Volume 5 Number 3 …………………….. March 1935
And Other Items: The Saar Plebiscite; The Negro as a Revolutionist; Report on the Eastern Federation Unemployed Conference; A New Orientation is Necessary, etc.
We have been denied second class mailing rights by the U.S. government for refusing to turn over the names and addresses of our subscribers to the U.S. Postal authorities.
WHAT AMERICAN FASCISM MAY BE LIKE by Albert Weisbord
A Fascist movement is inevitable in the United States. To believe otherwise is to think that the workers will take over the factories without a fight, while, on the contrary, the working class of this country must be prepared for a most ferocious struggle. The bourgeois instrument of barbaric ferocity to counter the proletarian revolution is Fascism. Fascism is the political formulation for the sudden and violent development of State and corporate capitalism taking place in the post-war phase of imperialism when wars and revolutions are the ever recurring items on the order of the day. It is the only type of role that will insure that the bourgeoisie is always ready to meet an emergency. It springs from desperation. It ends in the death of capitalism as a whole.
Not only is a Fascist movement inevitable in this country, but already the signs of Fascist tendencies are to be seen on all sides, both in the policy of the government itself and in the mass organizations that are being attempted. The recent Butler episode should give us ample warning that the world wide phenomenon of Fascism will not miss the U.S. This, of course, does NOT mean that Fascism inevitably must be victorious and that the working class of this country cannot move from the present democracy to the dictatorship of the proletariat. But this in turn partly depends upon the outlook and program of the Communists themselves.
Assuming that Fascism as a political tendency will soon make its appearance in the U.S. as a serious force, the question we have to ask ourselves is what may American Fascism be like? What may be its peculiar American tendencies and what national celebration may it take on? It is to be noted that although the Fascists that have appeared in Italy, Germany, Austria, France, and Great Britain have certain common characteristics due to the common basic needs of their respective Bourgeois groups in the present period, yet each Fascism has its own nationalist requirements.
In each country Fascism takes on a celebration to fit the national needs of the capitalists. If Italy raises the term `Fascism’ and Germany `Race’, if Italy has no Anti-Semitic tendencies and in Germany they are extremely marked, if Germany flays the usurer and Italy praises finance capital, if Italy is Catholic and Germany attacks Catholic tendencies, if the Italians popularize their State as `the corporate State’ and the Germans as `totalitarian’, etc. etc., these are but owing to the basic demands of each nationalist capitalist group.
Similar it is with the Austrian Fascist movement that is torn between the aims of the German and those of the Italian. And the same with the British Fascist movement that tries to synthesize the features of both the Italian and the German and stand upon the experience of both. The question is: How will American Fascism make itself `national’?
American Fascism does not have to take the name `Fascism’ or `National Socialist’. Differing from the European brands, it can take the simple name `Americanism’ and appear on the scene as the `American Party’. If it is to hold true to Americanism it will blazon forth as its goal the magic word `Utopia’, where all conflicting groups will be assimilated and where planned social science under the direction of the technician will be established.
Like the English, American Fascism will not be able to exaggerate racial theories or any chauvinism based on race, that is so far as white people are concerned. The fact is, there is no `American race’ unless we mean the Americana Indian. America is peculiarly the melting pot of the world where all white races came together and are being assimilated one to the other. To emphasize racial theories now would be far from uniting the entire nation, but the surest way to throw it into incessant turmoil. therefore, in this respect, American Fascism will have to take a completely opposite stand to German Nazism, which stresses race so much. In this country, if there will be any racial angle put forth, it will be only on the basis of unassimilability, that is on the ground that this or that race cannot be assimilated. Here is the basic reason that will be given for any attack against the Chinese or Japanese or Negro or even the Jew. On the other hand, all these people who are willing to assimilate themselves with America, to identify themselves with this nation and who will lose their old European traits will be accepted. Of course, there will still be room for squeezing out `aliens’ where they make themselves inconvenient to the authorities by joining radical movements or where unemployment necessitates pressure on the minority etc., on the whole, however, American Fascism can take no other way. Besides, this policy fits in well with the past of this country, with the imperialist pretensions of the U.S. and with America’s general role.
Always America has appeared as a sort of New World where the old world racial combinations, national prejudices and class struggles could play no part. America, as a whole, stood for a New Deal, for a New Social Order. It seemed that the Western Hemisphere was destined to counter and reverse all the social processes immemorably ingrained in the East. If, in Europe, there were many races, each antagonistic to the other, here, all races could fuse into one. America stood for a kind of internationalism of its own, or at least for a super-nationalism. it seemed that just as the U.S. was more than one country geographically, but a whole continent, so it was more than one nation, but a whole world in itself ethnically and sociologically. If, in Europe, there were class struggles openly fought out, here a general classlessness prevailed and traditionally made up part of Americanism.
Just as convenient as the theory of race is to the German ruling class, is `our own’ theory that Americanism embraces the whole world and is a world philosophy that can take in and assimilate all peoples. It is with this theory that American imperialists can go out to conquer the world and assimilate it. It is with this theory that they can cut across all the old antagonisms created by a dying europe.
Precisely at the moment when, historically, Europe is dying as a progressive force must America step out and take the leadership from europe. This will be the imperialist objective of the future `American Party’ with its program of `Americanism’, Europe has been a failure, it could not bring peace and prosperity into a world but only conflict and war. It will be up to America to knock sense into the heads of these little decadent nations, who by their decadence bring on Communism and Class war. It is the duty of America to organize the world. Here is a program for American Fascism--the organization of the world, planned economy for the world, Utopia for the world.
America, by its newness, by its uniqueness, by its apparent violation of historical laws, by the intrinsic experimentation of its life and by its inherent pacifism always was the classic land of Utopia. Indeed, it itself posed as a great Utopia, a regular New Jerusalem of the Bible. In 1886 Professor Ely could write: “It is safe to say that considerably over one hundred, possibly two hundred communistic villages have been founded in the U.S., although comparatively few yet live. There are perhaps from seventy to eighty communities at present in the U.S. with a membership of from six to seven thousand and property the value of which may be estimated at 25 to 30 million dollars.” (R.T.Ely- Labor Movement in America, p.20)
Utopia: This goes with the American expression: “Give us a break”, with the American philosophy of Pragmatism and with the fervent belief in Santa Claus. Utopia! This is the magic slogan that brings hundreds of thousands of voters to the plans of Upton Sinclair. Utopia is the program of various fascistic movements that already run into the tens if not hundreds of thousands of members. It is with the light of Utopia that Roosevelt can blind millions of supporters under the promise of `New Deal’. In this country, then, Utopia becomes not the sneering name for a dream impossible to realize, but the daring scientific experimentation and pioneering that has always characterized America and which has permitted it apparently to accomplish the impossible. With an unconcealed program of Utopia American Fascism may well gather into its folds the mass of petty bourgeois elements that it needs.
The Utopianism of the American will not be the dream of the poet, but the ideal of the scientist. It will propose not a sentimental chaos, but a well organized and planned order. The industrialism of American life, the extraordinarily well developed technique of American engineering prevents Utopianism from having anything but a `scientific’ character. On the other hand, the general immaturity of social life in this country has, at least up to now, prevented the scientists from being anything else but social Utopians. The phenomenal rise of Technocracy with its `planned economy’ of plenty under the rule of the scientist and engineer is a harbinger of the type of theoretical program that our future `American Party’ will try to put out.
In other countries, Fascism has openly fought the slogans of the French Revolution, “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” with its own passwords, “Order, Discipline, Hierarchy". In the United States, however, an incipient Fascist movement may well use the term `fraternity’ and `equality’. In America, petty bourgeois egalitarianism has always been a predominant feature of social life precisely because of the general classlessness that prevailed and the fact that the Nation as such was always identified with the middle class. Here the capitalist has ruled not through the aristocracy, nor generally even through the big bourgeoisie, but always and classically through the petty bourgeoisie. It is for this reason too that so much concern is now shown by the administration to protect the small home owner, the small farmer, the middle class generally. The middle class is the parent body, the mother class, so to speak, from whose loins sprang both capital and labor with all their antagonisms.
The Fascist movement must rely on this middle class. Slogans of equality and fraternity go hand in hand with the slogans against class war. If the Fascist movement arises in this country, it will not be so much because there will be the open threat of Communism and gigantic mass Communist parties of half a million members, but rather in order to prevent this class struggle from even appearing in such revolutionary formation. Fascism in Italy sprang up in order to crush Communism. Fascism in the U.S. will appear in order to prevent Communism from appearing. For, once the American proletariat really moves in the direction of Communism, the end for capitalism must soon be in sight. There will be no long process between beginning and end as there was in Europe. Does not American “Tempo” guarantee directness and speed for the social revolution?
European Fascism stresses `self sufficiency’, `autorchy’, `self sufficient empire’, etc. America being indeed more self sufficient than any country, does not need to stress this. In its role of conquering and organizing the world it will have to stress other features more in harmony with its super nationalism. As it puts Europe on the dole more and more, as it injects its mighty force in the wars and conflicts of Europe, it can only be with some sort of theory of extending the United States of America to become the United States of the world under America. American Fascism can be the party to carry out Karl Kautsky’s theory of “Ultra- Imperialism"!
For the same reason, American Fascism, unlike the European varieties, will be able to employ not jingoistic, but pacifistic phrases. If the U.S. goes into a war, it will be in order to end all wars. Only America could have conceived of the slogan, “war to end wars". But in the fourth decade of the 20th century, this slogan is sharpened by the interminable wars and internecine fights in Europe. An end to chaos! An end to eternal wars! Peace and planned economy for the world! All of these special characteristics are the ways in which American supernationalism will be able to fight the Anarchistic internationalism of the european bourgeoisie and the Marxist internationalism of the Communists.
European Fascism has been born in a struggle against the existing constitution and framework of government that had permitted Communism and the labor movement to grow. Fascism, as it became victorious, overthrew these respective ‘liberal’ constitutions. In this country, however, Fascism can well arise within the framework of the constitution. For an extended review of this matter we refer the reader to the article, “Roosevelt’s Constitutional Dictatorship” that appeared in the February, 1934, Class Struggle. At this polling, all we wish to emphasize is the fact that in America the Constitution arose without a labor movement and has continued until today without much of a labor movement. Under the Constitution, dictatorial powers of the President are provided, Company Unions can be formed, Criminal Syndicalist Laws enacted, thousands of Negroes lynched within a short space of time, etc. Such a constitution of theoretic classlessness and pragmatic lynching of labor need not be fought by Fascism. The Constitution may have to be modified in interpretation and even in letter, but the American Fascist may well advance against Communism with the defense of the Constitution on his lips.
As in economics and politics, so in general philosophic theory and method, if Fascism in Europe needs a State religion and to achieve it has to turn back to Catholicism or paganism, the U.S. can turn to neither. It cannot reproduce in this country the old forms of a passe’ Europe. The problem is how to embrace them all. Deism does so. Deism is the traditional religion of the leaders of America. Even today all sorts of moves for the unification of all churches have been started. It is another example of how the American bourgeoisie started where the European ended. By means of Deism, American Fascism can unify all the groups within the country and the nations outside of it. With Deism as its religion and pragmatism as its method, American Fascism can be inspired to lead the world.
There remains the special point of the relation of Fascism to the Negro. (As to the probable relations of Fascism to the jew in this country, see the last issue of the Class Struggle, February, 1935). It is clear that Fascism will burn men. Lynching is too old a genuine American custom and sport not to be indulged in by Fascism, when it becomes a force in this country. Further, the Negro is too dangerous an element of social life, he is too much a representative of unskilled labor and of the existence of classes not to be made to feel the full brunt of Fascism. The Fascist way to eliminate classes will be the way of physical extirpation of the Negro.
That American Fascism will declare the Negro inassimilable and launch its most ferocious attacks against the black worker, becomes very clear the moment we compare the relative situation between the Communist and the Negro. In other countries, the Communists have been the most hated, feared and persecuted by the ruling class. The reason for this is that the powerful classes of oppressed which exist as a fact can be prevented from seizing power only by destroying the Communists. In this country, however, the problem has always been posed differently. It is not the Communist representative of the class which is alien, but the class itself, as a class. It is the Negro who has always symbolized the class of Labor and whose black skin cast its shadow over the capitalist sun.
Hence the traditional ferocity against the Negro. While the Communist is not taken seriously by the American bourgeoisie, while the Communist groups are still mulling over dead European problems and are composed of elements still alien to the native proletariat, the Negro is taken very seriously as a menace to the existing system of exploitation.
Let us compare the two groups, Negro and Communist, to see what group is a greater threat to the bourgeoisie at present:
1. The Negro is rooted in American life and history. The Communist is not as yet.
2. The Negro is the most exploited and propertyless section of the American toilers. The Communist has been generally of foreign born extraction, often has had a good job and high pay. Many of them are Jewish intellectuals.
3. The Negro has a long history of actual rebellion and insurrection behind him. The Communist never tried his hand at insurrection in this country.
4. The Negro once held State power in some of the States right after the Civil War and demonstrated his revolutionary character. The Communists have been only talkers. They have not even seriously begun the penetration of the South. Their ranks are filled with white chauvinist poison. They would not even understand, most of them, the present lines that are being written.
5. The Negro has a long history of illegal and conspiratorial work. The Communists of this country would not know what to do in periods of illegality.
6. Over 5000 Negroes have been lynched since the Civil War. How many Communists? Daily the American bourgeoisie is carrying on a most forocious war against the negro. Compared to this the treatment given American Communists is still relatively mild.
7. The American Communist can get into the best of society (Corliss Lamont, John Strachey, not to mention such as Sidney Hook and other shysters). Not the Negro, who is treated like a beast.
8. The American white worker has had the rankest illusions about equality, opportunity for all, no classes, rich and poor are alike, etc. Not so the Negro. The foreign born white worker spends his time with the problems of Latvia, Finland, Spain and such countries. The Negro spends his time fighting his own American bourgeoisie, our chief enemy.
9. The American white worker lives off of the super-exploitation of the black. The black worker lives off of no one.
10. Nine times out of ten, if we had to choose between a `class conscious’s white worker and an `unconscious’ Negro, we would choose the `unconscious’ Negro as the better realist, the better revolutionist.
All this, however, is not to say that a Fascist power would not attack the Communist movement. Quite the contrary, the rise of American Fascism will clean out of the Communist movement the imperialist minded and soft headed workers and intellectuals, who now infest the revolutionary organizations. As these elements go out, the Negro will step in and assume his rightful place among the very vanguard of the revolutionary movement of this country. Just as labor was personified by the black skin, so will revolutionary Communism some day really be represented by the Negro. Then, and only then, will we be sure that Communism has become Americanized.
Since Fascism cannot assimilate the Negro, the future in the United States is posed by the problem, Fascism or Negro Liberation, or what is the same thing, Fascism or Communism and the permanent victory of labor.
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The Position of the Internationalist Communists of the United States. This document embodies the theses of the Communist League of Struggle in the Negro question. price 10 cents
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A pamphlet containing the general theses of the Communist League of Struggle on all the important political problems of the day. A thorough analysis: A clear line.… . . price 15 cents.
A SURVEY OF SOUTH AMERICA
by S. Herman
The South American continent has become in the 20th century and particularly since the war, a crucial battleground for the English and American imperialists. The struggle for markets, which has been waged with increasing intensity and bitterness for over a century has now reached such a point that all the empty mouthing and platitudes of long winded government spokesmen cannot conceal the animosity which really exists. That this necessarily increases the danger of war goes without saying.
A brief survey of the development of English and American trade and investments in the South American countries is very significant and in this connection, it might be worth while to refer occasionally to the rest of Latin America. In 1913, American investments in South America amounted to $173,000,000, while the English investments were over $308,000,000. In 1928 the imports from the U.S. had reached $681,000,000, while those from England increased to only $364,000,000. In other words, in a period of 15 years, the sales of the U.S. increased by more than $400,000,000, while those of England grew by less than $60,000,000. The value of South American exports to the U.S. in 1913 was $202,000,000,, and those to Great Britain $287,000,000. In 1928 exports to the U.S. were $571,000,000, while those to England were $482,000,000. In 1929 imports from the U.S. amounted to over $636,000,000, while those from the British had shrunk to less than $350,000,000. By 1929, the last pre-depression year, imports from the U.S. had grown from 17% to 31%, while those from Britain fell from 30% to 17%. Similarly, South American exports to the U.S. in 1929 had reached 25% of the total, having been only 17% in 1913, while these to England fell from 24% to 20% in 1929.
Statistics are usually cold and dull, but they become most eloquent when British and American trade and investments in South America are set side by side. The U.S. has forced Great Britain from a position of dominance to that of a backslider. In spite of all the outward manifestations of Anglo-American friendship and cooperation, the fact remains that both countries have stretched `hands across the sea’ solely for the purpose of markets and exploitation. And this brings us to a consideration of the exploited.
To begin with, of the 80 or more millions of inhabitants of South America, it can safely be said that over 55 million or about 70% are illiterate. Argentina and Uruguay have the lowest percentage of illiteracy, about 40%. The rest run from about 70% to as high as 80% in Ecuador and Bolivia. It is extremely shocking to realize that a country with the wealth of Brazil, whose population is half of that of the entire continent, should have over 30 million illiterates or about 75%. This percentage of illiteracy in South America has grown during the years of the crisis and that it will necessarily continue to grow as a direct result of foreign exploitation will soon be evident. Not that domestic exploitation would alter matters much, but it so happens that most of it is carried on by foreigners. Manufacturing industry, though on the increase, occupies a relatively small part of South American economy. The overwhelming mass of the population is engaged in agriculture, mining and cattle raising. The lot of the farm laborers seems to be the most desperate of all. In Ecuador, for example, the conditions are described by the British Consul (Report on the Economic Conditions of Ecuador, Great Britain, Dept. of Overseas Trade, September 1932).
“Farm laborers…Several systems are observed in Ecuador for remunerating farm laborers: In some farms they are paid in cash, in others they are granted a plot of land known as `Huasipungo’ which they can cultivate for their own benefit, and lastly a combination of both methods is in force. The wage paid to the Indian is, comparatively speaking, low. In farms adopting the cash system, he generally earns less then one sacra (about one shilling) per working day. When he is granted a `Huasipungo’ he is not paid in cash and is obliged to give free labor from one to six days per week according to the size if the plot; and finally, when a combination of both systems is adopted, in addition to the `Huasipungo’ the farm laborer receives a small cash payment of 30, 20 and even 10 centavos per day.” (6,4 and 2 cents).
Industrial labor was not much better off. Skilled workers received 60 cents to $1.20 per day and unskilled workers from 20 to 40 cents per day. the report states further that “There is an absolute lack of statistics to be able to appreciate the various aspects of the social question. The cost of living of workmen as also the number of workmen and percentage of unemployed.”
It is difficult to say whether conditions are worse in Peru and Chile once such a low level is indicated as in Ecuador. In Peru a small Spanish aristocracy has for four centuries dominated a different race of people whom they have treated in the most hostile manner. The hatred is mutual. Under such conditions the education of the underlying population is not a matter of concern for the ruling class. Their dogma is to keep the light from and deny opportunity to the peon on the plantation and the Indian in the mountains. Indians and Negroes, they say, do not need education, could not use it anyway, and are intellectually incapable of receiving it. The idea of inferiority is impressed in Peru more than anywhere else in South America where, to a very great extent, the same situation prevails. The condition of the Indian in Peru is far worse right now than it was at the time of the Spanish conquest. The feudal system remains in spite of an ostensible democracy. There is practically no middle class. The Indians are increasing far more rapidly than the whites. Peru has had over 100 revolutions since it won its `independence’.
American investments increased from $35,000,000 in 1913 to $150,000,000 in 1929, while in the same period English investments were 133 and 140 millions respectively. Here, too, the rivalry is carried on at the expense of the peons who devote all their time to the production of petroleum, copper, sugar, and cotton. Peonage, expropriation of land and compulsory labor service have led to many strikes, to counteract which President Leguia (who died in prison and whose son received $450,000 in ‘commissions’ from American bankers for floating government loans), sternly suppressed the opposition, its press, the unions and closed the workers’ schools.
In Chile the same idea prevails as elsewhere in South America that a gentleman is not supposed to do any real work. The half- breed peons (inquilinos) who work on farms from sunrise to sunset and who cannot leave if they are in debt, which is perpetual of course, receive something around 18 cents per day. Their actual living conditions are far worse than those of the sharecroppers in the United States. There is lots of time on the farms, it seems, for they use slow moving oxen instead of horses. However, the tempo is much faster in the nitrate fields and in the mines, where a very large portion of the workers have been unionized and have become very militant . This must have been the case for otherwise no “Socialist” government could have been possible. In Chile, too, the Americans have outstripped the British. In 1913, American investments amounted to $15,000,000 and 1929 to almost $400,000,000 while those of the English grew from $331,000,000 to only $389,000,000 in the same period. Meanwhile the export taxes are used to service the loans made by the Guggenheixms and the British. A large portion of the unemployment is due to American tariffs and the agreement of the French-German chemical cartel by which Germany instead of Chile supplies France with nitrates. There have been strikes and mutinies in the Chilean Navy and naval abases besides the palace revolutions.
Britain and America have waged a long war in Columbia and Venezuela, chiefly for oil. In spite of the so called prosperity of Venezuela and in spite of the tremendous sums invested in Colombia, illiteracy in each of these countries is well over 70%. Conditions of public health are abominable. In Colombia, for example, in December, 1929, the United Fruit Company, which employed about 20,000 men in the Magdalene banana region, paid, according to their figures (if you believe them), less than four dollars per week. This was paid twice a month in scrip which money-lenders would discount at 25%. Clothing, food, etc., had to be purchased at the company store. Two percent was deducted for medical attention. There was no day off. The laborers had to sign a statement to the effect that they worked by the piece on their own time and were not employed by the company. This was to evade the accident insurance laws. In the case of an injury, the cost of transportation to the company’s hospital was deducted from the wages.
Naturally a strike took place. Martial law was declared and troops fired on a crowd, killing 400 or more. The subsequent terror disposed of an additional 1000 lives. Incidentally, two American cruisers stood by for orders. The workers were not alone in this struggle. They were joined by the small native landowners, who were being dispossessed by the United Fruit Company, which was also diverting their water. In December, 1934, at this writing, there is martial law again in the Magdalene banana fields, this time because, says the New York Times, the United Fruit Company refuses to deal with unions whose leaders are Communists. Rockefeller’s Tropical Oil Company has also had martial law declared on occasions. The hatred for foreigners and particularly for the Yankees is greater in Colombia than elsewhere in South America and that is saying plenty.
The ruthless theft of the Panama Isthmus was never sufficiently compensated for by the payment of $25,000,000 many years later. The United States has kept a more watchful eye on Columbia than on any other country. The coast line is 640 miles long on the Atlantic and 465 miles on the Pacific. In 1927 the Anglo-Persian Company obtained a concession for 6,000,000 acres of oil land along the Panama border, but the Colombian Congress refused to ratify it. Here the British aroused the Yankee-phobia and the Americans did likewise for the British. What concerned America more than the oil, which was quite an item in itself, was that the proposed contract gave the concessionaire the right to build a canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific and also permitted the establishment of an air base. There is nothing at which the U.S. will stop in order to maintain its exclusive control and domination over the Panama Canal. The indemnity paid for the theft of the canal zone was meant to be a sop. Oil had been discovered and also platinum and the Americans increased their investments in Columbia from $2,000,000 in 1913 to $289,000,000 in 1929, while the British investments rose from $34,000,000 to $37,000,000. The Americans have licked the British in Columbia no matter how you look at it. The Letitia boundary dispute has come in handy to divert the hatred of the people from the Yankees to the Peruvians.
For a full generation Venezuela has been ruled by the Gomez family. Juan Vicente Gomez even had his two sons appointed first and second Vice Presidents. The chief characteristic of Gomez is his love for both the British and American investors, who compete for his favors. The government’s royalties on oil are tremendous, but most of it goes to Gomez and little to schools or other social services. The standard of living is no higher than in Ecuador or in Colombia. Because of doubt as to the stability of the regime, the oil men have not built refineries to any extent but have shipped the oil either to Curacao or to the United States. The favorable trade balance of Venezuela is entirely ethereal since the proceeds of the oil exports have remained abroad. In other words, the Venezuelans will have holes in the ground to remind them of their tremendous oil reserves. No external debt exists, strange as it may seem, and the internal debt is trivial. This is because oil has brought Gomez more than enough. The United States has always used a firm hand against ‘foreign’ interference. In the Guiana boundary dispute with England and in the case of the German and English claims for indemnity at the beginning of the century, the United States just frightened the Europeans into being reasonable.
The terrible internal situations in Bolivia and Paraguay in addition to the momentum of the imperialistic forces have necessitated the prolongation of the war in the Chaco. The pressure from the masses has become almost too much to resist with the result that their dissatisfaction has had to be canalized against the foreign foe. Here we see two groups of wretched human beings, slaughtering one another instead of their oppressors. Next to Paraguay, Bolivia is the most backward of the South American countries and that is going some. Of its population of about 3,000,000, approximately four-fifths are illiterate. These are composed almost entirely of Indians and half-breeds (mestizas or cheles), who are ruled by a small group of whites, which is divided into two camps for the purpose of swapping jobs from time to time. To keep the workers divided, lines are drawn between the full blooded Indians and themselves. One half of the population is in peonage. The 12 hour day and 7 day week are common. There was a special 36 hour shift in the mines for those, who wanted just a little extra money. Workers are frequently recruited during the fiestas, when they are given plenty to drink on credit, which they must work off. It’s the same old story. They can never get out of debt. The peon is compelled to work on a farm without pay but they give him a hut and a patch of land. The labors of the miners and peons are performed on a diet of dried beans and frozen potatoes (they are 12,000 feet above sea level for the most part) and the indispensable cacao leaf producing cocaine poisoning, which they are encouraged to chew. These intolerable conditions brought about uprisings. Fifty thousand Indians revolted in 1927 and fought with their primitive arrows, clubs and slings against their feudal landlords, only to be most cruelly suppressed. Strikes increased in number and with the depression and decline in the price of tin came the closing of the mines, and the wholesale dismissal of public employees. The death rate in 1930 in La Paz, the capital, the lowest in Bolivia, was 28 per thousand and in the Cochabamba district 68. Compare this with 11 and 18 for the United States and Japan respectively.
The situation in Paraguay has been rather effectively, if not completely, described by the British Consul (Report on Economics in Paraguay, 1923, Department of Overseas Trade):
“As has been stated elsewhere, with a population of some 850,000, the buying capacity of the country is about the equivalent of that of a United States city of 150,000. The average quality of goods consumed, however, will be very much below that of such a city… Outside the towns (the urban population does not exceed 200,000) living conditions are primitive and the laboring classes, even in Asuncion and other towns have only the strict necessities. It is claimed that a considerable increase in the importation of footwear denotes an improvement in the standard of living. If this is true it is confined to the towns. The country `peon’ still wears cheap cotton underclothing and breeches, a woollen `poncho’, perhaps even spurs, but is other wise barefoot. Those working in the big industrial establishments are very often perpetually in debt to their employers, do not accumulate wealth, and therefore do not represent purchasing power.
“A similar element forms a considerable portion of the population of Asuncion and other towns. A skilled laborer often earns five to seven shillings per day, an unskilled laborer, two and six pence to three shillings…
“Education is compulsory, but apart from the capital and towns, this is not enforced…
“While there is a considerable amount of venereal disease, goiter and leprosy, hookworm is the most common disease in all parts of the country, and will remain so until the standard of living is so high that the wearing of shoes is the rule rather than the exception. Infantile mortality is high. It is calculated that 75 % of the population is beyond the reach of adequate medical attention.”
And those who are the subjects of this horrible picture are pitted against the Bolivians in the wilds of the Chaco. Why? There are many reasons. In the first place, Bolivia, the third largest country in South America, has no coast line. About two- thirds of its territory lies to the East of the Andre and the remainder is up in the mountains and extends to the West. The Gran Chaco is the northern continuation of the Argentine pampas and is the meeting ground for Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Bolivia claims title to the Chaco right up to the Paraguay River, which is a tributary of the Plate which reaches the Atlantic at Buenos Aires. And it is precisely at this point that American and British interests come into sharp conflict over tin and oil. American investments in Bolivia rose from $10,000,000 in 1913 to $135,000,000 in 1929. The Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, through its Bolivian subsidiary, obtained a 55 year concession in 7,400,000 acres of oil land. Meanwhile the Guggenheims invested $40,000,000 in the tin and copper mines.
New oil cannot be piped over the Andes and furthermore the cost of transportation for both tin and oil to the United States by way of the Andes is far in excess of what it would be by way of the Paraguay River. But, in addition, oil has also been discovered in the disputed portion of the Chace, which happens to be very rich anyway. The Paraguayans had been settling for some time in the Chaco (which is right at their back door across the Paraguay River, but many hundreds of miles from the nearest Bolivian town) and these Bolivian patriots, Rockefeller and Guggenheim, decided that they would much rather have the Chaco for themselves.
How does England come into this fight? Argentina needs oil as does every one else. In “Frontiers of Trade”, former Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Klein, in 1929, wrote: “Strongly nationalistic Argentine petroleum legislation is likewise said to be the cause of some concern among American companies.” Argentina owns about one half of the land in Paraguay, over three-fourths of its railways, half of its livestock and three-fifths of the total capital invested there. And England has over two billion dollars invested in Argentina, which in 1929 was almost as much as the United States had invested in the whole South American continent. Bolivia has the second largest tin deposits in the world, but because of the impossibility of smelting in Bolivia by reason of the lack of coal and the cost of transportation for smelting the English strangle hold monopoly remains.
Now just a word about tin. The British control 80% of the world’s tin. The chief deposits besides Bolivia are in the Federated Malay States, Dutch East Indies and Nigeria. The supplies are being depleted and no new reserves have been found. Tin is very necessary for manufacturing machinery, automobiles, solder, tin plate, war materials and cans (armies live on canned foods). The United States uses 50% of the world’s output. Here is where the British and American rivalry becomes most bitter in spite of so called understandings and agreements about the distribution of tin.
The picture would not be complete without the munitions manufacturers who do their bit to keep the war going. But that’s not all. They helped to start it. In 1926 Vickers Armstrong of England loaned Bolivia $9,000,000 (with a discount of 1 1/2 million) for war supplies to be purchased in England. In 1928, Dillon Read and Company and the Chase National Bank of New York did even better. Of course, Roosevelt finally, in the summer of 1934, put into effect the embargo on arms shipments to Bolivia and Paraguay, but he very carefully stipulated for the completion of those contracts, which had been made before the embargo went into effect and he also allowed the War and State Departments to use their discretion in the matter. Foreign Minister, Simon, in the House of Commons in February 1933, very piously said: “It is a horrible thing that profits should be made out of the supply of the means of provoking fighting, which is neither necessary nor just.” Obviously he had no objection to fighting which was `necessary’ though unjust. In December, 1934, Prime Minister MacDonald, in response to a question in the Commons, stated that it was not improper for a cabinet officer to own stock in a munitions concern so long as he was not a director of such concern. There must have been some reason for this whitewash.
It cannot be stressed too much that the appeal to the patriotism of the combatants in the Chaco and for the defense of the fatherland are meant to divert attention from the internal crises. As elsewhere in South America, governments and `revolutions’ may come and go but the American controlled Permanent Fiscal Commission goes on forever collecting Bolivian revenues all of which have been pledged to secure the American loans.
The British have for many years maintained a monopoly on rubber, and to the efforts of Firestone in Liberia to break this monopoly has been added the $3,000,000 enterprise of Henry Ford in the Brazilian Jungle on the Tapajoz River. Oddly enough this tract has been named Fordlandia. The New York Times says in part: Fordlandia boasts of nearly 1,000 houses, built within the concession where the 4,000 and odd workers live with their families. There are storehouses, machine and repair shops, warehouses, laboratories, and an observatory. There is also a cemetery. In place of the old wage scale, the meagerness of which was hardly believable, the Fordinandia wage scale minimum is about 60 cents a day, which is more than many laborers earn in large Brazilian cities. Instead of the squalid one room adobe cabin, each worker is allotted a modern house built of wood…With this comfort iron discipline prevails. The health regulations are especially stringent and the moral life of each individual is closely watched. Infractions of the moral code mean dismissal…Stores are operated by private interests under concessions and prices are controlled by Fordlandin.”
And if anyone does not like the conditions of this paradise, he can just hire one of Mr. Ford’s boats to take him to the nearest town which is, 130 miles away, or if Mr. Ford won’t give him transportation, he can take his family for a little hike through the jungle. The foregoing description covers the situation in most of Brazil just as well. But this much should be added. In 1931 a Ministry of Labor was created which undertook the regimentation of the working classes and the unions. Syndicates were to be created, but the government mistakenly took it for granted that the working class would be lined up forever to stand for anything at all. Strikes became very frequent. It so happened that in its efforts to control labor unions the government allowed 50 of the 300 members of the Chamber of Deputies to be chosen by labor organizations, known as professional associations or syndicates. Of course only these groups were eligible , which the Minister of Labor would recognize. But even in these groups the militants took control and there are now several Communist deputies in the Chamber as a direct result of this system. Almost fifteen hundred syndicates have filed applications, but of these only 364 were recognized. It is a safe bet that the Minister of Labor will be more careful in the future about his selections. However, the most serious part of it all is that it is a distinct Fascist trend right after the Italian model.
In Brazil, as in Argentina, english investments are about three times as great as those of the Americans. In 1913, American and British investments amounted to $500 million and $1,161 million respectively and in 1929 they were $474 million and $1,400 million respectively. The Morgan controlled International Telephone and Telegraph Company has taken over the utilities and communications and also the English International General Electric Company. In Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, Great Britain is making a determined stand against the onslaughts of Yankee imperialism. In 1929 the English sent the D’Abernnen Commission to these countries for the sole purpose of holding on to whatever supremacy Britain still had.
Of course, Argentina is today the most important of South American countries. Both America and England have their largest stakes there and these were in 1913, $400 million and $1,800 million respectively, and in 1929, $611 million and $2,200 million respectively. however, imports from the United States rose from $72 million in 1913 to only $172 million in 1928. That gave England plenty of cause for alarm. It will be recalled that immediately after election day in 1928, Hoover paid a good will visit to latin America and that both before and after his trip the Prince of Wales had also paid his respects to South america. About one-fifth of the population of Argentina lives in the cities and the rest are scattered over thousands of tremendous farms and ranches. In spite of its wealth and commerce, 40% of the inhabitants are illiterate. Argentina has the largest proportion of whites in South America and these have manifested such radical tendencies that the government has openly adopted Fascist measures similar to those in Brazil. The recent Catholic Eucharistic Congress was supported in large measure by those openly calling themselves Fascists. Here again the feelings of the masses are directed against the foreign companies by means of prosecutions under the anti-trust laws, which it is charged, several English companies have been violating. But the English have taken a hand in the investigations and most likely they will develop into forces such as the Weirton and Houde cases in the United States under the NRA.
Before closing, we should mention that now, when things have reached such a pass and when there is relatively so little trade to go around, Japan has begun to flood South America with her goods. This complicates the situation immeasurably. If the standard of living during imperialistic `prosperity’ was so dreadfully low as we have attempted to show, we can hardly picture it now that we are in the sixth year of the crisis. The situation in South America is rapidly approaching the status of cuba before Machado’s overthrow. What strategy the Communists should adopt in South America is the subject for another article.
FEMINISM AND REVOLUTION
by Vera Buch
With the passing of suffragism, the feminist movement seems to have settled down to a harmless old age. Like an old toothless dog (or shall we say tabby cat?) it has retired sulkily into the corner, whether it omits now and then a feeble yap. The obvious explanation would be, that with the attainment of the vote, the main objective of suffragism, the need for the movement has passed. Yet the Women’s Rights movement, the nursery of the modern feminists, in its day passionately revolutionary, had inscribed on its banners the most far reaching ideals. Nothing less than freedom, happiness and equality for all womankind were its aims. Today after more than three quarters of a century the misery of women toilers of factory, farm, office and store beggars description, and the personal restlessness of hundreds of thousands of women bespeaks an unsatisfied life. The question arises whether the ills of womankind today are not completely bound up with the ills of all mankind, and must find their solution with these. In other words, is there still a Woman’s Problem?
It may help us to get a correct perspective of the Woman’s rights movement. it is too often looked upon as a sex manifestation and even its best apologists tend to become lost in the old controversy whether women really have any brains or not and whether they can ever play much of a role in the world outside of keeping the population going. The Woman’s Rights movement is an offshoot of the bourgeois revolution. Its birthplace is in the French Revolution. This revolution was basically for free trade and the expansion of capitalism. It destroyed the feudal privileges and restrictions, and in the course of its struggles into which not only the bourgeoisie but the whole people were drawn, a great extension of democracy was accomplished.
It was not free trade that the bourgeoisie took as its watchword, but the welfare of all humanity. “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”, these were the high sounding slogans with which the population was thrown against royalty and casts. But when it came to formulating constitutions and actually granting rights to the populations, whole sections of people were excluded. We do not refer here to the property qualifications, but to the exclusion of the women. It was a man’s society where the women had long been relegated to a specialized sphere, the home. But in the French Revolution the women organized clubs for themselves and belligerently, though unsuccessfully, demanded the vote and other rights of citizens for themselves. This was the first crystallization of the feminist movement. Mary Wellstone’s crafts book on the “Vindication of the Rights of Women”, was not so much the outburst of a lone pioneer as an indication that the time had come for this struggle to be made.
In America, some of the early colonies had granted women the vote on the same terms as men. It was not until the framing of the federal constitution that is, until the bourgeoisie really got its grip upon affairs, that male suffrage became the sole type. A few individual protests ensued. A half century later the Women’s Rights movement was born in full vigor. Here, too, we see it arise as part of the most vital struggle against slavery. The Woman’s Rights movement was closely intertwined with the Abolitionist movement. In 1840 an international anti-slavery conference was held in London. An abolitionist group in Philadelphia sent some women delegates, who were refused seats on the grounds that never before had women so disgraced themselves as to appear in a public gathering expecting to be treated like men. The women realized they had to fight for their sex as well as for the Negroes. Out of this incident ultimately came the Women’s Rights convention, which did not actually meet until 1848.
Freedom both for the Negroes and for women were advocated from the same platform. Women went out with the Abolitionists as speakers, organizers and propagandists. The Abolitionist press was open to them. It was not then a question so much of the vote for women, but rather of the opportunity `to be a human being’, to be able to go about freely and do what they felt like, to speak in public or even at private meetings, to enter the professions, to obtain an education, to be able to vote at church meetings, etc. with very few exceptions, the primary school was then the limit of opportunity for girls. Preparation for the liberal professions was an impossibility. A couple of decades of agitation and of personal heroism of the women leaders broke down the chief barriers. After 1863, the women’s movement had to stand on its own feet, and the principle objective for the next half century became the obtaining of the vote.
Let no one underrate the achievements of the early feminists. They faced howling mobs to speak for their principles. They were booed and jeered and missiles were thrown at them. The first women to practice in the professions had to face sneers, ridicule and all sorts of physical obstacles. The suffrage movement, although it had already a base to stand on, nevertheless had to use tremendous persistence and militant tactics to obtain its end. The writer remembers in high school days in the teens of the century marching in a suffrage parade in New York where boos and cat calls were interspersed with applause all along the line of march. Through the movement as a whole women’s horizon and opportunities have been greatly broadened.
The Women’s Rights movement was after all an effort to complete the bourgeois revolution. It extended the democracy which at best is always incomplete under capitalism, always excluding certain sections for very definite economic reasons, as the Negroes, to some extent the foreign born, etc. But feminism was the step child rather than the child of liberalism. It had to be an unruly brat that stamped its feet and scratched people’s eyes in order to get its way. And the feminists had to resort to very unfeminine tactics in order to be women rather than congenital cooks, nursemaids and washer women.
There was at the beginning not much of class distinctions in the women’s movement. The class lines were still fluid in the 1840’s and ‘50’s. The feminists included women from the farm like Lucy Stone, daughters of professional men like Margaret Fuller, Southern `aristocrats’ like Sarah and Angelina Grimke, who sold their plantation and slaves and plunged wholeheartedly into the movement for `freedom’. It even included a Negro woman, born a slave, one of the most interesting and original figures that crossed the American scene of those times--Sojourner Truth.
As time went on, feminism became primarily the movement of middle class women. Only tangentially did it touch the labor movements. In Germany, where the working women were better organized than here, and where much of the energy of the feminists turned towards the interests of the working women, there was a closer integration of the two movements. In the U.S., so diverse from the women of the masses did the movement become at times that we see the women of the leisure classes (as Olive Schreiner) pleading tearfully for the `right to work’ at an age when already millions of women toilers in factory and farm were overworked in to the extent that their intellectual life was completely crushed. On the other hand, in the early days of the movement, the home was still the center of production and the women who were active in the movement already had lives extremely full of work of a useful but narrow character. There is an interesting story of one of the first women, who was able to get a college education, (already in the middle years of her life). Before leaving her home for school, she sewed continuously for six months, in order to provide her family with what they would need while she was away. The early movement had all the vigor of the pioneer effort that must overcome herculean obstacles. It had the idealism of the movement that seems to be for all humanity --or at any rate, for a large portion of it.
Even in the narrow sense of the meaning of formal equality, the Women’s rights movement never fully attained its ends. It has been as successful in the United States as anywhere, and in general, women’s position here is freer than in other capitalist countries. For this we can thank the luck of peasant and feudal traditions, the early pioneer history where women went out besides their men with gun in hand to clear the country, the rapid expansion of industry, which soon drew in millions of women, as well as the vigorous struggle of the women which to a great extent was the result of these other factors. But even here, there are many hangovers of inequality. The law is discriminatory in many states against women in questions of divorce, control of wages, ownership of property, custody of children, etc.
Here we have to see that the bourgeois democratic revolution is never completed under capitalism. Curiously enough, it remains for the proletariat to complete what the bourgeoisie began. The constitution of the Soviet Union amply demonstrated what a great extension of democracy is obtained under the dictatorship of the proletariat by comparison with the capitalist dictatorship. The first Workers’ republic gave at once complete legal and civil equality to women in all senses. To give real equality is quite another matter. This is not a question of legislation, but of long social development.
The crisis today is affecting women not in any special way, at least so far as drawing them into the general misery of the masses is concerned. Hundreds of thousands of young women graduates of high schools, colleges and training schools are flooding the labor market together with the young men: Prospective unemployed teachers, nurses, stenographers, laboratory workers, even lawyers, dentists and physicians. Hospitals are turning out nurses at the rate of 28,000 a year. Even in 1929 the National Educational Association reported 32,000 unemployed women school teachers. Today the same blind alley awaits the trained girl as awaits the trained young men. As for the millions of women toilers, workers and wives of workers or poor farmers, the crisis has brought on them untold misery and despair beyond the measure of statistics.
To the Communist it is obvious that only in the struggle for Communism can the ills of humanity be solved. But at the same time, to declare there is no women’s problem, to see only women workers as possible members of unions or of the political party, to overlook all the interests of life outside of the economic, would be to fail to see the complexities of the class struggle.
We can point to Germany where at one blow the achievements of struggle of generations for the advancement of the women have been wiped out by the `back to the home’ movement that has been forced on the women. The basis for this is economic; unemployment is the chief cause, but at the same time, it enables the Fascist regime to crush and render helpless and atomized in the home half the working population.
The proletarian revolution means far more than the taking over of factories and the destruction of the bourgeois state. It means a deep going overturn in life, a new beginning, an opening up of the way for a future where misery, dirt, poverty, illness, repression, violence and all the curses of life today can be wiped out. The proletariat will attempt to initiate a new life for all humanity. Science will be the weapon in their hands, a science turned at last for mankind’s welfare instead of for mankind’s destruction. But the builders of society will have to be humanists as well as scientists, they will have to know and see the intimate problems of different sections of people as well as the basic facts of exploitation and wage slavery.
Women are a group economically discriminated against under capitalism. With the first introduction of machinery, the employers brought in masses of women and children into the factories. The regulations and protection of the guilds had long since been broken down in order to make room for capitalism and wage-labor. Now, here was a weak and helpless section of labor, which did not know how to protect itself. It was a tremendous drag on the male workers, who might have been able to defend their conditions had they been without this competition. Hours were frightfully lengthened, wages cut. The women, youth and children have to this day remained in the same economic position. Their organization has lagged far behind that of men laborers. Notwithstanding a militant record of participation in and support of strikes, they have been among the unskilled who did not interest the craft organizations of the better paid groups. The proletariat can solve this problem only if it realizes it, and the realization includes the need for organization of the women, children and youth as part of labor’s army. This problem the Communists have stressed in a perfunctory manner, but have never made great progress in winning these groups. The appeal which Fascism makes to the youth is well known. It has been said that more than half of Hitler’s supporters before he took power were among the women office workers. For the Communists to fail to see the special problems of any group means for them to lose the support of that group.
Capitalism has vastly increased the burdens and the sufferings of life for the majority of womankind, at the same time that it lays the basis for the solution of woman’s problems. The home of the pre-machine era was the center of production. The women folk had their productive and creative role in the production of the necessities of life out of the raw materials, which were raised on the homestead. As spinners of wool and flax, weavers of cloth, tailors and dressmakers, preservers of food and cooks, makers of candies and soap, were bearers and rearers of huge families of children, women had a life full of useful labor. Patriarchal authority prevailed over the whole household. This life must by no means be idealized: There was nothing idyllic about it. It was an extremely narrow life, intellectually barren ridden with ignorance, prejudice, sickness and all sorts of secret sorrows. At any rate, capitalism has wrought the great change of taking women out of the home. They have been drawn into the vortex of production and exchange and to a certain extent into the social, organizational and even the political life of the nation.
The development of classes has meant a widely divergent life for the women of different economic status. The women of the leisure, coupon clipping classes are parasites vying only with the men in the uselessness of their lives concentrated only on consumption. At best, the women of this class may make a hobby of philanthropy or club life and may fritter away some hours on these `activities’. For the middle class woman, the burdens of the home have greatly decreased. Families are smaller, improved technique (vacuum cleaning, electric refrigeration, canned foods, etc.) lighten the household tasks even if the woman does her own housework. If she can hire a servant, as she does in man cases, she has endless leisure on her hands. She may squander this in imitation of the wealthy women, or, if she has training and talent, she many enter a profession, follow the arts or go into business. The old conflict of `family versus career’ appears to be solved. The rearing of her one or two children is simply a temporary interruption to the professional activities of the woman of this type. But the apparent security and freedom, which this class of woman seems to have won, rests only upon the crazy foundation of a crumbling capitalist system. The lessons of Germany should be the handwriting on the wall for the successful business and professional women of the United States.
For millions of proletarian women, the job in the factory, or office or store is added to the housework and care of children with the innumerable petty tasks. All this drudgery must be done after work hours. Technique does not lighten the household tasks of the poor, who cannot afford the `improvements’. Bread is still being baked, clothes are being sewn, laundry is done, fires are built in the stove in millions of American homes. An unbearable load has been placed upon the back of the working woman. Her ideal in life is to be able to stay home and look after the house and children. With this ideal as bait, Fascism may well trap these women. But this is the life of idiocy, which can only discard her as a useless rag by her middle age, when the children are grown up and no longer need her. The hard road of the factory opens up the possibility of mingling with other workers, of living as a social being, of joining an organization of struggling in the ranks of the proletariat for freedom.
The burdens of the children and home must be lifted in some way from women’s shoulders if they are to be able to develop as social creatures and make a contribution to humanity. We will not here enter into the argument whether women are capable of anything but child bearing and homemaking. The supporters of these views are consciously or unconsciously proponents of capitalism, looking for excuses to crush a potentially revolutionary group. Among the Negro people there are no such false views.
Socialization of the nursery and the kitchen is the way out. In this field Soviet Russia has taken an absolutely new and unprecedented step. We would be the last to belittle the accomplishments in this respect which point the way to the solution of woman’s chief difficulties. But we have to see at the same time how Stalinism is squeezing the women out of the leadership in which they had a place since the early days of the Russian Revolution.
There remain the pains of child bearing, the sufferings of periodic illness, etc., which the church and all the old fogies want to consider the curse of God. Does anyone think the emancipated Communist woman will not insist that science turn its attention to relieving these conditions? We know that the women of savage tribes in Africa and even the peasant women in Europe in certain sections are able to give birth to their children in a half-hour and get up afterwards and go about their business. No tortures of many hours, no lingering in bed for weeks. Who can say now that a few generations of healthful living, proper exercise, freedom from overwork or from enervating idleness will not lay the basis for a return to the healthy functioning of the savage?
The backwardness of women and the sex division of labor which has meant a life of separate interests for the sexes is an impediment to men as well as women—if only in the sense that it ruins domestic life, makes a real union of men and women impossible, gives rise to all sorts of conflicts based upon different and irreconcilable interests. Sane and early sex education is necessary, free sex association of the youth (without licentiousness) and the satisfying companionship which can only be obtained by men and women sharing the same interests and activities. We do not want to pattern women after men. Whether men and women are intrinsically different we do not want to debate here. Suffice it to point out how both can attain a saner and happier way of living.
The feminist movement has long outlived its usefulness and has reached the point of senility. The National Women’s Party remains in the United States to caricature the movement for women’s rights, with its silly efforts of society women to prevent social legislation on hours, etc., for working women on the grounds that special laws would interfere with women’s `freedom’! It remains for the revolutionary movement to take up the task where feminism left off. Let the proletariat take up the cudgels for women, and above all, let the women in its ranks make their problems known and insist that they be solved.
THE S.L.P. PROGRAM UNDER DE LEON
by N. Schwartz
In 1890 De Leon joined the S.L.P. then mainly a group made up of German immigrants and two years later became the editor of their paper. His first job was to try to Americanize the S.L.P. and in this connection he charged the German group with being no more than a muddled debating society and forced them to hold their meetings in the English language. De Leon’s second job was to concern himself with mass work and after being convinced that the remnants of the Knights of Labor, which he joined was hopeless, he launched the Socialist Trades and Labor Alliance as a strictly dual union in 1896. Third, under De Leon, the S.L.P. also became concerned with the International Congresses of the Second International to which he was twice a delegate. Fourth, De Leon was an outstanding figure in the fight for what he called revolution against reform. He was unmerciful in his attack on the Bergers, Hillquits, and other mere reformers, who broke from the main body and organized the Socialist Party in 1901.
Up to 1899 De Leon held the view that the political party would be the instrument in overthrowing capitalism. He held that the S.T. and L.A. would be the shield while the S.L.P. would be the sword. On the eve of the I.W.W. convention in 1905, the S.T. and L.A. after eight years of existence, had a membership of only 1450 and with the merging of all groups into the newly formed I.W.W., De Leon reversed his position and held that the S.L.P. would act as a cloak and a shield for the I.W.W. to build up the revolutionary union which would ultimately lock out the capitalist class.
Like the German Social Democracy, which was purely nationalistic and only platonically international, De Leon like the true American that he was, also asserted his unqualified patriotism. This can be explained as due to the fact that in America, there were yet opportunities for some workers; that we had civil liberties in contradiction to Europe; that the State was not so oppressive and that even the constitution spoke of the right of revolution on the part of the people who wanted a change. This was a natural reaction to the German nationalism of his day.
In the S.L.P. platforms, which De leon helped to frame there never was a clear cut stand on the question of war. De Leon, himself, constantly praised ‘our Forefathers’ and also the constitution as a good document. Never did he point out how the framers deliberately made impossible a LEGAL revolution on the part of the propertyless.
In paragraph (1) of the S.L.P. platform, July 1904, we read: “The S.L.P. of America in convention assembled, reasserts the inalienable right of man to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Regarding such shibboleths, which are high sounding, superficial, devoid of actual content and misleading to the workers, we call attention to what Frederick Engels said: “The conception of Socialist society as the realm of equality is a superficial French conception resting on the old slogan of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity; a conception, which was appropriate as a difficult STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT at its time and place, but which, like all the superficialities of the earlier schools of socialism, should now be superseded since they only cause confusion and more precise methods of presentation have now been found.”
In 1904 and again in 1907, Babel, the international leader of Socialism, expressed himself as a pure German patriot and advised his followers to shoulder a gun in defense of Germany in the event of attack. This view, De Leon defended in an article November 23, 1912, entitled `The Flag in Utah’, in which he said: “When within the last ten years the questions of `militarism’ and `Patriotism’, were being theoretically discussed in Europe, August Babel—unquestionably the one living international central head of the Socialist world and connecting link between the Marx that is gone and the Marxists that are now, said: “If the fatherland is attacked, I shall shoulder a gun…” Obviously, Babel’s goal—the Social Order specifically symbolized by the Socialist Red Flag of Universal Brotherhood—is not incompatible with incidental loyalty to the flag of even a German Empire.
“If the national flag of a mailed hand Empire like the German, is entitled to the qualified loyalty of a Babel, how much more so is not the American Flag entitled to the love of our people regardless of the misuse that the Ruling Class is putting the same to….”
In the same editorial De Leon shows all European flags to be `Living modern mementoes of cruel oppression in the Past and reminders that their Past reaches into the Present…The Tricolor of bourgeois France is no exception. It was not the Rights of Man that is proclaimed it simultaneously proclaimed by the early statute against the right of the French proletariat to organize itself economically, that the proletariat had no rights, and that, by Man the bourgeoisie alone was meant.”
“While all the European flags rose out of the fumes of human sighs, were planted upon the prostrate bodies of subjects, and were meant defiantly to proclaim the double wretchedness as a social principle, it was otherwise, it was the exact opposite with the `Stars and Stripes’.
“Apart from the circumstances that the American Flag was first raised by men, who, however, and pardonably mistaken in their sociology and economics, did sincerely believe that the American Flag, raised over the boundless natural opportunities which the land offered to industry, would insure the citizen, the power and responsibility of being the architect of his own fortune; apart from the circumstance that the American Flag was the first to waive over a Constitution that `legalizes revolution’ apart from these and many other kindred circumstances, the historic fact that the scientist, the noble minded, the venerable Franklin, when the scheme of the flag was presented to him, a blue field with a star for each State, expressed the hope that the day would dawn when every nation in the world would be represented in the blue field with her own star;—that fact confers upon the American Flag the lofty distinction of being the first on earth to urge the Brotherhood of Nations; the first to herald the Solidarity of Peoples; the first drapery symbol of peace on Earth; -that fact renders the American Flag, the anticipation of the Red Flag of International Brotherhood, and endears it to the heart of civilized man.”
De Leon forgets that the proletariat of “Free” America, the land where we are supposed to have the “inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, whatever that may mean, the mass of workers and slaves were not given the right of franchise, that the attempt on their part to organize economically was considered and treated as a conspiracy. Yet in the face of all this De Leon could write the above of `OUR’ flag and `OUR’ constitution. The above article could make the basis for a splendid Fourth of July oration worthy of any apologist of the plutocracy. These utterances were made at a time when America unquestionably was known to all Marxists as an imperialist robber (Cuba, Haiti, Philippines, Nicaragua), when America was just about to be gripped by another economic crisis, which always brings with it its pall of misery for the working class.
De Leon must have read and become drunk with the fairy tales contained in the grammar school history of `our’ forefathers and `our’ constitutions. We quote from a letter to Jefferson in 1788 by Madison: “The first object of government is the protection of the diversity in the faculties of men from which the rights of property originate. The chief business of government from which, perforce, its essential nature must be derived, consists in the control and adjustment of conflicting interests. As a lawyer, De Leon should have known that the Constitution of the United States protected private property above life.
Credit is due De leon for his uncompromising stand against the PURE parliamentarian legalist reformers who actually defamed the Socialist movement. We must also mention his hostility to the labor fakers and class collaborationists. However, De Leon went too far in that he opposed all immediate demands whatever. His one and only demand was the complete overthrow of the capitalist class. But every now and then there were some inconsistencies. In his advice to Victor Borger, for example, upon his Old Age Pension Bill, he did not refer to it as a REFORM or as an immediate demand—a thing which would have been in conformity with his life long teaching. Instead he pointed out that the age was entirely too high (60 years) and that the compensation was insufficient (4). De Leon did not oppose the bill on Principle, and this puts him on record of being in favor of an immediate demand or reform which would prop up capitalism, according to all his other teachings in the past as well as subsequently. There was another bill proposed by a Congressman for a Soldiers Pension and De Leon remarked: “Victor L. Borger should have seized the occasion by the horns, and promptly said: And I, Mr. Speaker, now give notice that, when that dollar a day invalid pension bill is introduced I shall move an amendment to the effect that the bill extend to invalid workingmen…”
In his debate with Job Harriman, De Leon said: “No intelligent physician will attend a serious sickness, overlooking entirely the palliative that he might give his patient. However much an economic organization may give palliative only, however entirely these things may be pale, they are something; it is a relief, and the workingmen need it badly…Now then, the only organization that can give that temporary relief is the economic organization, the Trade Union. Accordingly the S.L.P. builds upon this principle.” Here we see first of all that the fight against the encroachments of capitalism by strikes was advocated by De Leon, but his mistake at the time was in limiting the Trade Union to this narrow field. He changed his position completely in 1905.
In a speech of April 19, 1905, reported in the Weekly People, De Leon said that the S.T. and L.A. endorsement of the S.L.P. will be dropped, because the new union (I.W.W.) will be formed without affiliation to any political party. In elaborating this idea he said: “The crude days when the S.T. and L.A. was compelled to make the demonstration of endorsing a political party will be past. Thenceforth it will be the political branch of the movement that will be called upon to pronounce itself clearly and by its pronouncement attest its title to the pest of trust as the vanguard of the labor movement, or stand branded and collapse.”
The idea of insurrection as a means for revolution was not only foreign to De Leon but he opposed it most strenuously because—in the main-- he was a legalist. He was familiar with Marx’s idea of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. He neither accepted nor ever rejected it outright. Like the entire Social Democracy of Europe he hardly ever discussed it at length. In the early part of 1900, when the German Social Democrats, like Bernstein had Max Beor, were getting drunk over the cooperation of classes (class collaboration) particularly in Australia where some laborites were taking political power, De Leon opposed them, and rightly so. Referring to articles in the European press he said: “One of these articles even flourished the jubilant headline, “Dictatorship of the Proletariat.” He evidently understood that these reformers were misusing the Marxian future State form and he gibed their entire attitude.
When, in 1907, the possibility of a split arose in the I.W.W. centering on striking out the political clause, De Leon had to defend Marxism against the `so called’ Anarchists, who quoted Marx in their defense. After referring to Marx’s letter to Bracke, which accompanied the Critique to the Gotha Program, De Leon said APPROVINGLY, in the Weekly People, March 23, 1907: “Marx makes plain that the proletariat must organize politically so that it can control the transition state and usher in Socialism.” This admission under pressure, was, however, contrary to De Leon’s philosophy as a whole. He was forced to admit the necessity of the TRANSITION STATE, which of course, can be nothing else than the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. THIS WAS SAID TO THE I.W.W. TO BE APPLIED TO AMERICA WITH ITS HIGHLY INDUSTRIALIZED FORM.
We find another reference to this subject on May 4, 1907, an article in the Weekly People: “Politics and Industrialism: Their Joint Function in the Revolution”—a paper read April 14, before the Albany, Troy and Schenectady S.L.P. conference by Max Stern in which he said: “The reasoning of the S.L.P. is the most logical. Its method is the safest. CAPTURE THE POLITICAL POWERS IN ORDER TO PREVENT THE POLITICAL FUNCTIONS FROM INTERFERING IN THE UPBUILDING OF THE FUTURE STATE, the same as the plutocracy captured it and made the political rights of the people a dead letter. Use the political power as a club against those who want to undo the action of the working class on the industrial field and when the political dictatorship of the triumphant proletariat has accomplished its mission, the abolition of class rule, abolish the political state altogether, throw it on the junk heap of history, and let the industrial State, based upon democracy, fully develop.”
On one other occasion De Leon had reference to this subject when he said: “Besides the economic conditions to warrant the phenomena, it requires two things for the dictatorship—the dictator and the dumb dictatorees. The latter seem to be there , the former is taking shape. And yet, bourgeois pundits are learnedly explaining the necessity of the dual legislative chamber system. They had better try and save their own legislatures. Close behind the bourgeois dictator comes the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.”
In regard to De Leon’s trade union tactics when he insisted on steering clear from the workers organized in the AFL, he abandoned them to the misleaders as well as to the Socialist Party Bureaucrats. While it is true that this corrupt body through its leadership will not permit forever the formation of left wing groups yet De Leon should have insisted upon his own members joining such groups and taking leadership when possible. From the very beginning he made such a thing impossible and even caused to be inserted in the by-laws the idea that anyone holding office in a Trade Union cannot be a member of the S.L.P. In 1905 he was forced to change this position at least so far as the I.W.W. was concerned.
One of the strangest points in De Leon’s history was his attitude at the 1904 Amsterdam Congress of the Second International where he formed part of the left wing denouncing the entrance of Socialists into bourgeois governments (The Millerand case etc.) Even here his views were marred by a certain inflexibility. As regards his work in America, De Leon saw in his day the failure of his attempt to organize the workers on the trade union field and fortunately he died before America entered the war, else he might have totally discredited himself.
COMING IN THE CLASS STRUGGLE:
How Can We Americanize Communism?, Reform and Revolution, A Communist Strategy for South America, Advice to the left Wing in the Workers Party, “Soviet Democracy not Dictatorship”, The New Unemployment moves of Roosevelt, The S.L.P. Program after De Leon
NEW PAMPHLET OUT SOON: “THE STRUGGLE OF THE UNEMPLOYED” The Position of the Internationalist-Communists on the Unemployment Question. price 10 cents.
SHOULD WE JOIN THE WORKERS PARTY?
The Workers Party is still in its honeymoon stage. Within the burbling sheats of the “New Militant” there are to be found only articles showing that the Workers Party is getting bigger and better every day. Hundreds, nay thousands, are flocking into the ranks of the party. The Communist Party, the Socialist Party, even the Communist League of Struggle is breaking all up and entering by droves into this stupendous, cataclysmic, macrocosmic Workers Party. Soon the press-agent stuff of the political Barnums will fade away. The members of the new party will have to become reconciled to the prosaic every day drive for existence. They will have to produce the goods. The honeymoon will give way to the period of divorce.
It is quite natural at this stage of development that overtures should be made to us by some sincere elements to join the Workers Party. They knew of our position on the French question and of our break with Trotsky. They are also familiar with our analyses on the programs and actions of the Workers Party. Nevertheless they come forward with `new’ arguments on why we should change our stand. Because these elements, in our opinion, are honest workers and fighters, and because we feel that sooner of later they must come together with us in the construction of a genuine Communist movement, we believe it is necessary to answer them in full and publicly.
First of all, let us deal with the question: In just what way is the fusion of the Cannon-Muste outfits different than the fusion of the French League with the Socialist Party? Our friends agree that Trotsky has capitulated in France; he sent his group into the French Socialist Party and into the Second International, an act particularly disastrous in the face of the menace of Fascism in France. But, they declare, in the United States, there is no threat of Fascism and besides, the Cannon-Trotsky group did not join the Socialist Party, but the Muste group. It is true that joining Muste is not reviving faith in the Second International of which Muste was never apart. But joining Muste is no improvement for the Muste group was never international, never Marxist, never engaged in revolutionary struggle, never had any masses behind it. If in France, the Trotskyists revise faith in the Socialism of the Second International and fill the French workers with the illusions that the French Socialist Party can be made to fight, the Trotskyists in the United States create faith in a Liberal Laborism and give the illusion that Muste’s liberal democracy can defeat Fascism. At least La Verite, the French paper, keeps the hammer and sickle and declares that they were ‘formerly’ Communists. The `New Militant’, however, like a true renegade, takes the position that the very name Communism stinks to heaven and must no longer be mentioned to the workers. It no longer keeps even the slogans: “Workers of the World Unite.” If the French League gave up the `small’ International Secretariat as a failure and joined the `big’ Socialist International, the Workers Party gives up what is, the International Secretariat, in order to talk about what is not, the `Fourth’ International Secretariat, which is conceived as an international hospital for all gouty and diseased groups throughout the world.
As for the argument that Fascism is not here yet and therefore there is still time to experiment and the fusion with Muste is not so bad as running away from the fight in France, then we must point out that the Cannon-Muste fusion is a declaration that should Fascism come to this country they would run away here as in France. In one case the running away is accomplished as a fact, in the second it is given as a principle to be realized in the future; or to put it better, the American Trotskyists run away even at the shadow of Fascism, even before it really appears!
Whatever dissimilarities exist between the French and American fusions (and now, we may add, the British and the Dutch), they are all bound together by the yellow thread that in all the cases there has been enunciated the liquidatory principle that the revolutionary organization must be given up, the program must be hidden and obscured, the vanguard must be dissolved into the local amorphous groupings of the class, that strategy doe not count but only the day to day tactics.
When are we going to learn from the events of Germany that dissolution of the Party means the collapse of all serious efforts to defeat Fascism or to prevent it: If more `masses’ and `mass pressure’ were sufficient then there would have been a different story to tell in Germany or Austria or Spain today where the masses were most powerfully organized. Mass organizations in and of themselves cannot solve the problems of the working class. Above all there is necessary a revolutionary party, strong and tried, capable of engaging in complicated maneuvers without getting lost, capable of working among the masses without being carried away by the stream.
But our friends who want us to join the Workers Party are persistent. They are willing to agree that in order to do `mass work’ and engage in the day to day struggle effectively, there is necessary above all a well knit vanguard organization with a clear and comprehensive program. But they maintain that if we join the Workers Party, we shall be able to form such a group--eventually. “Why, look!”, they exclaim, “Zack has joined the Workers Party and has brought with him a group of comrades from the Communist Party.”
In this respect, too, by the way, it is affirmed the American situation differs from the French in that in France with the League joining the Socialist Party, all avenues of approach to the genuine fighters in the Communist Party were cut off, but in the United States this avenue is not only not cut off, but daily more and more the Workers Party is influencing and breaking up the Communist Party.
One such member who has left the communist Party to join the Workers Party puts it this way: “The Communist Party is crumbling. Where will the elements that leave the Communist Party go? They will have to go to the Workers Party. They will not join the Communist League of Struggle. Inside of the Workers Party, these former Communist Party members will soon spoil the opportunist schemes of Cannon-Muste & Co. They will organize their own faction and put out the right wing and transform the Workers Party into a genuine Communist organization. As for those raw workers who now join the Workers Party, it is true that many of them join believing the Workers Party is more to the right than the Communist Party, but in reality they will find that the Workers Party is more to the left and they will be material for a genuine revolutionary organization. In the C.P. all is frozen and rigid; in the W.P. there is democracy, all is fluid and unclear. If the Communist League of Struggle enters the W.P. now it will help the left wing fight and kick out the right wing. It can play even a decisive role to that end. It is for this reason that Cannon, Muste & Co. will resist the entrance of the C.L.S. so strenuously. Later on, the C.L.S. will not be needed in that fight and will be entering too late to be of importance. Finally, by entering the W.P. the C.L.S. abandons its sectarianism, shows that it is willing to go to the masses and not wait for the masses to come to it and in this way will be able to realize its correct program.”
In all of this mass of statements, there are some points which we must recognize as true. We enumerate them briefly as follows:
1. It is true that the W.P. is no longer merely the Cannon group and the Muste group, but has enlarged itself somewhat by taking in quite a number of new workers and has been enriched especially by the entrance of CP members with Zack and others. To that extent, indeed, the situation has changed somewhat.
2. It is true that the W.P. to some extent, is not yet a PARTY, that is, it has not yet worked out its final program, its strategy and tactics, its leading personnel and organizational structure and methods. It is true that everything is in flux, or one might say, chaos. It has been stressed that the very arguments which we gave in the last issue of the Class Struggle, showing the repeated changes in program which the Provisional Committee for an American Workers Party together with the Communist League of America actually put over, prove that we have not yet a Party but a loose structureless outfit that can be molded one way or another.
3. It is also true that there is a left wing forming within the W.P. that is organizing its strength to give battle. And by this left wing we mean not the dried out and cowardly Oehler dissidents, but the new fresh forces recruited by the W.P. especially the Communist Party elements.
However, after we admit whatever is correct in the argumentation of our friends, we must still earnestly and completely reject both their conclusions and their methods of politics.
Before we answer the arguments of our friends we would like to remind them that both the Lovestone group and the Cannon group have bred members who recently joined the Socialist Party (Gitlow, Zack, Albert Goldman et al) Cannon has denounced Goldman as a renegade. There has now been published a pamphlet by the Socialist Party entitled “From Communism to Socialism” written by Albert Goldman. We beg the indulgence of the reader for quoting at length from the pamphlet because the arguments of ‘the renegade’, Goldman, are the arguments of this whole school of politics to which our friends, unfortunately, belong. Only instead of hollering: “Join the Workers Party”, Goldman shouts: “Join the Socialist Party". He writes:
“In the last five or six years there might have been some cases where members of communist parties not because they became convinced that the principles of communism were wrong, but because of their disgust with the tactics of the Communist International and with the factional squabbles within the communist parties. Not wanting to remain on the side lines or to join a small group some communists might have joined the socialist parties…But one can say definitely that there never was an instance when a substantial number of ex-members of a communist party, claiming not to have renounced the principles of revolutionary Marxism, joined a socialist party for the primary reason that a revolutionary Marxist could not function within a communist party.”
“Not until the group of `Trotskyites’ in France joined the Socialist Party in France did such a phenomenon occur. And now in the United States about fifty ex members of the Communist party either have joined or have decided to join the Socialist party because they became convinced that the communist party cannot serve as the instrument for the emancipation of the working class and that revolutionary Marxists can feel more at home in the Socialist than in the Communist Party…”
“Needless to say, the Communist Party and the different communist groups deny that those who joined the Socialist party are revolutionary Marxists…Most laughable of all is the case of Cannon, one of the `Trotskyists’ leaders calling me a `strike breaker’ and the others `renegades’…It is impossible for a `Trotskyite’ to take that position in view of the action of the Trotsky group in France in joining the Socialist party of that country. All that anyone belonging to the Trotsky group can possibly say is that in this country to join the S.P. is an incorrect tactic. Cannon’s outburst can be explained on one of both of the following hypotheses: 1) His anxiety to defend HIMSELF FROM THE ATTACK OF SOME MEMBERS OF HIS GROUP WHO CLAIM THAT HE IS SECRETLY IN FAVOR OF THE IDEA OF JOINING THE SOCIALIST PARTY. 2)…..”
“Here it is necessary to state that we no longer designate ourselves as communists. That term must be left to the Stalinites and those who are very close to them in ideology and tactics….Another and very important reason why it is essential to drop the term `Communist’ is the general hatred and contempt which communist disruptive tactics have brought upon the communists and the word `communism’. This is recognized even by the `Trotskyites’ who in forming a new party…have dropped the word `Communist’ from the name of the party…”
“The suppression of all freedom of discussion within the Communist International the victory of Fascism in Germany and Austria and the appearance of revolutionary left currents within the socialist parties explains why some of us, who have been members of the C.P. for a long time have joined the Socialist Party…”
“The shock of Germany and Austria changed the nature of the socialist parties almost overnight…Left elements appeared; centrist elements came upon the scene; reformism instead of dominating the socialist parties was driven into a corner and to the defensive…”
“…The rise of left currents in the socialist parties shows the existence of real political life in these parties; the religious like obedience of the communist party members is a clear indication that the communist parties can play no progressive role in the labor movement and are therefore politically dead….”
“Does joining the Socialist party mean that we have renounced our principles? Decidedly not, For myself, I can say that I still adhere to the principles of revolutionary Marxism as generally interpreted and developed by Lenin and Trotsky. It speaks volumes for the character of the Socialist Party in Illinois when knowing that, I was taken in as a member…The unvarnished truth is that I have not changed my principles but that the Socialist Party has gone so far to the left that I have been admitted with my principles.”
“Is the Socialist party at the present moment the kind of a party that Gitlow, myself, and the other comrades, who have joined, would like it to be? We do not claim that the Socialist Party is a revolutionary Marxist party; we say that there are tendencies which are striving to make out of it a revolutionary party. We recognize that the Socialist party has no revolutionary program and that it has no consistent revolutionary trade union tactic. We say that there are left movements in the S.P. that will develop a revolutionary program and tactic. We have joined the Socialist party because we shall have the right to express our ideas and because we hope to develop and strengthen the militant left wing….”
“The fact remains that the `Trotskyites’ are just as isolated in this country as they were in France. Their joining with the small group of `Musteites’ to form a new party will not in any way diminish their isolation…Why an ordinary American worker, who begins to see the necessity of displacing the capitalist with a socialists system, should join a group that is large enough to hold occasional classes in the “Permanent Revolution"…is beyond the understanding of ordinary mortals.”
“Far better is it for a revolutionary group to attach itself to the Socialist Party…We shall fight strenuously EVEN THOSE WITH WHOM WE HAVE BEEN CLOSELY ASSOCIATED UP TO NOW, IF THEY COME IN OR SEND SOMEONE INTO THE PARTY FOR THE PURPOSE OF SPLITTING. OUR OBJECT IS TO BUILD THE SOCIALIST PARTY….”
“Let those who fear for and want to guard the purity of their doctrine remain outside…I have joined the present and the future of the socialist Party and not its past…”
Here is the basic line of the liquidators and capitulaters of all camps. They are willing to turn all colors now that the red has been washed out of them. On to the Workers Party. On to the Socialist Party. On to the Labor Party. On to the Farmer Labor Party. On to the Third Party. On to the New Deal Party. In reality they are marching On to Fascism!
There is a game which children play: “Button, button, who’s got the button?” This is being replayed by the old men of politics under the title “Masses, masses, who’s got the masses?” Everyone is feverishly hunting for masses. Each is chasing after the others’ tails, moving, however, generally to the right. With the victory of Fascism in Germany and its growth elsewhere the erstwhile democrats and liberals are trimming their sails and making peace with Fascism. Simultaneously the bourgeois radicals quit fighting the liberals and become less violent. The Socialists run to appease the bourgeois Radicals and the Communists run to the Socialists. While the Communist Party runs to form the Labor Party, the Lovestone group runs to the Communist Party. At the same time as the Labor Party elements want a Farmer-Labor Party, the Farmer-Labor Party elements want or coquette with a Third Party, the Third Party groupings turn their heads to Upton Sinclair and Upton Sinclair joins the Democratic Party--all in the name of the masses.
But what the masses are doing is to observe with the deepened disgust the rank cowardice and unprincipled scrambling of the various respective groups that came to them and asked them to `fight to a finish’. What is needed above all is a firm correct program boldly stated. Today more than ever boldness, audacity, firmness, political honesty are essential.
Our friends in the Workers Party seem to forget this. They argue that `because’ the Workers Party is not yet a party, that is, is not yet a weapon, an instrument for struggle, THEREFORE we should join it. Our answer is, precisely at this time must it be plain that we join revolutionary organizations because of the principles of the organization. We cannot give the slightest illusions to the workers that a party as loose, as undisciplined, as penetrated through and through with the ideology and methods of work of the enemies of the workers as Workers Party can accomplish the slightest for the working class. It is for this reason that we refused to listen to the helpless characters in our own ranks, who wanted us to knock at the door of the Workers Party Convention and apply for membership. To join a political party is to declare to the workers that it is a weapon by means of which the proletariat can overthrow the capitalist class. It is an instrument by means of which the working class can seize power. But the Workers Party is no such instrument. It is an aggregation of conciliators and capitulators. It is something not to be supported but to be aggressively attacked and destroyed.
We have the same attitude towards the formation of a Labor Party. In the present period of class history, the Labor Party is not something which we must favor and urge the workers to join or form. At the present time, it is our duty to point out sharply and elaborately that the Labor Party can only pave the road to Fascism, can only disarm the workers. This is not the day for liberalism, not liberal-laborism nor liberal-communism. Against Fascism there can be but one adequate reply, Communist insurrection, the dictatorship of the proletariat.
It is not that we do not work with liberals, Laborites or communistic democrats. Certainly, up to a certain point, we will work with these elements to their own destruction. It is for this reason that we would be willing to apply for affliction to a Labor Party should it really be organized with a mass base and allow—that which the Workers Party and Socialist Party does not allow—complete organizational independence and the right of criticism within the Labor Party. For the same reason we might be willing to work with the Muste forces within the trade unions within a certain limited program of action. We would be willing to send into the Workers Party and into the Socialist Party our agents and sympathizers, who would work hard to develop a left wing within such organizations that would be able to expel from their ranks the capitulators, the opportunists, the agents of the bourgeoisie. But under no circumstances could we give up our own revolutionary independence.
Up to now we have assumed that the Workers Party is as loose as our friends would like us to believe and the Socialist Party as liberal as Goldman points. However, those who have abandoned their principles for `the right to speak’, for `democracy’ will soon find how much democracy really exists within the Workers Party. Democracy is never so important as achievement, nor the `right to speak’, as important as what is actually said. While the Workers Party may have more `democracy’ within it then, say, the historically dead Communist Party, what the masses are interested in is not whether this or that person had the right to perpetual chattering within the party, but WHAT WERE THE ACTUAL DECISIONS OF THE PARTY, WHAT DID THE PARTY ACTUALLY DO IN THE CLASS STRUGGLE. Democracy may become a vicarious mechanism for confidence. The workers can not have confidence in a party of yellow opportunists, no matter how much they have the `right to speak’ but only in a party of genuine fighters. Certainly democracy is not to be sneezed at, but it is typical of our liberal friends of the Workers Party that they make democracy an end in itself, that they showed how superior they are to other organizations in democracy and overlook how shabby they are in the class struggle.
It is very natural for those who have recently left the straight jacket Communist Party to join the workers party to over emphasize the “right to speak” since they were choked so long under Stalinism. But let them beware of the fact that their many years under Stalinism may have given them a certain lack of principle. Their lack of a program and of adequate discussion in the Stalinist Party may have turned them into `practical politicians’ to whom maneuvers, tactics, masses, mean far more than program and clear cut thinking. This is the road towards new opportunism towards new bureaucracy, towards new miserable failures.
As a matter of fact it is just these militants, who are urging us to join the Workers Party, who play a poor historical role at the present moment. With their own militancy they cover up the shriveled hacks, who lead the Workers Party. Having made a false step themselves they conceive that large numbers of former Communist members will follow them down the hole. This is not so. The forty, fifty, even a hundred members that may leave the C.P. will not be able to take over Communist masses into the Workers Party. They, themselves, a while after they have joined will begin to wonder “What the devil brought me here?” “Did I leave the Communist Party for this?”
Had Zack and the others boldly struck out for a genuine internationalist Communist party there would have been a different story. They might have attracted to themselves principled characters, communists, who would have rallied to them and together built up a real ‘left’ group. This, however, would have been the hard way, the long way. Comrade Zack is not yet prepared for this.
Inside the Workers Party, the former Communist Party members will soon begin a fight for their opinions. Then, how much democracy they will get will be determined by their factional strength and their vigorous fighting. In a political organization of any importance, there has never yet been a `rank and file’ revolt against a unanimous leadership. Do the former Communist Party members hope to crack the Muste-Cannon alliance? Already we hear some stupid remarks to the effect that Cannon is more revolutionary than Muste, that we must fight Muste and then Cannon will have to come along, etc. etc. What nonsense. Far from fighting Muste, Cannon is prepared to lay his weary head upon the bosom of the Socialist Party at the first fitting opportunity. Already the `New Militant’ has played up an article from `La Verite’ claiming that the most important section of the French Socialist Party has taken over the program of international Communism!
So will the militants waste their strength and their time when both are extraordinarily precious at the present moment in history. They will begin a ceaseless and harassing internal fight. How much mass work will they be able to do, burdened down by the Mustes and the Cannons and all the trash that these elements have accumulated with them. How much mass work can they do when their party is torn to pieces by factional fighting of the most bitter nature? Already the Workers Party has two faction with each faction divided into three subfactions. Now there will be organized a third faction. What an auspicious beginning for the`new deal’ Workers Party!
The Communist League of Struggle in all friendliness wants to point out to the `left elements’ within the workers Party that it is playing an exceedingly unprincipled role at a time when the workers are looking to them for just the opposite. The militants themselves are for independent unions, yet they join a party which is for the liquidation of these unions. And what is more, so muddled are these militants, that they declare that the trade union question is only a `tactical one’ and not one of `program’ and that (1) They are willing to join a party which has just the opposite views to them on the important question of trade unionism and (2) That they will carry on their old independent union work just the same, regardless of discipline of the party. The militants are for self-determination of the Negroes, but they join a party, which ridicules this principle and adopts a crass white chauvinist position. And what is more these militants are willing to state that the negro question is only a `tactical’ one and not one of `program’ and that they are willing to join a party which has just the opposite views to them on the important question of Negro liberation. And so on all the other questions right down the line. In this way these Militants expose their political backwardness, their unprincipled Stalinist training from which they must break and break hard.
We shall not join the Workers Party, but we have no doubt but the best elements who may have gathered for the moment within the fields of the Workers Party will eventually find themselves fighting shoulder to shoulder with us. Without sectarian snobbery, but with the utmost patience, we shall continue to explain, to discuss, to work together with these workers until we shall be organically united.
THE SAAR PLEBISCITE
The Saar plebiscite is particularly instructive for the Communists and certain lessons must be drawn from it. 476,000 voted to return to the German Reich. 46,000 voted for the status quo, 2,000 togo with France and 10,800 abstained from voting. On the face of it, this is an enormous victory for German Fascism.
The Saar is a very heavily industrialized region. The decisive portion of the population is made up of workers, who formerly voted Socialist or Communist and who now voted to return to Germany. Can it be that the working class is being won over to Fascism? We cannot say that this is the case, Far from it!
In the first place the victory of German Nazisem was due to the fact that already secretly and quietly it had been all arranged between the French and the German governments that the Saar should return to Germany. This was most apparent in the offers the French government made about the mines in the Saar before the plebiscite. It is to the interest of both France and Germany to end the irritations on their mutual border, so as to release Germany for war in the East. Very likely, already long before the plebiscite, it had been agreed that in return for the cession of the Saar by France, that Germany should unite with Poland and Japan for struggle against the Soviet Union. This would greatly ease the tension in France and allow her a free hand for her own purposes, while Central Europe would be embroiled in a devastating war against the forces of Communism.
Secondly, we have to see the Saar as an intrinsic part of Germany, unable to live without Germany. If this is essentially the case for Austria, it is infinitely more so the case with the Saar, artificially torn from the guts of the German nation. For almost a generation now there had been a steady and unanimous pressure on the part of all parties for the Saar’s return to Germany and the end of the Versailles Treaty. It was impossible to change this overnight, since the advent of Hitler.
This change was made all the more impossible due to the German Nationalism of both the Socialist and the Communist Parties. In Germany, despite the warnings of Lenin, the German Communist Party, under Stalin had declared that the main thing was to smash the League of Nations, that band of robbers, and the Versailles Treaty.
In other words, the attack of the German Communist Party was made not against the GERMAN bourgeoisie, but against the French, the English and the others in the League of Nations. This policy also coincided with the Russian Nationalism of Stalinism at the time, because Russia had joined with Germany in the friendly Treaty of Rapallo. Who could tell at that time that Germany would become the chief enemy, that France would be designated as a ‘force for peace’ (Litvinoff) and that Russia would join the League of Nations? Today, we see Russia as a member of the League of Nations, not even protesting at the invasion of Ethiopia by Italy, although it has been appealed to by Ethiopia to do so.
Before Hitler’s victory the Communist Party of Germany had spent its time aping the slogans of Nazism and calling for a “People’s Revolution". And even after the advent of the Hitler regime the Communist Party in the Saar continued to call for the return of the Saar to Germany. This absolutely impossible position was abandoned only under the greatest pressure of the masses and then entirely too late to be of any use whatsoever in mobilizing the workers to vote against the Hitler regime.
It is very clear through the vote in the Saar that both the Socialist and Communist Parties are absolutely and thoroughly dead—as dead as can be. And even though both were united in a united front, this only multiplied their deadness. The workers turned away from these corpses in disgust. The Socialist and Communist Parties had run away from the fight in Germany. would they really fight in the Saar? The united front formed was of the most hypocritical nature. There was no real united front set up in other countries. There was no real call for struggle. The vote was a forgone conclusion.
Of course we should speak of the aggressive terror of the Nazis and their demagogy. Of course we should excoriate the treacherous behavior of the Liberals and Catholics in the Saar, who talked boldly, but voted cringingly. But above all, we must see the complete debacle of the Second and Third Internationals even when formed in a united front.
Let this be a lesson to the really militant Communists. The Saar plebiscite also exposes the treacherous tactics of the Trotskyists, who at this stage of development continue to give illusions about the Socialist Parties, and the possibilities of the united front of both Socialist and Communist Parties, and who consider it necessary to dissolve the vanguard revolutionary organization at this critical moment. Only the sharpest break from those defunct organizations and burned out leaders will enable the proletariat to advance its interests in the slightest substantial manner.
THE NEGRO AS A REVOLUTIONIST
by Frank Griffin
It may seem very hard to believe but the Negro stands as a revolutionary factor. A spear head that will be the driving force for the revolutionary movement in America. The brutal violent attacks of bourgeois society have forced him down into misery and poverty, denying him any chance or opportunity to develop and advance himself. The Negro has been so persecuted that he stands ready to strike a blow at this vicious society at any time or any moment. And with the breaking down of the international bourgeois society, and the new moves of Roosevelt’s economic program, the open discrimination and cutting the workers down to the bone will aggravate the situation still more. The Negro masses are not looking for anything from the new moves of Roosevelt. The Negro petty bourgeoisie is busy to its utmost taking advantage of the opportunity to try to rally and lead the Negroes away from that determined struggle which alone will lead them to the real emancipation.
With the breaking down of the left wing unions, rushing with all force to the AFL, will there be any change in the AFL policy? No. Will these `left wingers’ behave any better in the AFL unions than they did in their own? We knew the Negro work was criminally neglected in the left wing unions from the T.U.U.L. to the Food Workers Industrial Union. We knew that the Negroes played a very militant role in these unions, in many cases only to be victimized by the leadership and the bureaucrats of the union. Does anyone think for one minute that after the experiences the Negroes have had while they were around these organizations that they are going to put any confidence or faith in them? Negro petty bourgeoisie groups like the National Urban League recognize this, also they begin to get busy in the trade union field, attacking and exposing the open discriminatory role and policy of the AFL and the relationships to the negro, building their so called Negro unions with their fake liberal phrases which will demoralize the Negro masses.
And so we turn to the political field we see the defeat and breaking down of the international working class movement, great contradictions and conflicts going on among the bourgeoisie. All of this has brought on an entirely new shift in both the bourgeois society and the revolutionary movement. The manifestation of Fascism in America, the cry for a new Workers Party, and here the negro petty bourgeoisie is playing a very clever role by launching their anti-lynching bill against the lynchers.
Coming before the Negro masses with their peaceful and liberal phrases, posing as real sincere fighters for the emancipation of the Negro masses, the Negro petty bourgeoisie by this move launches a very dangerous attack upon the working class movement. They will be able to turn the eyes of the Negro masses away from the struggle as a working class against the enemy class for a time. They will do everything in their power to try to develop the theory of nationalism among the ranks of the Negroes, but all of this will only aggravate the situation more and force the Negroes to the turning point where they will be compelled to look for a way out and that way will be direct action.
All of this calls for a revolutionary movement and those who call themselves the vanguard of the working class must be rooted deep into the ranks of the Negro masses, if the white workers are to claim a closer relationship to the Negroes, to be known to them as real sincere revolutionary class conscious fighters. For the time will come when the Negroes will organize their mighty determined force to wage a relentless battle at the very foundation of this vicious society. And, if the revolutionary movement and the vanguard of the working class have not found its way into the ranks of the Negro masses, it will mean a defeat and a set back to the revolutionary movement. For neither the Negro masses nor the white masses will be able to go forward to victory for the complete overthrowing of this corrupt society alone. The foundations and backbone of the revolutionary movement in America depends upon that organized force of the Negro masses, the successful victory of the social revolution depends upon the entire working class of America.
THE NEW C.P.LINE
Really it is getting to be a case of eeny, meeny, miny, mo, in choosing among the different workers’ parties at the present time. With the change of front of the Communist Party, as announced in the recent plenum thesis (Daily Worker, January, 26th), there is little left in tactic to distinguish the C.P. from the S.P., or for that matter from the Lovestone group or the Workers Party. We have commented in full elsewhere on the end of the T.U.U.L. and the return to the AFL, which now after a year’s preparation by the factual liquidation of the T.U.U.L. unions, is brought about openly as a general policy.
After all the hollering about the “Fascist” AFL, all the fierce denunciation of the treacherous Lovestoneites, who beat the Party to it in the maneuvers, it all boils down to this—get back to the AFL. How lightly they skip from a policy to the exact opposite, these party bureaucrats who lay down the law for their members. It is not they, who will have to swallow their own words before the masses in their unions and go out now to advocate the long fought opposite of what they have been advocating for five years.
The C.P. now comes out definitely for a Labor Party. It will not only work within the C.P. if and when it is formed, but will take the initiative in organizing it. The excuse for this right about face is given by quoting the resolution in the l.P. of the 6th World Congress in 1928. The Communists’ opposition since then is justified on the grounds that the time was not yet ripe. But now it is.
Out of all the mumbo-jumbo of the C.P. resolution there emerges crystal clear this confusion: The C.P. will use the energy of its members to help build up the L.P. an enemy party which they know will have to be destroyed. At the same time it proclaims that the workers must be won for the C.P. directly. The C.L.S. has declared in 1932 that we can have no part in the formation of a Labor Party which, as a reformist organization, can only be an obstacle to revolution. If it is formed we can work within it but only on condition that it appears as a loose federated body in which we could keep complete autonomy and independent and not sacrifice an inch of our program or out independence of propaganda and action. Otherwise we shall have to influence the workers from outside, through propaganda, through the united front and through participation in struggle.
In the field of the united front, the Party puts its about face in such a way that it might appear to those who do not know the situation concretely that a wholesome reorientation is being sought. They talk about the remnants of sectarianism in their own midst and the necessity for eliminating these. The “united front from below” is now an outcast child and the violence that for years broke up all the fake united fronts, which the Party attempted to call, now just isn’t talked about in good official party circles. Yesterday’s history is supposed to be forgotten like last night’s jag, when one gets up in the morning. In reality what is happening is that the communist parties on an international scale are in rout since the German defeat and in dread of the coming of Fascism. They are running into the united front to cover up their nakedness. The lessons of the German experience have all been stood on their heads.
Furthermore, even were the Party earnestly to try to overcome sectarianism and to enter into the united front, it would still suffer a terrific defeat there. In most questions the Communist Party cannot offer anything different in tactics from the Socialist Party. Does not the S.P. work in the AFL? Is it not for a Labor Party? Is it not for unemployment insurance and `Bills’? Does it not talk about masses and send its representatives into strikes? It is only in the obstractions of program that the Communists still talk about overthrowing capitalism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Here they can distinguish themselves from the Right Wing of the S.P. though not from the Left, who also talk about these things. There is certainly nothing new to keep the Lovestone group out of the party except the difficulty of putting over this maneuver on the party membership.
Program must be worked out concretely from period to period and from day to day. Strategy and tactics must be revolutionary as well as program. Mere talk of the dictatorship of the proletariat will never in the world convince the masses when every concrete act is like the acts of the reformists or even of the bourgeoisie (Cannon group demand for the 30 hour week for unemployment in 1932, C.P. demand “We Want Work, not Relief” when Roosevelt is proposing work relief). It is necessary by revolutionary tactics to prepare the masses every step of the way for the struggle. The new turn in the C.P. ought to open the eyes of the honest militant workers who are still there that the party is turning them in the opposite direction from where they want to go.
NOTE: On December 28th, 1934 we wrote S.J. Muste, Secretary of the Workers Party in which we say: “Please let us hear from you whether you will debate us.” Up to now, we have received no reply.
This is for the information of those members and sympathizers of the W.P. who urged us to send the letter, assuring us that it would not be ignored.
A NEW ORIENTATION IS NECESSARY
Reformist tradition weighs like an Alp over the international working class movement. Not even the blast of the German defeat was enough to pry it loose. Hitler`s victory was an historic milestone as decisive as the October, 1917 revolution though of an opposite character. It is plain as day that we are in a new period and that new tactics are needed for this period. Yet the movement plods on in the old rut. Unprecedented crisis, Fascism, threat of world war, New Deal, the swing of the masses to the left in the United States—all this passes over the different groups like a broom over a clean floor.
The Third International, as a whole, never crawled out from under the Social Democracy, and the Third International so far casts its long shadow over the abortive attempts to found the Fourth. It has been only in spots, particularly in Russia in the first five years of the Revolution, that a really revolutionary tradition has been developed. Lenin himself said before his death that the delegates of the parties participating in the International Congresses read and accepted the theses of the Russian Party—but did not understand them. In America, the Communist movement was modelled on Europe, with Tammany Hall politics giving it the peculiar American flavor. It was never rooted in the traditions of America. Notwithstanding all the privileges of the American worker and his democratic illusions based on the progressive period of capitalism, there was yet a virile history of direct action in this country that ran like a red thread from colonial days on. It was often the action of small property holders, it was often blind and futile action, yet it gave a tradition that a real revolutionary movement should try to get hold of. A genuine revolutionary group in America, the Negroes, revolutionary in their history and in their present role—have been practically untouched. The Communists have flitted around them, eyed them covetously, embraced a few of them only to sever them from their own people—or to disgust them, but never won them.
The whole Communist movement here has never been more opportunistic than now. They sponsor bills in Congress and they beg crumbs at the relief offices for the unemployed. They organize groups of artists and liberals to carry on the struggle against ‘war and fascism’. They have given up militant mass demonstrations of any sort. Some of them will not even hear of self determination for the Negroes. But most of all the scurrying back of all groups unconditionally into the AFL illustrates the trend of the moment. One would think long years of peaceful development of capitalism awaited them in which to win over the trade union masses for themselves.
But what sort of period are we actually in? The period of chronic crisis of capitalism, of unprecedented wide spread misery of the masses, the period of new outbreak of war, the period of Fascism. The old seemingly firm ground of democracy is snatched from under our feet at every step. Let us break once and for all with the old reformist methods, product of a period which can never return. The German Communist Party with all its millions of votes choked in the death grip of Stalinism, could not orient itself to the cataclysmic change, could not adjust itself to struggle. How many blows must we have in order to learn? We do not lose our heads, we realize that slogans of democracy are still needed to fight Fascism. We work within the AFL where we can. But our main orientation now is for a period of violence, of sudden changes, of illegality, or revolutionary upheaval.
The Class Struggle intends to stress this phase of the social developments from now on. It will run a series of articles dealing with the last war as preparation for the coming war. There will be articles on illegality, particularly under conditions of Fascism, on tactics of revolt, etc. This is in the field of propaganda. In tactics we are for the mass organization of the Negroes; we are for turning lynching against the lynchers; we are from the independent organization of the unorganized; we are for the general strike for unemployment insurance. Events are marching quickly. The sober, steady worker does not join in the stampede into this or that opportunistic party; he waits for events to test the many programs and proposals that are thrown to him. Confident that events will justify us, we trim our sails and carry on.
ON THE TRADE UNION QUESTION
by Albert Weisbord
When, in the course of the strike waves of 1933 and 1934 concurrent with the application of the N.R.A. and the labor codes, there took place a growth of the AFL unions, a great fuss was made within the revolutionary groups. At once the Lovestone group hailed this as a sign that the only kind of work among the proletariat worth while was the work within the AFL. Here was the main and only stream of labor. If any new unions were organized they were to be affiliated at once to the AFL As for the ‘Red’ unions, the quicker they were destroyed the better. And the Lovestone group took on this job of destruction with the greatest zest. Following the Lovestonites came the Cannonites and Shactmanites, who have now joined the Musteites all of whom took substantially an identical stand. And now the Stalinites following the Socialists and all their cohorts have also succumbed to the same position. Thus we have all the tribes of Israel united again in one happy family.
There remains only ourselves—and, it seems, Joseph Zack, who because he seeks “fluidity” has joined the heterogeneous Workers Party for the while. In our theses on the trade union question which we published November, 1933, we brought out the following salient points:
1. In the present period of world wide struggle between capital and labor taking the form of a struggle between Fascism and Communism all the middle of the road groups, the liberals, the AFL and such had no longer the possibility of playing a progressive role. “Their independent actions can only pave the road for the victory of Fascism in this country.”
2. In the period of prosperity 1923-1929, the unions had not grown, contrary to the general rule, but had actually degenerated and shrunk away.
3. The organization of the unorganized by the Communists and the formation of a revolutionary trade union center was a perfectly correct and necessary step to take.
4. The new organizations organized by militant workers were destroyed not because they were organized by militants outside of the AFL, but by Stalinist opportunism.
5. During the first part of the crisis the AFL unions were in danger of being wiped out, being reduced to but 1 1/2 million. The composition deteriorated as the chief base of the AFL changed from the miners to the building trade and from that to the needle trades and light industries, it was only during the latter half of 1933 that the AFL began to grow again, but much less than some people estimated.
To all of this, the twelve tribes of Israel enumerated above answered that the AFL had been responsible for the great strike wave, etc. From being historically dead, the AFL still remained the only and main stream, etc. Now that the new Deal has been operating for some time, we are in a better position to analyze this question. In the Monthly Labor Review for July, 1934, there is given a summary of the number of strikes for which organization or non-organization was reported. It should be kept in mind that the strikes which are enumerated as called by organizations include those called by independent unions and other organizations outside of the AFL as well as those of the AFL.
Index No. (1916-100) Table Disputes Year Total Strikes Percent * Workers * No.Workers * Organized * Man Days Lost * * * * * * * * 96 260 1919 * * 2035 92% * 90 91 1920 * 2651 2506 95% * 63 69 1921 * 2105 2038 97% * 29 101 1922 * 898 856 95% * 41 47 1923 * 1389 1294 93% * 33 41 1924 * 1177 1094 93% * 34 27 1925 * 1214 1056 87% * 27 21 1926 * 950 838 88% * 19 22 1927 349,434 702 619 88% 37,800,000 17 22 1928 438,374 608 538 88.5% 31,600,000 24 15 1929 266,305 903 726 80% 10,000,000 17 10 1930 160,457 653 545 83.5% 2,700,000 24 17 1931 284,443 894 704 78% 6,400,000 21 15 1932 244,144 808 582 72% 6,500,000 41 51 1933 813,134 1562 886 56% 14,800,000 Up to Nov. 1934 831,958 19,000,000
NOTE: The figures for Man-Days lost are to nearest 100,000. The figures in the total striks column are the number of strikes reported giving information as to whether organized or not.
Here is a striking table indeed. It shows that the number of strikes organized by unions has markedly diminished. This can be due either to the fact that the unions were decreasing while conditions were growing worse, or to the fact that the union officials were deliberately using the unions to prevent strikes (see the Hoover—Green pact) and the strikes had to take place in spite of the AFL or to the fact that the skilled union men were not striking, but the unskilled were bursting out in revolt. Whatever are the reasons it is clear that the AFL played an increasingly diminishing part in the strikes during the time of depression and when world fascism was arising.
The second important fact that the New Deal brought out is that although the AFL has grown about one million dues paying members (from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 million) although it claims now its membership totals close to five million, THE COMPANY UNION MOVEMENT HAS GREATLY ADVANCED AND NOW TOTALS A MILLION MEMBERS.
It must be carefully noted that these Company unions have been created in the basic industries and that the AFL has been permitted to grow or has been `recognized’ by the employers and by the government only in the light or competitive industries. (Needle trades, textiles, building trades, printing, etc.)
From all of this data we can draw the important conclusion that the employers having entrenched themselves in the basic industries tolerate the AFL in the light or competitive industries for their own good and sufficient reasons. What are these reasons? Briefly, it can be stated that the trustification of industries does not take place evenly, but very unevenly. Monopoly gains saway in the field of public utilities and the basic heavy industries (rubber, steel, iron, metal mining, chemicals etc) much more rapidly than in the field of textiles, clothing, shoes, etc) In the process of smoothing out the front the dominant trusts and monopolies have need for a trade union movement that would help to put order and discipline in the industries that are still competitive, especially these that are spread out over the entire country, like textiles.
The value of these unions of the AFL to the bosses was very clearly exposed in the last general textile strike. As we pointed out in the October, 1934 issue of the Class Struggle that strike was called to reduce the stocks of the textile employers, to raise prices, to enforce a month’s lay off, which the northern textile manufacturers had already decided on, by could not carry out in the South, without the aid of `mass pressure’ from below, which the UTW conveniently supplied, and finally, to aid the government in its “New Deal” Program. In brief, so far as it could be arranged, this strike was a fake set up in control of the employers and their agents. Both the employers and their labor lieutenants in the ranks of the trade unions, the labor bureaucracy, gained much by the strike—the workers less than nothing.
It is a fact that the AFL has taken in hundreds of thousands of new workers to its ranks who were never in any organization before. If the AFL has grown, however, it is in spite of the treacherous conduct of its officials so ably supported by the twelve tribes of Israel. The entrance of these hundreds of thousands of new fresh workers has given the officials many a headache. The AFL bureaucracy is not at all interested in taking in masses of unskilled workers. If these unskilled workers are taken inside it is because of the peculiar conditions created by the N.R.A.
If the unions were to help the monopoly employers put in uniform costs of production throughout the country, they could do this only by being national in scope, and striking on a national scale. In order to come within the provision of the N.R.A. these unions had to show that they took in the majority of the workers in the industry either in their particular shop or locality or generally. Against their will, the A.F.L. fakers had to form `vertical’ unions, so to speak, and take in all or most of the workers in a given shop or industry. This, however created a great menace both to the employers and to the labor officialdom for it meant that with the mass of unskilled and poorly paid new workers, eager for struggle, in their ranks the chances of really controlling this mass became less. Both the employers and the union leaders had to find methods to control the new union masses inside the ranks of the unions. (As we have remarked, Company Unions, in these light and competitive industries where the shops are small and the market chaotic, are not as yet practicable). How to get this control? It is the solution of this problem that has given the labor officials their new type of racket.
We can illumine this problem by taking a very concrete example: The Garfinkle and Ritter shop in Paterson, New Jersey, now organized in the I.L.G.W.U., hailed as the most progressive organization in the A.F.L.
The Garfinkle and Ritter shop, employing over 1000 workers, mostly girls, is one of the most important shops in its line in the United States. In 1933 the girls spontaneously came out on strike and in the course of their strike became organized within the I.L.G.W.U. The union officials collected $4.98 initiation fees and 35 cents a week in dues—or almost $1500 monthly. As soon as the workers returned to work the employer with the consent of the union officials in a thousand ways began to chisel away the gains made by the workers through the NRA. He did not pay the union scale. He did not give the promised raises or only after great delay. He established `exceptional categories’ which did not come within the terms of the NRA or contract with the union, and constantly increased these categories. He constantly increased the speed of the workers without opposition from the union heads. He was made the beneficiary of a contract which promised him that no strikes would take plant, etc. etc.
How could the union officials `put over’ these things? First of all, the workers were never given a charter in the union. They were seldom called to any meetings. The union has no regular meeting place or hall, only rents a desk some place for a couple of nights a week. The workers are not allowed to pay dues, but the boss takes the dues out of the pay envelopes of the workers and automatically turns the money over to his agents, the officials of the `union’. The officers of the local are not elected, but have been appointed by the top officials from New York. The members have not even got union books. The books are supposed to be stamped and kept in the New York office. Without books, without a charter, without meetings, without democracy, without rights, without responsible officers, the members of the union have finally seen that they have been roped into a company controlled outfit, very little better than the open type of company union. Is it any wonder that the members hate with the deepest hatred this `union’ and these officials whom they openly recognize as agents of the bosses?
Under the stimulus of the Communist League of Struggle, the workers finally sent a committee to the `big shots’ in New York to find out why their union was conducted in this manner. They were sent to the out-of-town organizer, who kindly and brazenly proceeded to tell them the whole and unvarnished truth: First, the local in Paterson, N.J. had no right to kick since the union did not give a damn for the out of town locals anyway. Second, many locals were even in worse shape. There were some locals where the workers in the shop did not even know they were in the union. Not only did they have no books and no meetings, but they were not even informed that they were in the union, and the bosses were taking out the dues from their pay each week and turning the money over to the union officials. All of this had been done by a secret agreement behind the backs of the workers. Third, under no consideration would the local get a charter and the right to elect its officers and control the organizers. The union could not afford to let the out-of-town locals have these rights since the locals would then get out of control of the national officials. In New York City, the officials were present and could control the militant reds, but the national office could not afford to keep a paid bureaucrat constantly in the field in order to control each local that could give them trouble. Only when the local became entirely `safe’, would it be `gradually’ given the rights of union locals. In the meantime the whole power rested in the organizer sent out to cover New Jersey, Mr. Horowitz, and the “out of town chief”, Wanda, to whom they were talking.
This was frank, clear talk. Now we see why the AFL has had this growth in a period when elsewhere unions are being destroyed and Fascism is growing. Now we understand why the opportunist groups praise the AFL as the `only’ place to work. THE FACT IS THAT THE AFL UNDER THE PRESENT LEADERSHIP HAS BECOME A COSTLY, BUT NECESSARY SUPPLEMENT TO THE COMPANY UNIONS. The AFL is a transition organization, in the eyes of the employers, through which certain sections of the militant and discontented working class must pass in order to become disciplined and organized ready for the Fascist and the Company Union. Evidently, the bosses consider the AFL has still a great role to play for the employers to pave the way for Fascism.
One of the main supports of the AFL comes from the fact that the employers need that organization. In the days of prosperity the AFL bureaucrats developed their racketeering to a high level. But in those days the racketeering consisted of holding the pistol of `mass strike’ at the head of the employer and compelling him to `come across’ or there would be trouble. If he `came across’ the skilled were separated from the unskilled. Today, the union official holds the pistol to the head of the worker, unskilled as well as skilled. As during the World War, the union officials are called in by the employers and by the government (see report by Donald Richberg) in order to `stabilize and control’. In return they get their rake off through the check-off system of the employers, against the will and consent of the workers, who are regimented in organizations where they can say nothing.
However, as we wrote in our trade unions theses:
“We must abandon the false idea that the AFL is hopeless that we must not work within it, that we must work to destroy it… The opportunities for work are especially favorable at the present time. The masses are awakening… In all of the unions the real discontent is leading to the formation of progressive movements… In some cases these opposition movements have led them to complete splits…which have carried with them the mass of the workers in the industry in that locality…”
“In the face of these favorable conditions, the Communists must work more than ever, but in the proper manner, within the AFL. They must break the control of the misleaders of the AFL over the rank and file…If in the course of this work, the Communists and their sympathizers should find themselves expelled, or if, in the course of the struggle splits take place, not in all cases is this necessarily a calamity. We cannot be against all splits…”
It is rank capitulation to declare, as J.P. Cannon declares…that the independent unions have a slim chance at the present time. This is far from the truth. The fact of the matter is there is great room for all unions to grow, particularly unions led by Communists, who know how to fight correctly. The line of Cannon is practically the same as that of Lovestone…It signifies an Utopian policy that the Communists could liquidate all their new unions and a few months later build them all over again. Such a policy is not a strategy. It is the absence of strategy… The Communist Party is bankrupt not because it has tried to organize the unorganized, but because it has killed the new unions, which were under its control and which had great promise of creating a real mass base for revolutionary Communism.
REPORT ON CONFERENCE OF EASTERN FEDERATION OF UNEMPLOYED
AND EMERGENCY WORKERS.
This conference was held in New York City, February 2nd and 3rd, and demonstrated the complete bankruptcy of the leadership of the organization. The official publication “The Unemployed Union” says there were 96 delegates, but at the conference it was reported that there were by two from Passaic, one from Richmond, one from Baltimore, two from Nassau County, three from Jamestown, New York, a total of nine from outside New York City and forth-two delegates from the Workers Unemployed Union of New York City. There were several delegates from the Unemployed Teachers and Single Women, B.S. & A.U. local of the AFL and that was all. This was the much heralded `Eastern Federation’ conference.
The conference itself was a real joke. It was supposed to meet for two days: Actually it met for about 6 1/2 hours. It began at 2 p.m. Saturday, adjourned at 4 p.m., to let the Resolutions Committee meet, postponed the next meeting until 1:30 the next day and adjourned at 6 p.m. To start with, Lasser made a report telling what wonderful work the bureaucracy had done. It had spent $1,600.00 in train fare for the New York Delegation alone to go to Washington. There was now about one dollar in the treasury. But they were going again to Washington to petition Roosevelt. He also reported how well the leadership had sabotaged the united front with the National Unemployed Leagues of the W.P. and the Councils of the C.P. The N.U.L. had insisted on proportional representation from each organization according to membership. The proposal had been rejected and instead Lasser had insisted on 10 or 15 from each state organization. So all parties agreed to split, since they could not out maneuver each other and capture the convention in advance.
Reports were then made by the various locals. The Passaic local was represented by our two comrades Talabor and Weisbord. Comrade Talabor reported on the work of the W.U.U. in Passaic, especially the relief strike for cash relief which was won and also mentioned the death of Comrade Fisher , who died in the course of activity for the W.U.U. After Comrade Talabor’s report, it was suggested that a resolution for Sam Fisher be brought to the resolution committee and Fisher made an honorary member.
After the adjournment at 4 p.m. the first day, the Resolution Committee met later in the day. Comrade Weisbord then brought in his resolutions, which were vigorously fought by all the other members of the committee. The snippy bureaucracy of the W.U.U. (the leaders like Neil Russell et al are really a bunch of college kids, totally ignorant of the movement) informed us that they were not really interested in any struggle, but only in forming a national bureaucracy as quickly as possible. It was for that reason that the Washington Conference was being called March 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. these kids had not the slightest concern over the question how unemployment insurance could be obtained and refused to answer this point when pressed in the discussion. The resolution of the majority was so fishy that it had to be referred back for revision and elaboration. They decided to bar the C.P. Councils from the Washington Conference. They decided the Labor Party question was `too premature’ against the strenuous objection of the Lovestonite, Silvis. They refused to criticize the AFL officials for endorsing the Wagner Bill fake, etc. etc. However, the majority of the Resolutions Committee was rather `fair’ --they did pass the resolution re Sam Fisher. They did allow Comrade Weisbord the floor for 15 minutes (discussion was limited to three minutes for each delegate image three minutes for a two day conference!) in which to present his minority report. This report made a good impression on the delegates and received the votes of the Jamestown delegates. It was the only program of struggle presented on the floor.
What was the role of the Lovestone group? Outside of proposing the resolution “For a Labor Party”—which we of course opposed from the revolutionary point of view—the entire role of their delegate, Miriam Silvis, was to cover up the Socialist bureaucracy. Flashily dressed, she came in as a sort of commissar.
It was only in the course of the credentials committee report the next day that we found that Silvis had not been elected a delegate.
But such trifles did not matter to the kids turned `leaders of the unemployed’. The whole conference was sickening like the stench in a hospital. (Ed. Note: We regret lack of space forbids us printing the resolutions).