Volume 5 Number 12 …………………….. DECEMBER 1935
The Line-up in the Present War (II) ……… Albert Weisbord
A Survey of Mexico ……………………….. S. Herman
Who Can Build the Fourth International? ………. A. W.
Two Basic Tasks for the I.W.W.
Continuing the Important Series WHEN WAR COMES
Women and War …………………….. Vera Buch
War and Civil Liberties (IV) ……… Robert Barnett
Also: I Resign from the Communist Party—Dave Fields; Marx and Engels on the Dictatorship of the Proletariat—N. Schwartz; Three Reports on Unemployed Work—M.B., A.S., A.M.; Red with Laughter—Class Struggle in America—Minnie Miller
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.
Official organ of the Communist League of Struggle (Internationalist-Communist)
Editor: ALBERT WEISBORD ………… Associate Editor: VERA BUCH *************************************************************************
THE LINE-UP IN THE PRESENT WAR (II) by Albert Weisbord
In the previous installment we took up in detail the line-up of the smaller countries of Europe in the present war period. We brought to light the following general laws that capitalist politics had worked out:
1. The countries nearest to the Soviet Union are all military or fascist dictatorships. The countries far away are “democratic” and liberal socialistic.
2. The country (today, Germany) which carries on the task of breaking communism and the Soviet Union is bound as a general rule to receive the support of all these militarist dictatorships created partly in the struggle against the Soviet Union and against the forces generated there.
3. Germany is bound to control capitalist central Europe, whether in the baltic, on the Danube, or in the Balkans.
4. “Pacific-democratic” capitalism having failed to destroy the Soviet Union by force has left the task open to aggressive militarist capitalism and has forfeited its hegemony over capitalist Europe thereby.
5. In the struggle against the Soviet Union, the German Fascist imperialists would be able to rally a united front greater than any the world had ever seen before and far more powerful than the forces of “pacific-democracy". In other words, capitalism being sick unto death must call upon its greatest and most highly developed power in Europe to take the leadership in the struggle against Communism and the Soviet Union. Not Briand, but Hitler is to form the capitalist “United States of Europe".
Now we can turn to the great powers themselves and see how they will line up in the war.
The “pacifism” of Great Britain comes from the following facts:
1. The fact that having already seized all she can possibly gorge, and now definitely slipping industrially in comparison with Germany or the United States, her principle task is to hold her own and keep her possessions intact. Great Britain has nothing to gain from an exhausting war.
2. A war which will tax her strength must weaken her hold upon her colonies and stimulate the colonial peoples to revolt. The British Army is above all a colonial army, an army to govern backward subjected people and not an army able to meet any of the other great powers in Europe (Germany, Russia, France) or Japan.
3. With the development of aviation and the submarine and the slipping of her power, Great Britain has become increasingly vulnerable to attack.
4. The Labor Movement of Great Britain is a force that must struggle in one way or another against being the cannon fodder in the next war. The British capitalists fear the consequences of such labor hostility to a capitalist war and fear that their agents in the ranks of labor will not be able to control the mass of workers.
The British capitalists have proved themselves impotent to smash the Soviet Union. It was an illustration that the mighty Navy of Great Britain is not able to conquer great masses of land held by a developed and vigorous power. After all a capitalist country’s military backbone must be not its navy but its army. The Russian worker’s victory was a fatal blow to the British policy of surrounding Germany with an equivalent balance of power. Further, the rise of the Russian Revolution has meant the tremendous stirring of Asia and all the colonial people. The Revolution struck at the British Empire in its weakest spot, in Asia. The succeeding ferment in Persia, India and the Near East, the Revolution in China, can all be laid to the train of forces started with the Russian Revolution. Finally, the great land development of Siberia and Russia has drawn the center of economic gravity more and more away from the normal trade routes controlled by Britain.
It was no accident, therefore, that the British capitalists became the most implacable enemies of the Soviet Union and had to do their best to destroy it. This, however, they were not able to do, not themselves nor their paid allies. They must therefore support any other power that can do the job. That power today is Germany. So long as Germany makes her chief task the destruction of the Soviet Union and the end to Communism, Great Britain can not do anything but wish her God-Speed.
However, there now arises another thorn to stick into the side of the British. What if Germany should do the job too quickly and thus build up for itself an immense power, which could then destroy England itself? What England would like to have above all is the destruction of Communistic Russia and the placing into power of one of the old henchmen of England to form again the old balance of power. The attack against Russia by Germany would also swing Russia into an alliance with England. Thus the line of Great Britain must be: 1. Destroy the Soviet Union either by not preventing a direct attack by Germany or by working within the Soviet Union through diplomacy that would lead to the destruction of militant working class forces and the rise of a bureaucracy that would lead Russia back to Capitalism. 2. Should Germany be able quickly to win a victory over the Soviet Union due to the treachery of the Soviet bureaucracy, then it would be necessary for Great Britain to interfere on the side of a defeated Russia in order to prevent Germany from destroying this potential ally of England. Of course in return for English help those in charge of Russian politics would be forced to change over to a system of capitalism again.
At this point we must also consider the relations between the British and the Japanese empire. So long as the principle task was the encirclement of Soviet Russia or of the United States, Great Britain could make a firm alliance with Japan for mutual benefit. This, however, is no longer so. The chief task before Great Britain today is the building up again of the old balance of power and the winning of Russia back to capitalism and to England. This had to lead to an alienation of Japanese affections. The tremendous increase of Japanese exports in textiles and other products in rivalry with English goods and the dumping of Japanese goods in all British colonies in the Far East has created a sharp and bitter feeling between the capitalists of both countries.
What has been of decisive importance, however, is the complete upsetting of the old equilibrium in the Far East with the seizure by Japan of Manchuria and part of Mongolia and the attempt to grab the whole of North China as the next step with the complete domination of Japan over the Nanking Government as the objective. With the open partition of China by Japan there has also been announced a Japanese “Monroe Doctrine”, for Asia which sets up as its aim the slogan, “Asia for the Asiatic”, i.e. for Japan. In this new attempt at seizure of North China and domination over the entire central government of China, Japan has dealt vital blows to the whole British set-up in Asia and threatens the entire British colonial structure.
All of Japan’s ambitious moves in the Far East have been calculated to bring to a head the inevitable clash between Japan and the Soviet Union. The fact that Great Britain is now tied up in the Mediterranean has removed her as any great counterweight to Japan and has left only the Soviet Union as the chief enemy to Japanese imperialist expansion. The strategy of Japan’s militarists must include an alliance with any country that attacks the Soviet Union and thus must bring Germany and Japan very close together. All this to the great detriment of Britain’s imperialism.
French “pacifism” flows from the fact that the re-armament of Germany was destined to smash to smithereens the hegemony of French imperialism on the European continent. A second-rate industrial country as compared to Germany or England or Russia today. France was yet able to play a political role entirely out of proportion to its real economic weight. This was due solely to the fact that Germany had been defeated and disarmed and Russia had turned Soviet.
With the rise of Germany to its old military power it has become the desperate need of France to reform the old triple entente of England, France and Russia so as to surround Germany with a wall of steel. However, Russia today is not under a Czar, but under the Soviets and France, is in the dilemma of being forced to help its most deadly enemy the Russian Revolution. To get out of this dilemma France has tried to break the U.S.S.R. from the Russian Revolution, to chain it to world imperialism and make it harmless as a revolutionary force. With the help of the Stalinist bureaucracy France has been able, through the Franco-Soviet pact and through the entrance of the Russian bureaucracy into the League of Nations, to accomplish a good deal in this direction, but not quite enough.
It is not that France is not sure of the Russian bureaucracy in case of war against Germany, but France is not quite sure that the Russian workers will be willing to follow Stalinism in time of war and fight the battle of French imperialism, allying itself to the French capitalist army. After all, in spite of the capitalist intentions of the Russian bureaucracy, it is still the prisoner of the Russian Revolution. Russia, at bottom, is still a workers’ state and it is impossible for the French bourgeoisie to believe that a workers’ Russia can be depended on to defend a capitalist France. Thus, it is vital for France to try in every possible way to transform Russia into a country “safe” for “bourgeois democracy”, that is into a capitalist state.
Until that is accomplished it is ridiculous to believe that should Germany attack Russian Communism, the capitalist class of France will rush to the defense of its most hated enemy, which it had plotted to overthrow for an entire decade after the war. We may be sure, in spite of the assertions of the servile Stalinists, that it is only when Soviets will be no longer the instruments of a workers state, when the workers revolution will have been decidedly defeated and the workers removed as the ruling power in the Soviet Union, that France will then throw its force against the German machine. Here is the reason for the desire of part of the French bourgeoisie to make peace with German imperialism at the expense of Russia. Let Germany try to expand in the East. Let Russia be defeated and driven into the hands of the French. Then it will be time to get into action. Thus reason the French Fascists, the French big industrialists and even a portion of the French radicals and former Communists.
On the whole, however, the French capitalists, although in basic agreement with the British, have a slightly different orientation. They are friendlier to the Soviets than are the English. On the other hand, the British have shown a tendency to play more with the Germans (Naval arrangements, economic terms, etc.) In regard to Italy, too, certain divergences between the French and British imperialism have become noticeable. The French have had to make every effort to prevent Britain from driving Italy over to the side of Germany, a development which would place France in a particularly hazardous position, both as she herself and to her colonies in northern Africa. It would also make very difficult any success for her allies in the Balkans and wipe out her influence on part of the Danube (Austria, Hungary). In spite of everything, however, France and England will have to hang together or hang separately.
There has been a sort of poetic justice in the manner in which the Versailles Treaty has worked out. The very forces which the victorious powers, France and the others, so painfully worked out in order to insure their leadership forever, have now become hindrances to these very victorious powers. In order to surround both Soviet Russia and Germany, various fragments of the old Russian and Austrian Empires were patched together into all sorts of alliances (Baltic Pacts, Danube Pacts, Little Entente, Cordon Sanitaires, and what-nots). All of Europe was “Balkanized” so to speak. Now these little countries, artificially formed after the war and having no independent standing except as puppets of this or that imperialism have been forced away from the French orbit and into the German. The very weakness of the little countries in Central and Eastern Europe has played right into the hands of German Fascism. France has found that these fragments could not replace the old mighty Russian Empire and that without this Russian Empire, France stands in the greatest danger not only of losing her European hegemony—that she has already lost—but of becoming politically isolated and pushed aside. A while ago so strong, she could threaten a Germany with invasion, today she dare not antagonize even Italy.
Of all the so-called “victorious” powers that emerged from the last World War, Italy was “cheated” the most in the “division of the spoils". Like the mercenary Condottiori of old, Italy had broken off her old alliance with Germany and Austria before the war and had stood aside for some time waiting to see who would pay the most for her military services. Reluctantly France and England were forced to make elaborate promises in order to win Italy on their side.
Although the Italians by history and training have not been very good soldiers, on the whole, the entrance of Italy into the war in a way was decisive for the British and French. It took away considerable forces from the enemy and saved the day until the Americans could be brought into the fight. In return for this truly inestimable service rendered on the part of Italian capitalists to the British and French, the Italian ruling class was forced to see betrayed most of the promises so readily made by the victors. To satisfy French ambition the Balkans were turned over to France and Jugo-Slavia was built up at the expense of Italian imperialism. The Danube became a tributary of the Seine and the Eastern and Western Mediterranean were dominated by the Tri-color. Even Fiume had to be taken by force and “illegally” against the wishes of the League of Nations. The millions of dead and wounded with which Italy had paid for its participation in the war were requited by a little piece of Tyrol—and that was practically all.
It was no wonder that the bankruptcy of the Italian ruling classes became the common knowledge of the people. It was no wonder that the Italian masses became thoroughly disillusioned and began to revolt. In desperation the Italian bourgeoisie was forced to turn to Fascism and ruthless military terror in order to save itself for the moment. With such a background for its recent post-war history, Italy can be considered as the one “victorious” power not surfeited with loot and ready and willing to break from the other members of the “gang” at the earliest opportunity. The present economic crisis not only gave the opportunity but goaded this opportunity with spurts of necessity. The Italian Fascist regime was in no position to withstand a long-drawn-out international economic and political crisis. “To live dangerously” had become the accepted creed of Italian Fascism. This creed the Italo-Ethiopian war has put into effect.
Italian Fascist-Capitalism could gain nothing further from peace. It had to provoke war. A way out for Italy would have been to take over the political situation along the Danube. For centuries Italy and Austria had been bound together, when Italy was disunited and Austria was the conqueror. Would it not be but poetic justice for both to become bound together again, but this time with Austria disunited and with Italy the ruler? Both countries are bound together by the Catholic religion. Both have a culture which is a product of fusion of both the Italian and the German. Economically it would be a God-send to Italy. It would counter the rise of Germany. It would surround the Balkans with italian influence. It would make the Eastern Mediterranean an Italian lake, etc., etc. No wonder the Italian capitalists staked their card on this move.
But such development in Europe by Italy was not to be. It was thwarted by Jugo-Slavia and Czecho-Slovakia, backed by France and England. And it was thwarted by Germany. There was no other recourse for Italy, but to force the hand of the leading imperialists by war. If the course of Empire did not immediately turn to the Danube it could turn to Africa. The war against Ethiopia would throw the fat into the fire and bring in its wake the train of events which could open the opportunity to desperate Italian Fascism. Such, indeed, has been the result. The hostility of Britain, leading the League of Nations, has resulted in Italy’s moving more and more into the orbit of German imperialism, and becoming absolutely dependent on the good will and support of the Germans. Now Italy is willing to make a compromise with Germany over the question of the Danube. In all probability, Italy will no longer object if Memel or portions of Czechoslovakia are regained by German militarism. As to Austria and Hungary a settlement can be affected that will save the face of Italy and grant certain minor and economic concessions to Italian capitalism while really annexing Austria to itself. If Germany will help Italy take over Croatia and dominate the southern Balkans for the moment, that would be sufficient reward.
Against this what can France and England offer? Can they counter with an offer to help Italy rebuild a new Austro-Hungarian Empire controlled by Italy and to the manifest destruction of France’s allies, Czecho-Slovakia and Jugo-Slavia? Hemmed in on all sides by French entanglements, the Italian ruling class has now no other alternative than to force the great powers into a war which will yield the results desired. The Ethiopian struggle is but the overture for the opening military act in Europe.
The tremendous importance of Italy can not be underestimated. In any struggle between Italy and Great Britain it is not Italy that will be on the defensive. On the contrary, Italy has a dominating strategic position in the Mediterranean and naval and aviation forces that should render a good account of themselves in battle with British imperialism.
The principle question here is, can England and France afford to start a war with Italy? Such a new purely imperialist war must play directly into the hands of the Soviet Union and all the revolutionary proletarian forces in Europe, especially should Italy be reinforced by Germany. However, such a conflict in which Germany would be deflected from its principal course of adventure against the Soviet Union is unthinkable. What is more probable is that Germany would at once take the occasion to declare war against the Soviet Union, and find itself with the freest possible hand. Should Russia be aided by France, then Germany would have the firm alliance of Italy. Should Russia be abandoned by France, Germany could abandon Italy in its war against England and France and concentrate all her efforts on the Eastern Front. In either case the defection of Italy from England and France operates as a boon to German Imperialism which rises more powerful than ever.
The final arbiter in the European situation today is Germany. The German bourgeoisie had to its credit the most startling successes on the international front and has behaved as the master capitalist strategist of Europe. Its industrial and military machine far mightier than before the war, its social forces more highly integrated and coordinated than ever in its history, enormously aided negatively by the political disunity of its former European “enemies” and positively by the four billion American dollars poured into the country. Germany occupies today the position of decisive power in Europe in the political and military field.
To this result Stalinism has contributed mightily. But this will be the subject for our next article, “Socialism in One Country and the Coming War.” At this point all we wish to emphasize is that during the whole period when the German bourgeoisie was marching towards Fascism and the destruction of the European labor movement, Germany was considered the special friend of the S.U. and France the deadly enemy, while today, when it is a question of the French bourgeoisie marching to Fascism, it is France, who is the special “defender of the peace” and loyal and trusted friend of Russia.
Past history has amply shown that the Russian Soviets cannot be overthrown by any secondary economic power in Europe or their combination, but only by the most strongly entrenched capitalist power taking the lead. History has also shown that Sovietism cannot be crushed by flank attacks in Siberia, or Finland, or the Black Sea, but must be fought by a concentrated attack on its very heart. The only country that can launch this central attack at Russia over the open plains to Moscow is Germany in alliance with Poland.
To save its life, therefore, capitalism cannot deny to Germany the “honor” of being the chief “defender of the faith". From its lowly position of despised “Hun” Germany has risen to the lofty heights of “Savior of Western Civilization”, and very carefully is Germany preparing its strength. We have already seen the tremendous mobilization of all central and Eastern European countries that is taking place under German direction. And if Germany, in order to “straighten out the front” seizes Memel, closes the Denzig corridor, again virtually affects unity with Austria, either before or when the war starts, who is there to say nay effectively?
German capitalism is under no illusions as to the difficulty of the struggle that awaits it in trying to break the heart of the Soviet Union. It must know very well that under the blows of the mighty attack that will be launched again at it by Eastern and Central Europe under German influence on the one side and by Japan on the other side, that very soon the Soviet workers will be forced to throw Stalinist bureaucracy into the discard and rebuild again its own mighty revolutionary forces. Once war is declared nothing will be able to stop the mighty enthusiasm of the masses so much choked at the present time by Stalinism. The Russians may not be very good on the offensive, but on the defensive they have been known to withstand terrific punishment, perhaps more than any other people, for a long time the passive heroism of the Slavs has been known to the rulers of Europe who have capitalized it in one way or another. Today, however, this native courage is buttressed by the consciousness that the mass of workers are fighting not only for their own country, but for the future of all humanity. Should war break out, Stalinism cannot last very long.
The battle of the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union against Germany and Japan cannot but stir up the colonial masses of Asia to revolt and action. Already Russia can count on the passive alliance of Turkey, if not active military help in any coming conflict. Perhaps the same can be said of Northern Persia and India and certainly of Inner Mongolia and large portions of China and possibly even Korea. The end of the Soviet Union carries with it the end of colonial independence movements. However, these forces are problematical.
We could now sum up the forces on each side of the fence as follows:
Certain for Germany in any War against the soviet Union: Small Countries of Europe (see November Class Struggle) 82,000,000 Germany 70,000,000 Japan (exclusive of colonies) 100,000,000 ------------- Grand Total about 250,000,000 Italy (exclusive of colonies) rapidly moving towards Germany 40,000,000 ------------- 290,000,000 Certain for England and France should they be at war against the German System: Small countries of Europe (see Nov. Class Struggle Active Active 37,000,000 Passive 13,000,000 Great Britain (exclusive of colonies but including Dominions) Great Britain 45,000,000 Dominions 25,000,000 ------------ 70,000,000 France (exclusive of colonies) 40,000,000 ------------- Grand Total about 160,000,000 Soviet Union 165,000,000 Turkey if Allied (Probable) 15,000,000 340,000,000
We must yet deal with two countries; the Soviet Union and the United States of America in order to complete our picture of the line-up in the present war. The analyses will appear in forthcoming issues of the Class Struggle.
A SURVEY OF MEXICO by S. Herman
Here we have, in a single piece of territory over 16,000,000 people of whom only about 2,000,000 officially but really not more than 500,000 are whites, 500,000 full-blooded Indians and the rest, over 9,000,000 Mestizos a mixture of both. In Mexico there is no vanishing Indian; on the contrary, it is the Whites, descendants of the Spanish conquerors, who are being rapidly bred out. Over a century ago, the whites were at least 20% of the population; today they are about 7%. It is the Indian who is coming into his own after three centuries of Spanish feudalism and one century of “independence".
While the American investment of one billion and one-half dollars in Cuba completely dominates the economy of that country, approximately the same sized investment in Mexico, though more important, is at the same time much more dangerous. It is more important because of the resentment and hostility of a population of substantial proportions it arouses but also because of the rivalry of the British, who have placed over one billion dollars there. It should be borne in mind that only Argentina, of all the Latin American countries, has a larger British investment than Mexico and at the same time that Canada and Germany alone exceed either Mexico or Cuba in the volume of American capital invested abroad. The Americans and British each had approximately $800,000,000 in Mexico before the war, but since then, as generally elsewhere, in the Western Hemisphere, the United States has stepped to the front.
However, relatively speaking, these are but recent developments. To understand the cross-currents involved in the class struggles in Mexico, It is necessary to review briefly some of Mexico’s history since the Spanish conquest in the sixteenth century and to keep in mind at all times the role of the Catholic Church as the dominant instrument of feudalist oppression.
The colonial period, which lasted three centuries, was one of comparative peace, the peace of suppression, stagnation and decay. Its chief characteristics were, (1) large landed estates with absentee absolutism resting on military and religious domination with a complete denial to the peons of all local rights; (2) a system of slave labor for the extraction of raw materials, etc.; (3) splendor and privilege contrasted with misery and degradations; (4) corruption, ignorance, fanaticism and intercaste hatred. Three hundred years rooted these traits deep into the Mexican social fabric and one century of “independence” did not suffice to eradicate them. It is important to note that the revolts against Spain from 1810 to 1821 to a considerable extent were merely manifestations of the permanently residing local whites against the temporarily sojourning Spanish colonial administrators. The white Americans had wanted to take to themselves the Spaniards’ political advantages, but not to relinquish their own economic dominance over the “Mestizos” and Indians. In 1810 the “radical” elements launched an independence movement as a preliminary to some sort of social change. This was bitterly opposed by the clergy and even the native born whites because they saw danger in the social aspects of the emergence of some of the Indians. When, however, after Napoleon’s downfall, a few years later some signs of liberalism arose in Spain, the mother country, the opposite was true. The Mexican hierarchy’s hatred of the “liberal” constitution of Spain compelled them to lay aside their role of supporters of authority and pillars of his royal majesty. Rebellion in 1821 had ceased to be treason to “God, King and Pope”, when it was in the clerical interest. The Bishop of Guadalahara openly contributed large sums to the “revolutionary” army.
The Napoleonic conquest, the long drawn and devastating guerilla warfare, the chaos following the restoration, all contributed to make Spain absolutely impotent to enforce its will against the dissenters in Mexico.
It is clear, therefore, that the established order was victorious in both 1810 and 1821. In the latter year merely an administrative severing from Spain had been affected under the auspices of those wholly committed to continuing things as they were. The “independence” of 1821 under the circumstances, however was progressive insofar as obedience to the King was no longer an article of the Catholic faith, and above all by the fact that the choking hand of Spanish Absolutism was loosened and Mexico was allowed an independent economic development. Within a few months after the revolution, the Spaniards were deprived of their property by the white Mexicans and were driven from the country.
The whole episode of 1821 was essentially nothing more than a Hispanic family affair between European and American members, a political clique fight within the ruling social class. This is particularly true when we consider that the lower four fifths of the population did not participate in the 1821 revolution and secured no benefits therefore, except the legal abolition of the caste system, which was never seriously attempted in fact until a century later. The feudal land tenure remained unchanged; clerical and military privilege continued unabated. At this time the Catholic Church owned from one-half to four-fifths of all land and had mortgages on most of the remainder. By 1848 a definite anti-clerical movement had expressed itself resulting in 1858 in constitutional provisions for “freedom of worship”, “freedom of the press” and certain “restrictions” on the power of the clergy, which in turn, provoked “holy wars” against the liberals. In 1863, while the United States was being torn by civil war so much as to forget the Monroe Doctrine temporarily. France, with Spanish and English help installed the Hapsburg Maximillian as emperor of Mexico. This “empire” lasted only a very short time and was overthrown by the Mexicans under the leadership of Juarez.
Of course the liberal reforms existed only on paper. The church continued to instigate uprisings against those whom it called “Protestants”, i.e., anyone who opposed its rule. In 1876 however, with the coming into political power of PORFIRIO DIAZ, so much of liberalism as existed was crushed out of existence.
Mexico continued a feudal state under Diaz, who as dictator for 34 years, merely tightened upon the serfs the shackles of political and economic servitude. For the masses of the population the century of “independence” meant only a seventy-five percent reduction in their unbelievably low standard of living. When Madero led the overthrow of Diaz in 1910, there were arrayed against the revolutionists large land holders, including the church, and the “business” elements, chiefly Americans, who were afraid that the concessionaire system and cheap labor would end.
Under Madero the revolution was made almost entirely political; the labor and land question becoming mere incidents. The constitution of 1917 took these two matters up at some length. How these provisions were enforced we shall see later. The land question, of cource, was the most important one. In this connection one thing is most certain. No Mexican Bourgeois government has attempted or will attempt to abolish private property in land. This will be seen as we review the various developments of the land problem.
The agrarian phase of the revolution, which was first expressed by Zapata in 1911, called for a distribution of one third of the great estates among the landless; agrarian “reforms” were decreed by Carranza in 1915, more by the constitution of 1917, none under Obragon, and “fully” under Calles and his successors. Every demagogue and faker shouted “lands for the people.” Accordingly large bands of peons would take the land promised by the revolution—and then the landowner’s troops would shoot them out of it.
The following is an example of the methods suggested for carrying out the decree by law. First of all there were categories of legal capacity to operate land, the ciudad (city); villa (town); the pueblo (villages) etc. there had existed at all times ejides or communal landholdings. These had been expropriated by the feudal overlords and the revolution was supposed to make “restitutions” of these lands from the large estates called “haciendas". At the same time, if a category, such as those above named, required more land for its population, the fakers went about it in this way. First, they would implant the idea among some hacienda peons that not only were they entitled to land, but to the particular land surrounding their habitations, and that an application to the legislature for a status as a political category would be the first step. Then, the landlord would be apprised of his peril, with the intimation that the peons’ claim might be defeated—for a consideration. if the landowner refused to do business in this way, the agitation was continued among the peons and their community might in time become a pueblo. However, if the landowner paid his tribute, the legislature ignored the peons’ demands until the next campaign when the rival candidates would make an issue of the “double cross". The hacienda, fearing the loss of his land, would frequently stop cultivating it (creating a lockout) and the peons would then fight for it. It was hoped that the followers of Zapata and Villa, who were chiefly rural proletarians, would be pacified and enlist under the Carranta banner under the slogan “lands for the people". When the peons would take the land so promised, the landowner’s troops would shoot them off. This has continued the widespread chaos right up to the present time.
The land decrees would have been much more effective if literally enforced. The government could, by merely complying with the law, have almost entirely avoided paying the indemnity for the land, that is, the compensation which the land owners could claim within one year after formal expropriation. Most of the landowners made no application for compensation but the government has continually extended the time to do so. Payment was in bonds usually selling at 10% of their face value. The land question is complicated with foreign relations. The Mexican Supreme Court, at the “kindly” but firm insistence of Ambassador Morrow of the United States, held that the Constitution of 1917 declaring the products of the subsoil to belong to the state, etc., was not retroactive. In this connection it must be remembered that the leaders of the revolution, Madero, Carranza and Obregon were large landholders and that it would be naive to expect them to enforce the land decrees.
The enforcement of the written laws restricting church ownership of land has only recently been attempted, as well as the limitations of the number of priests, etc. Whenever a movement is about to take place among the workers or peons, the politicians give the church (today the pet political goat) another punch. There have been official truces, now and then, between the state and the church but such a good political goat is too good to be dropped from such a useful role. There is nothing unpopular in the actions of the government against the church. Throughout the nineteenth century and right up to the present time, the church has organized armed bands to drive the peons off the land. Today they murder teachers in the rural schools whose “socialistic” doctrines include only a bit of atheism or something along that line.
In 1927 a Pastoral Letter was signed by all the archbishops and bishops in Mexico protesting against the laws enforcing the Constitution of 1917. The clergy was certain that the pressure of outside aid would prevent the enforcement of the land laws. But it made a big mistake. And it should be pointed out that if the Mexican hierarchy misjudged the possibilities of external help, it misjudged its internal strength even more. The internal convulsions were undermining the power of the church as well as that of the other large landholders. Although Mexico is supposed to be a perfectly Catholic country, this is not so, strictly speaking. While the other denominations are very insignificant in comparison of relative numbers, we must bear in mind that only about two million of the fifteen million nominally Catholic are like the American Catholics. Just as the Catholic clergy acted very cleverly in the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes, so too, did it bring about the Catholicism of the Aztec deities and the Indenization of the Catholic saints. Side by side with these facts we still can note, even today, the persistence of pagan rites and idolatry on a considerable scale.
Why shouldn’t the church crack up even without the “legal” pressure of the political demagogues? The bitterness of the peon toward his lordly protectors is beyond restraint. For centuries, even in those instances where the peon was paid a meager few cents a week for his backbreaking toil, the priest would exact his tithe which would be paid directly to him by the peon’s employer. In other words, the church had used the check-off system long before the trade union officials. It is quite a natural therefore, if the peons are ready to seize lands by force, that their violence must also be directed against the church, largest landholder and the most ruthless oppressor of all. The anti-church laws of the politicians are merely the reflection of this pressure of the agrarians.
While the importance of the land question cannot be over emphasized, particularly because over 3,600,000 persons, or over 70% of the working population of Mexico, are engaged in agriculture, the growth of the industrial workers to over 1,500,000 is also of tremendous significance. Strong unions have been organized and, of course, under the direction of the politicians, they have developed many of the faults of unions elsewhere. The leading union, until recently, was the Mexican affiliate of the A.F. of L. the CONFEDERATION REGIONAL OBRERA, MEXICAN, commonly known as the CROM, which claimed close to 1,000,000 members a few years ago. Its leader, Morones, even occupied a position in the Mexican cabinet. But the CROM played the same role as the A.F. of L., that is to say, it embraced the aims of the so-called aristocracy of labor, to the detriment of the other sections of the working class. In addition there are Red and also syndicalist unions, which at present, are leading the battles of the industrial workers. However, this much is certain. The Mexican worker is familiar with direct action. He has never seen the “peaceful” and democratic winning of reforms such as his American and European brothers have been brought up with. He knows that only by hard physical struggle, is it possible to achieve his ends, and he acts accordingly.
In its convention of December 1933, the National Revolutionary Party formulated the Six Year Plan which the government immediately adopted. It is to be completed by December 1939, when the terms of Cardenas expires. One of the many fake promises of the plan is to give land to all elements of the population, which lack lands or possess them in insufficient quantity to satisfy their needs. The government has, in spite of all the phrases about socialism, shown not only that it respects the private ownership of land but that it’s aim is to establish a very large number of small holdings and does not contemplate the socialization of agriculture. This has been stated by a member of the Carenas government, Ramon Beteta, director-general of the statistical bureau of the department of National Economy, in H. Herring’s “Renascent Mexico” page 99:
“There have since, been two tendencies in regard to agrarian matters in revolutionary thought; that which upheld the idea that the divided lands should be the beginning of a communal regime, which should be extended to all agriculture until the complete socialization of the land has been achieved, and that which believed what the small communally divided land holdings should be only a passing step toward the small private holding. The six year plan decides this argument in favor of this second group and makes of the communally divided lands a step toward the creation of small proprietors.”
“….the program of the National Revolutionary Party….thus removes itself from the idea of socialism.”
Though the plan proclaims that land will be given to all landless, the laws are generally dead letters. An example of this is the principle applied to large estates. The law, until now, has not considered workers living on haciendas to be legal personalities, as such, with the right to petition for land. This right has been limited to villages, that is, to centers of independent population. The government does not desire the workers on large estates to divide it, but it is gracious enough to give these peons the right to be included in the agrarian census of neighboring communities. In other words, even though there are tremendous estates (in 1930 one-tenth of one percent owned .84% of the lands) which are scientifically cultivated, the government does not permit the peons to expropriate them and operate them collectively for that would be a real step forward on the road to socialism. This point, more than any other, shows the ugliness of the NRP’s hypocrisy. The NRP is the government and vice versa, since it controls all 170 of the Mexican Deputies and 56 out of 65 in the Senate.
Although its plan of “socialistic education” is (1) to teach that the ultimate aim of the revolution is to overthrow capitalism; (2) to create in children a “love for the exploited masses"; and (3) to remove the church and to bring in science and reason; although it uses these very “left” phrases, we can see, in actual practice, a fascistic orientation. The six year plan officially recognizes the existence of the class struggle. It states: “Confronting the class struggle inherent in the system of production in which we live, the Party and the government have the duty of contributing to the strengthening of the syndical organizations of the working classes.”
The government, through itself or the NRP, does not do away with or intend to eliminate class struggles. Not at all, because, they say, officially that to bring about class peace would be fascism. They will help the unions, because you see, to strengthen the proletariat means to weaken the capitalists and leads to their overthrow. At the same time the plan and the constitution both urge collective bargaining and cooperation to bring about a state of affairs where the owner of a plant will be obliged not to deal with non-syndicalist elements. When we bear in mind that Calles placed Morones, the leader of the CROM, in the cabinet, we can readily see that the NRP desires to harness the working class organizations to the state apparatus in order the more easily to control and ultimately destroy them, which is the essence of fascist practice. Here, too, it must be remembered that the rivalries of the British and American imperialists express themselves in the murderous tactics of gold shirted thugs of the church, which is the spearhead of the English attack on the American controlled government.
When we see the indiscriminate use of such “revolutionary” phrases as the “cultural and economical improvement of the proletariat and the farm workers"; when there appears such a strange phenomenon as Garrido’s Red Shirts in the state of Tabasco, which attempts to compel priests to marry under the pretext of legitimatizing children, it is obvious to what extremes the fascist demagogues will go to enlist the support of the workers. Though Garrido has been compelled to flee the country recently for his personal safety, it should not be forgotten that he was a member of the Cardenas cabinet which gave him a free hand and never interfered with his actions.
To sum up briefly we see in Mexico that the continuity with the primitive before the coming of the European is largely unbroken. This applies to food, clothing and dwellings, which except in the cities, are hand built of material found thereabouts with no cut lumber or woodwork, no nail or hinge, no plumbing or lighting of glass, but rough adobe brick huts fashioned from earth and palm leaves. Add to this primitive religion, a proletarian army, a medieval church, handicraft folkways, a highly educated and modernly cultivated minority, and it is apparent what upheavals are produced by the invasion of modern industrialism and modern social theories. As to the nature of the revolution, we can say it had no clear, preconceived goal; that it was largely haphazard; though a class struggle, it was not at all clean cut, for Madero and Carranza were great landholders and Obregon was a rancher. There was no deliberate prescription of any aristocracy. No group was exiled; no category of citizens forfeited their lives. There were no organized mass uprisings of a really extensive nature. Yet the revolution, though it may have slowed down, or stopped temporarily has not ended. The land struggle of the peon against the politic o will continue just as that of the serf against the hacienda. Every attempt of the government to clamp the brakes on the revolution is in the name of the revolution, so great is the pressure of the masses.
What strategy the Communists should adopt in Mexico as well as elsewhere in Central America will be the subject of another article which will appear in a subsequent issue of the “Class Struggle".
WOMEN AND WAR by Vera Buch
Women are traditionally non-combatants. Notwithstanding the record of the Battalion of Death and whatever other exceptions history may offer, we will find the women most of the time active behind the fighting lines. But since the population at home bears the brunt of keeping the army at the front, the mobilization of the women, as the majority of the non-combatant masses, becomes of key importance to the capitalists in winning their wars. No energy nor efficiency of effort was spared in the warring countries in the last world war to squeeze the maximum support for the war out of the female population.
In America an apparatus was created systematically, on a national scale, using the permanent bourgeois women’s organizations, which reached to the last corner of the country and dragged in not only the middle class women, but the working class and working wives as well. With the full support and under the direct control of the federal and state government apparatus, this organization of women penetrated not only the whole United States, but even the colonial possessions.
Fifteen days after war was declared on Germany, on April 11, 1917, the mobilization was begun by the creation of a Women’s Committee of the council of National Defense. This Council had been organized by an act of Congress in August, 1916, and consisted of the secretaries of six state departments, plus an advisory committee of seven. It was thus a direct appendage of the government, and its Women’s Committee meeting in Washington as a sub-division of the Council was in the closest connection with the government center. Nine women were put on the committee, most of them heads of big bourgeois women’s organizations, such as the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, the National Council of Women, the National Women’s Suffrage Association, and others. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw was the chairman of the Committee. Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt was also a member. Later two other women were added, one of them the president of the International Glove Workers Union.
Within a few weeks, the women’s committee had formulated a plan of action which was sent out to well known patriotic women in 40 states. At once the organization work was begun. A temporary chairman was appointed in each state. Her first job was to call together a conference consisting of the heads of women’s organizations having a state wide scope, and such individuals as she wished to represent unorganized women. Recognition was to be given to clubs, to religious denominations, to fraternal and philanthropic societies, to patriotic and protective associations. All the innumerable women’s organizations under bourgeois influence, which have an extraordinary development in America, were thus at once systematically mobilized and thrown into action under the leadership of the women’s Committee, which got its orders and inspiration from the United States imperialist government.
These state conferences were constituted as permanent groups. There also were organized similar committees on a local scale in each county, city, town and village. In the cities, there were ward organizations. When it came down to local groups, membership was no longer based upon organizations, but any individual woman who could be brought in was eligible. Thus, there was a possibility of getting those who had escaped membership in the permanent organizations, and of reaching each and every working woman and workers and farmers’ wives. The purpose in uniting all these divisions was to see “that all necessary forms of patriotic service or of defense program as outlined by the Women’s Committee were actually carried forward". In other words, that the women were to be mobilized in the most thorough manner to sacrifice their all for the bloody duty of winning the war for Wall Street.
Departments were established in all Divisions for the following fields of work: Registration, Food Production and Home Economics, Food Administration, Women in Industry, Child Welfare, Maintenance of Existing Social Service Agencies, Health and Recreation, Education, Liberty Loan, Home and Foreign Relief. The chairmen of the committees on Food Administration, Women in Industry and Liberty Loan were considered so important that they were appointed only with consultation with the Women’s Committee in Washington and worked directly with it. Not satisfied with mobilizing the women of the United States proper, similar organizations were created also in the Panama Canal Zone, in Porto Rico, the Philippines, the Hawaiian Islands and in Alaska. The work was carried out so efficiently that by June 15th, six states were already thoroughly organized.
Simultaneously with creating and perfecting the structural apparatus for the work, there was sent out a barrage of sentimental jingoistic propaganda for enlisting the women’s moral support, for working them up into a patriotic frenzy, in which they would be prepared to make any sacrifice. The women suddenly became very important in the eyes of government officials. They acquired qualities of zeal, heroism and intelligence unsuspected before. Says President Wilson, “I think the whole country has admired the spirit and the capacity and devotion of the women of the United States….The country depends upon the women for a large part of the inspiration of its life.” And the Secretary of War chimes in, “I think there is a certain significance…” When a Secretary of War says to the women that the success of the United States in the making of this war is just as much in the hands of the women of America as it is in the hands of the soldiers of our army.”
On August 2, 1917, the Secretary of the Navy declares, “American women have always been ready to answer the call of service and have cheerfully undergone the untold sacrifices and burdens which war places upon them. They are already making sacrifices and enduring hardships with a spirit, which commands our intense admiration.” And listen to the Secretary of the Interior in June, 1917, “Unless our women feel the greatness of the moral issues involved in this contest, and unless they have raised their boys to fight, if necessary, for the things for which we stand, the war can not be won.” And the chairman of the House Committee on Naval Affairs in August, 1917, “Inspired by purpose, zeal and enthusiasm, which challenge the admiration of all patriots, the women of America are working not alone for alleviating the sufferings and burdens of our soldiers, sailors and marines, but in an intelligent way are striving to place about the Army and Navy environments, which will conduce to improved military morale and efficiency of our fighting forces and place the Army and Navy upon a higher standard. Moreover, their zeal, enthusiasm and unity of purpose in their ideals and work are an inspiration to the whole nation.” And so on ad nauseam. In pulpit and press, in movie and school, in parade and mass meetings, the campaign went on to drive the last working woman, the last workers and farmers’s wife into doing, “her bit”, to support the noble cause of defending imperialist profits.
The actual concrete results of the camppaign were of enormous help to the ruling class. After a few months campaign among the women for the saving of waste bread, the National Commercial Economy Board stated that enough bread had been saved each day to feed a million people. $350,000,000 worth of crops were raised by women in back yard gardensduring 1917. And in the same year, $36,000,000 worth of garments made by women, says Mr. Davidson, head of the American Red Cross, were sent to the troops abroad. This in addition to the many millions of dollars for relief purposes raised through the activities of the women.
The activities carried on by the various women’s committees were manifold. One of the first jobs was the registration of the women for service. The women were prepared by special letters and a message from the government. Some states and cities instituted classes to train women registrars. Within six months, the national committee on registration received over 9,000 calls for women workers from firms holding government contracts for war materials.
Then the food conservation drive. Everyone remembers the garage pail campaign. How a group of patriotic dames supposedly visited the home of Hoover, then Food Administrator, to inspect its garbage pail—and behold, it was empty! (the Hoover family of course lived on garbage!). The empty garbage pail was held up as the emblem of perfection to the American working class housewife. She was supposed to cut out meat and wheat from her menu and scrimp on her already poor table so as to save the food for the army. On May 5, 1917, Secretary Houston of the United States Department of Agriculture issued a special appeal to the women of the country for food conservation and economy in the home. He appealed also to the “loyalty” of the working women. “Employed women”, he said, “especially those engaged in the manufacture of food or clothing, also directly serve their country and should put into their tasks the enthusiasm and energy the importance of their products warrants.” At one of the first national conferences called by the Women’s Committee of the National Council of Defense, Hoover, the new Food Administrator gave a plan for enlisting the women in the first nation wide campaign for food conservation.
In the Liberty Loan Drive, too, the women’s organization was invaluable to the government in putting over its plan for filching from the American workers their hard earned dollars for the manufacture of armaments and munitions, which would kill both American and European workers by the millions. Of course, here, many other important agencies were at work. Large firms made the jobs of their factory and office workers dependent upon the purchase of so many Liberty Bonds. Poor workers, women included, pledged their earnings for months and years to pay for these. The Liberty Loan department of the Women’s Committee was instrumental in distributing 700,000 special letters to farmers’ wives. It also assigned 1800 women speakers to tour the country for the drive. It was no accident that in such working class centers as Pittsburgh and Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania, women subscribers to the loan were one-third of the total. Red Cross work also, that is the making of surgical supplies and “comforts” for soldiers was a principle activity of the women.
Not the least important of the activities of the Women’s Committee was a “patriotic education” campaign carried on chiefly among foreign born women. In this the Women’s Committee cooperated with the Division of Immigrant Education of the United States Department of Education in a gigantic nation wide “America First” campaign, begun on September 1, 1917. Mrs Carrie Chapman Gatt was the chairman of the Women’s Committee on education. “We propose”, she stated, “To begin a vast educational movement with lantern slides, movies, lectures and literature which will carry to the women of the nation the graphic story of the war. When the women understand, all will be fervently enlisted to push the war to victory as rapidly as possible.”
Besides the national apparatus built up by the Women’s Committee of the National Council of Defense, there were other organizations of women created especially for the war. In January, 1917, (three months before war was declared there took place in Washington a Congress for Constructive patriots. A women’s session was held in which 500 women from all parts of the country took part. Here was organized the National League for Women’s Service with the jingoistic slogan, “For God, For Country, For Home.” This organization became a part of the general women’s war apparatus, its president being a member of the National Women’s Committee. The Red Cross had its Women’s Bureau organized in July 1917. This Women’s Bureau divided the country for work into 13 fields, with a fourteenth field for the American Red Cross in China, South America, Alaska and Persia. The Red Cross mobilized the women so well for its work that in six weeks in the fall of 1917, women furnished 3,651,095 surgical dressings, 1,517,076 pieces of hospital linen, 424,550 articles of patients clothing, 301,563 articles of miscellaneous supplies and 240,621 knitted articles. The American Red Cross also formed a women’s War Relief Corps in France. In April, 1917 was organized the National Congress of Mothers to do work among the soldiers in camps, later the Women’s Auxiliary of the Army and Navy League, which established a service school, and the women’s Naval Auxiliary of the Red Cross.
The apparatus of the Women’s Committee was a federated one, based chiefly on the existing women’s organizations, and drawing in also in its local activities, the unorganized women. The bourgeois women’s organizations were also active on their own account through special war time committees of bureaus. Their activities were all directed by the central clearing house of the Women’s Committee. In June, 1917, the Women’s Committee called a conference inviting heads of 200 women’s organizations. Over 50 responded to the call and took part in the conference. These organizations had already been active in relief work for the war in Europe and were now drawn into work for the American imperialists. The General Federation of Women’s Clubs (claiming a membership of 3,000,000) opened a service office in Washington and flung itself full force into the war. The Daughters of the American Revolution (claiming 1,000,000 members) and their War Relief Service Commission, the YWCA had its War Work Council, the National Women’s Christian Temperance Union had its Committee on Patriotic Service, the League of American Pen Women had its National Aid and Defense Committee, the Woodcraft Girls had their “Potato Clubs” with the motto, “The Hoe Behind The Flag”, the Associate Collegiate Alumnae had their War Service Commission and so on. Besides all these organizations, there were relief organizations too numerous to mention formed for different sorts of relief, many of them directed by women and all of them depending upon women for their chief support.
Let us be clear just how the working woman were drawn into all these organized activities. The members of the Women’s Committee and most of the membership of the women’s organizations mentioned above are wealthy or lower middle class women. But they drew in with them also the fraternal and religious orders, which have a working class as well as a middle class membership. Besides, all propaganda was carried to the working class women in the shops and in the homes. They were drawn into work in the village, ward and town committees.
A special phase of the mobilization of the women was their replacement of drafted men workers in industry. But this was something not dependent upon wartime needs alone, nor upon the feverish campaign of the government. It is a fundamental tendency under capitalism for women and children as more exploitable labor power to replace men wherever conditions permit. The shortage of male labor due to conscription in general tended to speed up the fundamental tendency, and furthermore had a permanent effect, bringing women into occupations they had not previously worked in to any extent. In some cases, women’s war work was only temporary, replacing men during their service at the front, as for example, driving buses or serving as conductors on street cars (a practice still surviving in some European capitals). In other cases, as is munitions work, most of the jobs were themselves but temporary during the great output of the war. In still other occupations, as in the metal trades and in heavy industry, war work was a wedge bringing the women in, and they have remained since and are increasing, due to the employers’ need for a whip to crack over the heads of the male laborers.
The number of women whose work in industry was traceable to the war were not so great in the United States as in countries longer at war. For instance in England in July, 1917, of 4,766,000 women at work, it was estimated that 1,392,000 directly replaced men. But there was considerable increase in America, too. A survey of industrial conditions in New York State made by the United states Department of labor at the end of 1917, showed that women workers comprised 1/10 the labor force in 500 factories filling war orders and employing an aggregate of 168,450 persons. Between Spring 1917 and 1918, 2,160 women substituted for men on six steam railways in New York State, 1,346 on electric railways in New York City and vicinity and 2,060 in ten plants engaged in the manufacture of munitions and instruments. In certain industries in New York State, out of 15,744 working women 13,643 were replacing men. The proportionate increase in employment of women was particularly marked in the war industries, especially in metal and machine trades. During the year, 1917 to 1918, there was an increase of 87,500 women employed in munitions plants and airplane factories.
In the Philadelphia Naval Aircraft factory, in July, 1918, women constituted but 9% of the whole working force. During the next three months, the number and proportion increased rapidly. In August, women constituted 14.9% of the force. In September, 17.9% and in October, 20% or one fifth of the whole force. During the five months from June to October the number of women had increased 31.6%. (From 218 to 710).
Women were first placed in vacancies where the work was light and less skilled, and only later were they put on the heavy or the skilled work, except where a special need existed. When the government placed contracts in Buffalo for airplanes and motor trucks, women were placed in every conceivable process. Two schools were installed to prepare them for penetration into the ranks of the most skilled men. In Niagara Falls, the chemical plants were in a similar difficulty and placed women on work of an exceedingly heavy nature. They became yard laborers with pick and shovel, brick layers’ helpers and furnace stokers.
In practically all cases, women taking men’s places were paid less, (averaging 60 to 65% of the men’s pay) even though their output may have been the same. Two-thirds of the women in New York State who replaced men received less than $19 a week. In 39 of 117 plants studied (Special Bulletin #93 of the New York State Department of Labor), women were paid under $14 weekly, and in 29 plants under $12. Only in three places did they get over $20 a week. The excuse was given that the women could not set the machines, but as a matter of fact, special men workers used to set the machines for the male workers, who had the jobs before the women were brought in. In fact, there was one factory manager, who let the cat out of the bag, stating that women were employed at the beginning in the war, and were retained after the war was over, not because men were not available, but because “women would keep the men from being too cocky".
Not merely were wages driven down by the substitution of women for men, but in another important respect also labor standards were viciously attacked. Of the enormous orders for clothing for the army and navy, a great deal was done by homework. Contractors assumed responsibility for a certain amount of work, and portioned it out to the women in their locality needless to say, at extremely low rates of pay, and with all the lack of labor control of conditions of work that goes with home industry. About one-third of the army shirts were made in Southern States under the old conditions of home production which dated back to the Civil War. So inefficient was this work that it was estimated it took 21,000 women workers in the home to produce the same amount of work done by 3,000 workers in factories. But contractors making the lowest bids, gave out the work where it would be done at an hourly pay of about 15 cents or less. Women who received the work (and who had to be tested for suitability before they could have this high privilege) had to carry the bundles back and forth from their houses to the depots giving it out, spending carfare in the process.
Uniforms for the whole United States Navy were made in only two centers (Brooklyn and vicinity and Charleston, S.C.). In Charleston, the work was done under the roof of a government owned factory. In Brooklyn it was distributed from a central depot to home workers, piece workers and contractors. The patriotism of the women was whipped up so that they would feel satisfied in working ten hours a day and more for tiny pay “in the service of their country". Two-thirds of the home workers earned less than $12 weekly. Out of this had to come carfares, cost of damages, etc. Women predominated in the manufacture of the white cotton navy uniforms, and men made most of the blue flannel and serge outfits.
To the picture of women working in industry, working in the government service and mobilized by all the additional private and semi-official agencies we have mentioned, must be added the fact that many women volunteered for service in Europe and as Y.M.C.A. secretaries, as Salvation Army lassies, etc., went to the front. In the capacity of Red Cross nurses and ambulance drivers, women were called upon to submit to grueling fatigue and discipline, and had to fulfill their functions under the fire of the enemy.
If we look at other warring countries, we see very similar methods used among the women. In England, for example, a few weeks after the war broke out, there was set up a Central Committee on Women’s Employment, appointed by the Home Secretary. This committee was composed of representatives of women’s organizations, but there was this characteristic difference by comparison with the United States, that of 14 English organizations, 5 were organizations of working women, namely, the Women’s Trade Union League, the National Federation of Women Workers, the Women’s Labor League, the Women’s Cooperative Guild, etc. This committee was charged with finding employment for women in accordance with the war time needs of industry, and to relieve those rendered unemployed by the war. Whereas in America, the first years of the war enabled America as a bystander to profit greatly and to resolve its unemployment crisis of 1914 through the European blood bath, in England, on the contrary, the first reaction resulting from the war was an abrupt and considerable curtailment of production. Unemployment was more serious among women than among men for the following reasons: (1) The cotton trade, the greatest of women’s industries, suffered more than any other great industry in England from the first shock of the war. (2) the “luxury trades” were terribly depressed as a result of the so called “public economy” that followed the outbreak of the war, and these also were women’s trades. Other women’s industries such as dressmaking, millinery, bicusemaking were practicaly at a standstill and large numbers of women clerks, domestic servants, charwomen, actresses, typists, manicurists and other toilet-specialists employees were suddenly thrown out of work. (3) Working women were more affected by the dislocation of trade than men because the army offered an immediate alternative employment to men. The condition became aggravated when wives and dependants of the men, who joined the colors, went out in search of work.
In the Spring of 1915, the English government issued an appeal urging all women who were prepared, if needed to accept paid work of any kind—industrial, agricultural, clerical, etc., to enter themselves upon the register of Women for War Service. The object is to find out what reserve force of women’s labor, trained or untrained can be obtained if required.” Within a fortnight, 33,000 women enrolled. However, by September 1915, of 110,714 women, who registered, employment was found for only 5,511. The whole scheme was exposed as a method of getting cheaper labor.
As the war progressed industry revived, especially on war goods, and by the second year there was the problem of how to extend the employment of women to meet the great shortage of skilled and unskilled labor. Regulation governing labor conditions were brushed aside in the interests of speeding up war time production, and the “Munitions of War Act”, especially became a weapon at the hands of the government to help keep the industries working at a steady high speed to assure the maximum output. This Act prohibited strikes and lockouts, establishing compulsory arbitration and suspending all trade union rule, which might “hamper production". Under the law a “voluntary army of workers” signed up as ready to go anywhere labor was needed, and local Munition Committees because labor courts endowed with power to change wage rates to inflict fines on slackers and on those, who broke the agreement of the “voluntary army".
Night work became the normal condition with sweatshop conditions as the fever for war materials became more intense. Sixty hours a week was considered a normal legal limit of working hours. Such conditions of course, picture the situation of the workers in all warring countries, not merely in England. The following estimation has been made of the numbers of British women mobilized to serve the war: (from “Mobilizing Woman-Power”, by Harriet Stanton Blatch), “To the call for labor power British women gave instant response. In munitions a million are mobilized, in the Land Army there have been drafted and actually placed on the farms over three hundred thousand, and in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, fourteen thousand women are working in direct connection with the fighting force, and an additional ten thousand are being called out for service each month. In the clerical force of the government department, some of which had never seen women before, over 198,000 are now working.”
It now remains for us to estimate what permanent effects have remained from the war-time activity among the women, to forecast the probable line of approach to them in the next war, and above all to point out the efforts needed by working class organizations to win the women of the working class to their side in the fight against war.
We have already pointed out the fact that in the metal trades and heavy industry women are there to stay and their numbers are steadily increasing. Another interesting fact is that since the last world war, a new industry, rayon manufacture, employing large numbers of women, is practically a war industry, since at any time its apparatus can quickly be converted from the manufacture of artificial silk to the manufacture of munitions.
There is no doubt but what the mobilization of the non-combattant population will be accomplished much more speedily and thoroughly in the next war, than in the last world war. Registration will allow no one to escape and conscription for service in industry is likely to be instituted, if indeed it has not already become a practical fact for large numbers of workers through the labor camps. There will be much greater danger and suffering for the people behind the lines due to the enormous development of poisonous chemicals and their probable greater usage in the next war.
As far as the government apparatus for mobilizing the women is concerned, it has been continued under a different form and will be ready with 100% efficiency to spring into operation when needed. The same organization which formed the Women’s Committee of the Council for National Defense have continued their affiliation as the conference for the Cause and Cure of War—an irony of history that is after all not so astounding, pacifism being the logical peacetime dress for the capitalist war agencies, particularly in the United States, where historic conditions have promoted a flourishing growth of pacifist ideology.
We tend to picture the capitalist mobilization for the last world war as a colossal steam roller, which flattened out all opposition before it. Historically, this was the case, as only in one country, in Russia, were the workers able to get out from under the burden of imperialist war and under Lenin’s guidance were able to negotiate peace for themselves. But were we able to analyze minutely and trace in every under current of working class life the results of the war, more than one seed of opposition to the next war might be uncovered. Even while the oppressive force of patriotism drove the women to their support of the war, still, as the years dragged on and the sufferings accumulated, bitterness and dread of war resulted. It is something to be remembered with pride by the working class women that the first organized opposition to the war on an international scale was the Congress of Socialist Women at Berne, Switzerland, in 1915.
The responsibilities women were called upon to bear, the new work they undertook, gave a tremendous stimulus to the women’s rights movements, which resulted in extension of the suffrage in several countries. Fascism has snuffed out the moral and intellectual gains of the women’s movement, but even Fascism will have to yield to iron necessity in a big war and take the women out of the home again.
But most of all, what must strike us in the study of women and war is the absolute necessity for working class movements against imperialist war to reach out consciously for the support of the women. By no means did the bourgeois governments take it for granted that the women would be drawn in through the appeals to the general public; they saw to it that in organization as well as in propaganda there was something special to reach the women wherever they could be found.
We can learn a lot even from the bourgeoisie. Who cannot win the working class women, cannot win the revolution.
The Workers School of the Communist League of Struggle announces that starting the middle of December a special course on “A MARXIST STUDY OF WAR” will be given at 133 Second Avenue, room 24 by Albert Weisbord. The course will be given Fridays, 8:30 to 10 p.m.
TWO BASIC TASKS FOR THE I.W.W.
Before the I.W.W. at the present time there opened up some very favorable opportunities. The big question is, can the I.W.W. take advantage of these opportunities. Will it show that beneath all the blows that have been given to it there still remains a virile organism that can help to solve the problem of the working class where other organizations have failed? This is for time to show. We, on our part, however, would not be doing our duty were we to fail to point out the great chances for growth which exist at the present time for the I.W.W. both in private industry and among the State Relief Projects for the Unemployed.
First in regard to organizing the unorganized in private industry. With the rise of Fascism and the complete breakdown of the Stalinist Party, there has taken place the liquidation of all the so called “Red Unions”, which the Party had formed. Such a move backward has been announced again and again, that the only way to work is in the A.F.L., the “main stream” of the labor movement in this country. Thus the Stalinists, the Socialists, the Workers P arty and other bankrupt politicians here compromised themselves in theory as well as in practice to the abandonment of the organization of industrial unions and have raised high the clamor “Only the A.F.of L. can organize the unorganized; the revolutionists, never.
This leaves a clear field to the I.W.W. Among the marine transport workers, in the lumber camps, in the unorganized mines and industries the I.W.W. will no longer have to contend with the pretensions of the Stalinists, who have all crawled back to the A.F.L. wherever they could. All the phonies, who are at their best when they are in the coffee pots or cafeterias, but who break down completely whenever they are forced to take responsibility for some constructive job, will now be in the A.F. of L. And the fact that the C.P. and S.P. are drawing closer together, with Cannon of the W.P. trying to get into the S.P. and Lovestone of the C.P. Opposition trying to get into the C.P. and Trotsky hollering for organic unity of all forces, all this means that the reformists will be stuck together and hung together for a long time. The I.W.W. could not wish anything better in clearing the atmosphere.
For mind you, the fact that all the r-r-revolutionary groups S.P., C.P., W.P. and W.N’s (What-Nots) have come together, does not mean that the objective forces and contradictions in American life, which called forth revolutionary industrial unionists in the first place are present less than before. Quite the contrary, at the very moment, when all these fakers have shown their true colors, events maturing in this country are rapidly compelling the workers to seek a way out in unions outside and independent of the A.F. of L. Hundreds of thousands of workers are now in independent unions. The company unions so carefully nursed by the big trustified corporations are beginning to demonstrate definite signs of revolt as the recent conference in Pittsburgh showed. All sorts of strikes are taking place spontaneously conducted by local organizations arising for this purpose.
At the same time a definite revolt is brewing inside the A.F.L. We are not speaking here of John L. Lewis or of Sidney Hillman and their fake progressivism, but of the sharp demarcation between the old A.F.L. unions and the Federal Unions that have been established in various basic industries represented in the Pittsburgh Conference where the workers are fighting for genuine industrial unionism and would be willing to link up with any national fighting body ready to build them up into regular organizations that could effectively struggle against the national network of factories controlled by their employers.
Behind all of this is the rapidly growing maturity and collective spirit of solidarity manifested by the workers. National strikes, general strikes in cities, mass boycott, demonstrations and struggles of all sorts have shown clearly that the old order is passing. Before the workers stand the alternatives of Fascism or united revolutionary struggle of the workers leading to full power over the industries. Now, if we sum up all of this, the sharpening background leading to deeper class struggles, the spontaneous strikes, the movements among the independent unions, the federal and the company unions, we find that there exists glowing opportunities indeed for work by the I.W.W.
Now, how can the I.W.W. take advantage of these opportunities? It is very clear that it cannot go to these other organizations and demand that they adhere completely and all at once to all of the principles embodied in the I.W.W. This would be a sectarian foolishness and rigidity of approach that could gain for the I.W.W. nothing but enemies. What is necessary here above all is for the I.W.W. to take such a flexible approach to these other organizations as will win them to its side in actual struggle. The I.W.W. has this tremendous advantage that it and it alone for so many years has held aloft the red banner of industrial class struggle unionism. All the heroic battles that it led, all the propaganda for its principles of militant industrial unionism, all the exposure of the A.F.L. bureaucrats and the aristocratic craft union set-ups have not been in vain. The I.W.W. can still capitalize on the standing and prestige, which it formerly won for itself. If now the I.W.W. can show that it is not merely a revolutionary propaganda society, but a regular union that can talk to other organized labor bodies in a reasonable and patient way, a good deal can be done.
What the I.W.W. must do is to concentrate its forces, whatever can possibly be spared from the actual strike and pressing organization work itself, to make contact with all the independent and federal local unions throughout the country. Such organizations as the Mechanics Educational Society of Detroit and the Progressive Wine Workers and similar bodies especially must be contacted for the purpose of laying the basis for a national conference to be held in Chicago or some Midwestern heavy industrial city to organize a new national trade union center for militant industrial unionism. At the present time this is the crying need of the hour.
The call for the convention should not be issued by the I.W.W. alone, but should be signed jointly by as many influential independent organizations as can be drawn in. By no means must the I.W.W. which can furnish the basic driving force for such a conference and will have the best traditions of all to carry on the work, try to monopolize the conference in a narrow organizational manner. Quite the contrary, a broad agenda must be worked out and full democratic discussions permitted. The I.W.W. must be prepared at times to modify some of its old positions and formulae on certain questions as to the exact form and functioning of militant industrial unionism. In this way, the I.W.W. can act as a sort of big brother to the whole movement and be received as first among equals.
Should the I.W.W. live up to the present situation there is no doubt, but that the conference of independent unions to set up a national militant industrial union center can be as important historically as the 1905 convention, which founded the I.W.W. itself. No time should be lost if the fake moves of Lewis, Hillman, Dubinsky, MacMahon and Co. are to be defeated and the workers set on the right track.
The second basic task before the I.W.W. is the organization of a National Workers Industrial Union. Here, too, the field is practically clear since none of the existing labor organizations have seriously attempted the job. Nor do any of them intend to build industrial unions.
What are the underlying principles behind the organization of the unemployed project workers? We can sketch them briefly as follows: The projects must be considered as one gigantic industry run by a single employer, the State. It will not do to put the workers on the projects in with the workers in private industry, since their hours, working conditions and wages will be quite dissimilar and they will have an entirely different employer to face. It will not do to put the project workers in with the regular state employees since they are separated from regular state functionaries, and even workers by an enormous gulf and in no respect have similar problems.
Accordingly it is not correct for the I.W.W. to try to organize the project workers into a particular I.U. already existing or even in a given department, but a whole dual set-up must be established. Project workers departments and I.U.’s being established similar to the ones now functioning for private industry. it is a mistake to try to crowd 2 1/2 million W.P.A. or other project workers into “Branch 650” of the I.W.W. or even into a separate department.
Of course such a plan will modify considerably the old “chart” of the I.W.W. However, more profound than this, the fact that the I.W.W. will go in to organize millions of workers now being regimented by the State must modify considerably the conception of the role of the State as it has been formerly considered. The I.W.W. must become prepared to meet an enormous growth of State capitalism in the United States. This immense growth is here with us to stay. The United States cannot return to the dole. It must continue the work relief, either on the present boondoggling and wasteful basis or in the form of concentration camps and barracks for the workers along the line of Hitler and Mussolini.
The I.W.W. must be prepared to see that more and more the employer and the State will tend to become identical and that even the struggle for the improvement of masses of workers will have to lead it into a direct and physical struggle against the State, not merely as the agent of the employers but as the employer itself.
Such a plan for the formation of a national industrial Project Workers Union has immense chances for success. It is the sort of organization that alone can fill the immediate needs of the millions of workers now put to work by the State on the projects. The I.W.W. must consider its chance and act quickly. It must not wait too long.
A special convention of the I.W.W. should be held to consider the matter of the basic tasks of the I.W.W. in the light of the enormous changes now taking place in this country.
I RESIGN FROM THE COMMUNIST PARTY
Statement to the Communist Party U.S.A., district 2, Section 16, Unit 3
I hereby resign from the Communist party. The policies, which the Communist Parties under the guiding hand of Stalin have been pursuing are now revealed as reformist and nationalist, and as such I feel that, as a revolutionary worker, the Communist Party is no longer worthy of support.
The Soviet Union has but recently entered into what now stands exposed as the infamous Franco-Soviet Pact. Here is a quotation from the official Communique: “In this regard M. Stalin understands and fully approves the national defense policy of France in keeping her armed forces at a level required for security.” This harnesses the French Communist Party to the French Imperialist machine, which forbids the French Communist Party from carrying on any real anti-military work. They can no longer fight for the defeat of the French capitalist army. They can no longer fight the government. No longer can they carry on the class struggle. Now that the C.P.F. is attaining unity with the French Socialist Party, now that they have crawled into an alliance with the French Radical Socialists in order to sneak into the government they become the agents of the French Capitalists themselves.
Although completely unable to help the German workers in their revolutionary situation in 1932, the Communists display ample resourcefulness in helping the French Government in their difficulties with the workers in 1935.
Coincident with the France-Soviet Pact, they have the policy of supporting the League of Nations’ sanctions (both economic and military). There is the scandalous situation of the British Communists supporting war, Imperialist War, in the name of peace. In the United States the Communist Party has become the supporter of the Roosevelt regime and every other capitalist politician, whom they can call “liberal". They support Marcantonio, they support Olson, they support Mc Levy. They are repeating—in short—in all of its viciousness, all the rotten reformism of the Socialist Party and all other elements of the petty bourgeoisie.
All this nationalism—whether of the French, British or American variety—has for its base the theory of “Socialism in one country”, the Stalinist, Russian variety of nationalist opportunism. Because of the theory of Socialism in one country the Soviet Union has ceased being the driving force of world revolution. Thus Stalin and the Communist International have sacrificed the German Revolution, the Cuban Revolution, the French Revolution, all in the name of “defending” the Soviet Union. The French bourgeoisie will not defend the Soviet Union, nor will the League of Nations, nor will the diplomatic maneuvers with Roosevelt. None of these, but only the sharpest, intransigent international class struggle will defend the Soviet Union. This sort of struggle the degenerate Communist International is no longer capable of leading. It is only outside the ranks of the C.I. that a beginning has been made to redress the ranks of genuine Communism built on a Marxist-Leninist basis. Such a grouping is the Communist League of Struggle and in leaving the C.P., I take the occasion to urge all workers to do what I am doing: JOIN THE COMMUNIST LEAGUE OF STRUGGLE (Internationalist-Communist) and fight for the building up of a genuine Communist Fourth International for the world Revolution.
November 19, 1935 (signed) David Fields
MARX AND ENGELS ON DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT
by Nathan Schwartz
In a footnote to an article entitled “Workers Democracy” written as a reply to Nerberg by Professor Sidney Hook and published in the June issue of “Modern Monthly”, we read the following statement: “…In no published writing does Marx use the expression ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. It occurs only twice in his unpublished manuscripts: Once in a private letter to Weydemeyer; and once in his criticism of the Goethe Program. Engels used the expression only once in his printed works and he cites the Paris Commune as an illustration of what it represents…” We aim to prove that the Mr. PROF. is definitely mistaken.
In the by-laws or constitution of “The world League of Revolutionary Communism 1850”, clause (1) reads as follows: “The aim of the Association is the downfall of all the privileged classes and the subjection of these classes to the dictatorship of the proletariat by the maintenance of the revolution in permanence until the realization of Communism, which must be the final form of the organization of the human community.” Clause (5) “All the members of the League swear to maintain paragraph ONE of the present rules in its fullest sense. Any modification which might result in a weakening of the aims expressed in this paragraph releases the members of the League from their engagement.” (signed by J. Vidil, Adam, August Willich, G. Julian Harvey, K. Marx and Fr. Engels.)
In his address to the League of Communists, (1850) Marx said, “… It is not in the power of the workers to hinder the lower middle classes from doing this, but it is within their power to render their success over the armed proletariat very difficult, to dictate to them such conditions that from the beginning the rule of the middle class democrats is doomed to failure, and its later substitution by the role of the proletariat is considerable facilitated.”
In the “Rules and Constitution of the Communist League” (1850) we find, “Article (1) The aim of the league is the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the establishment of the role of the proletariat, the abolition of the bourgeois social order founded upon class antagonisms and the inauguration of a new social order wherein there shall be neither classes nor private property.” Article (4): “All who enter the league shall assume special membership names.”
On November 6, 1849, after the fall of Vienna, Marx wrote, “With the victory of the ‘Red Republic’ in Paris the armies from the utmost recesses of every land will be vomited forth upon the boundaries and over them, and the real strength of the combatants will clearly appear. Then we shall remember June and October, and we too, shall cry, “Woe to the vanquished". The fruitless butcheries, which have occurred since those June and October days… will convince the people that there is only one means of shortening, simplifying, and concentrating the torturing death agonies of society—only one means—revolutionary terrorism.”
In an article by Marx in January, 1873, entitled, “On Political Indifference”, he said, “Then the political struggle of the working class assumes a revolutionary form, when in place of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie they set up their own revolutionary dictatorship, then they commit the frightful crime of insulting the principles; for by satisfying their lamentable, profane daily needs, by breaking the resistance of the bourgeoisie, they give to the state and revolutionary and transitory form instead of laying down their arms and abolishing the state…”
In the “Paris Commune”, Marx said, “When the workers put into the place of the Dictatorship of the bourgeoisie their Revolutionary Dictatorship in order to break down the resistance of the bourgeoisie, the workers invest the state with revolutionary and temporary form.”
In the “Class Struggles in France 1846-51”, Marx says on page 165 of the S.L.P. edition, “Only the fall of Capital will enable the peasants to rise, only an anti-capitalist, proletarian government will break his economic misery and social degradation. The Constitutional republic, that is, the dictatorship of his united exploiters; the social democratic, the red republic, that is, the dictatorship of his allies, the proletariat.”
Page 174: “While the rivalry between the various socialist chiefs is going on with regard to the excellence of their so called systems as transition stages to social reconstruction, the proletariat is rallying more and more around the revolutionary socialism, around communism, for which the bourgeoisie has invented the name Bianquism. This socialism is the declaration of the permanence of the Revolution: The class dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary (needful) transition stage to the abolition of all class distinction, toward the abolition of all conditions of production upon which they rest, toward the abolition of all the social relations conforming to these conditions of production, toward the transformation of all ideas that proceed from these social relations.”
On another page of the above book, Marx said, “In the place of the reform demands, which is rhetorical language looked big enough, but in essence were insignificant and of a bourgeois character, and which they tried to extract from the February Republic—in the place, I say, of such demands, the bold revolutionary battle cry was heard, “Overthrow of the Bourgeoisie! Dictatorship of the Proletariat.”
In 1873, in an article to the Italian paper, “Plebs”, Marx, arguing against the Anarchist and Bakuninist anti-State propaganda, asked what crime there was against the spirit of communism, if at the final victorious revolutionary struggle of the working class, “we are determined to put in the place of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, the dictatorship of the proletariat.”
We shall now add the two sources generally known. Marx to Weydemeyer, 1852, “…the class struggle leads necessarily to the dictatorship of the Proletariat; that this Dictatorship is but the transition to the abolition of all classes and to the creation of a society of free and equal men.”
The most detailed of all of Marx’s statements is contained in his “Critique of the Gotha Program": “What we are dealing with here is a Communist society, not as it is just issuing out of capitalist society, hence, a society that still retains in every respect economic, moral and intellectual, the birthmarks of old society from whose womb it is issuing. Accordingly, the individual producer gets back after the deductions exactly as much as he give to it. What he has given to it is his individual share of labor…
“Evidently, there prevails here the same principle that today regulates the exchange of equivalents….But these shortcomings are unavoidable in the first phase of Communist society, as it has just issued from capitalist society after long travail.
“What then, is the change, which the institution of the State will undergo in a communistic society? In other words, what social functions, analogous to the present functions of the State, will remain there? This question can be answered only by proceeding scientifically; the problem is not brought one flea’s leap nearer its solution by a thousand combinations of the word “people” with the word “State".
“Between the capitalist and the Communist system of society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. This corresponds to a political transition period, whose State can be nothing else but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.
Let us now go to Engels for a few other references.
Engels to Duehring: “Force is the tool by means of which social development takes place and smashes petrified antiquated political forms. Of that Her Duehring has no word to say. Only with sighs and groans does he admit the possibility that force may be necessary for the overthrow of the economic system of exploitation.
Engels to Bebel (March 28, 1875): “Since the State is only a temporary institution which is to be made use of in struggle in the revolution, in order forcibly to suppress the opponents, it is perfectly absurd to talk about a free popular State; so long as the proletariat still needs the State it needs it not in the interest of Freedom, but in order to suppress its opponents, and when it becomes possible to speak of freedom, the state as such ceases to exist.”
Preface to “Paris Commune”, page 20, S.L.P. edition: “In reality, the State is nothing more than an apparatus for the oppression of one class by another in a democratic republic not a whit less than in a monarchy. At best the State is an evil inherited by the proletariat after coming out victorious in the struggle for class supremacy. The victorious proletariat just like the Commune will be obliged immediately to amputate the worse features of this evil, until such time as a new generation, brought up under new and free social conditions, will prove capable of throwing on the dump heap all the useless old rubbish of State organization.”
Engels to the American Socialist, Van Patton (April 18, 1883). “Marx and I from 1845 have always held the view that ONE of the final results of the coming proletarian revolution will be the gradual dissolution and eventual disappearance of the political organization whose chief aim has always been to guarantee by means of armed force the oppression of the toiling majority by the possessing minority. With the disappearance of the property owning minority disappears also the necessity for an armed state force serving the ends of suppression. At the same time, we also considered that in order to attain this, as well as other far more important aims of the coming social revolution, the proletariat will, from the beginning, have to seize into its hands organized political State power and with its help smash the resistance of the capitalist class and reorganize society. This is all explained in the Communist Manifesto of 1847 at the end of the second chapter. The anarchists stand this question on its head. They say that the proletarian revolution must begin with the abolition of the political organization of the State. But after the victory of the proletariat, the State is the only organization, which the working class can take in its hands and get going. Maybe that State needs immediately big changes before it can fulfill its new functions. But to smash it altogether at such a moment could mean to break the only instrument through which the victorious proletariat can realize its newly conquered power, suppress its capitalist enemies and carry through that economic revolution in society without which victory must inevitably end in the defeat and wholesale massacre of the workers, as was the case after the Paris Commune".
Principle of Authority (1873): “…Have you ever witnessed a revolution, gentlemen? A revolution is certainly the most authoritative thing that there is, an act by which a portion of the population forces its will upon the other portion by rifles, bayonets and cannon, all very authoritative means. And the victorious party must maintain its rule by the terror that its weapons inspire in the reactionaries. And if the Paris Commune had not made use of the authority of an armed people against the bourgeoisie, would it have lasted longer than a day? Conversely, can we not reproach it for having used too little of this authority? Hence we face an inevitable alternative: Either the anti-authoritarians do not themselves know what they are talking about and in that case they are only creating confusion, or they do know, and in that case they are betraying the cause of the proletariat. In either case they are only serving the reaction.”
Engels to Conrad Schmidt (October 27, 1890): “…Or why do we fight for the political dictatorship of the proletariat if political power is economically impotent? Force (that is State power) is also an economic power.”
Engels to Kautsky (June 29, 1891): “…If one thing is certain it is that our Party and the working class can only come to power under the form of the democratic republic. This is even (precisely) the specific form for the dictatorship of the proletariat as the great French Revolution has already shown…”
In his last written word as an introduction to the “Class Struggles in France” (written 1895) Engles said: “By no means did we, after the defeats of 1849, share the illusions of vulger democracy about the provisional future governments. These reckoned with an imminent, once for all, decisive victory of the “people” over its “oppressors"; we reckoned with a long struggle after the elimination of the oppressors among the antagonistic elements concealed among that very “people".”
THREE REPORTS ON UNEMPLOYED WORK
THE UNITED FRONT CONFERENCE ON UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
On Saturday, November 16th, was held an “Emergency Conference on Unemployment Relief” called by the Association of Workers in Public Relief Agencies (AWPRA). This conference was noteworthy solely because for the first time 987 were gathered together (among others) delegates from the Socialist controlled Workers Alliance with the Unemployment Councils, the Project Workers Union and the City Projects Council groups dominated by the Communist Party. The C.P., by maneuvering the conference call through the Relief Bureau Workers Association was able to initiate the basis of a United Front in accordance with the new change in party line—a thing which they had not been able to achieve through the Unemployment Councils.
That the S.P. did not wholly relish this stratagem may be inferred from the remarks of Lasser—National Chairman of the Workers Alliance—who told the 230 delegates from 62 organizations (170 branches), who were assembled that “the calling and the arrangements of this conference are mistakes…Its basis is too narrow…too few organizations are represented. The Trade Unions are missing. The conference was called by one organization only and then a year later than the forming of the Citizens Conference on Unemployment.” (Socialist dominated), without including which the present conference could not be a people’s conference.
Bernard Riback, Executive Secretary of the AWPRA presented the main report and proposed a program, which had for its main emphasis a “People’s Social Security Program” and favored a “Progressive Public Works program”, with “Socially Necessary Projects only". This “people’s” orientation was seconded by Sam Wiseman, Secretary of the Unemployment Councils, who urged that the conference include “all people…small business men…Democratic, Republican, Fusion Clubs and religious groups.” (With such an orientation it is not difficult to understand how the Unemployment Council recently was led to propose to the Workers Alliance a united front to defend an eviction case, which upon investigation by the Local of the Workers Alliance, turned out to be that of a small candy store proprietor.)
The main resolution was an elaborate document embracing the entire program proposed by Riback. Milton C. York, Chairman of the Unemployment Council proposed as an amendment “Open the closed factories to the unemployed”, which seemed to mean merely another EPIC or Hopkins Plan of limited state capitalism. The writer of this note proposed a substitute amendment: “Open the Warehouses to the Hungry; Open the Factories to the Unemployed; Workers Control Over Production.” At this the r-r-revolutionary C.P. delegates dropped their jaws in an astonished, “Oh!”, which spread through the room. There was no discussion. The Stalinist machine referred all proposals together with the main resolution back to the resolutions committee and to an enlarged Presidium, which were kept alive as a continuation body, which was instructed to seek unity with the Citizens Conference on Unemployment. —M.B.
HOW THE COMMUNIST PARTY WORKS IN THE ARTISTS UNION
“We wish to do the best work we are capable of. We expect ALL (not only those in the Union, note-A.S.) workers on #1262 to conscientiously perform all their duties to the best of their ability and to be alert for opportunities to extend the usefulness of the project.”
This advice to the artist is from the C.P. controlled project #1262 Bulletin, an organ of the Artists Union. From the above quotation it is apparent that the Artists Union is interested in being the unofficial agent (efficiency experts) of the Roosevelt regime.
“We want work”, they shout, as if the lack of work caused the crisis. As if the average worker does not know that he has already produced too much! Now the C.P. tells these workers that they must beg for more work to get a little of the surplus they have already produced. And if they get work the Communist Party will do its best to see that they do a full days work. If we do a good days work and do it well the C.P. says the administration will extend the projects. So, be nice, suggest work to be done, and always be on the alert for the useful extension of the project. As if any of the work being done on any of the projects is useful as far as the workers are concerned.
To see how degenerate and servile the Communist Party has become one has only to attend a meeting or two of the Artists Union, where the members are addressed as Mr. and not as fellow worker or brother. At one meeting the question of shorter hours came up. The Communist Party faction argued that the reason to be given the administration is that “the members need time to practice their craft.”
A motion made to ask for the prevailing rate of pay, which would have cut the hours in half automatically and given every one plenty of time to practice—if that was what they really wanted—was fought and shouted down by them.
One thing that is noticed very soon in this union is the difference between the C.P. members and their class sympathizers and rank and file members. Some of the sympathizers and C.P. members—it is very difficult to distinguish between the two—who a short time ago were running around with spinach on their chins, long hair and queer clothes, with a line of patter about inspirational art, looking for a patron so that they could be flunkies to the wealthy, as most of the artists have been in the past.
Only a short time ago these freaks discovered revolutionary art and they have brought quite a lot of phony ideas into the Artists Union with them. These freaks know that they are not capable of creating revolutionary art as their background is against them. So they try to foist on the members the idea that all one needs is an inspiration. After seeing the work turned in by sculptors on the project one sees little or no revolutionary art. It seems that they are all waiting for an inspiration. But in the meantime in the realm of art, some of them have gone back to Louis XV of France.
Any revolutionary art will be done by the worker artist (sculptor and painter) in the Artists Union and not by these elements, who have put on the red overcoat in exchange for the yellow one, which fitted them so well. —A.S.
“REVOLUTIONARY” WORK AMONG THE PROJECT TEACHERS
In an effort to find jobs for the host of college and professional people who are victims of the depression, the W.P.A. has placed a number of these unemployed on projects controlled by the Board of Education, such as remedial Reading, Coaching in Spanish, Science, History, French, Economics, etc. The entire set of projects has been arranged in the most haphazard manner possible. The complete lack of facilities in the schools, the callousness of the authorities, the manner in which the projects have been conceived and are being carried out, all contribute to make the entire work relief project a joke in the eyes of educators and a torture to the unemployed put to work as so called coaches. Everything is done really to prevent the project from being a constructive one and the student helped and the coaches developed. This is, however, just what we can expect from the capitalist State.
No effort has been made to decrease the teaching load on the overworked regular teacher. No effort has been made to increase the number of teachers in the schools, to increase the number of schools, to decrease the number of children in the classes, etc., and to plan in a truly constructive and permanent manner. At the same time, the WPA teachers have been carefully kept from contacting the regular teachers. Rumors are insidiously spread that somehow the WPA teachers are not “quite right”, that they are untrained, unfit, a little loose in morals, etc., etc.
Under pressure of this situation the WPA teachers began to organize into an association, which soon became dominated by the Stalinists and affiliated to the City Projects Council in New York City. How “revolutionary” is the work of the Stalinists can be seen from the fact that every progressive issue, which has been brought forward by the C.L.S. has been fought most bitterly. Under the influence of the Stalinist Party members, the WPA project teachers association is rapidly turning into a company and government union.
The first issue that has come up is the question of endorsing the program of the C.P.C., namely, the fight to make the projects permanent. The Stalinists are vociferous in their praise of the projects, in their praise of the State. Any criticism of the projects, any declaration that under capitalism the State can do nothing really constructive for the masses or for the unemployed has been met with counter charges by the Stalinists that we are in league with Hearst and the Fascists!
At the meeting the question was raised that we fight for the prevailing rate of pay for all WPA workers doing teachers’ or coaches’ work. It was pointed out that this would mean only asking for a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work and that as matters stood, we were menacing the standards of other teachers in the schools. This met with a lot of resistance privately although officially the organization had to go on record as being for it. Yet no real struggle had been made, or in all probability will be made for the prevailing rate of pay.
Instead, in a most sycophantic manner the Stalinist leaders of the Project Association have spent their time in sending letters to high officials begging for the right to get pay during illness and during the time when the schools are being closed for the holidays. In spite of the obsequious letters the Stalinists to date have been unsuccessful both in regard to the sickness (although that right used to be given to the unemployed workers before) and in regard to Thanksgiving. What will happen as to Christmas week is still problematical.
The whole matter of pay has been really forgotten by the Stalinists. They are quite willing to work forever, it seems, for the lousy pay that is handed out to people supposed to be professionals. When the C.L.S. comrade pointed out that the low pay had been given us for the ostensible reason to compel us to look for work in private industry, and when he proposed, therefore, to call the bluff of the government and to demand that we work but four days a week in order to use the fifth day to look for work at the prevailing rate of pay, gasps of horror spread all over the room. In vain he pointed out that already this concession had been won by the workers on project #1262 and by the musicians. They actually declared that if we were to demand less than 30 hours of work a week, the school authorities would be against the project entirely and all would be put out of work again. Besides many of them wanted to work longer hours in order to get “teachers credits”, that is credits that they could use when they became regular teachers!
The reactionary character of the Stalinists was also brought out very clearly on the question of organization. Our comrade made a motion that we fuse our project association with the other educational projects, with the WPA teachers in the elementary schools, with the recreational workers, with the health workers, with the safety workers and lunch room workers, etc., put on by the W.P.A. In other words, the C.L.S. proposed we organize an Educational Project Workers Industrial Union. But do not imagine that these New Masses and Daily Worker readers would think of having one union together with the lunch room workers! If the lunch room workers wanted to organize they could do so separately and then send delegates to the C.P.C. themselves. Or they could be taken into our meetings in the local high schools (which could never be done), but they could not be taken into our own organization and thus fuse all the educational project associations into one. Thus the Stalinist party has come out for craft unions and craft organization even among the unemployed!
The servile class collaboration of the Stalinists was most sharply demonstrated, however, when it was decided to invite Dr. Ernst, leading member of the Board of Education of New York City, to address the project workers. Mr. Ernst, member of the most autocratic anti-labor board in the entire city, Mr. Ernst, responsible for the expulsion of many teachers with labor leanings from the schools, Mr. Ernst, who has the power to fire any teacher and W.P.A. educational worker from the job, this boss and capitalist agent has been invited to “show us how to teach”, and to “increase our professional ability”, so that he would see that the unemployed are docile and thus could argue with the government to make the projects permanent and take the unemployed on the payrolls of the State forever. Such is stinking Stalinism today.—A.M.
RED WITH LAUGHTER—THE CLASS STRUGGLE IN AMERICA
There were skeptics in the old days who doubted that the class struggle existed in America. Those were the times when a Communist couldn’t be anything but a freak shouting revolution from the house tops while the crowd went on its merry way down below. A real Red was a guy who filled his bathtub up with the works of Karl Marx, had no time for a shave and haircut and spent 36 hours a day figuring out how to overthrow the capitalist system in this country.
But times have changed mightily these last 2 1/2 years, since F.D.R. came into power. We always knew that guy would show the world something,—and he has. He has shown us the class struggle in America, naked and unashamed. Here are the bare facts. Maybe Beatrice Fairfax will tell us what to do.
Revolution is abroad in the land today. Somebody is calling for wide-spread strikes to stop exports to Italy,—not merely munitions shipments, mind you, but all exports. And, who is this revolutionist? Is it dizzy Amter maybe, or Earl Browder, or some other big shot of the C.P.? Not on your life. It’s Miss Frances Perkins, F.D.R’s Secretary of Labor. In a shrill New England treble she’s calling on the Workers to go the limit. “The general strike or bust”, will be the slogan if this dame gets her way. Maybe those birds were not so cuckoo after all, who put her on a red list last year.
But “We Want Work”, is the cry of the Stalinists. “Haven’t we loafed long enough? Who says strikes? Unemployment has lasted too long and strikes only increase the number to be fed. Work or Wages! Put the Bankers on Relief and give us JOBS!” These are the shouts that are getting up from the hoarse throats of all members of the Unemployment Councils, the Workers Alliance, the C.P., and all down the line.
“Strikes are all right for such like Miss Perkins”, whines Earl Browder enviously. “She gets her pork chops just the same. But who’s going to feed the strikers once they come out? Don’t call on us for this. Our little subsidy is barely enough to keep ourselves and the Daily Worker going. And we’re going to put out a Sunday edition yet! And after all, strikes only lead to riots and everybody knows that only agent provocateurs want this. Look what happened to Brest and Toulen in France. The French C.P. put down the riots there and we here did our best to put down the Harlem riots. Such disturbances can only lead to Fascism. And besides, it’s so undignified. We’re against it!”
“Keep the United States out of war”, is the slogan of the President (remembering how Wilson got himself re-elected to that same tune and forgetting to mention what happened subsequently). But Mr. Roosevelt as a pacifist propagandist pales besides Mrs. Roosevelt. There’s a President’s wife for you! If he gets in again she’ll be the one who’ll clean up the votes for him. She’s flying all over the country and she’s speaking over the radio and she’s speaking to college girls and she’s speaking to Tired Business Women’s Clubs and she’s telling everybody that war is not to be thought of.
But the Stalinists!—those babies are girding up their loins in the American League for War and Fascism (excuse us, against War and Fascism) and they’re hollering for sanctions, sanctions and still more sanctions! Apply military force against military force and you’ll get peace. We hope the inescapable logic of this argument is crystal clear even though its Marxism may be a bit dullish.
And then there is the whole matter of the Constitution and the New Deal. Those were dark days indeed in these United States, when Hoover crept out of the White House with his tail between his legs and sneaked out to California (and now he’s sneaking back into the limelight again but that’s another story). Then franklin D. Roosevelt took the helm in those days of March, 1933 and announced the New Deal for the Forgotten Man and at once new light and new hope began to shine forth over the land. (If they didn’t last very long it wasn’t his fault nor ours either.) He was going to revolutionize American life and with Labor Codes and six dozen magical alphabetical combinations was going to end poverty forever and bring in a new, better planned Social Order. Many and dire were the changes he brought about in American life. And the Constitution? --Oh well, that, you know, as some of the Congressmen and F.D.R.’s Brain Trusters would say, the Constitution was a vehicle for horse and buggy days.
But they all reckoned without their Browders. For now up pops the C.P. and resolves to stand by the Constitution at any cost. Revolution?—hush, comrade,—or rather, pardon me, Friend—don’t talk so loud. You might antagonize the workers, or maybe the authorities, or at any rate somebody. This is the period of democratic government in America and a few remaining countries. And democracy is against Fascism and so are we (it would hit us on the head, you know, and suppress the Daily Worker and cut off connections with Moscow and then where would we be?) So it follows, doesn’t it, that we’re for Democracy? And so, back to the Constitution, back to the flag, back to 1776, back to Christ, back to Methusala, back to anything you like but for Christ’s sake, don’t get excited and lose your head and don’t spring those idiotic proposals like a general strike or revolutionary unionism or such infantile leftism. We’re against all that. Now we’re for unity at any price and with anybody who’ll have us—with Norman Thomas and with Harriet and with Chiang Kai Chek and with Lovestone. We’re for the Franco-Soviet Pact. We’re for sanctions, we’re for work. We’re for the army, for the Navy and the League of Nations!”
“Whats all this talk about Socialism in the Roosvelt regime? Don’t they know that our revered and beloved leader Stalin (loud applause) said there could only be Socialism in One Country, that one being Russia? And now here you are talking about Socialism in Two Countrys—and that simultaneously! Don’t mention it out loud, comrade—pardon me, Friend—it’s heresy, it’s against the line and you’ll be expelled”
We see now why Amter (we almost forget, our revered and beloved leader, I. Amter) took exception to the Bill in the United States Senate calling for a thirty hour week for the workers in the United States. In a brilliantly executed speech Amter showed how the Soviet Union had only the seven hour day (not counting overtime) and how could anybody even think about the six hour day here, What, capitalism beating the Soviets? And Socialism in TWO countries? No comrades,—er, friends, it is clear we must have the seven hour day in the United States.”
But let us not be discouraged. For we know that Governor Earl of Pennsylvania in a recent debate called for the abolition of wage slavery in the United States. And didn’t General Smedley Butler say he would never take up another gun….
It is the same in the unemployment work. Roosevelt has declared that the state cannot serve a permanent constructive purpose. The burden is on private industry. The workers have produced the factories in the hands of the owners and the owners of private industry must open the factories to the workers they have locked out. “In order to stimulate the workers to look for work outside”, Roosevelt is not paying the prevailing wage scale but far less and is refusing to run into competition with private industry.
The Communist Party is in agreement with Roosevelt in not running in competition with private owners of industry. They are also quite satisfied with the wages. However, they disagree violently with Roosevelt on his estimation of the State. The State can serve a very constructive purpose, say the Stalinists. The Projects are excellent. We have no major fault to find with them. Only we wish to make them permanent. “Make the Projects Permanent. Put every unemployed worker to work on State projects. We are sick of relief, give us work.” These are the slogans of the C.P. The C.P. bitterly resents the idea that the money is used for boondoggling. There is no boondoggling on the projects or wastefulness. Our fight with Roosevelt is that we want more projects of the same kind and we want them to last forever.
Along with this, the C.P. has practically dropped the fight for unemployment insurance and adequate relief. We are sick of relief they cry. Put the Bankers on relief. In order to oblige the Communists, so much does Roosevelt fear them, the Administration has given vast relief funds to bankers and cut out the dole completely. The C.P. is hailing this as a great victory for their principles. At the same time it is forcing the hand of the Administration by insisting on working no less than 30 hours a week on the project and turning down any demand for a four day week so that the fifth day could be used to look for work in private and regular industry. The C.P. is seeing to it that all the workers are efficient at their work and have raised the slogan, “No rest for the weary. We want work.”
Even in the unions the fight is raging to the breaking point. General Hugh Johnson has called on the workers to abandon craft unionism and turn to vertical unionism as a better method of organization for the workers. The craft unions are as out of date as the constitutions. They can no longer serve the purpose of the workers. Against this the C.P. is putting up a sharp battle. They are liquidated all their industrial unions and have come out for the A.F.L. “Back to the A.F.L. and Craft Unionism”, is the battle cry of the C.P.
The outcome of these fierce struggles will be awaited with great interest by all who find pleasure in comic opera.—Minnie Miller
WAR AND CIVIL LIBERTIES (IV) by Robert Barnett
In the past issues of the “Class Struggle”, we have written at great length on the technique, which the government evolved during the war to suppress all civil liberties that hampered either the mad pursuit for profits or the successful destruction of the lives of the workers. It is perhaps advisable at this point to summarize briefly the various methods, which were contrived for this purpose before we proceed to analyze the developments of the post war period.
The final technique devised by the war lords can be divided roughly into two main classifications. First, we have the use of old tested modes of action which are extended in scope, but are in form, no different from the usual procedure followed in peace time, i.e. we have a mere expansion of the old suppressive mechanisms of the state. It is a well recognized fact that throughout the nation, especially in sections like California, the coal and steel towns of Pennsylvania and the industrial centers of Northern New Jersey, there takes place continually the most flagrant violations of rights guaranteed by the Constitution. A consultation of the latest year book of the American Civil Liberties Union, will prove this conclusively. During the war, however, these more or less isolated and sporadic incidents were coordinated into a national system. It then became possible to say that at all times, at all places and in all matters involving civil rights, the following conditions prevailed:
1. The wanton and consistent disregard of the law as the constitutional requirements of arrest, search and seizure, etc.
2. The development of a rubber stamp court procedure in which the most reactionary judges presided, professional perjurers supplied the missing elements in the state’s case. Irrelevant testimony was permitted into evidence and witnesses were intimidated.
3. All efforts on the part of the defendants to raise funds for their defense were systematically frustrated by illegal arrests, raids, etc.
4. The imposition of long sentences, heavy fines and special jail treatment calculated to break the spirit of the prisoners.
5. The consolidation of press, pulpit and school to format and instigate acts of individual as well as mob violence in order to overcome the expression of unpopular views which might lead to action on the part of the workers.
All this, however, was merely the quantitative extension of methods to which the United States has long been accustomed. On the other hand, the war saw the introduction of new and quality changes in the technique of suppression. These are:
1. The perversion of the plain purport of ordinary peace time legislation in order to encompass activities, which were not intended to be included therein.
2. The passage of new and unprecedented federal legislation to suppress all forms of anti-war sentiment.
3. The enactment of State Statutes paralleling those of Congress thus creating a division of labor, double jeopardy and an additional repressive force.
4. The creation of a self supporting, independent and absolutely private agencies numbering hundreds of thousands of members pledged to spy on their neighbors.
6. The widespread use of advertising by the government in order to turn the petty bourgeoisie into the bloodhounds of dissenters.
7. The conversion of the AFL into an integral part of the governmental apparatus and the prevention of any criticism of the leadership.
8. The development of a special strike strategy entailing the creation of labor boards in certain industries with an “impartial” compulsory arbitration which made strikes against the awards a direct interference with the war and therefore an act against the government.
9. The use of new penalties for striking e.g. the threat to remove industrial exemptions, the refusal to give work in any industry engaged in supplying the government.
10. The employment of military promulgations like the, “Work or Fight”, rule to prevent increases in wages, decreases in hours, unionization, discrimination against the Negro, etc.
11. Special class legislation throwing the greatest part of the war burden on the workers. For example, the latest and superficially unapparent distinctions made in the draft law between worker and capitalist.
12. The revocation of citizenship for anti-war activity.
13. The segregation of enemy aliens and the imposition of special restrictions upon the movements of others.
14. The employment of the control over the mails as a means of securing a far reaching censorship.
The Adaptation of the War Technique to the Post War Period
With the declaration of peace on November 11, 1918, few of these activities of the government ceased. Freedom of the press, speech and assemblage, through one means or another, continued to be denied. Radical papers were barred from the mails for a long time after the fighting stopped. The New York “Call” for 13 months continued to circulate without the aid of the post office. Even as late as 1930 the Postmaster, under one of the sections of the Espionage law which was incorporated into the United States Criminal Code, proceeded to declare “Revolutionary Age”, “Younger Worker”, “Young Pioneer”, “Vida Obera”, “Labor Sports Monthly” and “Cultura Proletaria” unmailable, Judge Woolsey holding that the constitutional guarantee of a free press did not include the free right to use the mails.
Nineteen days after the signing of the armistice, Dr. Morris Zucker, a prominent Socialist, was sentenced to serve fifteen years in prison for a speech in which he stated that more than one half of the world had pledged allegiance to the Red flag of international Socialism and that while he had claimed exemption under the draft law he would gladly fight in the class war of the German Revolution.
Interned alien enemies remained in confinement. The names of those of anarchist or revolutionary tendency were turned over to the Secretary of Labor and deportation warrants were issued for them. (Annual report—Attorney General, 1916). Prosecutions for acts committed during the war continued since reports of violations were received by the Department of Justice for a long time after the armistice. (Annual report—Attorney General, 1919). Victor Berger, A. Germer, J.L. Engdahl, W.E. Kruse, and John Tucker, prominent members of the Socialist Party and I.W.W. were among those tried in 1919 for acts perpetrated during hostilities. Unlike what happened in foreign countries no amnesty for political prisoners was declared. Although England, Italy, Germany and the Governments of central Europe had freed their political prisoners almost immediately upon the signing of the armistice, the United States kept at least 1500 men in jail. Very subtly the United States denied that these men had committed mere political offenses and contended that no distinction could be made between them and other violators of the law.
America, it seems, grown less democratic each year for even Lincoln decreed an amnesty for all those, except office holders, who had borne arms against the United States and these were released by his successor. In fact, the government went so far as to use the Espionage Act to convict Socialists who requested the granting of the freedom to political prisoners. (Chaffee—Freedom of Speech pg. 229). When the United States finally released the remaining prisoners on Christmas day 1923, there still remained 116 in state jails, who were not affected by the President’s order. Furthermore, while European countries have restored all civil privileges to its political offenders, those convicted under the Espionage and related acts to this day do not have the right to vote, hold office, serve on juries, etc.
Teachers, who attempted to tell the truth concerning conditions in Russia, were quickly eliminated from the School System. To say, as Benjamin Glassberg did, that the newspapers printed falsehoods and suppressed the facts concerning Russia and that officials returning from that country were not allowed to tell the truth about the Bolshevicks, was sufficient to merit suspension without pay for “conduct unbecoming a teacher". So reactionary was the administration that the recommendation of “Jean Christopher”, an innocuous novel on the prescribed list, resulted in another teacher losing his job. A new syllabus was introduced which compelled teachers to retail “in the most efficient and inspiring manner” falsifications of this type:
"When the men (Lenin and Trotsky) attained power, they betrayed their country into the hands of Germany. German agents, posing as revolutionists misled the credulous; the ignorant manner, drunk with their new liberty, cast aside all discipline and order….”
In fact, in several respects the situation immediately after the signing of the armistice grew worse. Instead of mere individual or mob violence, the state openly utilized the militia (in combination with hooligan elements) to suppress undesirable opinions. Previously the government could claim that lawless elements beyond its control were employed to break up demonstration of the class conscious workers. Even the celebration of peace was taboo if it was the workers who attempted to do the celebrating. In New York City a parade of Socialists marching to Carnegie hall to rejoice over the termination of the war, was attacked by soldiers and sailors. In Minneapolis, the National Guard and the Motor Reserve Corps attacked a meeting called to acclaim the victory of the working class of Europe. The soldiers met the parade head-on and beat the demonstrators with their rifle butts. According to a letter written by one of the spectators to the New Republic of December 7, 1918, the most offensive of these banners carried the inscription, “We demand our constitutional rights". Crowds that attended meetings called on behalf of Tom Mooney were waylaid and beaten. This is the method adopted by the Fascists in France today.
On May 1, 1919 the terror, which in the interim had partly subsided, again flared up, partially as a result of the Department of Justice advertising that a great outburst of Reds was to take place on that day. (Ralston’s testimony before Judiciary Comm. (Senate) 66:3 pgs 273-274) Hundreds of paraders throughout the nation were brutally beaten and many of them received permanent injuries. Two men were killed and a girl blinded. In Cleveland the authorities went so far as to call out tanks in order to quell these traditional demonstrations of the workers. In Roxbury, Ma., gangs armed with clubs made of iron pipe and under soldier-sailor leadership attacked a group of the Lettish Working Mens Association marching from one meeting to another with a red flag, which was to be used at the meeting. Although the march was in reality a part of the general flow of traffic the police demanded a permit. When the license was not forthcoming, the procession was ordered to disperse and shortly afterwards attacked by the police with the assistance of the mob. Since many of the workers were injured by the brutality of the mobilized crowd this enabled the state to have a great number of the workers brought to trial. While no law existed in Massachusetts making the display of the red flag illegal, the judge said, “The red flag means revolution, nothing else, and the day for the red flag is past in America. It means bloodshed; it cannot be interpreted otherwise… Having the red flag is a breach of peace.” He therefore sentenced many of the marchers to imprisonment from one half a year to a year and a half.
From August 1918 to February 1919, the hall of the Butte Union of the I.W.W. was mobbed by agents of the employers and soldiers acting without warrant but on the authority of the federal government. Uniformed soldiers armed to the hilt destroyed property, searched people, insulted men and arrested everyone whom they suspected. And this was merely because the Union agitated for better working conditions in the mines.
On Armistice Day, 1919, at Centralia, Washington, a heroic affair took place which is too little remembered in the East although at the time it attracted considerable international attention. In a sense the Centralia episode climaxed this hectic intermediate period and therefore no review of civil liberties could ignore it even if it did not expose so patiently the heavy handed talents of the bourgeoisie in revising their tactics to meet changed conditions. For a time the I.W.W. had no hall in Centralia due to the intermilitant terror which prevailed as a result of the long and bitter struggle between the lumber workers and the trusts. When the Wobblies determined to open a hall, the authorities immediately met this decision with a resolution to smash the organization in Centralia. For this purpose, Armistice Day was selected and a parade which was to accomplish the demolition of the I.W.W. was scheduled. It is indeed significant that of all the cities in the Northwest, Centralia was the only one to hold such a demonstration. On that day a large quantity of whiskey was freely distributed among the worst elements in the parade and the primed participants started on their way.
The procession detoured from the business section and came to a dead stop in front of the meeting place where a number of the Wobblies had gathered to resist a physical attack. Someone shouted, “Let’s raid the hall.” Dr. Bickford, testifying at the inquest stated, “I would lead if enough would follow, but before I could take the lead, there were many ahead of me. Some one next to me put his foot against the door, and forced it open, after which a shower of bullets poured through the opening about us.” Those killed first were already inside the hall, when shot. In the meleiu, which ensued, Wesley Everest attempted to break away, but was pursued for more than a mile and captured. In the exchange of shots, however, one of the soldiers was killed by Everest. That evening Everest was removed from the jail and placed in a car, where his sexual organs were ripped out. In this condition, Everest was tied to a trestle and kicked off. When it was seen that he still had some life in him, he was hauled up and thrown off again. The next day the limp and mutilated body of Everest was taken back to the jail and shoved into the cell where the defendants were kept.
For two days, the corpse was left to rot in order to frighten the others while from the outside a continual terror was maintained. John Lamb, one of the defendants said that only by crowding close to the wall underneath his bunk was he able to keep out of the range of the guns poked through the window. Mike Sheehan, an old man, only slept three hours in ten days. On November 13, Governor Hart advised all officers to suppress seditious publications. Before a conference of the prosecutors of 39 counties, States Attorney General Thompson outlined a plan to mould public opinion against the I.W.W. and a method of arresting I.W.W.’s in such a way that no attorney would defend them. This scheme was endorsed by the Bar Association and a proposal made to disbar any lawyer, who defended a known Wobbly. In quick order a number of autocratic measures followed. The A.P. press correspondent was driven out of town; the Seattle attorney for the I.W.W. was not permitted to enter; the “Union Record”, which wrote a friendly editorial of a mild character was twice suppressed and refused second class mailing privileges; over a thousand men were arrested through the State without the production of a single warrant.
For an act of self defense in which the Wobblies had wounded four and killed five, ten of them together with their lawyer (who had warned them of the attack) were indicted for murder and brought in trial in Montesano. The presiding judge admitted they could not secure a fair trial, but refused to grant a change of venue. To get a conviction the state employed five prosecutors at the expense of the mine workers, who were threatened with the loss of their jobs if they failed to contribute to the slush fund. When they decided to raise a larger sum for the defense, they were promptly discharged. Collectors of defense funds and investigators were jailed without warrant. All possible jurors were told that if the defendants were acquitted they would be killed. Women, who were talesman were advised not to serve. Wherever the government could produce witnesses in army uniforms it did. Those for the defense were either arrested for perjury or subjected to the third degree. Soldiers camped on the court grounds in order to protect the jury against the one thousand Wobblies, who the bailiff informed them, were stationed in the woods ready to storm the court house. (Affidavit of a juror). In spite of this the jury on the first ballot voted unanimously to acquit all the defendants. The final verdict, however, was a verdict of second degree murder with a recommendation of leniency as to seven of them. The others were acquitted.
It is important to note that, unlike the period during the war, it was neither as easy to pick prejudiced juries nor to stampede them. Several jurors in subsequent affidavits stated that only the fear of lynching, if the men were acquitted or the jury hung, prompted them to convict the defendants.
The Development of New State Legislation
With the end of the war, the victorious American bourgeoisie were confronted with a working class defiance which assumed, for the first time, the proportions of a national upsurge developing all layers of the exploited. 1919 witnessed the biggest strike in the history of the United States—4,000,000 workers on strike mainly in basic industries and 162,000 men locked out was the record set. Even 1500 policemen in Boston wanted to affiliate with the A.F.L.
Added to this objective situation was the stimulation of the Bolshevik Revolution, which rejuvenated vast sections of the foreign born workers in these industries and drove them into the left wing of the S.P. A powerful mass movement was in the process of being created over night. It no longer sufficed to squelch the isolated individual who had stood so valiantly against the stream in the hysterical war period. In spite of the vicious and false reports concerning Russia, which filled the holy trinity of press, pulpit and school, the workers were stepping out in class formation. In the summer of 1919, the Left Wing split from the S.P. to form the C.P. and the C.L.P. taking with them about 60,000 members. The radical press was growing by leaps and bounds. Kept in check during the war by the censorship of the post office, it quickly jumped in 1919 to 105 papers printed in English, 222 in foreign languages and 144 papers published abroad, which had a circulation in this country. (Tabulation of Department of Justice based upon post office information). The bourgeoisie was frantic. No matter what the cost it was imperative to combat the inroads of communist ideology. But to fight thousands upon thousands of militant, vanguard workers organized into revolutionary parties, which had their tentacles in the shops, factories and mines required a technique differing considerably from that which had been used heretofore.
This was clearly recognized by the Lusk Committee and on page 629 of their report they state, “During the early days of the war the machinery for the investigation and information of Federal, State and local governments was not thoroughly perfected, and the activities of revolutionary Socialists and propagandists were not closely followed….” “For this reason the work of spreading revolutionary propaganda was carried on without attracting much attention.”
Indeed, this is true. No such machinery could or had to be perfected during the war period since there was in existence no important political party of revolutionists. On the political field the reformist Socialists dominated the scene with a merely negative pacifist attitude toward the war. The Wobblies, who put up a militant struggle on the economic field could make no effort to either capture power or turn the imperialist war into civil war. While it was treated by the government as a group, which was of a seditious character, it could be effectively suppressed under the Espionage Act for its industrial union activity since this was the principle extent of its operations. Even later, when the Department of Justice and the Secretary of Labor embarked upon their deportation crusade they both agreed that the constitution of the U. S. could not be construed as teaching anarchy. (Chaffee pg. 272). It was not until after the war that a revolutionary party openly advocating the dictatorship of the proletariat grew to any considerable size.
So tense was this post war situation that in certain parts of the country, the government did not dare to intervene rashly for fear that an uncontrollable configuration would burst forth, with which it could not cope adequately. In Detroit, for example, at the Breshkowsky meeting attended by an audience of 8000, every 14th man in the hall was a policeman. As soon as everyone showed a militant attitude he “was immediately seized and passed along from one to another (of these detectives—R.B.) and passed out of the room". (Testimony of F.F. Ingram, president of the Public Lighting Comm. of Detroit before Judiciary Comm. (Senate) 66:3 pg. 787).
This strategy, however, could not continue for long. It was too alien to the spirit of American life. Our bourgeoisie has never been one to rely upon so timid a solution to its problems. It either retains its own private army of thugs and resorts to open physical violence or it organizes a vast network of reactionary laws and proceeds to secure the same result “constitutionally". Such were the red flag and anarchy statutes passed in many of the states immediately after the declaration of peace. The simplest of these is the New York red flag law, which makes it a misdemeanor to “display or expose to view the red flag in any public assembly or parade as a symbol or emblem of any organization or association, or in furtherance of any political, social or economic principle, doctrine or propaganda…”
Other states forbid the display of the red flag at any place at any time. Still others circumvent the possible use of a different color or device by providing against red ties, buttons, or other evasive adaptations, which may have the same purpose, or they may prohibit any line which is distinctive of anarchism, radical socialism or bolshevism (Kansas); or which is “suggestive of any organized or unorganized group of persons, who by their rules, creeds, purposes, practices, or efforts, espouse any theory or principle antagonistic to or subversive of the constitution or its mandates.” (Washington) The penalties attached to the illegal display vary from a misdemeanor to five years in Michigan and a maximum penalty of 15 years in New Jersey (For a complete text of these laws passed in 25 states in the year 1919, see the Lusk Committee Reports, Vol III pgs 2024- 2074).
A more important group of statutes, however, are the anarchy and criminal syndicalist laws enacted in about one third of the states in the very same year (1919). Whatever the political label of these laws may be and one must not be misled by their misnomers, they all have as their basic principle the following concepts the doctrine that organized government should not be overthrown by force, violence, assassination or any other unlawful means. To advocate this doctrine or to join an organization which taught it, is declared a felony, which the state punishes very severely. As part of these laws there is usually appended a long list of subdivisions enumerating specific acts, which come within the purview of the law. For example, the contribution of funds for this purpose is in some states made equally punishable.
While New York was the first State to pass such laws (1902), the state legislators in the 1919 sessions went far beyond the New York act and based their statutory scheme on the Iowa model. These 1919 laws usually provide that “criminal syndicalism is the doctrine, which advocates crime, sabotage, violence or other unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform”, (Iowa). The statute then usually proceeds to declare the following people guilty of violating the law: Those who (1) By speech or writing advocate or teach criminal syndicalism. (2) Print, publish, edit, issue, circulate or publicly display any matter advocating criminal syndicalism. (3) Openly and deliberately justify any act of criminal syndicalism. (4) Organize, help to organize, become a member of or VOLUNTARILY ASSEMBLE with any group, which advocates or teaches criminal syndicalism (For example, listens to a lecture by a radical party. R.B.) (5) Knowingly permits a room to be used for the purpose of criminal syndicalism.
Some of the more extreme states have gone further than this. Under section 5 of the California Act it is illegal to engage in any action which is aided or ADVISED by any precept of criminal syndicalism and which has for its purpose, “a change in the industrial ownership or affecting ANY POLITICAL CHANGE. With malice aforethought other states have phrased their statutes in such a vague manner that any undesirable opinion can be made verboten. Thus in West Virginia, any teaching in sympathy with “ideals hostile to the form or spirit of the constitution, laws, ideals and institutions of this state or the United States”, is declared an infraction of the law (complete text—Lusk Comm. Vol III pgs 2024-2074).
Aside from the fact that these laws make the mere advocacy of opinions criminal there is the very grave danger that the reactionary forces of one state will not be able to “sic” its legal bloodhounds across state boundaries into the more liberal parts of America and compel radicals to stand trial before their own prejudiced tribunals,. Should a labor paper in the North advocate views inimical to the South, where such an organ was being distributed, there is no doubt that the editor under certain circumstances could be extradited; or if subsequently apprehended in the South, could be tried for views written in the North perhaps years previously. Up to now this situation has not arisen. Still the possibility exists and must be pointed out that when the situation occurs the bourgeoisie will not be slow to avail itself of tricks like these. In the New York Times of December 3rd, there is an account of a proposal made at the executive session of the “Interstate Commission on Crime”, to permit the extradition of a person not in the demanding State at the time of the crime in order “to bring to trial the master mind, who plots a conspiracy but is a thousand miles away when the crime is carried out.
It is also necessary to point out that wherever sweeping sedition laws of this character are passed, the government, if it intends to enforce them, must also provide for the establishment of a secret political police. When Massachusetts introduced its first sedition bill (1919) there was also introduced an act calling for a police force, “whose names were known only to him (Attorney General) and the Governor, and to leave at his disposal a fund from which disbursements could be made without audit.” When the bill, which was finally passed was shorn of many of its original provisions, it was decided that the creation of political police was no longer necessary.
We need not speculate abstractly about future perspectives, however, for the past and present limits of the law are well defined. It was under these laws that the editorial staff of “Revolutionary Age”—Gitlow, Winitsky and Larkin, were convicted for publishing the Manifesto of the Left Wing of the S.P.; Ferguson and Ruthenberg for being members of the National Council of the Left Wing; and Carl Paivot and Gustav Alonen, the editors of the Finnish Anarchist paper Luokkataistelu. Significantly, the Appellate Division in the Gitlow case remarked that wile the Left Wing Manifesto did not directly incite to violence, the courts “must necessarily have great latitude for reading between the lines to determine what is implied in the doctrine”, and that Communists “should be held responsible for advocating what they must know is involved in the doctrine and will be essential to the accomplishment of their purpose.”
In California, Anita Whitney, a member of the Communist Labor Party was arrested for criminal syndicalism after delivering a lecture on the Negro problem in which she said she was against lynching and race riots. The indictment, which did not set forth either words or deeds proving the charge, was sustained and after a four weeks trial, who was ordered to serve an indeterminate sentence of from 1 to 14 years. In another State, Paul Manko was arrested in February, 1920 under the Criminal Anarchy law for distributing a leaflet entitled “Seeing Red". Although he denied that he had handed the leaflet to anyone and had been merely asked to translate it, he was found guilty and sentenced to a term of 2 to 8 years.
In most of these cases the federal government closely cooperated with the several states in order to secure convictions although the federal government theoretically has no interest whatever in the enforcement of State laws. In fact, wherever this has occurred the federal authorities have taken great pains to conceal the part which it has played. Attorney General Palmer, however, defending himself against charges brought by Louis F. Post, testified as follows before Congress, “…the Department of Justice has materially assisted the various state authorities in obtaining convictiona in their jurisdictions of American citizens and aliens. Particular attention can be made of the work of the Department of Justice in the State of California, in the case of the State against Anita Whitney, in the State of Oregon, and in the State of Washington, where prosecutions have been made of the I.W.W. under State syndicalism Acts, in New Jersey and in New York in the case of Ben Gitlow, Harry Winitsky and James Larkin.”
Where it was considered desirable to deport aliens instead of convicting them under State laws, or where convictions could not be secured, the defendants were released and then turned over to the federal government for deportation on exactly the same charges. When neither of these methods could be pursued, the prosecution resorted to the traditional and open frame-up. This, it will be remembered, was done with Sacco and Vanzetti, who were arrested for the murder of a paymaster and a guard of a shoe factory in South Braintree on April 15, 1920. Both of these workers had been active participants in various local strikes and had helped raise funds for comrades persecuted in the Palmer Red Raids. Despite a world-wide protest, the responsibility for the murder was foisted upon them and they were railroaded to the chair.
While it would be of great importance to know the exact number of convictions under the criminal anarchy statutes, no complete data are available. We do know, however, that under city ordinances based upon state sedition laws there were over 1000 convictions of I.W.W.’s alone in the single city of Spokane during a year and a half.
Sneaking into power through the ballot
The fundamental basis for all legal prosecution of revolutionary parties is their effort to obtain political power by violent or illegal means. It is pertinent therefore to determine what happens to those radical reformist parties, which hope to capture political power through the ballot. The recital of two instances in which the Socialists unsuccessfully attempted to secure seats to which the people had surely elected them would satisfactorily expose the insurmountable limitations, which in a period of great flux are placed before parties which have for their objective the abolition of private property in the means of production even when the goal is sought through strictly parliamentary action.
In November, 1918, the opportunist Victor Berger, while under an indictment for violating the Espionage Act, was elected to Congress from the 5th district of Wisconsin. In December, 1918, he was placed on trial before Judge Landis in Chicago, convicted and sentenced to serve 20 years in prison. While out on bail pending appeal, he appeared before the House of Representatives to be sworn in, but instead, since it was charged that he was ineligible, was referred to a special committee, which decided that he was not entitled to his seat. The house with one dissenting vote approved the decision on November 11, 1919. On December 19, 1919, (over a year after he was elected) a special election was ordered by The Governor of Wisconsin. The Republicans and the Democrats, the right and left arm of the bourgeoisie, patched up their friendly election differences and united in a common cause by nominating a fusion candidate—one H.H. Bodenstab, a German American who was able to secure the support of all the German papers. Again, Berger was overwhelmingly victorious and once more on January 10, 1920, he presented himself before the House to be sworn in. This time six members voted to seat him but the remainder refused to budge. The Socialists again nominated Berger, but the Governor decided that another special election would be too expensive and preferred therefore to disenfranchise the 45,000 voters, who had participated in the previous election.
It is important to note that Berger was excluded from Congress in the name of the Constitution. The 14th Amendment provides that “no person shall be a…Representative in Congress, who having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States…to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid and comfort to the enemies thereof.” Not even a Philadelphia lawyer, in one of his maddest moments could contend that Berger was guilty of any of these offenses, yet Congress with its sleight of hand pulls out of our opera hat constitution, the kind of rabbits, which it wants. Suppose, however, that Berger had never been convicted and therefore could not have been included in these disqualifications, would he have been barred anyway? Why not? If they can distort the meaning of the Constitution in one case what is to prevent them in another? Chaffee who discusses all of the legal relevant precedents (Freedom of Speech pg 322 eat seq) concludes that the House acted unjustifiably and without any valid ground upon which to predicate its second decision. This could not have happened in Europe where all of the Entente Powers permitted Socialists to occupy seats in Parliament irrespective of their attitude toward the war. In fact, several of the Italian Socialists were elected to office, while in jail for their opposition to the slaughter.
Three days before Berger was rejected by the House of Representative, the New York Legislature opened its session (January 7, 1920) with five Socialist Assemblymen—Waldman, Solomon, Orr, Claessens, and De Witt—four of whom had previously served in the same capacity. The formal opposition of the S.P. to the war was well known, the party was legally recognized under the Election Law and no objection had been made to the ten Socialists who had been elected in 1918. The five Socialists took the required oaths and for two hours participated in the work of the Legislature. Suddenly, the speaker without any previous intimation or motion, summoned the Socialist members before him and made the following address, “You are seeking seats in this body. You, who have been elected on a platform that is absolutely inimical to the best interests of the State of New York and of the United States.” He then declared that the Socialist Party was a subversive organization and advised them that if the Assembly should declare their seats vacant, they would be given an opportunity to prove their right to be seated. At this point, a resolution drafted by the Attorney general, as counsel to the Lusk Committee, was read and passed. The resolution denied seats in the Assembly to the five Socialists “pending determination of their qualifications and eligibility to their respective seats” based upon certain unsubstantiated conclusions of fact. The Sergeant-at-Arms then rushed the Socialists out of the chamber and their seats remained unoccupied for the rest of the session.
Thirteen days later (January 20), a lengthy investigation was commenced before the Judiciary Committee, the outcome of which was an overwhelming vote to expel the five members. The report of these proceedings which fills three volumes and falls 150 pages short of 3,000, is an excellent model of court procedure operating in reverse. Perfectly admissible testimony offered by the defense was invariably excluded while objectionable evidence offered by the prosecution was admitted over the strenuous objection of counsel. Since there is no practical appeal from such unfair hearings the committee has everything its own way and proves exactly those conclusions which it already has conceived as true when the charges are made.
In the face of this experience it is not difficult to understand why the workers place so little reliance in the ballot and faithfully boycott the elections. It is not only a case of no faith in politicians but also of no faith in being able to secure representation. Should even a majority be elected the minority could in the same way and with the same sweet phrases of the Constitution belching forth from their mouths prevent them from taking their seats. That is, if the bourgeoisie did not establish fascism a long time before an event like that could take place.
(to be continued)
WHO CAN BUILD THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL? by A.W.
So many events have piled up illustrating the terrible fiasco of the existing Socialist and Stalinist internationals that it is no longer a debatable question as to whether or not a new Communist International is needed. The question now becomes a practical one, how shall we build it, and above all, with whom shall we build the Fourth International?
The more we wait, the more the problem is becoming clearer, thus somewhat making up for the fact that speed is essential in building up an effective new Communist International. For a while, we were overwhelmed with the large number of organizations that seemingly had broken from the Socialist and Stalinist internationals and were clamoring for some new formations. With the collapse of open reformism, and the pressure of the masses for vigorous struggle against Fascism, many opportunist groups overnight turned into typical centrist phrase mongering outfits. We had the London Bureau, we had Socialist parties calling for all internationals to get together, we had Communist groupings doing the same thing, we had others apparently talking for an entirely new international and, finally, we had the phony Trotskyist centrists, who like those “Socialists”, who joined the Fascists with the theory that Socialism would come through Fascism, joined the Socialists with the theory that the Fourth International would come through the Socialist parties.
This first situation is rapidly changing. The Stalinists are doing their best to liquidate their organizations and join the Socialist parties, the in between groups are being drawn in their train. In the United States, for example, the Workers Party is trying hard to get into the Socialist Party, the Lovestone group is trying hard to join the Communist Party and the Communist Party is making every effort to fuse with the Socialists. Soon all the centrists will be united again in one happy family. Literally, the Communist League of Struggle will be the ONLY ORGANIZATION IN THE UNITED STATES WHICH WILL KEEP THE NAME “COMMUNIST” and the banner of Marxism waving high. In other countries the situation is similar.
At the same time new splits are taking place of elements, which have become thoroughly alarmed at the turn events are taking within the ranks of the revolutionary proletariat. Most of these leftward splits are small but potentially they can be of importance in some cases and certainly they are straws to show which way the wind is blowing. As fusion between the main opportunist and centrist currents is actually achieved, these splits will become more powerful and the political atmosphere will be clarified the sharper the tension grows.
In a letter sent out some time ago to a number of groups, which we thought had some possibilities, the Communist League of Struggle proposed the convocation of an international conference of all organizations that could agree to the following fundamental propositions (which propositions were to be made pre-conditions of the conference).
1. The permanency of the crisis of capitalism and the objective ripeness of society for Socialism.
2. The necessity for the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat as a transition stage made inevitable by the civil war.
3. The necessity to smash the capitalist state machinery and to substitute for it, Soviets or similar bodies.
4. The necessity to break completely with the Communist International, the Socialist International and Centrists (including Trotskyists) and the necessity to form a new Internationalist-Communist center.
5. The adoption of the theory of democratic centralism to be applied within each group and internationally.
All groups adhering to these fundamental preconditions could then come together profitably in an international conference where the groups could be knit together and a revolutionary strategy of action worked out. The agenda of the conference could include the following points:
1. Relation to the Soviet Union
4. Permanent Revolution
5. Direct Action
7. Workers Control over Production
8. The United Front
9. Relations to workers Mass Organizations (trade unions, unemployed groups, labor parties, etc.)
10. Organization questions
This letter was followed up by Comrade Buch, who made a tour through various countries of Europe, a report of which was given in the last issue of the Class Struggle (November). Particularly impressive was the complete debacle of the Trotsky international Secretariat and groups. Crawling on their bellies before the Socialist traitors, the “Secretariat” (Trotsky), while finding plenty of time to prove that Thermidore has already been accomplished in Russia and Stalinism represents completed Bonapartism, has to date not a single analysis to make of the Italo-Ethiopian War. Can it be that this has something to do with the Trotskyists’ entrance into the Italian Socialist Party? At any rate as a pre-condition we have demanded as absolutely essential a complete break not only from the Stalinists and Socialists but also from the Trotskyites.
The breakdown of Trotskyism as a potent revolutionary force has left the way open for certain centrist groups to create “substitutes” for the Fourth International to which all groups are invited. This is particularly the case with the bankrupt Socialist Arbeiter Partei of Germany (an emigre clique). The S.A.P. is calling for Brandler-Lovestoneites at the present time. The S.A.P. feels that although it failed miserably in even pretending to lead the German workers against Hitler, that it can surely lead the world revolution. In a recent bulletin the S.A.P. is calling for a new “Zimmarwald” conference to consider international problems. Led by former Brandler-Lovestoneites, the S.A.P has the nerve to defend Brandler’s role in the 1923 German revolutionary situation and brings forward again all the trashy arguments by which Brandler tried to apologize before the world. Such political trimmers, who have shown they can learn absolutely nothing from events are hopelessly sterile. Only such groups as the Field group can possibly be taken in by them. And in the case of the political pawnbroker Fields ("I sell anything"), it is not that he is taken in so much, as he is of precisely the same careerist type.
It is not “blocs” which we need at the present time. It is not some loose amorphous federated body which will come to meet and then adjourn having done nothing but spout its head off, it is not some vague sort of unity at any price, which is the crying need of the hour. The Stalinists, the Socialists, the Lovestoneites, the S.A.P.ers and their ilk will find that out soon enough. No, what is absolutely necessary at the present time is the formation of an Internationalist Communist center which has broken from the opportunism of the past, which is clear and intransigently Marxist on all important questions and which can form the nucleus of the genuine Fourth International when occasion arises for its formations.
It will be noted that in the letter we have placed tentatively on the agenda certain problems like that of direct action, parliamentarism, relation to the Soviet Union, etc., questions, which apparently have been solved by Leninism. We believe, however, that the situation has materially changed since the days of Lenin’s Comintern making necessary new discussions on this question. Certainly, the question of parliamentarism must be discussed anew in the light of the growth of Fascism and the present attitude of the Socialists and Stalinists. The Communist League of Struggle, does not intend to come to an international conference of really revolutionary groups with its program all set and rigid. Quite the contrary, while the organization will have a definite opinion on all the questions of importance yet the C.L.S. will have to come with an open mind ready to listen and to learn from the others.
It must be kept in mind that since 1923 there has been no gathering of revolutionary Communists where full and free discussion could be had on all questions. Under Stalin in the C.I. and under Trotsky in the International Secretariat such discussions were never permitted. The result was great isolation of the various oppositional groupings compelling these groups to deviate farther at times from Marxist standards than they would otherwise have done. It is necessary to end this intolerable situation at once.
The Internationalist-Communists should insist that any conference that is called be a long and thorough one. All the questions should be thrashed out and in full. The result should be that when the center is actually formed there will be complete agreement on all important questions on the basis of a revolutionary program collectively prepared and comprehensive in content. At this point we wish to stress that under no circumstances can we become part of an international center where we do not agree on every basic and vital principle in the program. We are willing to abide by majority rule, even though the majority is wrong, on necessary questions, but on primary issues vital to the workers, never. On all the important points laid out on the agenda there must be full and complete agreement so far as the main issues are concerned. Once such an internationalist center is formed and is truly functioning a great instrument for the organization of a genuine Fourth International will have been created.
Of course, such an internationalist center will have to insist on firm revolutionary discipline of all its sections. This is no time for playing or for liberalistic debating societies. Once unity is achieved on the important questions, there must be no gap between phrase and deed. International Fascism can be overthrown only when the workers of the world can build up a genuine international party. It is for this reason that we are doubtful as to the possibilities of a number of so called “internationalist communist” groups and anti-anarchist, anti-parliamentarian groups such as the one in Holland, a couple in Scotland, one in the United States, etc. It is not because they take a stand against parliamentarism. That is a matter, which should be discussed at the conference itself. But it is because they stand against international discipline in organization, because they reject the whole idea of democratic centralism and the Marxist role of the revolutionary party. While no vote should be given these groups, it might be possible, in certain cases, to invite them to send observers to the conference.
In the course of our attempts to arrange for a conference of internationalist Communist groups along the lines stated in the letter given above, we have met the opposition of the Bordighists and others. These groups claim that such a conference is premature and that the objective conditions are not ripe for it. Such an opinion displays the rankest sort of pessimism and a complete inability to grasp what is necessary at the present moment. That the Bordighists wanted to substitute for a living conference, which alone would be able to decide how close we are together and whether such an internationalist Communist center can really be formed on a principled basis, was an “international bulletin”, where sterile debates would take place and the Bordighists would have an opportunity to use an international organ to present their particular opinions without being checked by real and live debate.
We know the general opinion of the Bordighists. Some of these opinions seem anti-Marxist (as, for example, their view that Russia is not a Workers State). We have little hope of changing their views through the mails. Nor can they change ours thus either. Nor do we intend to allow the Bordighists to use us for their purposes in this respect. The only way we think we can possibly change the Bordighists is by direct confrontation in conference. Then we can see whether it is worth while to go further with them at all. It is the same with other groups. Not a childish letter box but a real and serious meeting of all groups that can meet the pre-conditions laid down in the letter is the crying need of the hour.
Our argument for the necessity of an international conference, made at the beginning of the year has been much reinforced by the fact that with the new world war about to break out all around us, there has been called not a single international conference of revolutionary bodies to consider their opposition to this war. So frightful is the debacle that we are not even up to the level of the Socialists of 1914”
If the Stalinists, the Socialists, the Trotskyists, the centrists and the other groupings like the Bordighists and the anti-parliamentarians are not to be considered to any considerable extent, then the question naturally arises more acutely than before. Then with whom can you build the Fourth International, or rather, the Internationalist-Communist center leading to the Fourth International?
The outlook is indeed dismal at the present moment. Nevertheless there are a few groups we shall be able to count upon. Perhaps we shall be able to enumerate these groups more fully in a future issue.
In the United States, the outlook has improved with the split-off of the Oehler-Stamm group from the Workers Party. This group, with about 100 members throughout the country (New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, Washington, Philadelphia and a few scattered elsewhere) is making efforts to move to the left. They are trying to do mass work. They are putting in some discipline into their few branches. They are working out a general line, which will be presented at a coming convention in February, etc.
Inside this group, two chief tendencies no doubt have arisen. One tendency will resist the change to the left. They will want to go with the pawnbroker Fields and with the Stalinistic “maneuverer”, Zack, who are quite willing to sacrifice many of their “principles” for the maneuver of joining forces with this new grouping. These elements in the Oehler group will attack the C.L.S. in the manner that Cannon-Shachtman did within the Workers Party. On the other hand there are others inside the Oehler-Stamm group, who will recall that our group has stood the test for five full years, that our prognoses in the main have been correct, that we have a long and loyal history in the class struggle and that we truly mean business. These latter elements will be glad to converse with us. They will try to arrange joint discussions and friendly meetings to see which policies are correct. They will work closer and closer with us and adopt more and more of the principles which have become identified as the program of the C.L.S.
The Oehler group, should it develop properly, can be a strong force for the good in American life. Already it is helping to destroy effectively the influence of that parasite, the Workers Party. The danger remains, however, that it will try to pose as the “true”, the “genuine” Workers Party and the leaders become sort of “left” Cannons and Shachtmans. But if it can avoid this danger, then there is no reason why the Oehler-Stamm group cannot move closer to the C.L.S. and take a prominent part in the struggle for a genuine Internationalist-Communist center. Already we see signs of changes in their line on the trade union question, on the Negro question, etc.
The Communist League of Struggle can afford to be patient in these circumstances. It can afford to deal with the Oehler-Stamm group in a friendly although firm manner. If the C.L.S. is invited to come to the convention of the Oehler-Stamm group as observers, we shall not turn down such an invitation although we understand very clearly the limitations of debates and mere words and the absolute necessity of such groups being prepared by struggle and action before it can take a revolutionary working class position.
If the Oehler-Stamm group has really broken from unprincipled factionalism and clique fighting and is really willing to place the interests of the working class above its own narrow organizational interests, then it should hasten to develop these tendencies which will break down the barriers between it and the genuine internationalists fighting for a Fourth International.
HELP THE BOYS BEHIND THE BARS, THEY FOUGHT FOR YOU.
ATTEND THE 19TH ANNUAL CLASS WAR PRISONERS’ CHRISTMAS FUND SOCIAL
FRIDAY, DEC. 13—8.p.m. at IRVING PLAZA
ADMISSION 25 CENTS
GENERAL DEFENSE COMMITTEE
94 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK CITY