Volume 4 Number 3 …………………….. March 1934
THE LIGHTENING FLASHES
The great General Strike in France and the heroic resistance of the Socialist workers in Austria are the lightning flashes in the world storm that is about to break around us. The thunder will soon be forthcoming. And when it rains, it will pour.
France is now deep in the throes of a crisis, which as part of the world crisis, it was the last to feel, It is not merely that the French workers are being pinched very severely, but all the small property elements are growing hysterically restless as well. The French petty bourgeoisie looks at Fascist Germany at its right; to the left is the Spanish Revolution. It watches with alarm the great drain of gold from France for fear that France will go off the gold standard. To the French middle class, this is the most terrible thing that can happen. Deeply rooted in finance, having already experienced an 80% loss when all French investments were marked down in order to stabilize the franc after the war, France can go off the gold standard today only with the greatest social convulsions. With foreign loans unpaid, with foreign investments at a standstill, with the gold flow of reparations at an end, with the tourists income dead, with an intense tariff war all around the country, with diplomatic isolation staring it in the face and with the duty to support financially all the European puppet states which carry out its policies on the continent, French capitalism may well feel that it will be the next great section to crack.
Under these circumstances, it is no wonder that France is steadily moving to the right. Not the Communists, but the Royalists take the lead in going to the streets. It is the petty bourgeoisie who act. And if it is the Royalists who lead the attack and not the Fascists, this is but an indication of the fact that France is still agrarian, that her economy is relatively stagnant, that it is not the great industrialists but the finance and landed capitalist interests who still play the leading role. Together with the Fascists, then, it is the Royalists, Les Camelot du Roi who provoke the further events.
The Communist Party under Stalin again shows its utter bankruptcy. These counterrevolutionary Stalinists have learned nothing from the German happenings. Just as in 1930 in the question of the dissolution of the Prussian Landtag, when the Communists joined hands with the Nazis in the so called Red Referendum, just as then it declared the Socialists and not the Fascists were the chief enemy and played right in with the slogans and ideas of the Nazis, so in France the Communists join hands with the Royalists against the so called democratic institutions of France and call for the end of Parliamentary government at a time when this could only redound to the advantage of the right wing. The disgusting spectacle is to be seen of Parisian Communists taking to the streets to fight the police and Parliament, not in order to wipe out the fascists and Royalists, but at the same time as the Royalists and Fascists are making similar attacks. The newspaper accounts speak of clashes of the Communists with the police but nowhere are there clashes of worker Communists with aristocratic Royalists.
The Communist Party is further disgraced by its attitude in regard to the Saar Basin where it has come out for the return of the Saar to Hitler’s Fascist Germany instead of demanding an autonomous region under workers control. The Stalinists can only meet with the deepest hatred among the class conscious workmen of France.
It is the Socialist Party, tragically enough, that takes the lead. But How! If it is the Royalists who build the barricades—yes, the Party of Law and Order!—if it is the Right that answers the capitalist government with threats of insurrection, it is the Socialists who go to the defence of the government. But true to their opportunism, the Socialists do not take the time honored custom of the barricades, they do not move to smash the Fascist and Royalist organizations. Their role is entirely defensive, and through the mechanism of the general strike, they support the capitalist government. The Socialists here play the same role as the Socialists of Germany, who, in 1919, through their general strike, bolstered up the German regime and saved German imperialism. In the hands of the Socialist, the general strike can be turned from an offensive weapon into a defensive and even a reactionary one.
In the struggle against Fascism shall the Communists unite with the Socialists to uphold so called democratic institutions? Yes, this is the line of the International Left Opposition, because democracy, though it is but a form of the dictatorship of the capitalist class, yet allows the proletariat, within certain limits, to mobilize its forces and to strengthen itself, while Fascism destroys workers’ organizations. But the Communist Party of France repeats all the fatal errors of the Communist Party of Germany. Although it is ready to declare that there is no revolutionary situation in France, yet it is willing to take to the streets for the overthrow of parliament.
Let us, then, note well the following characteristics of the French affair: The masses are willing to fight in the streets, but it is the Royalists who take the offensive. The Communists aid the reactionaries in their attacks against the democratic regime. It is the Socialists under Jouhaux who command the masses, yet it is they who support the capitalists. The Socialists place the workers on the defensive and use the general strike to support the government. The government must rely upon the workers who hate the government. Can such a situation long endure? Obviously not. All the signs show that under such conditions France will move to the right. Fascism has taken a great step forward in France in spite of and because of both Socialist and Communist Parties.
What, of Austria? How correct was the Left Opposition in Characterizing the Dollfuss regime as a Bonpartist regime that was paving the way for Fascism in Austria! Quietly but surely Dollfuss has been fascisizing the governmental apparatus, putting the screws down upon the workers’ organizations harder and harder. If Dollfuss was against the German Nazis it is simply because, Austrian Nationalist that he is, he is for the Austrian brand of Fascism, and is willing to use Italian and English money to maintain the independence of the Austrian capitalists and the Austrian monarchical cliques.
. The swallowing of Austria by Germany cannot proceed without some struggles. After all it was only in 1866 that Austrian influence was removed from Germany, it was only in 1871 that Germany really became a unit under the hegemony of Prussia, it was only in 1933 that the federal states, but recently petty provinces, were reduced to mere administrative districts. And even this was not done without resistance from Bavarian and other cliques. Austria is far greater than Bavaria. The Austrian ruling classes must struggle against any such fate as met Bavaria. Like Bavaria, it is catholic, but unlike Bavaria it is far closer to Italian influence. For centuries Austria was connected with Italy. These ties have entered into the very style of the Austrians. And at this time when Italy is rising in relative importance, when Italy must have a counterweight to the French, Jugo-Slavic alliance, when Italy has the unhampered support of England, it has become a struggle between Italian and German Fascism as to who conquers Austria.
Italian Fascism works through the Heimwehr, through the old monarchical and agrarian interests that wish to maintain independent of Austria and yet crush the labor movement. In this way, too, England can counterbalance rising Germany. German Fascism works through the Nazis of Austria who are closely bound up with their German brethren. And incidently here is another reason why German Fascism must set up the theory of Race as above anything else. For it is through the appeals of race that Germany can move the closest to Austria and defeat Italian and English influences. And peculiarly enough, it is not race that the Italians stress, but the glory of ancient Rome.
In Austria, as in France, it is the right wing that is aggressive, confident, offensive and provocative. What other situation could there be after the great debacle of the German Communist Party? The masses can only defend themselves. But Austria is different than Germany and the Austrian Socialists had to fight. Why? Because due to the inferior and degraded position of Austria, the masses were far more to the left than the German Socialists. Indeed, this, precisely, had been the chief tradition of the Austrian School of Socialists. Having always declared that force sometimes was necessary, could the centrist Socialists act the same as the German Right Wing Socialists? Secondly, the Socialists had the power in Vienna. They had the governmental apparatus. And a bureaucracy does not give up its cushy jobs without some fight.
But how to defend the masses. The ridiculous Communist Party of Austria had completely disappeared from the scene as any effective force. These wonderful revolutionists of the Stalin school leave it to the Socialists. But if the Socialist Party leaders decide to fight, it is to fight in bed, or at least from bed! Not the barricade but the cooperative bedrooms are the scenes of the fighting. Truly, can anything be more indicative of the Austrian School of Socialists? In both Vienna and Paris the Socialists had become mere Republicans but even as Republicans they have been dismal failures. Compare the fighting in Vienna in 1848 with the fighting in 1934.
Had the Socialist Party leaders really wanted to fight, would they not have prepared their general strike better, would they not have attempted barricades in the street, cutting off the troops or scattering them throughout the whole area? The Socialists are the overwhelming part of the population of Vienna which had boasted “Wien bleibt Rot". Yet it is the enemy that takes intact the whole key central part of the city. The Socialists run to their “forts”, the cooperative houses. But bedrooms turned into “forts” cannot win a revolution. Forts are defensive at best. They can be surrounded and blown to pieces by artillery. The masses lose all the effectiveness of their numbers.
Nevertheless it was not necessary to have destroyed these houses and killed so many. Was this the guarantee that Dollfuss had made to Italy and England in return for their help? All that was necessary was for the Heimwehr to have surrounded the houses and starved out the Socialists. The leaders would have given in without much of a fight. The slaughter, then, was not due to reasons of the moment, it was due to the determination of the Right to take every advantage to destroy the workers organizations, root and branch.
To the Austrian reformists, the destruction of their precious cooperative houses, is the loss of their whole world and the end of their entire Socialism. The destruction of these houses marks an end of an era. Not fighting for Socialism, the Socialists could not even keep their cooperatives. All that was necessary for the Reaction to do to destroy Austrian Socialism was to destroy the cooperatives. With them go the unions, the mass organizations, everything. A demonstration has been made of what Fascists will do not only to Revolution, but even to Reform.
In all of this destruction, a word should be said as to the filthy role of the Jewish organizations of Vienna. Supported by the Jewish bankers of London, Italian Fascism evidently makes it a point to spare the Jews. Dollfuss did not touch the Jewish quarter, and in return, the Jewish organizations volunteered to aid in the slaughter of the Socialists and workers. This revolting spectacle must always be remembered by the workingclass. The time will not be far off when it will be the German type of Fascism that will take over Vienna. Then let these treacherous Jewish organizations squeal their heads off like stuck pigs. The workers will remember that the Jewish population made up evidently of petty bourgeois trash—were part of that rabble that crushed the Socialist aspirations of the Austrian working class.
If we compare the fight in Austria with the events in Germany before Hitler took power, we can truly declare, that in spite of all, the Socialist workers have been a thousand times more revolutionary than the fakers who led the Stalinist Party of Germany.
What, then, shall we say of the strictures in the Daily Worker attacking the Socialist Party? Everything the Communist leaders did in Germany the Daily Worker declares the Socialists did in Austria. They who gave in without a fight, they whose leaders all ran away, they who declared, “There was no revolutionary situation in Germany”, they who played no role whatever in the Austrian affairs, they who have turned into mere Russian nationalists, they dare to criticize the Socialists! The phrase mongers of the Stalin school used to shout “We will show the Fascists, if they dare to take power". Well, here was the time for the German Communist Party to show its strength, at the time of the Austrian civil war. But are the Communists able to do anything in Germany? All is deathly still. The Communist Party leaders must not be disturbed sipping their coffee in the Paris cafes or Moscow Hotels.
One final lesson can be drawn from the fighting both in France and in Austria. It is first, that the days of barricades are by no means over. And second, and even more important, is the fact that the masses contain many war veterans. They are able to meet the regular army far better than in the past. It has been said that the insurrection must fail if the army is not won over. But in countries at least where the standing army is small and the masses have gone through the war, many of them having been in the army at the front it is no longer a case of a “mob” versus trained troops. Rather can it be the case of “immature men in uniform” against trained proletarian war veterans. From this point of view the disgrace of the German Communist Party is still more odious.
The Austrian events show very clearly the correctness of the line of the International Left Opposition. We long ago had warned that the next striking point would be Austria and urged the Socialist Workers to prepare in time… Nor is it too late for the European proletariat to take a decisive hand in the events. Let us bear in mind that the destruction of the workers’ organizations of Austria without a European protest by the working class means the stringent consolidation of Fascism and all the dangers that this implies.
Dollfuss must fall. And with him the influence of Italian Fascism in relation to the German brand. As Von Papen prepared the way for Hitler and did the dirty work for Hitler through his emergency Hunger decrees, so Dollfuss has done the work for Hitler in his slaughter of the several thousand Socialists and workers. The bloodletting has been done by others. Demagogic Fascism can now capitalize the events and move forward towards victory.
Where is Soviet Russia? A great stimulus could come from the Soviets. But Soviet Russia under Stalin is dead to the revolutionary world. The Austrian affair is only a troublesome news item calculated by the bourgeoisie to bother the conscience of those “onetime” revolutionists.
What then is the result of the French and Austrian events? It is again to confirm the fact that both Socialist and Communist Parties are dead. Only a new Communist International can save the day. Under the pressure of events the Socialist workers have been forced to discard all their old false theories. Their class collaboration turns to class war. But class war and insurrectionary methods, even if poorly conducted, yet must inevitably bring the revolutionary and heroic Austrian workers over to the camp of international Communism, to the camp of the New Communist International. From the revolutionary remnants in Germany, Austria and the other countries a real hardened tested revolutionary kernel will be built up that will go forward to victory.
THE END OF THE “UNEMPLOYED COUNCILS” AND “RED” UNIONS
Have the workers noticed that since Litvinoff signed his infamous peace pact with Roosevelt, the Communist Party has practically abandoned its policy of street demonstrations? We see no attempt at drastic mobilization of the workers against the Roosevelt regime. What can be the reasons for this?
Do we not remember how every day there used to be a call to “capture the streets,” how every week there was a march to Albany, to City Hall, to Washington? Veterans, Farmers, Unemployed, all were mobilized against Hoover. But Roosevelt has recognized Russia. He has become the quiet silent partner of the Friends of the Soviet Union. In our last issue we have exposed the dastardly role of the Communist Party of Cuba in helping the American capitalists and the U. S. government directly. Can it be that the same thing is being done in the U. S. itself?
Certain things bother us. For example the Communist Party has changed the Unemployed Councils to UNEMPLOYMENT councils. Why? The Communist Party does nothing by accident. There can be only one reason for this quiet change. It is because the Communist Party wants to take the class character out of the name, to leave out the militant meaning, to try to become respectable, to give the impression that it is an UNEMPLOYMENT BUREAU. The Communist Party would be willing to be the unemployment bureau for the government’s work projects. Did not the Communist Party always holler: We Want Work? Did they not always want to get jobs on the government payroll? Well, Roosevelt is giving them their wish, in part. And the Communist Party offers itself as an unemployment bureau that will be much cheaper than the ones now in existence. It is not much of a change, after all. Hitherto the Communist Party was the unofficial charity agents of the government, bringing to the offices of the Home Relief, cases of old ladies “with swollen feet” who were about to be evicted, etc. Now instead of unofficial charity officers, they wish to become unofficial unemployment government bureaus. It fits in well with Stalinism.
That this has gone far beyond the “wish stage” can be seen in Baltimore. We are informed that the government has established a “Port Project” there for unemployed seamen. The Marine Workers Industrial Union of the Communist Party now announces that it is in control of this Port Project through its “Unemployment” Committee and is working hand in glove with the federal government. Of course it tells the workers in New York that it has “workers control,” but what it really must be, is government control over the workers through the Communist Party. But even this is not really new. Even before Litvinoff, the Office Workers Union and other groups of the Communist Party used to have their deals with the municipal relief offices and used to be “recognized” by these politicians such as Mr. Taylor.
After all if Blanshard can be in the government, if Norman Thomas can be the right hand adviser to the city, cannot the “Communist Party” have a show? Revolutionary competition is very keen. And there are plenty of jobs at stake.
And what about the “Red” Unions of the Communist Party? Only yesterday Comrade Jackal Stachel was writing that “100,000” workers had joined the T.U.U.L. in the N.R.A. strike period. Yet we see the Shoe Workers Industrial Union disappear and merge with the other shoe unions in the Amalgamated Shoe Workers Union. We see the Food Workers Industrial Union propose that if the Amalgamated Food Workers Union will elect a joint committee, they are willing to put the question of one union in the industry up to the majority vote of the workers and to end their union. We see the National Textile Workers Union issue a statement to the workers that if a new general union is formed in Paterson it is willing to liquidate its own organization. The National Miners Union has sunk without a trace. Only in the Needle Trades is there a general base and even there more and more the cry is heard for “one union in the industry” and the liquidation of the Needle Trades Workers Industrial Union. Stalinism has killed the Red Trade Unions.
It is not only Stalinism that is to blame. From the beginning the Lovestone Group and Gitlow called for the liquidation of the new unions. To this cry the American League has now added its voice. All the battles these unions have fought, all the events—the mass expulsions, etc. that led to their inevitable formation—are now forgotten. The Militant has declared that the new unions had a slim chance of existence, that the Left Wing must go back to the A.F.L. The American League in Paterson with its Militant praising the A.F.L. union to the skies, materially helped the Lovestoneites to confuse and mislead the workers. It has done its best, with its slogan of “One Union” to liquidate the Needle Trades Industrial Union.
Nevertheless the greatest share of the blame lies directly upon the Communist Party. It is they who have killed the New Unions. The liquidation of these unions means that the Communist movement confesses its bankruptcy, that it can only criticize but can do nothing itself, that everything it undertakes is a failure, that it is interested only in pageants and shows, but not in the bitter day to day struggle, that it can come in only when there is a strike, but after the strike it is ready to dump the organizations founded, that it has a policy of rule or ruin. The Communists cannot forever play “In again, out again” with bodies of workers. The workers will try once, but they now know that it is useless to follow the Communist Party or the other communist groups mentioned. All that will happen is failure and loss of their jobs and positions.
The liquidation of the “Red Unions” comes at a particularly bad moment. The possibilities for revolutionary unionism were never better. The A. F. of L. has shown that it cannot grow very much or for long. It has lost many of its old standbys, skilled workers who have been permanently thrown out of work and whose skill is no longer required. It has lost all its old treasuries. It has gained many thousands of fresh young workers who will soon revolt against the stifling bureaucratic hand of its leaders. Certainly our place is within the A.F.L., but it is also outside, for there is no question that new events, must bring forth new expulsions and new inevitable splits.
At the same time the N.R.A. has resulted in a great wave of strikes which even now has not come to an end, as the taxi and food strikes in New York City bear witness. All sorts of independent unions have entered the field, in the coal industry, both in the anthracite field and in Illinois, in the shoe industry, in the food industry, etc. It is here too that the Communist must work. Besides that a great many company unions have been formed where work can be particularly fruitful.
The liquidation of the “Red” Trade unions then, means the end of any center or haven where these independent unions can turn, where the splits can be supported, where the militant workers can rally. At the very moment when the workers are ready to fight, when the opportunities for the organization of the unorganized and the winning of trade union masses are the greatest, at this very moment the bases are destroyed and the Communist failure in the trade union field is confessed. Truly Roosevelt could want no better partner than Litvinoff’s American Communist Party.
The relationship of the political party to the trade union has always been decisive in this country. It has broken the back of many a revolutionary organization. The A.F.L. declared no workers’ political parties are necessary; the Knights of Labor used to make the trade union itself the political party, so that politicians and capitalists could come into the union, and the organization had territorial locals as well as trade union locals a hodgepodge together. The I.W.W. also declared that no separate political party was necessary and the trade unions themselves could do the job of political revolution. The Socialist Party, on the one hand, while separating political party from trade union, made no effort to win the trade unions for socialism. The Socialist Labor Party, on the other hand, throttled the unions under its control with an iron grip and made it its business to destroy the other unions in the A.F.L. not under its influence. The Communist Party has added practically all the errors of the past and heaped them all in one pile, now picking out one set and now another as its own. At the present time, in the Red Unions those not agreeing with the Stalinist regime have been kicked out under the vilest possible circumstances. The leprous hand of Stalinism has killed both the party and the Red Unions.
The Communist League of Struggle in the trade union sphere as elsewhere carries on an unremitting struggle against the dangerous policies of these groups. With us, the main job is the organization of the unorganized, although we must work everywhere where there are masses, especially in the A.F.L. and other mass unions. With us the Communist vanguard must be quite separate from the mass union. The higher the quality of the vanguard, the broader the mass organizations we can form, the better our mass work. With us the unions must be arenas where all workers may express their views and only by patient conviction and persuasion do we hope to win the majority of the workers to our revolutionary position. Far from liquidating any union, we declare that now more than ever in the struggle against fascism, in the period of new A.F.L. convulsions is it necessary to build up a revolutionary trade union base that can support a struggle against the Roosevelt regime.
On Sunday, February 4th, 1934, two of our comrades perished accidentally from asphyxiation. They were Philip Rosenberg and Benjamin Klein. Both were outstanding youths in our organizations, giving their whole life to the movement. Honest, devoted, courageous, these comrades had a path open to them that would have carried them far into the hearts and minds of the revolutionary proletariat. Their loss has come as a heavy blow to us. We shall never forget these two revolutionists.
N.Y. HOTEL WORKERS STAGE GENERAL STRIKE
Slaving under miserable conditions, and suffering from constant attacks from the bosses because of their organizing activities, the hotel and restaurant workers of New York City were forced to declare a general strike on Jan. 26th. This action was made necessary by the provocative attack a few days before upon the Waldorf Astoria workers by the spearhead of the Hotel Men’s Association, L. M. Boomer. The Hotel Men’s Association, seeing the rapid organization of their employees under the Amalgamated Hotel & Restaurant Workers Union, the largest and foremost union of its kind in the city, decided to force the issue now, before the workers were fully prepared.
The workers came out in force demanding the recognition of their union, an increase in wages, reduction in working time, etc. The fighting spirit and enthusiasm of the strike was boundless. The bosses sneered and belittled the strike, even going so far as to say that it did not exist. At the same time they made every effort to hire all the scabs obtainable, and used all they could get to fill the vacant kitchens and dining rooms. But most of these efforts gave little results and service dropped far below normal.
At the same time the bosses began to prod their lackeys, the capitalist newspapers, into attacking the strike and the strikers, giving out voluminous statements and false reports about them. For a short time they succeeded in influencing public opinion, but it was not long until the average person could see through their flimsy arguments.
A feature of the strike and very effective one, was the mass demonstration staged by the strikers almost daily. The workers, lined up in formation which stretched for many blocks, carrying banners and placards announcing the strike demands and the names of the hotels and restaurants on strike, would march through the main city streets and pass around the struck establishments, shouting their demands, yelling, whistling, singing and causing a general tumult, much to the displeasure and discomfort of the guests and management.
As in all class conflicts, the capitalist bulldogs, (the police )were out in force and invariably tried to provoke and intimidate the demonstrators, but in most cases where these blue uniformed thugs overstepped the bounds of discretion they received the worst of the encounters. In general, the morale of the strikers remained on a high plane with only a scattered few returning to work, and these through dire necessity or ignorance.
This latter fault must be charged directly to the union leadership as it had made no preparations for such cases. In fact it had made practically no preparations for the strike itself. The top officials, being right wingers, reformistic and opportunistic to a high degree, were more concerned with enhancing their own personal prestige than they were in broadening and extending the strike. In the four months proceeding the strike, they had spent most of their time maneuvering to retain the leadership of the union. After this was assured, they then turned to the task of “preparing” for the strike. This consisted mostly of speeches made before shop gatherings and membership meeting with reports on nothing. In this period no strike funds were collected, no strike plan constructed, nor any militant left wing group formed. These office boys, whose experience in the class struggle consisted in reading proletarian literature, did not understand that these measures were necessary if the workers were to win in the coming struggle. With the outbreak of the strike, the Union apparatus was thrown into chaos; the handful of officials rushed here and there, committees were hastily formed, etc.
The reformist character of the leadership, which had been seen in the bud the previous months, now burst forth in full bloom. B. J. Field, the Secy. Treasurer of the Local, who in the preceding months, helped greatly in the spreading of illusions about the N.R.A. among the membership, voluntarily rushed to the Regional Labor Board asking its assistance on behalf of the striking workers. To a revolutionist this sort of action is not only idiotic, but treacherous. Needless to say, he received a stern rebuff from this agency of the bosses. In fact, the Regional Labor Board showed its true colors as a strike breaking organization. Its head, a Mrs. Eleanore Herrick came out publicly in direct opposition to the strike, stating that it was unjustified and uncalled for. It also arranged a fake settlement of the strike, at the bosses’ behest, which the union officials fell for hook, line and sinker. But the attempt was so brazen and visible to all the workers, that it could not possibly succeed. But still the officials played with the N.R.A. They sent another delegation to Washington, D. C. to see Senator Wagner and the N.R.A. Board, but here they were shunted around from one to the other and, as was expected by most, came back empty handed.
To show the faith of the officials in the N.R.A., Field stood on the union platform and stated that he had notified the General Board of Washington D. C., and the Regional Labor Board in New York City, a week before and even two days before the walkout, that it was going to take place.
Here is a head of a workers organization, paid for, acting supposedly in the interests of the workers, openly admitting that he had notified the police that the workers under his control were now going to make an open struggle for the betterment of their conditions. This is plain treachery of the worst kind and every class-conscious member of the Union must always remember it. Not satisfied with this, at the beginning of the strike Field packed the office and committees of the Union with personal friends of his, students, etc., who were neither food workers nor union members, thus pushing aside the striking workers who should have been drawn into the activities.
In the conduct of the strike itself, great stress was laid upon “public opinion” as a weapon against the bosses and the main effort was made to influence it. This was attempted with the aid of writers, liberals, newspaper columnists, etc., where the main effort should have been to activize the striking workers to clean out the scabs and prevent operation of the hotels. Had this been done, the N.R.A. would have sought the union and not the union seeking the Regional Labor Board. The procrastination at the beginning of the strike, and the playing around with these elements cost the hotel workers a victory which should have been theirs. But the bureaucratic apparatus did not know how to, nor even wish to carry on a militant struggle in this strike.
At this time it is also necessary to make a criticism of the Communist League of America, of which, until recently, Field and his chief supporters were members. This organization, supposedly a vanguard in the labor movement, having no clearly formulated trade union program, permitted Field and some others to carry on in an irresponsible, and opportunist manner. In the first place, Field, untested and completely inexperienced in the trade union field, should not have been placed at the head of the union. Secondly, a concrete workable program should have been formulated and presented to the union members for approval, and after its adoption, a vigorous effort made to put it into effect, with strong criticism of Field or any one else who opposed it, even though they be members of the Communist League of America. Thirdly, a real Left Wing Group of the militant members of the union should have been formed to help carry on the work of the organization and assist in training the newcomers who were largely undeveloped. Had the above things been done, the present impasse would not have been reached and the Amalgamated Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union would have been placed upon a firm footing regardless of the outcome of the present strike.
A few words must be said also in regard to the Food Workers Industrial Union, the Stalinist controlled group which has but little footing except among the cafeteria workers. This organization, having gained a few hotel workers recently, tried vainly to seize the leadership of the general strike. At first, pickets carrying F.W.I.U. signs were placed before some of the struck hotels. Then leaflets calling upon the workers to come to mass meetings were distributed, but few responded. Then the slogan of the united front was raised, but in a most demagogic manner. The Stalinist theory of the united front is “Accept our leadership or we won’t help". This of course failed and then the united front from below was tried, but also to no avail. The Amalgamated Union had an equally disastrous policy, refusing to have anything to do with the F.W.I.U. What was needed was a real united front for the strike, say a joint committee with representation according to membership.
Regardless of the outcome of the strike, the Amalgamated Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union must remain the pivotal point of the industry in this city. But to live up to its function it must be overhauled from top to bottom. The present leadership must be removed. In its stead must be placed bonafide class conscious food workers. The bureaucratic methods of running the Union must be abolished. The union must be built up on the basis of the class struggle and not of class collaboration. Immediate plans and preparations must be made for the next struggle which is inevitable, A Left Wing group must be formed to push the union forward. If this is done the mistakes of the present strike can be overcome and the food workers union take its rightful place in the fighting ranks of the working class.
EDITORIAL NOTE: By the expulsion of Field and his close associates, the American League has used the time honored “scapegoat” method of exonerating itself from responsibility for the terrible errors of the hotel workers strike. But the League has never dissociated itself before the workers from connection with Field, and indeed it is well known that the “Trotskyists” are responsible for the strike. Nor has the Militant, which has been circulated among the strikers, presented a different strategy for the conduct of the strike, nor any drastic criticism of its errors. At a late date, (Feb. 24th) it calls for strikers food kitchens and picket lines—but far more than this was necessary.
It is evident the C.L.A. has fallen into the trap of “not criticizing during the strike.” By keeping quiet on the crimes of Field or perhaps, in being so close to his line as to be unable to differentiate themselves they share responsibility with him for what has developed.
The only effective concrete program for the strike was provided by the C.L.S. in a leaflet issued to the strikers the second week of the strike, in which we called (1)for the extension of the strike to take in, first, the other hotel workers outside the kitchens and dining rooms, who were being used as scabs by the managers, second, to the other food workers who provided supplies for the hotels, third and above all, to the cafeteria workers. This latter group would have drawn streams of fresh workers into the strike, who as a cafeteria workers section of the Amalgamated would have been valuable not merely because of their added numbers and their militancy as a group of bitterly exploited workers, but also because the cafeterias to a certain extent had captured the trade the hotel restaurants had lost. Besides, it is a known fact that the cafeterias delivered cooked food to the hotels during the strike. (2)We proposed in our leaflet a united front with all food workers unions. This included the Food Workers’ Industrial Union, which, notwithstanding its foolish antics as a Stalinist controlled group, could still have helped to mobilize the cafeteria workers for the support of the hotel and restaurant strikers. We look in vain for any such program—or indeed for any effective proposal—in the pages of the Militant. Criticism of a “clique leadership”, demands for “better organization” were all they had to say in the most critical period of the strike. Through the presence of Cannon and Oehler who could speak on the platform and the filling of the office of the union with C.L.A. members, the American League had every opportunity to carry forward its policy, notwithstanding the leading position of Field.
The American League, well aware that Field was innocent as a new born babe of any trade union matters and had never smelled a strike from the remotest distance, nevertheless permitted him to accept this post of responsibility. The excuse is given “The workers asked for Field". But it was the C.L.A. members who first proposed Field, without which the workers would have never heard of him.
. We can say that Field acted as a consummate right winger who from the beginning played directly into the hands of the employers. Among his crimes we may mention
1) Failure to prepare the strike, so that no apparatus, nor any program, were ready upon the outbreak of the strike. Instead of preparing the workers’ forces, the Field leadership notified the N.R.A. and thus forewarned the hotel owners of what would take place.
2)Circulation of a leaflet reprinting an article from the New York Evening Post praising the “union recognition only” policy, thus permitting the workers to believe this deep dyed conservative paper can be their friend
3)The constant emphasis upon only recognition of the union, forgetting the vital demands which had brought the workers out on strike
4)From the beginning fostering the most damnable illusions in the N.R.A. as a possible benefactor of the workers
5) The positively strike-breaking act of permitting some hotels to be settled early in the strike and the workers sent back without improvement in their conditions, relying merely upon the promise of the hotel managers to recognize the union and to settle on the same terms as the Hotel Ass’n. In a situation where the general strike is not complete but only partial, as in the present instance, if substantial gains can be obtained from a settlement, it is possible thereby to bring new enthusiasm into the ranks of the strikers still holding out, showing them this settlement as the achievement of the union. But in the present case, it was made plain from the beginning that the strike from the point of view of the officials did not have improvement of the workers terrible conditions as its goal, but merely “organization"(i.e. signing up of members and collection of thousands of dollars in initiation fees). We see here the tactics which for years have disgraced the A. F. of L. now reproduced in the “mass work” of the Left Opposition.
6)Finally, the union failed to organize the unemployed and in fact excluded them from the ranks of the strikers by initiation fees of $1.60 to $3.00. (The official clique fearing that if the initiation fees were withdrawn, the Food Workers Industrial Union might flood the union with unemployed and “capture” it). Thus they sacrificed the vital interests of the workers for a petty manoeuver for power.
By the failure to bring these crimes before the workers and to denounce Field before them, the American League as a whole must bear responsibility for them and for the failure into which these rank opportunist actions have brought the strike.
Once again we see (as in Illinois and Paterson) the incompetence of the C.L.A. leadership to assume responsibility for the struggles of the masses. But this time the failure is an even more flagrant one. How many more examples will the membership permit to follow?
YOUTH INTERNATIONAL DELEGATES ARRESTED
As we go to press, we learn of the arrest of all the delegates to the international conference of youth organizations which had been scheduled to take place on Feb. 24th in a village outside of Amsterdam, Holland. The delegates, including the delegate of the C. L. S. are being held pending deportation. Working class organizations should protest this raid, which is significant of the strained state of European politics, and the near approach of war.
PRODUCTIVITY UNDER THE CRISIS (II) by Richard Childs
(Concluded from last issue)
In the bituminous coal industry, depression has been chronic ever since its brief post-war boom which reached a peak in 1923, It then employed 704,793. There were 9,331 commercial mines in operation, besides uncounted wagon mines, with capacity to produce 970,000,000 tons a year. The most ever absorbed in one year was 579,000,000 tons and that was during the war. In 1923 the bituminous coal industry stood poised for a dive that has not yet ended. In 1923, with depression already gripping at its throat, its position was not unlike that of other capitalist giants held in the same deadly grip today. It was overbuilt. Intensification—not expansion of production was the only road open to it. Within the body of this giant were many small mines of a marginal nature. Cost of production varied according to region and degree of organization of labor. The story of coal can, in a sense, be taken as the story of American capitalism as it unfolds ominously before us today.
The drive toward concentration, elimination of smaller operating units, is immediately summed up in the following figures: of the 9,331 mines operating in 1923, 5,891 remained in 1930. In 1923 47% of the total production came from Class I mines—mines producing over 200,000 tons a year; by 1930 this class of mines was producing 63% of the total.
Unemployment was the result of two causes: loss of market and the drive toward mechanization and lowered operating costs which resulted. Of the latter, the Department of Labor has this to say: “A number of factors have contributed to increased productivity of labor. The greatest single cause is, undoubtedly, the introduction of power equipment adapted to mining requirements, i.e., the machine cutter, power drills for shot holes, electrically driven pumps, the power drive steam shovel, the mechanized loader and conveyor, the electrically driven mine car, and in some sections improved mechanical cleaning apparatus. Other elements contributing to increased productivity include improved mine management and lay out, the tendency toward developing mines to optimum size, shut down of less efficient mines, removal of operations to better mine locations, and more effective use of labor.” Obviously there must be good reason for all of this. “This change comes,” continues the report, “at a time when the operators are endeavoring to increase per capita productivity and to reduce costs, owing to a loss in markets to other fuels, competition between producers in coal, and the ills arising out of the fact that the industry has an over, capacity.” And the future? “The inroads upon the volume of human labor needed in the industry will be more extensive,” concludes the report.
And here’s what happens to miners: taking 1913 as 100, employment in 1923 stood at 123. In 1929 the index had dropped to 88. In terms of men just under 200,000 dropped out of the picture. Production, on the other hand, dropped only from 118 in 1923 to 112 in 1929, a decrease just short of 30,000,000 tons. These figures suggest that the total volume of production and the number employed have ceased having much to do with one another in the coal fields. The relationship between the two during the year 1928-29 drives home the point. 34,000,000 tons more of coal were mined in 1929 than in 1928; yet during that same year 18,000 miners stopped working forever. It can be taken for granted then, that output per man per day has been increasing steadily: 4.47 tons it averaged in 1923, in 1932, 5.4.
But the fact that must be emphasized is not that productivity per man increased, it is that the rate of increased productivity intensifies during periods of depression. “In contrast with other indexes,” points out the labor Department report, “the indexes of output per man per day have increased steadily, the increase between 1913 and 1923, or from 100 to 124, being only slightly greater than that for the period from 1923 to 1931, or from 124 to 147. Thus output per man per day has increased by almost as much in the 8 latest years for which statistics are available (1923- 1931) as in the preceding 10 year period (1913-1923). A further significant fact shown in these statistics is that the year to year increase in output per man per day has been more rapid in years of depression, i.e., 1930 and 1931, than in the year of more active coal demand, 1929.” Finally, it must not be forgotten that a drop in the number employed but partially reveals the extent to which machinery is doing the work of and sucking the wages away from men. Over a thirty two year period ending in 1921 miners worked an average of 213 days a year. Between 1922 and 1930 working days averaged 189. 1932 managed to give only 145 days of work. There has similarly been a steady decline in working hours per day.
Mechanization is sweeping the bituminous coal fields. It must and will continue to do so. Today, not only in parts of the country suitable to it, strip mining hovers as a comparatively new menace on the worker’s horizon: the effect of its increasing expansion can reach every comer of the nation as it sucks markets from under the feet of the higher cost establishments. It was first introduced in 1914. It supplied in that year but .3% of the total output. In 1923 it supplied 2.1%. By 1930 this percentage was doubled. The Department of Labor reports: “No immediate physical limit to this kind of mining is seen… Labor displacement because of power equipment promises to be increasingly severe.” Average tons per man per day increased in the nine-year period, 1914-23, from 5.1 to 9.3. By 1930 the average was 16.2 tons a day. The Rosebud field of Montana furnishes an example of what up-to-date equipment might accomplish in this form of mining: in 1928 it mined an average of 48 tons of coal per man per day.
But in her sweep of the industry Mother Necessity has been careful to indicate to us what conditions are most favorable to the birth of her ravenous sons: the heaviest displacement of labor by machines has occurred in the high wage rate fields of the Middle West and the Rocky Mountains; in areas as well where unions struggle to make living possible.
Technological change is the very life blood of capitalism. Nothing will stop it so long as capitalism exists. It springs from overcapacity and intensifies the very situation it is intended to remedy. We have watched it as it went on yesterday in the coal fields; it goes on today: it will continue through tomorrow. “Mines Buy New Gear,” announces an AP despatch for January 6, 1934; “Pennsylvania’s big bituminous companies are preparing to spend thousands of dollars for new equipment to replace property ruined by idleness during the depression. Mine machinery and cars are being ordered or will be contracted for within the next 6 months not because and notice this, “not because the operators foresee any particular spurt in the coal business, but because plants which have been operated with repaired and salvaged machinery no longer can stand the strain.” Leashes that tend to check the march of technology through depression years must give at last: they must give or the manufacturer must join forever the armies of those who disappear from statistical records of the actively engaged. We leave coal then with this further piece of information more firmly grasped: such evidence of technological advance as is detected during a depression period can be but a warning signal of the surge that must inevitably follow any hovering signs of recovery
In July, 1933, the Department of Labor published a bulletin on the productivity of labor in the Automobile Tire Industry. In sharp contrast to coal, mechanical improvements hardly entered into the increases in individual efficiency that were observed. The author of the report states: “The tire industry offers an instance in which the increased productivity of labor was due more to the so called evolutionary small changes in production than to any revolutionary change in the process of manufacturing. Essentially there has been but one major change in the manufacture of pneumatic tires, and that occurred when the core process of tire building gave place to the flat-drum process…. By 1927 practically all of the major plants in the country had already adopted the drum process of carcass building. But the increase in the man hour out put in the tire industry did not cease in 1927. On the contrary, since 1927, and here is the crux of the matter, “especially during the last two years there has been an increase in man hour productivity, much larger than during any preceding year in the history of tire-making.”
The list of actual technological changes is prosaic in the extreme—running from the consolidation of a department, through a variety of minor changes, to the installation of a new conveyor. Motion time studies leading to the greatest economy of motion on the part of the worker loom as the most important factor.
The Tire Industry between the years 1923 and 1929 would have warmed the heart of any scholarly economist, given him renewed confidence in life, in the sanctity of eternal Truths. While there was an increase in man hour productivity, total volume of production was absorbed by an expanding market rapidly enough not only to reemploy the surplus labor displaced by technological change but to call for additional hands.
In 1931, however, things are different. Of the 83,263 workers employed in the industry in 1929 about 35,000 have been dumped overboard. In 1929 the grand total of workers had produced on the average 843 tires per man: that indicated a rise of 20 tires per man over the 823 tires that each man managed to produce in 1927. In 1931 the remnants of this army of wage earners were turning out an average of 1,016 tires per man. In other words, the rate of increase in two years of depression was just nine times that of the last two years of boom.
As already suggested, however, in a preceding section, potential productivity can only reflect itself in terms of production per man hour. This survey furnishes the figures: output per man hour in 1926 is taken as 100. The trend indicated by them is prophetic enough in itself: it requires no accompaniments of exclamations and predictions. During the six years of prosperity per man hour rose from 85 in 1923 to 117 in 1929. The index for 1931 was 150. Six years of prosperity then showed a gain of 32 points. Two years of depression showed one of 33. The gain in pounds produced per man is almost as startling. The sharpest rise during the boom years is one of 16 points, between 1925 and 1926. This reflects the general introduction of the balloon tire. Balloon tires are heavier than ordinary tires. The depression brought with it no super, balloon tires, but the output per man hour in pounds for 1930 and 1931 increased by 21 and 27 points respectively.
“Assuming a return to normal conditions,” writes the author of the report, “the tire industry … will be confronted with a situation which makes it doubtful whether the industry will be able to reemploy the workers who lost their jobs because of technological changes or other reasons…. The tire industry appears to be “burning its candle at both ends,” reducing the total demand for tires by improving the quality of the tire and at the same time further reducing the demand for labor by continually increasing the output per man hour. There is at present no indication of any change in this trend… “ The author naively assumes that the tire industry exists for the benefit of the workers it employs. In reality through the elimination of workers it is as rapidly as possible increasing the length of its candle at one end as the fire of decreasing markets creeps down from the other.
Coal Mining and Auto Tire Industries are not two wanderers that have strayed away from the line of march of American Industries. Technological change, whether by machine or scientific management, points the way for all. Coal mining and Auto Tires are in step with the rest. Whether they represent a vanguard or bring up the rear is impossible to say.
Look for a moment at the cigar industry as the Long Filler Cigar Machine hacks its way through boom time and depression to the fore; with it moves concentration ruthlessly eliminating small plants as the machine does wage earners. 14,578 cigar factories operated in 1921. In 1930 but 6,195 remained. Of this remaining number less than 1/2 of 1% (0.46%) produced 49.8% of all cigars loosed on the market. Under a section devoted to the American Machine and Foundry Company in the Standard Trade and Securities Bulletin for January 4th, 1934, appeared the following notice: “The substantially higher costs imposed upon cigar makers by the N.R.A. and A.A.A. forecast increasing use of machines in cigar production, and, hence, larger earnings for this unit….” a unit, by coincidence, associated with the American Machine and Foundry Company. The paragraph continues: “With the cigarette companies currently obtaining only a slight profit from cigarette operations, utilization of a part of their enormous financial resources for replacing partly obsolescent equipment with more efficient machinery would be a logical procedure. In fact, several installations of the company’s new high speed machine, having a running speed of 1,400 cigarettes a minute, as against 600 for the older equipment, have been made recently, and inquiries are understood to be increasing… Through patent control this company holds a virtual monopoly over cigarette making machinery, and its subsidiary, International Cigar Machine Company, over cigar manufacturing equipment…
There is no further need for isolating industry from industry: all are locked in the same clamp; all must respond in the same way. Reduction of cost devices will vary only according to the nature of the industry. Directly or indirectly each indicates that it is no exception to the trend watched at close range in Coal Mining and Auto Tire production. The automobile industry, the main prop of employment during boom years, increased its production in July, 1933, by 112% above that of July, 1932.Volume of employment swelled by just exactly 1%. In the same month the Iron and Steel industry increased its output 297% over 1932. This sky rocket dangled after it an employment trail sluggishly rising but 26% over its 1932 base.
Not even Wall Street escapes the inexorable demands of depression and competitive intensity: “Trusts Cut Costs. Improve Assets. Center On Management,” announces the Times for January 2, 1934; “Efforts have been continued to reduce the operating costs of trusts. Executives state that in the future they expect this matter of management costs to be one of the principle sources of competition among the companies….” And Stuart Chase in the October 1933 issue of Current History furnishes another extract, this time from the Herald Tribune: “Stocks of business machine companies joined in a forward move on the Stock Exchange yesterday (Sept. 11) following reports of increased sales. The operation of the N.R.A. with shorter weeks for the white collar forces has proved a boon to these companies, as executives have been on the look out for ways to handle the same amount of bookkeeping without added expense.”
At least Wall Street can speculate and seek to profit off its own elimination by technology, that is, pending its elimination by other and more decisive means. It is the liberal who has set himself the task of postponing the date of this final elimination. What part does he play in all that has happened, what is apt to be the outcome of his playing?
A “liberal” is running the country today. To him, the world is one that is sharply divided into good people and bad people, chiselers and those who fly the Blue Eagle. Technological change confronts him as a mere surface “problem” the consequences of which can be remedied within the existing framework of society. The inner necessity for technological change never occurs to him: he does not see that if it had no “unfortunate consequences” it would never have moved forward in the first place. He dates from the 19th Century hey days when the effect of technology was rapidly swallowed by the still expanding markets of an undeveloped world. He is the child, mentally, of that period of expansion: imperialism. Imperialism footed the bill for those reforms which the liberal was able to bring about, which kept his conscience free, which to a certain degree justified his intellectual position: since capitalism could be reformed at home, it might, one day, be reformed into Heaven showering the blessings of free trade and individualism on all the world. The liberal never examined very closely into the conditions that made his reforms possible.
The liberal today then sets about curing 20th Century capitalism by attempting to apply 19th Century nostrums—even if he has to apply his cures by force and so to some extent violate his traditional individualism. What he does is to assume that the full grown capitalism of today still belongs in its 19th Century cradle. To cram it there in the first place would require some pressure. Then he attempts to nourish it with the same milk that once made it a lusty and healthy child: market expansion.
But unfortunately for the modern liberal, the only milk he has to offer is the thin blue milk of his own home market. No wonder the child, or rather the man he takes for a child vomits it up. Increased purchasing power, by minimum wage rates, by maximum hours of labor designed to keep the working ranks full, mean only one thing in this manchild’s mind, increased operating costs and nothing else. And since, as this paper has attempted to indicate, the rate of technological advance varies with the intensity of capitalism’s desire to escape all cost entanglements the liberal’s confusion today become apparent. To cure unemployment he rubs open sores which only spur capitalism into creating more unemployment. So what must happen should the liberal temporarily overcome technology in his drive for increased operating costs?
The 20th century has devised a new technology for caring with a situation of that sort. So long as technological change can keep labor costs down by under mining them from below, just so long as democracy comparatively safe. When labor costs fail to respond rapidly enough owing to some social democrat or liberal’s tinkering with the response mechanism, or owing to trade unionism and its freezing of wage rates, then this new technology must be introduced from above. Hitler and the power machine share certain characteristics: they smash wages and unions; they are both tools of the same employer. It is the fate of the liberal to breed the very monsters he seeks to stay. It is essential then that workers be not misled today by the N.R.A. as they were once misled by another liberal: they then died to keep the world safe for democracy.
Just as workers can find in the past history of coal mining the story of what is happening to them today—so they can see in Hitler’s Germany what must happen to them tomorrow—if Capitalism lasts. And just as Marxian economics has taught us the futility of smashing the machine, so Marxian politics guides us to the destruction of the capitalist system.
FASCIST ORGANIZATIONS IN AMERICA by Murray Braun
(Concluded from last issue)
Fascists, who have realized the bankruptcy of their ideology, have not hesitated to hide the sterility of their ideas by purchasing from the intellectual Philistines disguises with which to cloak the barrenness of their theories. In the United States, however, where fascism is just poking its head above the horizon and its progeny are not very mature, they generally do not possess sufficient funds to devote to this purpose. They must therefore rely upon other stratagems to obscure the naivete of their panaceas as for example, the manufacture of spurious testimonials from reputable institutions. This is the method which the Crusader White Shirts have utilized to lend their Human Effort Monetary System an air of scientific sanctity. They therefore circulate what purports to be a copy of an indorsement from the Brookings Institution proclaiming Christians’ fantasy as “the soundest of the many schemes for stabilization of prices through credit control” which that institution has had the opportunity to examine. The obviously fraudulent character of this document is not improved upon by its trained effort at erudition, its ridiculous attempt to employ as many impressive technical phrases as possible, its extravagant praise and the patent absurdity of its conclusions.
The Crusaders, however, are in no fear of being detected in their trickery, for they consider their economic program of secondary importance. In one of the leaflets distributed by them, they blatantly announce that “where reasoning power is insufficient to grasp the economics and psychology, it must be replaced by emotional appeal.” After Hitler and Mussolini this declaration is entirely superfluous. It should even be unnecessary to point out the fact that this emotional appeal will make no pretense to subtlety but will proceed in the usual fascist channels of racial prejudice and religious persecution.
It is for this reason that the White Shirts characterize themselves as “a psychological machine designed to remove a psychological obstacle.”
But since even “psychological machines” must have adherents if they are to succeed, the Crusaders tactfully suggest that you must join them “for your own self preservation” or “you will be crushed politically, economically, socially, spiritually, and physically.” If one is properly frightened by these dire threats and, is thereby interested in organizing Crusaders White Shirts, he will then be given the following bulletin of instructions.
“The Crusader White Shirts will be a military organization armed with wooden staffs, officered and drilled in accordance with the United States Army regulations. They shall wear white shirts with a large Red Crusader Cross on the front middle and with small crossed American and Red Crusader flags on the left breast, the White Shirts denoting the purity of our purpose; the Red Crusader Cross denoting the religious significance of the Crusade; the American flag, patriotism; and the Red Crusader flag courage and sacrifice.
“You will need no credentials or authority other than these instructions to organize Crusader White Shirts anywhere. Merely get a group together and furnish them with an American and a Red Crusader flag and the insignia which can be sewed on any white shirt.
“The initiation ceremony merely consists of lining up the applicants in military formation, having them give the military salute to the Economic Independence, and then, while giving the Crusader salute, which consists of raising the outstretched right arm with the fist clenched, to the Red Crusader flag, have them repeat in unison the last sentence of this Declaration. They should then elect their officers, hold frequent parades and mass drills and report for assignment and instructions to their state and regional commanders, if known, or to the National Capital of the Crusaders for Economic Liberty, at Chattanooga, Tenn.
“Organizers can obtain from the Chattanooga Button and Badge Manufacturing Company, . . 3’x5’ Crusader flags at the cost of $3 and sets of insignia at 15 cents each, (cash must accompany order) or he may get them elsewhere if he cares to. It is recommended that the flags be sold for $5.00. It is recommended that in new localities that the insignia be sold for $1.00 per set at the start and that the price be reduced thereafter until finally those who have no money can be told that they can paint a red cross on any old white shirt or make their own. National Headquarters is interested in numbers only. You will find that you will be well paid for your efforts.”
While the above paragraph may strike the reader as ridiculous, he should not for that reason make the mistake of minimizing the potential danger of the White Shirts and the rapidly rising tide of fascism that is sweeping this country. In all fascist movements one naturally finds much that is infantile and barbaric. This fact, however, has not impeded the progress of the fascists in the past and there is no indication that it will in the future.
THE ORDER OF ‘76
This Aryan society of pure-blooded American fascists was organized about a year and a half ago under the protective wing of Royal S. Gulden. Although all prospects are solicited through personal contacts, it claims to already have 100,000 members scattered through out twenty one states of the Union. Most of these men, the writer is informed, are urban dwellers who have lost money in the stock market. An analysis of the membership on an occupational basis would disclose the fact that the majority of them are salesman, minor executives, managers, ex-soldiers, etc. Few laborers have made any effort to join and all women are excluded.
So far the Order of ‘76 has printed no literature since it first desires to merge with an intellectual group capable of supplying it with a program. It has never the less settled four points in its ideology, it opposes the present system, fights Communism, attacks the Jew, and definitely favors fascism. Where labor disputes occur, it openly boasts that it sends in squads to club the strikers,. It also pretends to have an espionage system which enables it to discover all graft in political office but since it has not revealed any information which it may have, it is exceedingly doubtful whether it possesses any knowledge not generally known to the public.
According to their application blank they are “an all American Nationalistic Organization … . believing in and adhering to the Constitution of the United States of America,” and hope “to revive the Spirit, Ideals, and conserve the principles of the Founders of our Republic". To those who “are in accord with them and are willing to support them by word or deed” they present a detailed application blank similar to a police record. This blank if properly filled in and accompanied by one dollar will then in due time be investigated by a member. If the investigation is satisfactory, another member rechecks it in order to prevent any alien elements from worming their way into the organization.
Since the Order of ‘76 has no publication, it is difficult to secure information concerning them. Their present handicap, however, will not remain permanent. One must realize that a program will be supplied when the need for it arises. Already it is being manufactured by the college professors and thrown at the world for those who wish to use it. In a recently written work by Madison Grant entitled “The Conquest of a Continent or the Expansion of Races in America” which contains an introduction by Prof. Henry Fairfield Osborn, the author makes a militant plea for the establishment of a Nordic and Protestant America, racially and nationally undefiled. The author further urges the adoption of laws which will keep intact what Prof. Osborn calls the “precious heritage which we should not impair or dilute.” Here is a sample of the type of work which furnishes the pseudo-scientific basis for the program of bigotry and hate which the fascists inevitably adopt.
THE KHAKI SHIRTS
In Europe the fascists have built their organizations around nuclei of the lower and middle officers left stranded by the depression which followed the war. It therefore would have been most unusual if in 1932 an attempt were not made to start a similar movement among our own veterans since the relation of economic forces had by that time so sharply increased their discontent that a large percentage of them were unconsciously in a receptive mood for fascism. Naturally, there still remained some who were under the illusion that government assistance would yet be forthcoming. This element, however, was quickly brought to its senses by the forceful expulsion of the Bonus Marchers from Washington. The time was assuredly ripe for a capable organizer to stampede hundreds of thousands of veterans into the ranks of the fascists. Appropriately, Art Smith, a demagogue with Hitlerite aspirations was sufficiently astute to see in the situation an opportunity to organize his Khaki Shirts. It is indeed fortunate that it was only an Art Smith.
If the Khaki Shirts are weak today, tomorrow may bring a stronger organization to replace them. It is the privileged role of the Art Smiths, the William Pelleys, and the George Christians to lay only the cornerstone of fascism. It is in their rudimentary organizations that the petty bourgeoisie receives its first elementary schooling in dictatorship. It is from the Smiths and the Pelleys that it learns to scrap its democratic scruples, to hate the Jew as the Mephistopheles responsible for depressions and to detest the Communist as the companion creation of the Devil. It is in their lecture rooms that the small shopkeeper and the petty officers avidly absorb the bombastic emotional rantings of the would be American Hitlers who intoxicate their listeners with glorious hallucinations of the past and still more glorious visions of the future under the aegis of fascism. Religious animosity is of course, stressed more than anything else.
On economic problems, the Khaki Shirts are practically silent. The entire subject is summarily dismissed with a few fine sounding quotations from Henry George and the rather indefinite endorsement of a single tax scheme predicated upon the taxation of all idle lands if efficiently worked. But if the Khaki Shirts have no concrete solution to offer, they more than compensate for this deficiency by the lyrical quality of their conclusions as to the results which will accrue when they come into power. Witness this sample of their art.
“Labor and Capital, with no need of any bargaining ‘schotchem’, (professional matchmakers) would find themselves together in the Lover’s Lane of Opportunity; the great tides of Supply and Demand, would flow together would indeed ebb and flow but never at ebb or flood would they be disastrously far from the mean tide level; money as the representative and measure of all material value would flow naturally and regularly as the life stream in the body.”
In their analysis of the more immediate problems of the day such as the role of Roosevelt, the Khaki Shirts are so contradictory that it is difficult to report their position. In a letter addressed to Roosevelt, Art Smith advises the president that any plans which he might propose would be frustrated by the “Invisible Money Power” that holds the nation in its grip; that he should therefore with the aid of the Khaki Shirt Storm Troops establish a dictatorship founded upon the principles of fascism. This letter was immediately followed by marching orders and instructions for the mobilization of the Khaki Shirts. But in an article written by Art Smith the president is attacked as the nominee of the international bankers. The New Deal is also derided as the National Racketeers Association. In the next paragraph, however, Art Smith proceeds to exonerate Roosevelt by stating that he has been ill-advised. It is with incoherent muddled reasoning of the type that the Khaki Shirts are able to attract a following. The petty bourgeoisie must indeed be poverty stricken in its ideology to seek the solace that an Art Smith can give them. But after all what can be expected? The petty bourgeoisie naturally shrinks back from the yawning cavern of proletarianization that faces it. It refuses to see the anachronism of its present status as a buffer class; that it must be ground to pulp between the wheels of history. Instead it clings tenaciously to its worn out aspirations and fights as best it can to prevent being plowed under like cotton.
The fascist movement may be young and immature in the United States, but already it has spilled the blood of Anthony Fierro who had the temerity to be an anti-fascist. For this crime Fierro’s friend who was also an anti-fascist was indicted while the probable murderer, Frank Moffer, one of Art Smith’s Khaki Shirts, was permitted to escape. The trial which followed completely exposed the case which the Khaki Shirts had manufactured against Terzani and pointed the finger of guilt at Moffer. This fact, however, did not lead to the prosecution of Moffer; instead the district attorney focused his attention upon charging Samuel Wein, chief witness for the defense, with perjury for having lied on a previous occasion because his life had been threatened by Art Smith. If this tendency continues to prevail, it will not be long before one will see an open alliance between the courts and the fascists. Terzani’s release was accomplished only by the prompt action of the working class in setting up a united front in his defense.
In the Terzani case, the Fascist organizations with their prime appeal to the petty bourgeoisie and to the declassed elements, have already openly begun to fulfill their anti working class function. In spite of Art Smith’s apprehension for perjury in the Terzani trial the Khaki Shirts have threatened—so we have been informed—to break up an anti Fascist mass meeting soon to be called in Paterson, New Jersey. The Fascist organizations for the most part, however, are so far rather the product of the unrest of the times than the instruments for a change of regime. It is the pressure of the world crisis, the inescapable contradictions of U. S. capitalism itself which are driving the country more and more rapidly towards a course which, if the strong arm of the working class does not intervene to change the course of events—is likely to pave the way for actual fascism.
(In memory of Benjamin Klein and Philip Rosenburg)
Through a little stove
they thought would give them warmth,
the diablerie of poverty
worked its long hand
and killed our own --
choking the vision
beyond their last bitterness
when all the bright nerves
plunged icily into final darkness…
And it was done.
Through the cold night,
Upon the cold bed,
Comrades together they lay --
Comrades together—and dead.
The dull walls stood
And it was no good
Anymore to shout.
But none did shout:
The sun rose and set;
The stars came out --
And the poison from the jet.
At next high sun
They came to take
What poverty had done
And cannot unmake.
Poverty doth hatch
Such accidents of doom;
The walls gave up watch
And emptied is the room.
We who knew their will
Shall never know peace
But war implacably till
Oppression shall cease.
-- PHILIP SOYER.