. The fact is America is the only highly industrialized country, which is going through the process of changing from a country of general classlessness to a country of the open formations of classes and the rise of gigantic class struggles. This is far more than a process of “Europeanazation”, for while it is true the struggle of capital and labor in the United States will make this country quite similar politically to those in the old world, yet the European countries always had open class formations and class struggles. What changed in europe was the fact that a new class was challenging all the old well established classes. In the U.S., however, we are going into open class struggles from an entirely different background.
Given this transformation that in now taking place in American society, the question arises, what are the lines of policy that must be laid down for this transition period? It seems to us clear that the current method of approach must be to use these traditional slogans and actions to which the American people have become accustomed and which at the same time can move them forward to taking their place in the struggle against Capital. What are these traditional slogans available in the transitional period from general classlessness to open class battles for power is above all a matter of Communist strategy.
The workers in this country have always been ready for direct physical action as have the American people generally. In the present transitional period everything must be done to stimulate this direct action, this willingness of the American to take matters directly into his own hands and to solve things out in the open. Precisely the hokum that if a Farmer-Labor Party is formed, etc., the workers will be torn from the bourgeoisie and placed on the road to the struggle for power. It is not via the parliamentary action and electioneering that the struggle for power will take place in this country. Contrary to the propaganda spread by the liberals and their henchmen in the camp of labor, the Socialists and Stalinists, there is very little tradition of parliamentaryism among the mass of proletarians in America. In fact, the best way to place the workers under the control of the capitalists would be to place their activities on a parliamentary basis. This does not mean, of course, that Communists under certin circumstances, cannot engage in election campaigns, but the relative insignificance of these campaigns must be clearly set forth in the present transitional period.
Now what are the forms of direct action to which the masses of Americans are accustomed? They are the strike, the boycott, the lynching. In the past, none of these threatened the state nor showed the formation of class against class. The strike is a weapon that is generally used in defensive struggles by the workers to ameliorate their circumstances within the framework of capitalism. The economic strike is a sign that the struggle is still in a low plane and has not reached the political plane of a fight for power.
The task of the Communists is to take this legal and traditional weapon of the strike and to make of it a weapon that can change the struggle of the workers from the defense to an offense against the entire system. This can be done in the present critical situation in which the country and the workers find themselves by the Communists raising the slogan of the General Strike. Certainly the conditions of the workers call emphatically for such drastic action as the general strike. Certainly the masses of workers are ready to listen to such a call. They will not be too hesitant for the general strike appears as merely a variation of a traditional weapon which they have always used, although when it is in the form of a general strike the strike has already changed its character from a reformist to a revolutionary weapon.
It is unwise to attempt to base one’s strategy in reaching the American workers with long winded explanations about the capitalist “system”, which is at fault. Certainly the Marxist laws of the working of capitalism should be thoroughly explained and eventually there will be no more apt pupils than the American workers in understanding and developing Marxism. But the whole thing in the present transitional period can be simplified by showing the workers that unemployment is similar to a boss lockout of the workers from the factories, a situation with which they are familiar to a much higher degree. Thus the problem of solving unemployment is a problem of smashing the lockout of the employers against the workers from factories which the latter have produced. And the answer to the lockout is the demand that the factories be opened to the unemployed and the warehouses opened to the hungry.
The present period, then, is preeminently one in which the slogans: General Strike for unemployment insurance and to open the factories to the unemployed and the warehouses to the hungry, can be raised with maximum effect. These are slogans which begin to raise the question of workers control over production and the end of capitalism or production for profit. The General Strike is a slogan that more than anything else today can be used to line up the workers against the capitalists and the state and make them class conscious.
One can imagine how “American” the Socialist Party, the Workers Party and the Stalinist Party really are when it is precisely these slogans and this policy which they reject. Robert Minor of the Stalinists once sneeringly declared: The C.L.S. is for the general strike, we are for the Revolution! As though one did not lead to the other. And so because Minor was for the Revolution, therefore he was AGAINST the general strike.
A tremendously rapid growth of the state is taking place at the present time. This is part of the transition period towards the open formation of classes. In proportion as capital and labor line up against each other, the state becomes an increasingly powerful agent on the side of the capitalists. In politics, at least so far as the growth of the state is concerned, as in economics, America is rapidly catching up and surpassing Europe. At the present time, approximately 50,000,000 Americans live because of direct payments of cash and food by the state to them.
The enormous growth of the state has placed squarely before the Communists: What shall be our attitude towards this increase, especially in such matters as unemployment projects to provide work relief? The Stalinists and with them the Socialists and the Workers Party have developed the following line: (1.) We want work, work on state jobs. (2.) The projects by the state are, on the whole, good and constructive ones. We demand that the state continue these projects permanently so long as there are unemployed to take care of. (3.) We are not particular if the unskilled or the professionals do not get the prevailing rate of pay…so long as we are put back to work.
Now, we submit, such a policy is wholly at variance with the American tradition of looking away from the state (a tradition totally unlike that of the Germans). This attitude of the reformists and centrists will only help to pave the way for Fascism in the long run. We must be for collectivism but not for capitalist collectivism. It is not our job to build up the state apparatus for the capitalist class and to demand to become permanent hangers on of the state through project work-relief jobs or other ignominious occupations.
As for us, we do not demand jobs under capitalism at all, for we know that all work under the present system leads to weakening the proletariat and strengthening the capitalist state and the bourgeoisie. We want unemployment insurance, yes, for we believe that we are entitled to get back the vast amount of stuff we have produced, but we do not believe that it is the duty of the wage-slave to demand permanent slavery. Further, we say to hell with the state and all of its projects which are far from constructive, but on the whole terribly destructive. We are violently opposed to the slogan: Make the Projects Permanent, and are just as firmly hostile to any conception that would make the workers state hangers-on for life. If we are put to work on projects, however, we do want adequate pay.
And in all this we know that the American workers will turn to us. They consider with abhorrence any idea of being state hangers-on for life. They do not wish to become frozen into the status of project workers and detest the whole idea of projects with all their heart. If they are put to work on projects they want to be treated as ordinary workers. Consider the strike of the AFL, for example, on the W.P.A. projects in New York City in which the spokesman of the AFL actually declared to the effect: “We don’t care if you work us less. We are not so anxious for project work, but if you work us, by God, you must pay us the prevailing rate, the union rate of pay.” The Communists holler we want work. Let the pay be settled later. It is the reactionary AFL which actually stated the traditional American workers’ position: We don’t want to be “rehabilitated". We are not “charity” cases. We don’t give a damn for your work, but if you put us to work, then you will have to treat us as regular workers and give us regular pay.
We ask the reader to judge in this controversy, which organization really understands the American worker and can adapt itself to American life, the so called revolutionary groups that shout for work and for being put on the projects of the state, which they complacently envision as permanent, or the group that says: No work without adequate pay! One might even say that the C.L.S. is actually raising the slogan “A Fair Day’s Pay for a Fair Day’s Work” for the project workers, and yet so reactionary are the opportunists and centrists that they will not adopt even this typically American slogan as their own.
Another excellent slogan for the transition period between American classlessness and open class struggle is the cry: Lynch the Lynchers of the Negroes and poor Toilers! The ordinary European, like the German, say, would look with horror on such a slogan as leading to “Anarchism”, to disorder and to chaos. Your German wants, “Ordnung and Diziplin” even when he is a Communist. But it is about time we broke from the Germanification of the movement and learned to talk American.
Lynching is something for every American Communist to understand and not to scold at like some fish wife. It has its roots in the democratic traditions of the country. it is the action in the street of the mass itself, which takes the law directly into its own hands. It shows a contempt for the regular legal process. It is something in which millions of southerners and westerners have taken part. Now it is precisely in this period when the masses are discontented that we must not tell them to look to the state or to the regular police or the courts or the law for remedies but to look only to themselves, to take matters into their own hands. In such a period we must point out not that the process of vengeance or of direct action of the masses in the street has been incorrect, but that the lynching has generally been in the wrong direction, that the masses must stop the lynching of the poor toilers and Negroes and take action upon their real enemies, the wealthy bosses and capitalists.
It may be objected that the victim of the lynching is an individual and not a system. But the lynching of a judge, who forecloses mortgages or of a ruthless capitalist may well lead to such clashes with “law and order” as to bring home to the masses the necessity of smashing the entire capitalist state machinery and taking over the power directly themselves. At any rate we must come to the American workers not with patented stock european formulae but with the methods and customs, which are native to the country and, which are indeed their own. Originally, out west, lynching was developed because of the absence of the state apparatus and as a means by which the settler defended his own against bandits. But what was originally a classless instrument can now easily take on a class character and become part of precisely that sort of technique which will train the American workers to take to the streets on the road to power.
It is in this period, too, when the workers are in a transitional period, having not quite lost their old individualism of the 19th century nor quite taken on the European ideology of the class struggle, that we must accelerate the process of maturing the American workers by going out ourselves to organize the unorganized workers in America. We must become aware of the fact that the old liberal methods are out of date and that only revolutionary methods will enable the workers to build militant industrial unions of any sort. It is in this period that Fascist germs appear so that the period from classlessness to classfulness seems to be a period also bridging liberalism and Fascism. Yet for us, it must become a transition period from liberalism to the struggle for power. In this period the American worker does not have to repeat all the parliamentary and opportunist errors of the worker of Europe. He does not have to go through the Comedy of Errors of the Socialists and Stalinists. He is ready to follow the Communists if they show that they understand his problems and can do the job of organization.
The organization of the unorganized, the building up of independent militant industrial unions, this is the transitional task of the moment to preparation for the storming of the bastille and the seizing of power. And he who does not go out to do the one, will never be able to do the other. The present period must be one of dress rehearsals for the future. In this period, we can do the smaller relatively secondary jobs in preparation for the larger major jobs in the future.
Let us sum up then: The strategy of the Communists in America in the present period must be:
1. Develop the direct action of the masses through raising the slogans of general strike, lynch the lynchers of the Negroes and poor toilers, open the factories to the unemployed and the warehouses to the hungry, etc.
2. Build up the revolutionary mass organizations of the proletariat particularly their independent militant industrial unions and mass defense groups.
3. Utilize every form possible by which to move the workers from the old liberal classless ideology to the Communist ideology of class struggle.
4. Vigorous struggle against all the burnt-out forms of European Socialism or Communism, the lack of initiative of the Germans, the lack of organization of the French, the idealization of the peasantry of the Russians, the parliamentaryism of the English, etc.
Unlike the Europeans it was not necessary for the American workers to pose as Communists in order to win merely liberal reforms from the State. The American workers took their liberalism straight. Similarly, when they turn to Communism, they will take their Communism straight without make believe and without illusory rationalizations.
LETTER TO THE I.W.W.
Some time ago we sent the following letter to the I.W.W., a letter which is self explanatory and which we desire to publish at this time with certain comments:
August 2, 1935
Dear Fellow Workers,
The almost complete liquidation of the new militant unions of the Communist Party has been a set back for the cause of militant unionism throughout the country. On this question our organization is in violent disagreement with the Communist Party as it is with the Socialist Party and the small Workers Party. We adhere to the point of view that the AFL can never organize the unorganized in the present period of U.S. history and that unless the revolutionary elements go out into the field to organize industrial unions of a class struggle nature, no one will be able to do so, and the way will be clear for Fascist and Company unions of every stripe.
Because of this situation, we wish to go on record as supporting every effort to organize the mass of unskilled workers into militant industrial unions and to support the I.W.W. in all of its attempts to form such unions. The recent movement in Cleveland and elsewhere, shows to us that there is a field for the I.W.W. open to it especially at the present time.
We are not syndicalists, nor Anarchists, but Communists. We feel that the political views of our group should not bar us from bona fide efforts to help the I.W.W. to build up powerful class struggle industrial unions. We shall be glad to help in every possible way in any campaigns the I.W.W. may conduct in order to form such unions.
Please forward our communication to the G.E.B. of the I.W.W. and let us hear from you soon.
With revolutionary greetings,
Albert Weisbord, Secretary
The Stalinists, after disgracing the labor movement with their antics in organizing the unorganized, have now abandoned the field completely and have turned to the AFL with the most servile and liquidatory policy imaginable. Stalin and Co. are now making the world safe for democracy. They have no time for revolutionary action. This is true also for the Socialist Party and the midget Workers Party. Thus the field is left entirely clear to the I.W.W. and to such forces as believe in the independent organization of the unorganized and the building up of militant industrial unions.
And never before was the field so ripe as at the present time for action. There are hundreds of independent unions yearning for unity. There is a deep ferment even among the Company unions. There is abundant proof of the utter bankruptcy of the AFL Again, there is the vast number of workers placed on Government projects, who can easily be organized and who have not even been touched by the existing revolutionary bodies up to now. And there are still millions of completely unorganized workers. At the present time, we see only ourselves and the I.W.W. still believing in the possibilities of independent unionism. We have in common with the I.W.W. the slogan of General Strike and a firm faith in direct action as the only possible method for smashing the capitalist state machinery.
On our part, inside the I.W.W. we do not intend to pursue the insane tactics of the Stalinists or the other clique politicians. We do not intend to devote our time to “boring form within” in such a manner that the union organization of which we are a part will tend to break up. The “Class Struggle” will carry articles supporting the organization campaigns which the I.W.W. may be carrying on. Such criticism as we make inside the organization, should differences of opinion arise, will be made in a fraternal manner. our members will be ready to go out into the field and do their best to carry out the necessary organization work. Thus we are sure we shall be able to cooperate with the members of the I.W.W.
Our group, the Communist League of Struggle, and our publication, the “Class Struggle”, remain as they have been, completely independent. Revolutionary unionism is one important field of activity which we shall attempt to carry on with the I.W.W. giving them our fullest cooperation.
While the Stalinists and the Workers Party and the Socialists are capitulating one after the other on all the basic tasks of the day, the Communist League of Struggle still keeps the Red Flag flying and champions more firmly than ever the cause of militant industrial unionism, of the General Strike and of direct working class action to smash the capitalist machinery.
THE TEXTILE CLERKS ORGANIZE
For over a year we have been interested in the organization of the shipping clerks and other workers in the textile converter houses of this city. The matter was first brought to our attention when Victor Roth of the Field group came to us with another worker, Milton Horowitz, and wanted our support for a policy that would drag out workers on strike without the slightest preparation by means of “pulling committees” composed of “strong arm men” to be obtained through “connections” of Roth. This whole plan we repudiated and denounced as adventuristic and criminal. The way to build the union was patiently to work with the men, to stimulate their enthusiasm, to propagandize them for the necessity of organization, to work out the proper demands, etc.
The next thing we heard was that although Roth was now entirely out of the textile converters trade. He had been able to get up a small group and become President of it, affiliating it to the United Textile workers of the A.F.L. In the course of the work, Milton Horowitz separated from Roth and broke from the Field group of which he was a member and after wandering all over the map, came to the C.L.S. and applied for membership.
The first thing we did was to work out a policy of organization for the textile clerks. The first problem was should there be an independent union or not? On the one hand we argued that all the workers in the affiliated trades, ladies’ garment clerks, textile workers, truckmen, elevator men, etc., were all part of the AFL and thus an independent union would meet with the sabotage of their officials and have a great deal of difficulty to keep going. On the other hand there was the fact that if the men were to join the AFL all they would be doing would be paying dues without the slightest chance of being supported in any strike action to improve the terribly low wages ($12-$18) and extraordinarily long hours (60-70). All of the workers were of the opinion that it was better to form an independent union and have a chance to fight and win , then join the practically defunct outfit of Roth and be sold out from the start without even the chance to fight.
There was then organized an independent textile handlers union that rapidly began to win the support of the workers and was able to establish quite a solid executive committee. Serious organization work was carried on. Demands were worked out that won the support of the workers and the half dozen stooges in the AFL union behind Roth were left completely out in the cold.
It was at this moment that the clerks in the Ladies’ Apparel Trade, who were part of the I.L.G.W.U. decided to call their strike. At once this accelerated the situation for our comrades in the textile converter houses, and they began to make rapid progress when they were approached by the U.T.W. organizers and asked to join the U.T.W. local fusing both organizations into one. The U.T.W. agreed to lower the dues and the initiation fees and to allow the local such autonomy that they would be able to some extent to control any strike they entered into. To this our comrades agreed, but when the time came for fusion, they found that Roth had filled the U.T.W. local with such fake “clerks” as Simon Williamson, who having been fed and sheltered by the Field group no doubt had to repay his debt by becoming their tool, and similar people who had absolutely nothing to do with the trade. In other words the same scandalous tricks by which Field had ruined the food workers union and strike and had choked their organization to death with outsiders was being applied, albeit in the crudest sort of way, by Fields’ henchman, Roth.
Backed by these stooges, Roth and Co. now began to sabotage unity and tried to maneuver that the two organizations should not come together. However, the pressure of the workers was so great as to push Roth aside and they were compelled to form a joint executive from both organizations.
Our comrades had agreed to the fusion because they felt that now was the time to strike in conjunction with the many thousands of ladies’ apparel clerks. However, who should oppose all idea of strike but the very adventurer, Roth, of the “pulling committee” fame. He brought down the officials of the U.T.W. to argue and to discuss and fight the left wing, which proposed action. the result was nothing whatever was accomplished. Some of the men joined the new union. The union arranged some sort of sociable under Roth’s direction… and that was all. In the meantime the “great AFL organization” of ladies’ apparel clerks was given a terrific beating by the officials of the AFL who sold them out in a brutally raw manner. Thus the very fears which had guided our men into the organization of an independent union actually came to pass, through the management, however, of the Fields group that showed itself to be one of the most contemptible agents of the AFL bureaucracy to be found in the ranks of labor. It seem to be a proverb, the smaller the group of opportunists, the more desperate they are, the meaner they act.
Communist League of Struggle Expels Milton Horowitz
In the meantime the situation was greatly aggravated by the actions of Milton Horowitz, who like a regular Jewish “mama’s boy” had decided not to fight further but to quit the union and even made up his mind to leave the workers’ ranks altogether and become a “teacher". At a critical moment of the growth of the union, therefore, Milton Horowitz decided cowardly to desert his post in the struggle and to resign from the union. Needless to say the C.L.S. quickly decided to expel Horowitz from its ranks although indeed it had not really taken him in but had constantly placed him on a sort of probationary period in view of his record of vacillation and careerism.
From now on we shall have to fight an uphill battle not only against the Roths, who are scarcely worthy of mentioning as opponents, but against the Stalinists who are rivalling Roth as the agents for the AFL bureaucracy. without Milton Horowitz we shall be able to accomplish the job much better than before.
OUR DISCUSSIONS WITH THE BORDIGHISTS
During the month of August we were approached by the comrades of the Italian Left Fraction (Bordighists) for joint discussions that might lead towards the clarification of a basic common platform. After a number of meetings we found that the few workers of this group, who live in New York, are so rigid in their views that unity with them is entirely out of the question.
Our first session was on the trade union question. In the discussion, Comrade Miletti speaking for his fraction, gave expression to the following gems: 1) We must work mainly in the reformist unions. It is not true that the aristocracy of labor dominates the AFL and that the AFL will always be conservative. 2) Only the trade union is the organization to fight Fascism. On the other hand it is not correct that Fascist trends are here yet in the U.S.
The readers of our paper will at once recognize the fact that the Communist League of Struggle takes just the opposite position on this question than the Bordighist “left” (really “right"). With us the basic task is the organization of the unorganized and the secondary task work within the reformist AFL unions, which are dominated by the aristocracy of labor and its bureaucracy. We do not believe that the AFL can organize the unorganized masses in this country, but only the genuine revolutionary forces can do so. Further, we do not believe that ONLY the trade unions can fight Fascism, but that the unions must be supplemented by a proper vanguard revolutionary force capable of working in periods of illegality and having a highly developed theory of action and struggle on all fronts. Finally, with us, there has been the defnite opinion that the Fascist trends in the U.S. are developing more and more clearly, enough so that today they must become part of all our analyses of the social forces in the U.S.
But it is on the theory of permanent revolution and the colonial question that we were forced to conclude that these comrades have right wing views of the worst sort. Milleti declared for the Fraction that it was wrong to agitate for the self determination of the Negroes in the U.S. and fight for the right of the Negro masses in the U.S. to have the choice of building their own separate workers’ republic if they choose. In the struggle against Fascism the New York comrades of the Fraction were very definitely against the use of any “democratic” slogans at all but only for the slogan of “Dictatorship of the Proletariat". Thus they repudiated such demands as “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Assemblage” under Fascism.
They openly took a stand against all the Marxist and Leninist theses on the colonial question and declared that Marx and Lenin were wrong and must be “corrected". They firmly opposed the entire concept of “Permanent Revolution” with its dialectical interrelation between the petty bourgeoisie and the proletariat, between the democratic and the proletarian revolutions.
Finally, and this was the nationalism that stood out all over them, they opposed the slogan: “Defend Ethiopia” and raised the ridiculous slogan instead of the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat in Ethiopia,” although they knew very well there is no proletariat there. All defense of Ethiopia these comrades called defense of Haile Sailassie and refused to see that the Africans can be really aided only by the proletarian revolution in Europe,, which would be inevitable should Mussolini be defeated. Miletti (for he was the only one to speak) actually called Ethiopia an imperialist country and stated there was no difference between Ethiopia and France and no difference between an Italo-Ethiopian War and a France-German war!
It was at this point that discussions were broken off since it was plain that too great a gulf separated these comrades from the line of the C.L.S. Thus we were not able to become enlightened on the wonderful point that the Soviet Union was now a capitalist country and that a new civil war must be started in Russia to rebuild the proletarian revolution. However, we have heard these arguments before and repeatedly, so we lost nothing by not having the discussion on this point, we are sure.
If the rest of the “Fraction” in Belgium and Italy and France and elsewhere are as opportunist as the New York group then any thought of coming closer to that element is out of the question.