OUR ANSWER TO COMRADE TROTSKY
We have received the following letter from Comrade Trotsky which we print with our answer.
Kadikoy, October 10,
To the Communist League of Struggle,
I have received several documents from you. I apologize that I answer with delay and then in the German language. To write English would be too for me much too big and too thankless a task. Now to business.
I cannot sympathize with your position. Your criticism of the League seems to me one-sided, artificial and terribly exaggerated. You throw the League in together with the Right, which means that you trample under foot the necessary proportion in politics. You deride the publishing work of the League, and you oppose it to “Mass action". Have you any mass action whatsoever behind you? Before we turn to the masses we must build a principled basis. We begin with a propagandist group and develop in the direction of mass action.
Also your international connections, sympathies and half-sympathies speak against you. While I cannot claim to be so initiated in present day American affairs, yet I know well enough what the Landau group and other similar groups in Europe mean. Tell me with whom you go and I will tell you what you are.
The International Opposition cannot need two groups in America. Your group is new, has but recently split away from the Right, goes against the Left Opposition on many questions, and flirts with those elements that split away from the International Left. Can you ask us to prefer you to the American League?
You declare yourselves as adhering to the International Opposition. Organizationally this is not so. So it can be taken only in the sense of general solidarity of ideas. Now you must also put yourselves the question of how this is to be expressed organizationally. In your letter to the conference of the league you propose a united front, but without the leading comrades. This is the famous “united front from below” which the Stalinists practice (in words) towards the Social Democracy and the unions. At the same time we fight the league because it will not employ the policy of the united front. This does not really make a serious impression. Were you really to hold any community of ideas with the Left Opposition, you would have to bridge behind you to the league in common. This in no way excludes inner criticism on the ground of a healthy revolutionary democracy..
With Communist greetings,
(Signed) L. D.. Trotsky
November 3, 1931.
Dear Comrade Trotsky,
We have gone over the contents of your letter very carefully. It seems to us that in many respects you have not understood our position.
1. It is not true that we ridicule the publishing activity of the American League (Cannon group). On the contrary, we have stated in our general theses “The sole virtue of Cannon group is that it has published the writings of L. D. Trotsky in this country.” We can truly say that is your pen alone that has given the Militant what ever little circulation and whatever value it has.
We thoroughly appreciate the necessity of starting with a propaganda group. Every beginner knows that before we turn to the masses we must build a principled basis, we must begin with a propaganda group. With what we cannot agree is the failure to make the slightest effort to advance beyond the propaganda stage, to be smugly content to remain merely a propaganda group, to do nothing else but publish a paper. We do not oppose mass action to publishing activity. Our position is that the Talmudic leadership of the Cannon-Shachtman group does not wish to leave the quiet of the office desk to do any independent work among the masses.
In all of our criticism of Cannon & Co., we have constantly believed it was we who really represented the spirit of your own viewpoint in insisting the Cannon group go beyond publishing activity merely. We can only regret that your present position of exile prevents you from obtaining the facts concerning the Cannon group so that you remain ignorant of its true character.
The Cannon group leaders having condemned themselves to sterility in practice show themselves sterile in theory. Posing as Communist leaders, they have not even READ the basic works of Marx. Trying to oppose propaganda to mass action as they do, they do not even have good propaganda. Attempting to win good fighters from the Communist Party, they get mere college and high school students from the petty-bourgeoisie. Denouncing the Party leaders as mere puppets, they themselves refuse to take a decided stand on some of the most important questions of the day (e.g. the Negro question) and where they do take a stand they often commit gross blunders. Even when they were in the Party the Cannon leadership has absolutely no record of mass work after they became Communists.
Would it detract from the propaganda of the Cannon group if it formed shop nuclei and shop committees, if it paid more attention to the actual formation and guidance of trade unions fractions, etc., if it strove to lead strikes or other demonstrations, etc? Does a group deserve to be called anything better than a sterile sect when in the first two years of its existence it issued not even one agitational leaflet mobilizing workers in an independent manner?
You ask “Have you any mass action whatsoever behind you?” We believe such a placing of the question very improper. We charge the Cannon group with not ATTEMPTING to develop in the direction of mass action. You do not seem to concern yourself whether our charge is correct or not but you ask where is OUR mass action. Surely this is no defense of the Cannon group.
If you ask for our past we can declare we have a good record of mass action. This record we have sent you. We believe it would be good if you took more interest in the American movement. Of political mass action the American working class has little experience, but in some of its many economic battles we have done our share. It is our group and ours alone that raised such an elementary slogan as “No leadership without Communist behavior in the concrete struggles of the masses.”
If you are asking what we are doing at present we can only say that we have the correct orientation, that is, we are ATTEMPTING mass work. We have issued a number of agitational leaflets. We have participated in various strikes. We have put out a shop paper and are building a shop committee in a very important factory. We have entered into various united front activities (Defense of Centralia Prisoners, Mooney Defense, etc.) in which we alone upheld the banner of the International Left Opposition. All our members are instructed to work in larger factories and no doubt this will bear good fruit in the future. We have tried to do some independent unemployed work and work against the high cost of living. We have entered whatever political demonstrations take place. In short, we are doing the best we can.
We have not limited ourselves to general criticisms of the Cannon group. In our general theses you will find a long list of concrete facts thoroughly exposing the Cannons and Shachtmans as having no place in the International Left Opposition either by their past or by their present. You write “Your criticism of the League seems to me one-sided artificial, and terribly exaggerated". We ask by what right you reach these conclusions? Have you been able to disprove any of the facts asserted in our theses? If only half of what we allege were true, this would be enough to show the Right-wing character of the Cannon group.
It is not too difficult for a Right-wing group to hide its character under phrases of adherence to the International Left Opposition. The matter is very simple. Let Turkey keep hands off American affairs, let the Cannon group work under the cloak of Trotsky and the American “Cannons” will “agree” to anything that Turkey writes. It is cheap politics. You need but turn to the thesis that was submitted to the last National Conference of the Cannon group to see how barren , how opportunist, the theoretical views of the Cannon group leaders are, particularly on American questions where they are not mimicking your exact words.
2. You declare that our international connections, sympathies and half-sympathies speak against us. We do not know exactly what you mean. For over six months we tried to exchange correspondence with the Secretariat at Paris. To this day we have never once received a reply. The Secretariat is too proud, too bureaucratic even to reply to us. Instead they issued a document against us that appeared in the Militant, that absolutely convinced us that the Secretariat were merely a Parisian bunch of Shachtmans, triflers in the revolutionary movement. Can we also not say, “Tell us with whom you go and we shall tell you who you are?”
Under such circumstances what did you expect us to do? When we found that there were other groups that attacked what was to us the proven bureaucracy and stupidity of the Secretariat in Paris, we began an investigation and we have written these groups to find out in full their differences with the Secretariat. We are studying such documents as we have received but we have not yet taken a stand on any of the questions raised by the other groups. Our information is as yet too incomplete. Surely you cannot object to this correspondence for you yourself in a letter to the Italian Left (Bordiga group) wrote that it is the duty of each national group to connect with an international tendency. What we are trying to do is to carry out your advice. However, we are not yet connected with any group.
We believe that it must be kept clearly in mind that there is as yet no common program worked out by the International Left Opposition. We have your Draft Program and your various theses. In the main we agree with these but they cannot be a substitute for a collectively worked out program so that all can know where they stand.
3. You write that our group is new. This can be no reproach. One must understand the conditions in the United States and in the Communist Movement to appreciate the reasons why the views of the International Left Opposition became known and were accepted so much later than they were issued.
However, we must indignantly reject any charge that we have “but recently split from the right". This statement alone shows how much a victim you are to the lies of the Cannons and Shachtmans who have united with the Communist Party bureaucrats to spread this slander concerning our group. The members of our group do not all have the same political history. Two members of our executive were expelled from the Communist Party for “Trotskyism". Two have been expelled from the American League (Cannon group) for insisting upon some efforts towards mass activities. We have some workers, never before members of a communist group who have been won from the unions and other mass organizations. Actually we have no members who were with the Lovestone faction since its split from the Party in 1929.
As far as Comrade Weisbord is concerned, he broke with Lovestone in February, 1928 when Cannon was then united with him. Cannon as the leader of a tendency was never to the left of Ruthenberg. The struggle within the Party never really exposed the completely opportunist character of all the factions at that time. In Moscow at the 4th R.I.L.U. Congress, comrade Weisbord definitely fought the representative of the Lovestone Group (Gitlow) at that time. We can thus only view with amusement that you can believe the fairy tales that were a part of the “Right”, meaning the Lovestone group.
4. Finally we read with amazement your statement that we want a “united front” without the leaders of the Cannon group. This is far from the truth.
It is not we who refused to join the Communist League (Cannon group). It was the Cannon leadership which in reply to our draft theses (printed in the Militant, 1930) declared we have no place in the Cannon group. It was not we who refused to form a united front after we had been forced to form another group. It was Cannon & Co., who refused to even answer our letters in which we offered to form a united front on a number of concrete questions. We do not dictate to the Cannon group as to whom they should send as delegates. If they send Cannon or Shachtman we will work with them. However, we reserve to ourselves the right to declare that the movement must be rid of the Lovestones, the Cannons, the Fosters, and the other misleaders who have really disgraced our movement so long. We have tried to build many bridges to the League. In each case they have been hacked down by the leaders of the League, Cannon & Co. When the National Conference of the Cannon group was held we offered to send delegates and to present our viewpoint to the conference. We pointed out that the delegation would be a step forward in eliminating the barriers set up between the two organizations. Our letter was not answered. Our delegation was rejected. The Cannon leadership ruthlessly repressed any right of healthy criticism within the League.
We are quite willing that you should use your offices to bring together the two organizations for mutual discussion of our differences and for mutual action. We deeply regret that there should be two organizations in the United States both adhering to the views of the International Left Opposition. Only a clean up from top to bottom will give us a section of the International Left Opposition that will not disgrace itself.
Communist League Of Struggle
Albert Weisbord, Secretary.
THE SITUATION IN THE ILLINOIS COAL FIELDS
by John J. Watt, (former President, National Miners Union)
(Editorial Note: We are publishing part of a letter received from Comrade Watt late in September. We regret that due to the irregularity of the Class Struggle, we could not publish this earlier.)
Due to the further gross blunders, the official party has entered the fourth period, THE PERIOD OF ISOLATION. Not satisfied with the destructive Third Period, which all but wrecked the party and its revolutionary unions, to complete the job here in Illinois the Fourth Period of Isolation was put into practice and TODAY you can’t find a particle of the National Miners Union or the party, in the mining fields of Illinois with the strongest lens possible. Doesn’t that mean that all militancy in the ranks of the miners has ceased to exist? Not at all; more dissension and turmoil exists today than at any time since I can remember, but due to past errors and incapable leadership, the miners have lost complete faith in the Communist Party and are following other leadership in the absence of Communist leadership. The Stalinists isolated themselves from the Belleville rank and file movement, actually ordered that no delegates should attend the conventions of these groups and thus serve as leaders to the honest rank and filers who have been caught in these maneuvers. They isolated themselves from the Edmondson Rank and file maneuver, whose convention was 90% rank and filers looking for a way out. Because of this program of isolation, when these groups were finally broken up, the party was not in a position to take advantage and to capture the best elements of these movements because it had adopted a program that did not allow them to organize for such periods.
And now such opposing groups remain, in organized form, for due to certain strategical maneuvers, promises and concessions, the miners in Illinois for the first time in two years are again 100% paying their dues to Lewis and Walker. Does this mean that harmony again exists inside the old U.M.W.A.? No, it is more distant than before, but, as stated above, certain tactic[s] were used by the Lewis-Walker forces that have made this seeming harmony possible. The Lewis-Walker machine collaborated with the agents of the government and the coal operators to kill the Edmondson Rank and File movement completely. The court edict dissolved the Re-organized movement, and after these things had taken place, elections to fill vacancies that had not been filled because of the divisions that had taken place, were held out as lures to the opportunistic remnants in the revolting factions. Sub-districts and Board Member-districts that had been revoked or done away with were again reinstated and the fact that the present wage agreement expires next April was used very effectively to cement the breaches that had been made between Walker and Lewis and their pleas for unity to met the common enemy, the coal operators, had some effect. And this regardless of the efforts of the Walker-Lewis gangs the last two years of doing everything possible to cause disunity in order to aid their own private schemes.
Does this mean that complete unity now exists between Walker and Lewis? No, Lewis is awaiting his chance to overthrow Walker, and at the [least] this won’t be much over a year even if the old union remains intact until that time. Perhaps Lewis won’t have to wait until the next election to get Walker, because there is a convention of the Illinois Miners to take place here in Springfield on October 6th and the battle grounds are now being prepared to overthrow Walker. This convention call was the remaining club that had the effect of causing the last remaining local unions to pay their dues again to Lewis and Walker so that they could participate in this convention and thus be able to’ “clean-up Illinois".
A battle royal will take place there for control of the Illinois union, Walker has nothing to gain and much to lose by the re-opening of the Walker-Lewis injunction fight, and the charges of Lewis that Walker and his henchmen are agents of Peabody Coal. Lewis is still prevented by injunction from interfering in Illinois but the Lewis henchmen are busy, the former supporters of Howat are busy, the honest rank and filers who are opposed to both Lewis and Howat are busy, and it will not surprise me if the most riotous convention ever held in the U.M.W.A. will take place here when these different forces meet. But nowhere can we hear a chirp from the National Miners Union or the C.P. at a time when with a correct policy past mistakes can be wiped out and leadership given to any rebellious movement that may develop at this convention.
So I say what can be done in the face of such a promising period when the only real movement that has a solution for the system that created all this turmoil, unemployment and starvation, remains aloof, isolated and demagogic, expelling competent men from the movement, outcasting and branding others with the brands of traitors, counter-revolutionists, and opportunists, while at the same time, they [are] committing the grossest kinds of errors, with proof in plenty to show that they understand not a whit the duties entrusted to them, remain in full power, backed 100% by the Comintern.
To all this we must reply that we will fight on against all odds, knowing that the worsening of conditions, drastic wage reductions, unemployment and world-wide starvation will bring the period when workers themselves will assume leadership, undaunted by any clique, in the battle for self preservation and workers rule.
Thanking you again for your letter of comradeship and assuring you of my continued struggle against all enemies of the working class, I remain,
Yours for Ours
(signed) John J. Watt
MY EXPULSION FROM THE COMMUNIST PARTY
(Concluded from the August-September Issue) by Albert Weisbord
Who were the people who had me charged with “Lovestoneism"? The very ones who had been the worst Lovestonites, those who had formed the right end of the Lovestone faction (Stachel, Weinstone, Minor and Co.) Stachel could never forget how I had testified that he had tried to swindle the C.I.—affirming that Pepper had gone to Mexico and trying to use the evidence of my own trip to Mexico to prove it! As for the right-wing policies of Weinstone, these had come thoroughly into the open in the 1926 Patterson Strike where I had been forced into a head-on collision with his Menshevik theories (June issue Class Struggle: Crucial Moments in Textile Strikes). Inside the Lovestone faction it was the Weinstone-Stachel clique against which I had been forced to struggle the most. When, due to the capriciousness of Stalin, they were momentarily put at the helm, they were quick to seize the opportunity to expel me.
Who were the people who charged me with “running away from the South". It was again the Stachels and the Weinstones who never ran away from a fight because they saw to it that they never had to come near one. The Minors, who, Southern gentlemen that they are, would rather leave it to the East Side Jews or Poles to organize the Southern workers? The Dunnes and Johnstones who carefully avoid the scene of action or conveniently arrive there too late and never take responsibility for the action! The Browders who go through a Chinese revolution and learn nothing except that Chinese textile unions sweep their floors clean! The Fosters who enter a struggle only to make a speech or so, but who, when they were organizers (in the far-off past) actually betrayed the workers (Foster record Steel Strike, 1919)! Yes, these are exactly the people who levy the charges.
Was it correct for me to have tendered my resignation as the Central Executive Committee textile representative? The Secretariat threatened me with immediate expulsion unless I at once repudiated my resignation. This I did. However, I stated:
"At the time I offered my resignation I felt that I had such serious political disagreements with the present leadership that if I had not resigned I would have to be removed and that with such opinions I could not maintain the responsible party post of CEC textile representative and that under such circumstance , especially since I was now leaving for the South, that it would be better for a textile comrade to take hold of the post of secretary of the union. It was clearly understood that the union change of secretaryship must take place in such a manner that the union would not be hurt by such a change. A previous telegram giving my position had been suppressed. I was desirous of demonstrating my political disagreements in some manner before leaving for Gastonia, due to the terror of the bosses I might never have the opportunity again.” (Statement to Secretariat, June 19, 1929)
Of course, my tendering my resignation under the circumstances was correct. If any criticism is to be made it is that I did not wait to organize a strong faction inside the union, that I did not mobilize the textile workers to fight the frame-up artists and puppets in the Party.
Once my suspension was decided upon, a frame-up was necessary to put it over on the party and union membership. A whole regiment of “reasons”, most of them pure lies and fabrications were “discovered.” It was discovered that I “sold-out the Passiac strike.” It was discovered that I “hid on a roof in the New Bedford strike.” It was discovered that I “had wrong union policies”, that I had a wrong strategy in the South, a wrong policy in Elzabethtown, that I had wrong defense slogans, that I was a pacifist, a careerist , a syndicalist, a factionalist, etc., that I was for the bourgeois democratic revolution in America (no less!) And for an opportunist labor party.
The only part of these ridiculous “charges” which deserves words to answer is that touching on policies. On the “wrong union policies” I can say we never had a disagreement in the National Executive Committee of the National Textile Workers Union on any serious question and none on the South. The “rolling wave strike strategy”, proposed by myself, was unanimously adopted by the N.T.W.U. And approved by the Polcom of the C.P. itself. This strategy is in itself important enough for an article. Finally as to the “wrong Gastonia defense slogans”, all I need to say is that at the same time I was removed from all posts by the party leadership, no defense slogans had yet been issued.
As for the charges of careerism, individualism, etc., are they to be treated seriously? We ask the people who made these charges to show us a single thing they did for the American proletariat to deserve the posts they have. We ask them whether they ever did a thing without considering "would it affect my job, my career". We are in our “1902 period” in America for we have not yet really tested our leaders, because we are still infested with the worst type of shysters and sharpers which our “1905 dress rehearsal for the revolution” will clean out. Just as Lenin sounded the alarm in 1902 in Russia so must we today in the United States.
After my suspension from the Party I cabled an appeal to Moscow denouncing the frame-up and demanding a trial and the right to appear personally in Moscow. You see, I naively imagined that the crookedness and corruption of the marionettes in the U.S. did not come from the Stalin-Lozofsky regime. At that time I wrote that “the C.I. calls upon every party member to finish what the C.I. has begun—the elimination of the present leadership fundamentally vitiated by petty-bourgeois political tendencies and rotten diplomacy and for the creation of a leadership actually tested in the fire of proletarian struggles…” (Statement to the Secretariat June 19, 1929)
I was soon disillusioned. I learned through the New York Times that the C.I. had expelled me. From the Imprecorr I learned the reason: It was for WHITE CHAUVINISM ! No more, no less. The charges were made by Lozofsky himself who demanded that I be thrown out of the Party “like a rag". What are the facts?
1. I was the first to speak on the Negro question in the Gastonia strike at the very beginning, raising the slogan of equality for black and white workers. All the Southern papers carried the story of my speech (Houston “Democrat”, Atlanta “Constitution”, etc.) Furiously denouncing it and declaring this alone meant the N.T.W.U. would never have the slightest chance in the South.
2. In the face of the terrific reaction that set in, our whole fraction in the field capitulated on the Negro question, refused to carry out our line, strung up a wire between Negro and White workers, etc. These capitulators include some still leading the Party. The Polcom sent down Jack Johnstone to correct their line, to stiffen them up, to take leadership. Within a week Johnstone had run back to New York City—without permission. He proposed in a written series of motions the N.T.W.U. build TWO UNIONS in the South, one for Negroes, one for Whites, declaring that the Negroes themselves wanted this! These outrageous proposals were supported by Browder. It was I who took the lead in denouncing them. The Negro comrades sent a cablegram to Moscow denouncing the white chauvinism of Johnstone-Browder. Johnstone was yanked out of the South—for which he was desperately manoeuvering - and I was sent down to carry out the line of the Party.
3. The first thing I did was to counteract the poisonous chauvinism of Johnstone and Wagenknecht and to break the sabotage of the fraction in the field. None of the organizers at first would speak to the strike committee on the simple proposition of complete equality in the union. I was left to do it myself. I had to get a vote in the Gastonia Strike Committee. I had to go to Bessemer City to get a vote there. I had to call the meetings in the Negro quarter. In order to get a little help I got the I.L.D. attorney to make a five minute talk to the Strike committee on the necessity of black and white to stick together. I worked out his remarks and he told them in the Southern language to which they were accustomed. All of the organizers admitted that I was successful in convincing the majority of the Strike Committee.
4. What were the results? I got the Strike Committee to vote for the proposition “Full equality in the union". For the first time white men and women held a meeting in the Negro quarter standing side by side with the Negro workers. It was a great move forward. Some of the comrades now saw their error and began to help.
But as Party representative I was not satisfied with this. While we now hammered home before the union “Full equality in the union” I laid down a much more advanced program for the communists. As I wrote in a letter to Beal soon after the strike began (Letter of April 20, 1929):
"On the Negro question, there must be absolutely no compromise. OUR UNION STANDS AND FIGHTS FOR FULL ECONOMIC, POLITICAL, AND SOCIAL EQUALITY FOR ALL WORKERS INCLUDING NEGRO WORKERS. Further than that you as a Communist and all leaders as Communists, must lead the way by personally fraternizing with the Negro workers, making them your personal friends. While at UNION MEETINGS it is not necessary AT THIS STAGE OF THE GAME to advise the Southern workers with deep prejudices that they have on the Negro question—to intermarry or even have as their personal friends Negro workers, nevertheless, you AND THE OTHER ORGANIZERS BY YOUR PERSONAL CONDUCT BY MAKING PERSONAL FRIENDSHIPS WITH NEGRO WORKERS CAN DEMONSTRATE IN ACTION THAT YOU AS A COMMUNIST CAN WIPE OUT COLOR DISTINCTION. Please see that this line is rigidly adhered to.”
5. When I returned to New York city and reported everything, the Polcom by express motion passed a decision that on the whole I CARRIED OUT THE PARTY LINE.
Now what shall we say when we learned that I am expelled as a white chauvinist but Johnstone is promoted to the Polcom and Browder made head of the Party?
Here stands Lozofsky and the whole Stalin apparatus fully exposed. Are they not rags, these gentlemen, who must be thrown out of the revolutionary movement?
COMING ARTICLES: THE NEW PARTY OF THE C.P.L.A.
HISTORY of the COMMUNIST MOVEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES
THE UNITED FRONT TACTIC