Contents: OUR HEADQUARTERS RAIDED—WRECKERS PROTECTED BY CANNON
THE NEW PARTY OF THE C.P.L.A. ………………… by Vera Buch
THE UNITED FRONT TACTIC ………………… by Albert Weisbord
OUR HEADQUARTERS RAIDED—WRECKERS PROTECTED BY CANNON
On Sunday, November 8th, 1931 between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., the headquarters of the Communist League of Struggle was broken into by a group of anti-working class elements. A large quantity of books—the whole Marxist Library of the Workers School—were stolen and the headquarters practically wrecked. The reasons for this fascist like raid were two:
1. To break up our organization. In this respect, these scoundrels only supplemented what the U.S. Government had tried to do in banning our paper.
2. Plain burglary, some of the books have been found in the house of one Alfred Reiskin, others in the house of one Jack Rosenberg.
LEVY ("HAWKINS") SQUEALS
We print below parts of the confession of N. Levy (known as “Norman Hawkins” and also in the Y.C.L. as “Rowley")
"On Saturday, November 7, 1931 I received a Communication from Jack Rosenberg and Alfred Reiskin to the effect that they wanted to see me. I met them in the vicinity of 9th St. and 3rd Ave… and we discussed plans for a raid on the headquarters of the Communist League of Struggle.
“They (A.R. and J.R) maintained that the raid should be secret. I argued for an open raid for the purpose of harming the organization….After ascertaining whether anyone was in the headquarters (212 E. 9th St.) Jack and Alfred went up and broke the lock off the door, after which, I followed. When I came in I did the following damage…(then follows a list of the destructive activities of “Hawkins")
“I then noticed Jack and Alfred packing up books to take away. I urged them against this on the ground that this was not a burglary we were doing and also not an act of revenge but a move of policy (note this-ed.)
“They disagreed and finally got ready to go taking several boxes of books including some stamps and papers….I helped them carry the books to a certain house….
“I had come to reflect by this time….I urged them to return them (the books-ed.) and repeatedly afterward. They took no action and about a week later I told them that if the books were not returned on the following day, by noon, I would report the matter….”
(signed) Norman Hawkins
Before “Hawkins” could run to squeal, however, Rosenberg and Reiskin already had squealed on their “pals". They “informed” us by telling us the deliberate lie that not they were guilty, but a group of seamen—even naming one of them! Rosenberg and Reiskin thus deliberately plotted to involve someone who could not possibly defend himself. We call on all workers organizations to help us get after these scoundrels.
CANNON PROTECTS LEVY
“We informed members of the Cannon group about the burglary and wrecking of our headquarters. Far from denouncing this police-agent-like attack, Cannon at once protected “Hawkins” by placing him on the Marine Workers Defense Committee. At the same time Cannon saw to it that we did not receive a request to join this committee. These are the people with whom Cannon united—not with the labor movement but with burglars and petty scoundrels. Can the labor movement respect such a committee with “Hawkins” on it? We do not forget that it was Cannon who first taught the Communists how to break up workers meetings (the Abramovich affair, 1925). We must remember that Levy talks of a move of policy to break up the Communist League of Struggle and we must raise the question, “Did Cannon include Levy on the Defense Committee as a reward for his “good work” and so that if we later exposed “Hawkins” Cannon could declare we are hampering the marine workers defense?
We have even heard threats that we would receive “another unfriendly visit” if we dare to tell who burglarized and wrecked our place". Not only must we be smashed but we must keep quiet about it! We promise Cannon-Lovestone a hot time for any future invaders. The responsibility for the results of our self-defense will be upon them.
What is the motive for such support of “Hawkins” by Cannon? The more Cannon is forced to confess his bankruptcy (his complete reversal on the question of the united front, his overtures to Lovestone, etc.) the more he would like to destroy us. While Leon Trotsky calls on us to build a bridge that will connect the C.L.S. and the Cannon group, while Trotsky calls us “comrades”, Cannon does everything he can to destroy us. Can it be he fears the next letter from Comrade Trotsky?
SODERBERG PROTESTS STEALING HIS MAIL
Does the Defense Committee know that a letter sent us by Jack Soderberg, one of the marine defendants, condemning the raid on our headquarters was stolen by “Hawkins"? Does the Committee approve of such action?
We print below a copy of parts of another letter sent us by Soderberg; and addressed to a member of the Defense committee:
“I fail to comprehend your motives in intercepting my letter to Weisbord this A.M. ….I cannot too strongly condemn such an action. I had learned to trust you….Under the circumstances, however, I am compelled to seriously consider requesting the committee to drop you from membership thereof OR NOTIFY THE COMMITTEE TO THE EFFECT THAT I NO LONGER DESIRE MY DEFENSE TO BE CONDUCTED BY MEMBERS WHO DO NOT HESITATE TO STEAL MY PRIVATE MAIL. You must understand this, that if members of the committee do not hesitate to steal the defendant’s private mail, you cannot expect to have much confidence in the committee. And the first pre-requisite of the defendant and the committee alike must be one of mutual confidence….”
“ Yours for the revolution, (signed) Jack (Soderberg)
We have learned that the I.L.D. has offered to provide the defense for the marine workers facing trial. Far better that the I.L.D. handle the case than a “Hawkins” committee. If the I.L.D. should call a broad conference for the case, the defendants would have their best chance.
THE UNITED FRONT TACTIC
(Editorial Note: We herewith print the speech delivered by Comrade Weisbord at meeting of NY Branch of Communist League (Opposition) January, 1931
So great is the discontinuity and confusion within the Communist movement today that it is necessary to restate some fundamental postulates on the question of the United Front Tactic. This is all the more necessary today as the three Communist fractions have shown, on the one hand a tendency to shrink from the united front tactic (Browder-Cannon) and on the other hand a tendency to apply it in an opportunistic way (Lovestone-Foster).
An essential prerequisite to all Communist activity is mass work. Trotsky’s thesis at the Third Congress of the Comintern still stands as an integral part of the very essence of Communist tactics and strategy. Bolshevization and revolutionary mass work are but dialectical counterparts of each other. Nor is it necessary to have large membership to do mass work. For a leader to say, “We have no forces, no members, no sympathizers, no money, no press, etc., and THEREFORE we cannot do mass work”, is for him to confess complete political bankruptcy.
COMMUNISTS MUST DO MASS WORK
In the first place, how can we get new members, new forces, new strength, without mass work? Second, What is a mass group? If the group is rooted among the masses, if it expresses and fights for the deepest needs of the masses, if the masses follow it to a considerable extent, it is a mass group, no matter how small the membership is. It is a peculiarly Menshevik view consistently fought by Lenin that the socialist forces must be large before any work can be done. Indeed how did revolutionary work begin? The lives of the Bolsheviks, especially of Trotsky, show clearly that even one man can do mass work. If the group is small, mass work on a smaller scale can be done, that is the sole difference.
If the group does mass work correctly, its membership and influence grows. If this growth is sufficient and all phases of work undertaken, the Communist group becomes a Communist Party. We cannot shrink from this for we can’t shrink from success. Whether the Leninist fraction becomes the Communist Party recognized by the masses depends on the relationship of forces at the moment which in turn depends on the character of activity of all Communist groups, particularly the Leninist group.
But to say, “We are a small group, THEREFORE, we cannot do mass work” is to condemn oneself to political sterility and death and to earn the deepest contempt from the workers, particularly the advanced workers. Such a false view is hidden by the phrase, “Our main task is to educate the Party.” Since when are such sectarians “educators”, what will they “teach” and who will listen to such “education"? Militant workers follow good fighters not such self-appointed “teachers". The Leninist must plunge into the work. This is the best way to “educate” the members of the Communist Party, to win them away from a false line and for a correct one. The “Proletarian Party” also wants to “educate” Communists, but who would spend ten cents to buy such “education"? Similarly with the Militant, if it has any circulation it is due mainly to the writings of L.D.Trotsky whose whole life symbolized mass fights. Without these writings the Militant would have about the same circulation as the “Proletarian” (organ of the Proletarian Party).
But if the slogan, “To the masses”, is to be carried out, this presupposes at least two things: 1. The application of the United Front tactic and 2. A proper revolutionary organization to accomplish the work. Questions of organization are linked up with questions of strategy and tactics. If you build a loose organization, if you make no tests for membership, if the group is not really a vanguard group based on the nuclei system and with revolutionary science and idealism, it is impossible to accomplish any serious work or even to conceive of such work.
MASS WORK MEANS UNITED FRONT
For Communists in the United States today mass work is absolutely impossible without the tactic of the united front. He who comes out against the tactic of the united front, stands really against mass work and has no place in a fighting revolutionary movement, NO MATTER HOW MUCH HE MAY DECLARE UNDER PRESSURE. “HE IS NOT AGAINST MASS WORK ON PRINCIPLE".
For us the United Front tactic is not a mere maneuver. It is an absolute necessity for the working class. Without a united front the workers cannot resist the employers attacks. The workers divided cannot win in their struggles, and this must be made plain to the workers above all by the Communists, their real champions. If the Communists are to lead the workers in their struggles, they must know how to unite them on the concrete issues of the struggles.
But Communists are not merely workers. Communists are not only rooted among the workers, they stand apart from the workers. They are the general staff of the workers seeing not only the problems of today, not only the struggle for concrete immediate demands, but the struggle for socialism, the problem of the future. (Today the near future) and how to connect the concrete struggle so that the ultimate struggle comes nearer and the workers stronger to enter into it. The united front tactic, from our point of view, is not only a necessity for the workers, it is a means to expose the capitalistically minded, the fellow travellers, the hidden enemies, the muscle heads, the weaklings, and such--in short, those who go but part of the way on the road of relentless class struggle, but who at a critical moment might turn back and betray or abandon the masses.
Here is the basic contradiction then, here is the source of all opportunism in the application of the united front, namely, on the one hand the necessity to unite the workers, on the other hand the necessity to separate the fake and wrong headed leaders from the workers: On the one hand to mobilize and to activate the workers, on concrete issues of the class struggle, on the other hand to revolutionize the workers. And these two tasks are dialecticaly connected so that we are successful in doing the task only in proportion as we can do the other at the same time.
"UNITED FRONT” MEANS “DIVIDED REAR”
The “United Front” implies the “Divided Rear"; it means that while we agree on certain concrete issues we disagree on our goal, on our methods, on our whole system of ideas. Otherwise we would not have a united front, but we would have unity, (an entirely different thing) and all would be within the framework of one revolutionary organization. The united front is not a compact of uncritical friends. Quite the contrary, it is an alliance in which the Communists watch their allies as their enemies, in which the Communists have no illusions concerning their more or less temporary fellow travellers. In all united fronts, the Communists must constantly act independently, and enunciating boldly their own program must strive to win the masses to their side and from the control of their allies.
We must constantly guard against the “united front” being turned into a “united front and rear” in which we are the rear and the allies are the front. One of the outstanding contributions of Comrade Trotsky was to show how the Comintern was making just these errors in its united front with the Kuo Min Tang and the British Trade Union General Council.
The united front is not only a method of uniting workers, but a method of the Communists reaching the masses. And this is particularly important for us Communists in the United States to understand. In America today the Communists are isolated from the masses, extremely weak. We stand before the basic elementary tasks in a land where the proletariat is relatively politically unorganized due to historical circumstances but with the greatest potentialities, and where the bourgeoisie is the strongest in the entire world. The Bolshevik Party under Lenin infinitely stronger than we, could not accomplish the revolution without the tactic of the united front. (e.g. the alliance with the Left S.Rs) nor did they take a single step forward on the road to revolution without this tactic. If this was correct for the Bolshevik Party, it is even more correct for us. For us, the united front has an object that the Bolsheviks had already accomplished, namely the object of reaching the masses, digging in among the masses, winning the best workers to us.
Further, how else and better can we come into a life and death hand-to-hand-close struggle with today’s friends of the workers who will be tomorrow’s enemies, if not through the united front? In the united front movement all sections of it have the same tasks and the masses can most clearly see who, in a given situation, has the correct analysis, who is the real fighter, who is not. The united front is the struggle of tooth and claw without which the masses cannot be torn from their misleaders.
UNITED FRONT ROUNDS OUT CHARACTER
Finally, the united front tactic is a method by which our character is rounded out, our ability is tested, our true revolutionary science is put to the test. It is so easy to sit home or in a little meeting and call oneself “left” and terribly “r-r-revolutionary". In this way, little children, just waking up to the fact that there’s a class struggle at all, with no theory or practice, condescendingly look down upon old fighters with the sneer “right-wingers". Truly it’s a joke. This is the road to sterility, to sectarianism, to dung-heap philosophy and politics just the opposite of what Trotsky symbolizes.
After these remarks, it can be seen how anti-Leninist is the fear that Leninists will be “tainted” with opportunism if they enter a united front movement. It shows a lack of political understanding of the most elementary principles of Leninism. Behind this fear, besides all the opportunism elaborated above is the lack of confidence in one’s own ability and forces and the lack of confidence in the working class.
On what issues do we make the united front? On every concrete burning issue that agitates the masses, on the basis of the class struggle. With whom do we unite? With all groups who wish to fight along with us on these issues. On some issues many workers organizations may be united (say in campaigns against legislation against the foreign born, on unemployment, etc.) On other issues (e.g. defense of the Communist Press, against the terrorist tactics of the Communist Party in breaking up workers’ meetings, etc.) relatively fewer organizations could be rallied. In these united fronts some organizations stand closer to us than others.
For example, who stands closest to the Communist League (opposition)? Manifestly the other two Communist fractions. So long as the Communist Party is still recognized as a fraction of the Communist movement (in spite of its many opportunist blunders), as long as the Communist Party (Majority Group) is still recognized as a fraction of the Communist movement (in spite of its many opportunist blunders), so long must we recognize that these two groups are closest to the Communist League (opposition).
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COMMUNIST PARTY AND “MAJORITY GROUP”
It is true, there is a difference between the Communist Party (Stalin-Browder-Foster faction) and the Communist Party (Majority Group) (Bucharin-Brandler-Lovestone faction). These differences can be summarized broadly as follows: 1. The “Official Communist Party” has more members, more good militant fighters, who must be won over, has more influence in the radical movement, etc. 2. The opportunism of the Communist Party takes on a different form from that of the C.P. (Majority) 3. The tempo of development of their opportunism differs. These differences the Communist League (opposition) must take into consideration. Its tactics must be to stress the winning of the rank and file of the Communist Party for there are the principal ranks of the militants today.
But this does not mean that the Communist Party is closer to Leninism than the C.P. (Majority). This would be to make a big mistake. The scholasticism of Bukharin is matched by the brutality, rudeness and ignorance of Stalin. Both sections of the Communist movement have been guilty of gross violations from the teachings of Lenin and which brand of opportunism is more dangerous is a moot question quite impossible to decide in an abstract manner. To think of the Stalin International fraction as more to the “left” more correct than the Bukharin fraction is to ignore their basic identity, is to underestimate the degeneration in the ranks of the official bureaucrats, is to fail to heed the warnings of Trotsky, is to fail to prepare the masses for still greater crimes on the part of the Comintern apparatus.
In united fronts all Communist groups should participate. If the “official” Party rejects united fronts, and takes a sectarian policy, so much the worse for the Foster-Browder fraction, so much the sooner will the good members revolt against their sectarianism. But it is nonsense to thing that without the Communist Party no mass work can be done. The masses will fight even if the Party leaders do not. The sufferings of the workers continue. Their struggles will continue. We must do the best we can with, without, or despite the Party. For there is no question but what if the Party does enter mass work, it will do so in a way that we will have to correct.
UNITED FRONT AGAINST “RED” BUREAUCRATS
This last point is particularly important where the Party has formed a “red” organization, supposed to do mass work. Here we can see “red” bureaucrats, “red” incompetence, “red” failures. Are we to struggle against these defeats? For example, shall we struggle against the official opportunism in the “red” Needle Trades Industrial Union? Of course we must. Suppose the members of the A.F. of L. go on strike and the “red” union decides to ignore the strike, to denounce the strike as “fake” and “fascist” and to keep their own members working (scabbing)? In fact this has been done! Here we must unite with all elements inside the new Needle Trades Industrial Union, who wish to fight with us against this policy. And if among these other elements are Lovestoneites, we, without minimizing these differences in the least with the Lovestoneites, and indeed stressing these differences, must unite with them and others for a correct policy. Or if the new union should expel all members of both Communist opposition groups (Lovestone and Cannon), here too a united front against this disruptive tactic must be formed in the same manner. Or suppose the government suppresses the Militant, should not the Communist League (opposition call a united front and invite the Lovestoneites even though the Party does not attend and indeed attacks the conference?
Generally, however, in these united fronts, it will soon appear that the three Communist groups are more alike than dislike, that no differences between the Communists are as great as the differences, say between the Communists on the one hand and the Mensheviks, Syndicalists and Anarchists, on the other. Otherwise it would be wrong to call the three Communist groups, Communist ones, and a new analysis of the forces inside the Communist movement would have to be made.
In this way a sharp line will be drawn between Menshevism and Communism. And we say this without losing sight for one moment of the necessity for the correct Leninist group to make clear at all times their differences with the other Communist groups. Not only must the Communists, acting independently, boldly stress their own program in all united fronts, but the true Leninist group must stress its own strategy and tactics as well.
MUST DRAW SHARP LINE BETWEEN MENSHEVISM AND COMMUNISM
The necessity of drawing a sharp line between Menshevism and Communism as a whole in all mass work is quite an important matter. The “official” Party leaders most stupidly brand the opposition groups as counter-revolutionists and enemies of the working class. Just as the Party has blurred the line between Fascism and regular democracy, so it has blurred the line between social democracy (Menshevism) and Communism. And the Party logically not only rejected all united fronts with conservative trade unions, the so-called “fascist” and “social-fascist” organizations, but also with the “renegade counter-revolutionary groups” these two Communist oppositions.
Should such an attempt to blur the line between Menshevism and Communism on the part of the Party become successful, a tremendous amount of harm would be done: 1. First of all, the advanced workers would not know how to fight Menshevism. If Trotsky is a Menshevik, many good workers will say three cheers for the Mensheviks! If Lovestoneites are considered socialists, then many workers will say, “Good for the Socialists". In short to blur the line between Menshevism and Communism is to aid the Mensheviks, to give them a “left” mask and to paralyze the advanced workers in the struggle against Menshevism.
2. Secondly, such a tactic would aid the Lovestoneites in the example given above. The rank and file Lovestoneites know very well and can easily show their differences with the socialists and can make a laughing stock out of the Party’s exaggerated analysis. Why exaggerated? Because right-wing Communists are not left-wing socialists. Why must we consider the Lovestoneites as right wing Communists, and not left-wing socialists, enemies of the working class? Only because they have some good rank and filers in their midst? Such an analysis is most superficial and foolish. The socialists of Germany had many good workers in their ranks but that did not prevent Lenin from denouncing that socialist party and splitting from it. We must also consider the platform, the thesis of the Lovestone group. Any careful study of this platform and thesis would show that on the whole, no Menshevik group could adopt such principles, that on the whole it is still a Communist group, no matter how far it may be moving in the direction of Menshevism.
It is a fact that Lovestone is travelling on the road to Menshevism. But he is not there yet. To say he is Menshevik is to fail to prepare the workers for the time when he actually does join the Menshevik camp. If you cry “wolf” too often no one will be prepared to meet the real wolf.
The false exaggerated party analysis plays into the hands of Lovestone, cements the solidarity and loyalty of his group, and raises their morale. It links leaders and members together, prevents the honest members from taking a position independently of Lovestone. It prevents a differentiation in their ranks. Finally it drives them further away from the party and from us. It prevents us winning them.
Not only the Party, but also the Lovestone group tends to blur the line between Menshevism and Communism. The very right wing opportunism of the Lovestone group, just as the zig zag opportunism of the Party, because it is opportunism, discredits the Communist movement and identifies it with Menshevism.
CANNON CAN’T FIGHT OPPORTUNISM
The fact of the matter is the Fosters and Browders do not know how to fight the Lovestones. The former really help build up the Lovestone group by their false policies and tactics. In fact they mortally fear a united front with Lovestone for they themselves are too close to Lovestone and are afraid that the masses will not be able to tell the difference between them and Lovestone, or maybe that the workers will indeed call the Lovestones the “left” and the Fosters and Browders the “right".
This is one of the reasons why Cannon and Schachtman and the others fear such a united front. They were too close to Lovestone. (Note Cannon was the first to ally himself with Pepper—he was the first to unite with Lovestone against Trotsky (1925) ). They have no faith in themselves that they are really “left” and Lovestone “right". That is why they say they will be “tainted” if they form a united front. Secondly, they have no faith in the masses, that the masses can really see the difference between “left” and “right". So we see the sectarianism of these leaders of the Communist League (opposition) is a right-wing sectarianism. (They even propagate the view that Trotsky wants to have a mere propaganda society on principle.) Maybe children in the revolutionary movement can be fooled, but not real working class workers and fighters.
Behind these theories of Cannon stand the worst kind of factionalism of the past. What else but rotten factionalism can we understand the following “principles” to be:
1. The theory of immaculate conception, that Cannon alone was the real “left-winger” in the Communist Party and all the others were right-wingers.
2. The theory that all the old friends of Cannon (Bill Dunne and Co.) still in the Party, must never be criticized, for having been attached to Cannon, they were once “left-wingers” and cannot be “right-wingers” today.
3. The theory that the Foster-Browder group is more to the left than Lovestone—because Cannon was allied for a few more years with Foster than with Lovestone.
4. The constant theoretical limping after the Fosters.
5. The theory “No united front with the Right Wing” just as though any united front is not with the opportunist minded.
6. The theory “No united front against the party” just as though it is not clear that the Party will consider anything we do as against it and will fight any effort on the part of non-party Communists to dig in among the masses, to grow and to check the false course of the party. We shall not be moved from our historic mission by a million Browders, Fosters, or false Cannon theories.
COMMUNIST MOVEMENT DISCREDITED
The immediate result of the false and exaggerated opinions of the Party leaders has been to discredit the entire Communist movement. The whole communist movement has been weakened. To meet this situation the party leaders apply terror in the Communist and working class ranks. All three historical fractions have been guilty more or less of this false policy. But this brutality and rudeness has been particularly apparent in the ranks of the Stalinites. The breaking up of workers meetings on the pretext all those expelled from the Party by the Party bureaucrats are at once counter-revolutionists and enemies of the working class, the extension of individual terrorism, the wild and irresponsible attitude taken have brought great discredit on the Communist movement. All effort must be made to smash this terrorization campaign of the Party. This is not a little thing, it is a very big thing. It has meant a regime of terror inside the Party as well. It has tended to justify hooliganism and fascist tendencies in the ranks of the workers.
How shall this terrorization be fought? Immediately by getting together all working class organizations against whom this method is used for joint action against this. Lenin was not afraid to unite with the Manshevik Plekhanoff against the Bolshevik Bogdanoff for a Marxist policy. We must not be afraid to unite with other working class groups, particularly Communist groups in a struggle to end this anarchist tactic of the party. We do this in the name of the Communist movement, as the champions of the working class against disastrous tendencies within its ranks.
To accomplish mass work the Communist League (Opposition) must reorganize itself from top to bottom so that there will be some guaranty that pessimism and sectarianism will be defeated and the League really carry out a Leninist line.
We have never had a really Communist organization in this country. Of course, we have never had a Communist party. Let us recognize this. Let us begin modestly from the beginning, wiping out all remnants of rotten opportunistic factionalism, with no illusions as to our past, with no false ideas as to the difficulties, but at last beginning to build a Marxist-Leninist group in America that will close the gap between Leninist theory and our practice and lead the masses successfully toward the revolution.
THE NEW PARTY OF THE C.P.L.A.
by Vera Buch
Since last spring the C.P.L.A. has been trying, through the timid apologetic pen of A.J. Muste, to lay the propaganda basis for a new political party. The previous program of the Conference for Progressive Labor Action we have exposed as being neither progressive, nor for labor, nor for action. Let us see whether the new political departure is essentially different.
The program attacks both the Communists and the Socialists, yet claims to stand for the abolition of capitalism, for a “planned economic system” and a workers’ republic. Thus it appears to be a Centrist party, one between the Communists and Socialists, more radical than the Socialists but not accepting the full program of the Communists. But it differs from the Centrist parties of Europe-e.g. the German Independent Social Democratic Party of 1917-22, the French Languetists, or the newly formed German Socialist Labor Party, which are based at least partly upon Marxism. The C.P.L.A. is composed of heterogeneous elements. Centrists (Bert Miller, Lore, Salutsky), Socialists, trade-unionists and liberals. If the Socialist and Centrist elements were to formulate the program, it would no doubt attempt to be Marxist. But with Muste as spokesman, the aimless confusion of the liberal intellectual predominates.
The nearest historical analogy to Muste’s new party is the British Independent Labor Party. In fact we find formulations almost identical with some of the I.L.P.’s. For example in Labor Age, August, 1931, pg. 6, “Sooner or later, we must build in the U.S. a mass labor party, based primarily on the industrial workers and including all other elements which are cheated of their rights under our present system… a political organization is immediately needed, however, to carry on the educational and organizational work preliminary to the building of a mass labor party, and once such a party is formed to work within it in order that the mass party may not fall into opportunism and may move as directly and swiftly as possible toward its true goal, a new economic order.”
History has exposed the role of the Centrist parties better than any denunciation. The I.L.P. participate in the first Labor government, and again in the recent one, not as an opposition but as a co-worker. McDonald the ILPer has swung far to the right of the mass of the Labor Party and certainly the I.L.P. as a body has put up no fight against his infamous sell-out of the English working class. Its proposed role as a “left” influence has been zero. The Centrist parties appear in critical periods, periods of action, when fine differentiations of principle and tactic are rare, but they can play no real role independently of the Social- Democratic parties, since their class base is no different. The worker followers of the Centrist parties may move either toward Communism or toward Socialism. When the German Centrist party split in 1922, its forces were divided in these two directions. It is possible that for some of the workers won over by the concrete trade union work of the C.P.L.A. the new political organization may be a bridge toward Communism. It is necessary therefore for the Communists to try to win over such elements. But for the Centrist leaders, the Mandels, the Lores and Salutskys, Communism is now a closed gate in the background, while for Muste it is something too difficult and too “foreign” to open.
But without consulting history the program of the new party condemn it sufficiently. There is the most hopeless confusion as to the role of a working class party. Muste actually conceives of the mass labor party (admitting in its ranks not only workers but “all other elements which are cheated of their rights under the present system”—pretty big order) as the party to achieve, we will not say the revolution, as this would be attributing too much to Muste—but such social and economic changes as he modestly hints at! The Communist League of Struggle sees a possibility for a mass Labor Party in America. In this country the Socialist movement has never achieved the wide spread influence it has in Europe. On the other hand, the trade union movement developed early and has led generations of American workers through economic struggles while politically they have followed the capitalist parties. We can see a federated labor party composed of trade unions and other working class organizations fulfilling a purpose in tearing away the workers from the Democrats and Republicans, in developing their class consciousness and training them politically to make their own fight as a class under capitalism. The Communist could work within such a labor party—not to guide it to abolish capitalism, which it could never do—but to win the workers out of it for Communism and for the real struggle to overthrow capitalism, for which the labor party struggle would help to prepare them. On the other hand, we see a possibility, with the rapidity of movement of world fources today, that this bridge may be skipped by the American working class, and that it may be won to Communism directly. But in any case this labor party could never be more than a reform party of capitalism.
Muste cannot even distinguish between the functions of a working class party and a trade union. “Labor political activity and union activity are just two arm of the same labor movement.” He is kind enough to inform us in Labor age of April, 1931, pg. 11. “The unions of the workers are bound to have an influence on the political party; the party is bound to have an influence on the unions.” (Just like that!) And again—see Labor Age for August, pg. 6: “The organization of which we are speaking would simply be one of the instrument—the central instrument, if it fulfills its functions—in the struggle which the working masses of the nation carry on.” The mere phrase “the central instrument in the struggle” is very far from expressing the Leninist conception of the party as the central driving and coordinating force, which penetrates all other mass organizations with its influence, leads and directs them in their immediate problems, as well as the leader in the direct seizure of power. The trade unions are the most important instrument for mobilizing the workers for struggle against capitalism, and play a great role also in the building up of Socialism, but they cannot be put on the same plane as the party which guides the trade union and all other struggles which furnished program and leadership for the entire struggle on all fields.
Yet after all, it is not surprising if Muste does not understand the revolutionary role of the working class party, since revolution is far from his aims. Radical—sounding phrases abound in his statement. But with the masses roving rapidly to the left under pressure of the crisis, what party could claim to be of the workers without a veneer of radicalism? And Muste claims to build a workers’ party. Just a little examination, however, and his radicalism flattens out like a punctured tire. “The political party we need”—we quote from Labor Age, April 1931 pg. 11—“must be out to do away with the present capitalist economy, the unplanned, individualistic chaos of our present economic life, and to substitute for it a planned economy under the control of the workers and operated not for the benefit of private individuals or groups, but of the mass of those who do the creative work of the world". In the August, 1931 Labor Age, pg.5, he says, “The American people must make and carry out a Plan for their economic life…The Plan must be made and put to work soon.” (He is impatient, you see). “Before long the men and women, most of all the youth, who do America’s work must decide to take control of their own destinies, must work out a rational plan for running our vast economic machine, and must organize to achieve power so that their plan may be adopted and put into effect soon.”
Positively all there is here is certain words and phrases, “do away with capitalist economy”, “organize to achieve power”, “planned economy under control of the workers”, etc., which are often repeated but never once in all the three long statements issued so far have they been developed into anything resembling a program. What is this plan referred to mysteriously in capital letters? Is it a revolution? This is never stated in so many words. Perhaps Mr. Muste would consider that “fantastic and doctrinaire language, which American workers do not understand”, (August Labor Age, pg 7) In December, growing a little bolder he says, (Labor Age pg.18) “We want to abolish this capitalist system”, but again “…we want to establish instead a planned economic system”, etc. No matter how bold the words may become, there is never a statement of how to abolish capitalism, how to establish a “planned economic system” how to obtain all these fine things he talks about. Of the thoroughly worked out and tested program of the Communists for a leading working class party; for winning influence among broad strata of the population (e.g. the poor farmers, the soldiers, the Negroes, the house wives, etc.) for penetrating the mass organizations of the workers, for leading their struggles, for developing these into broad general strikes, for seizing political power through armed insurrection, for maintaining power through government by workers councils or soviets of all this ABC of revolutionary tactics there are only vague hints and phrases thrown out without connection.
Not a word is breathed anywhere of confiscation of capitalist property including land, without which no workers’ ownership can be guaranteed. Nor is there any mention of the disappearance of the state which will be accomplished probably by the time we have socialism, the first stage of Communism making it possible for all coercion to be wiped out of society. After all, Muste’s wonderful “Plan” boils down to at the most State Socialism—with no guarantees for the workers control of this state, and no view to a higher development.
THE ARTFUL DODGER
“Large scale violence is not the only way to express militancy”, preaches Muste in the September Labor Age…."not the only alternative to using the processes of democracy so-called to bring in a new order. There is e.g. large scale violation of injunctions, general strikes, and passive resistance.” (our emphasis—V.B.) When we see the General Strike first of all not called large scale violence and then lumped together with its very opposite, the Gandist petty-bourgeois mystic tactic of non- resistance, we may be pardoned for doubting whether the author understands very much of what he is calling for. We can only think of Goethe’s apt lines!
“Eng ist die Welt und das Gehirn ist weit;
Leicht bei einander liegen die Gedanken
Doch hart im Raume stossen sich die Sache”
In the hazy ministerial brain of a Muste no doubt such lions and lambs of thought may lie down peacefully together, but in the harsh realities of the class struggle, which the workers must experience, such muddle-headed thinking can only lead to bitter defeats.
On the question of the use of force vs. democratic methods, which is a cross roads where every working class leader must choose, here Muste dodges as artfully as a hard pressed driver with a traffic cop hot behind him. He says in Labor Age, April 1931 pg 12: “The political party we need must think through and define its attitude toward parliamentary methods and toward the thing we call democracy.” ("think through”, is a favorite expression of his. Considering the fogs that habitually surround his brain. No doubt any effort to think at all must be a “thinking through"). And what is the result of Muste’s thoughts? First of all he doubts whether because of capitalist control of the avenues of propaganda it is possible to bring about a change by parliamentary methods. Then he mildly asks, even should a “Labor Party get a clear majority, would the masters permit it to go ahead peacefully?” He sees that the “political democracy of an earlier day is…everywhere greatly modified”, but this does not “necessarily mean that the working class has at no time and in no country any recourse except to a particular type of violent revolution.” (The “particular type” being of course the type that was successful, the Russian type). Of the role of the capitalist state as the watchdog of capitalist economy and profits, and hence the necessity of destroying that state, not a word.
Muste claims, and we agree with him, that the attitude toward the Soviet Union is an “acid test". Just apply the test to the program of the C.P.L.A. and watch it rapidly turn pink if not yellow around the gills. Recognition of the Soviet Union for business reasons is still advocated in April as the first point of a “sound attitude toward Soviet Russia". Under the pressure of Communist attacks, we see added “a positive determination to combat efforts on the part of militarists and imperialists in the U.S. and elsewhere, to weaken or to destroy the Soviet experiment.” You see there is a “great experiment” under way in Russia (but spare us such an “experiment” in the United States). And in December, growing very brave indeed, “We are for Soviet Russia and against its capitalist and imperialist enemies.” But since we do not see this “sound attitude” developed in any concrete proposals for DEFENSE nor in any other expression of international solidarity, we have our doubts.
These expressions are not surprising considering the international attitude or rather lack of international attitude, of the C.P.L.A. Under the guise of “Americanism”, being “rooted in American soil”, etc., the crudest and most dangerous sort of provincialism flourishes. We do not need to point out here the helplessness of any purely national workers movement under conditions of imperialism.
And yet this 100% American speaks with the greatest contempt of the American working class. “… the generation of American workers which has come to industry since 1914 is more illiterate and ignorant about political and economic matters than any other working class in the world or than the American working class itself in any previous period.” (Labor Age, October pg. 15)
What shall we say of his terrible pessimism which leads him to say (Labor Age, October pg. 15) “That we are likely to see more intense labor activity in the months ahead is, of course, occasion for rejoicing. And yet we may well shudder and shrink back even in the presence of that fact….Consider that we have practically no labor movement at all or indeed that we are worse off than if we had no labor movement….” What the workers must shudder and shrink at is not the state of the labor, but at this defeatist leadership.
C.P.L.A. STRIKE BETRAYALS
We cannot agree with Lovestone, well meaning friend of the C.P.L.A., who regrets the new political venture of the C.P.L.A. and feels that in the trade union field it could have fulfilled a real purpose of fighting the A.F.of L. bureaucracy as a “left” progressive group. The muddled-headed confusion of the C.P.L.A. cannot lead workers correctly in any field. Witness only recent developments. In the Miners St. Louis Convention of last spring, the failure of the C.P.L.A. to fight for independence of the rebels from the U.M.W.A. when the time was ripe, and to join hands with the N.M.U. The sell-out of the pocket-book workers by Musteite officials, the demoralization of the Paterson workers (see Class Struggle No. 3).
It is the unfortunate blunders of the Stalin leaders of the Communist Party today, which more than anything else in the labor movement, feed such a group as the C.P.L.A. But the Communist Party with all its poor tactics still stands for revolution. Its programmatic crime of the theory of building socialism in one country alone and the tactics flowing from this are being fought by the Communist League of Struggle adhering to the International Left Opposition. The Communist Party can yet be set upon a correct course. Not so the C.P.L.A., which never had a shred of correct program. For the honest militant workers in the rank of the C.P.L.A. there is only one course—to find their way out of that swamp of confucianism to the firm ground of Communism. With the bankruptcy of the Socialist Party, such a group as the C.P.L.A. can make a certain headway, at any rate among the skilled workers. But this very fact makes it all the more necessary to fight to extermination this confused liberal-centrist leadership, which in the end will only hand the workers over to their enemies.
I M P O R T A N T
The forum of the Communist league of Struggle, held previously Friday evenings at 212 E. 9th St. is being changed to Saturday evening at the Labor Temple, 14th St. & 2nd Ave. Dec. 26th. Albert Weisbord will speak on THE SPANISH REVOLUTION.
COMING DEBATE !!
On January 16th, a debate is scheduled with Johan Smertenko, Editor of Opinion on the subject: “Will Zionism help the Jewish Workers? Albert Weisbord takes the negative, speaking for Communism. Watch for further announcements.