Volume 7 Number 4-5 …………………….. April—May 1937
We have been denied second class mailing rights by the U.S. government for refusing to turn over the names and addresses of our subscribers to the United States Postal Authorities.
Official organ of the Communist League of Struggle
(Internationalist-Communist) P.O. Box 947 Chicago, Illinois
Editor: ALBERT WEISBORD Associate Editor: VERA BUCH
THE NATION-WIDE STRIKE WAVE
It is too early yet to obtain full figures on the strikes which are popping up on all sides and in all sorts of industries throughout the country from Maine to California. We can feel certain, however, that the present strike wave is one of formidable dimensions, perhaps more wide-spread even than those of 1933 or 1934. Not only has the heavy industry been struck in an unprecedented way but workers of all sorts of miscellaneous light industries (garments, textile, shoes, candy, canneries, drugs, taxi drivers, department stores, to mention only a few.) It is a deep seated movement that has not yet spent itself. Its full significance we can perhaps now grasp only partially.
The economic background of this strike wave is a temporary upturn in the midst of the chronic crisis. Figures of the Bureau of Labor Statistics given out by Frances Perkins show that the index of factory employment and payrolls in March, 1937 is the highest since November, 1929. Other sources estimate the production level as only 10% below 1929. Has the depression then vanished? No one even claims this today. The army of unemployed remains with its unsolvable contradictions to prove that capitalism cannot get out of the crisis. In fact, the very rise in production will prepare new crises. The gains in purchasing power are lagging behind the gains in production, notwithstanding the pay increases handed out in some industries. This situation is accounted for partly by the continued rise in living costs, and secondly, by the continued existence of the great numbers of unemployed.
At the time that we read of the improvements in business, we read in a recent pamphlet by Relief Administrator Hopkins the statement that even if business gets back to 1929 levels, there will still be from 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 millions of permanently unemployed workers. (With their families, 25 million people). A similar estimate by the economist Stuart Chase gave the figure as 12 millions of unemployed workers. In the State of Illinois, the numbers of people on relief today are higher than even the peak figure of March, 1935. 16% of the population of the state are on government aid, including direct relief, W.P.A. and old age pensions.
Here is the great contradiction that drives nations to war and Fascism and prevents crises from being solved. The armament race has helped to stimulate production here as well as in Europe, and at the same time the natural law of crises whereby surplus stacks of goods are ultimately used up so that factory wheels can turn again, has operated to bring about the improvement. This movement was long retarded due to the terrible poverty prevailing throughout the world among the masses of toilers. Still, slowly, it has operated. But the very improvement prepares new crashes to come.
Increased productivity is another “natural” capitalist accompaniment of the move towards recovery. For the workers this means unbearable speed-up and speed-up has featured prominently as the cause of some of the strikes. Especially the inability to meet the rising living costs, to achieve any security or a permanent decent living standard drives the workers to struggle. In the numerous light, petty industries the invalidation of the N.R.A. has meant a return to sweat shop conditions, to the ten hour day and the five dollar and seven dollar a week wage.
The present strike wave is nothing planned and premeditated, it is something truly spontaneous, springing from the exploitation of the workers. This is true notwithstanding the prominence of the demand for recognition of the union. In some cases the strikes break out among the unorganized workers, and the union takes the strikes over. In other cases, union workers go on strike against a grievance or for the firing of union men. The strike quickly spreads, the officials try to hold it back, but it bursts through their control and they are finally compelled to take it over. This has been the history of strikes today, rather than planned, prepared strike action. At the same time, there is definitely a very vital urge among the workers today for organization perhaps an unprecedented urge. Unionism is sweeping the country. What kind of Unionism?…That is another story.
The insistence on the demand for union recognition suggests that the organization is the chief incentive of the workers to struggle. But this is not the case: The union is not an end in itself for the mass of workers. It can be this only for the officials who have left the factories and workshops and now depend upon the organization for their livelihood. In an industry where the union is new, it may be important to obtain recognition of the union as a first step, to make it possible for the workers to join freely, to build it up for the purpose of carrying on fresh struggles to better conditions. This is not the object of the officials in the strikes today where recognition has been made the chief point of controversy. Here it is the union officials who are benefiting, getting the chance to collect many dues easily and with this, to them the object of the organization drive is achieved. But for the workers, the mere wearing of a union button on their coat lapel can never compensate them for their speed-up and low wages, where the union makes no effort to fight against these.
While the sit-down strike has been on the front pages and has set the employers to seeing nightmares, it is not the only method that has been used. In fact, today, the workers with great resourcefulness are combining the sit-down with mass picketing, with meetings and other traditional methods of strike procedure. A nationwide broadside against the sit-down has been launched by the property interests. In Hershey, PA, it was the farmers whose milk market had been taken away, who drove the sit-downers from smaller plants and cleaned them out. In North Chicago, and at the Douglas Aircraft plant in California, tear gas bombs, guns and clubs had to be used to route the strikers. In all cases the workers were not beaten by this tactic, but fell back on picketing and chasing scabs when the company brought in strike breakers and put ads in the papers to fill up their vacated shops. In the Chrysler strike, the biggest sit-down since the General Motors strike, an injunction and threats of violence failed to bust the sit-downers. It took many hours of arguing and bull-dozing by the frantic union officials to force the unwelcome evacuation down the strikers’ throats.
That capitalist private property is no longer sacred has sunk home deeply into the minds of the workers, and the threat has correspondingly scared the boss class. Several states, including Vermont, California and Michigan have passed or are trying to pass laws outlawing the sit-down. The Vermont law carries a penalty up to five years imprisonment. Frightened coupon clippers in Boston, headed by Dr. Lowell, ex-President of Harvard, trembling in the face of armed insurrection, as they saw it, sent frantic telegrams to the Senate to stop this awful menace. But the strike wave has continued in spite of everything.
A new question has arisen as a result of the sit-down strikes—the question of the worker’s right to his job. H. Martin of the United Auto Workers Union raised it and Senator Borah it seems has taken it up. It is something that would pay the labor organizations to propagate. According to capitalist law certainly the worker has no permanent right to his job. He is hired in most cases without contract and is paid the value of his labor power. The use of the commodity he sells (his labor) must be given to the boss for at least a week, but generally for two or more weeks before he can get the price of his commodity, that is, collect his pay. This is contrary to most capitalist exchanges, where the commodity must be paid for on the spot when sold. Then the firm goes bankrupt and pay is withheld, the worker realizes that he has extended the employer credit without guarantee.
But laws are based on property relations—not vice versa. Force and possession first determined who owned property,—then laws were made to confirm the ownership. At the present period of capitalist society, already noteworthy seizures of capitalist property on a vast scale by the workers have taken place as in Russia and on a lesser scale in Spain. There have been other attempts as in Italy in 1922. The sit-down strikes in the U.S., France and elsewhere are a first step towards such seizure, and however brief may be the occupation of the factories, even the attempt is enough to shake the firm foundation of the property relations. The capitalists invoke their own law on their own behalf, but now the workers can begin to talk about laws to protect their commodity, labor power, and its sale. The workers should indeed at this stage of the game demand laws to protect their jobs, to protect themselves from being thrown out of the factories they built upon the say-so of the employer. The right to the job has already been established to a great extent in the light industries where the workers have won a closed shop. It is not such an unheard of thing and in the presence of the vast lockout the employers have organized in their factories since 1929, throwing out millions upon the streets, the workers must raise the demand of the right to the job everywhere. (For the demands advanced by the C.L.S. on this question, see the article on the Illinois workers Alliance in this issue). To enforce this demand would be a further step along the road towards permanent seizure of the industries.
The present strike wave has shaken up the relations between the labor groups to a very great extent. The company unions have been given a big set back. It is too soon to say they are decisively defeated, for with an altered situation the bosses may again pull this card out of their sleeve. But certainly we can say labor has won a victory when we recall that in 1933 when the National Labor Relations Board held its first sessions for the steel industry, The Steel Trust had decided to use company unions to prevent real organization of the workers, and the representative of the Steel Trust walked out of the meeting with the representatives of the Federal Government and the A.F. of L. But today the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Co., the largest subsidiary of U.S. Steel, and the American wire and Steel Co., another large subsidiary as well as the International Harvester Co. have their own organization. Chicago has learned from Detroit. The International Harvester Co. was a pioneer in the so called “employee representative” plan, its company union having been in existence for many years.
In some cases company unions still exist side by side with the C.I.O. and the A.F.L., in other cases the company unions have been absorbed by one of the two others. In such important industries as the auto, steel and electrical, company unions still remain with both C.I.O. and A.F.L. In this connection we see the treachery of the C.I.O. in waiving all other demands to get recognition of their union as they did in settling the General Motors strike. According to the Wagner Act the union must have the majority of the workers in the plant in order to be recognized. This was not the case in General Motors, where the company recognized the C.I.O. only for a limited period and in a limited manner.
The question arises what influence the acceptance of the National Labor Relations Act (the Wagner Act) has upon the present situation. It is the pressure of the working class and the lessons of experience rather than the Wagner Act that have compelled the Steel Trust to admit the C.I.O., but undoubtedly the Supreme Court decision on the Act works in two directions. It grants the workers the right to unions of their choice for collective bargaining. But it also grants Congress the right to intervene if a strike appears to interfere with interstate Commerce. The Wagner Act is part of Roosevelt’s apparatus for regulating and controlling labor and capital and harmonizing their relationships. It is part of the state functioning of a planned, collectivist capitalism towards which Roosevelt is advancing, and as such is another step paving the way for Fascism.
The militant action of the workers has a lot to do with the retreat of the company unions. But it is not the only factor. Much more important is the fact that the C.I.O. is such a union that it can be used by the employers now much more effectively than the A.F.L. or the company unions to keep the workers in check at a time when the spirit to struggle runs high and the workers, if left to their own spontaneous reactions, might engage in actual revolts. (See Class Struggle of March, 1937 and September, 1936 on the relations between the C.I.O. Roosevelt and the heavy industry bosses of the Middle West). Some of the employers, as those in the steel and auto industries, have had to have this fact bludgeoned into them. But it seems at last they have been brought around.
The C.I.O. has appeared in the forefront because of the great size and militancy of the strikes, which the workers put over under its banners. As a matter of fact the A.F.L. has by no means retired from the scene. A struggle is proceeding between the two groups in which mutual scabbing and strike breaking are not considered too low as methods to be employed. These things are of course nothing new in the unions in this country. Particularly ugly was the situation in Galena, Kansas, where a company union now affiliated to the A.F.L. (The Tri-State Metal and Smelter Workers) smashed up the union hall of the C.I.O. organization, with several men shot. The membership of the C.I.O. and the A.F.L are reported to be about the same throughout the country at the present time.
The A.F.L for years had the honor of serving the American bosses to divide and mislead the American workers. Now that the masses of unskilled workers have been awakened, the Green type of misleader, unable to adjust themselves to the situation, can no longer serve. Try as they will the Lewis’ have got the jump on them with the industrial form which can admit thousands of workers in one plant, unhampered by craft divisions,. The C.I.O. unions are no better than the A.F.L. unions as far as fighting for the workers’ interests is concerned. They also have no democracy, they also charge high dues and pay big salaries to the officials, they also call no meetings, hold no discussions of the rank and file. Both unions settle strikes on the basis: Go back to work and leave everything to your officials. Lewis as well as Green has come out against the sit-down and against all class warfare. Both unions stand for peaceful collaboration between workers and bosses.
Communist Party, Socialist Party and liberals, all have been swept away by the C.I.O. These groups give unconditional support to the C.I.O., building up thus a powerful grouping of workers behind Roosevelt. These groups, especially the C.P. bureaucrats, who are now in the C.I.O. are the same ones who a few years ago were bitterly attacking the very same labor “leaders” when these leaders were in the A.F.L.
The independent unions are not yet deprived of a role today as we see by the revival of the I.W.W. in the lumber camps and by such situations as occurred at Albert Lea, Minn. Here there existed an organization known as the Independent Union of All Workers. It had been formed in 1934 in one of the first sit-down strikes in the Hormel Packing Plant in Austin, 20 miles from Albert Lea. Early in April of this year the union called a strike in the American Gas co. Strike pickets were brutally attacked and tear-gassed and some 50 men lodged in jail. Then the fireworks began. Fellow union men from Austin came to the assistance of the strikers in Albert Lea. Together they made a wreck of the American Gas Co. building and then proceeded to storm the jail, forcing the release of the strike prisoners. This action is one of the most militant of the present strike wave. It deserves to be placed side by side with the revolt of the 2000 Negro relief workers of Cairo, IL, who after being long denied their pay for their work during the floods, piling sand bags on the levies at the risk of their lives, invaded the relief warehouse and seized the food they needed, and then took possession of the relief office. In Albert Lea, the outcome must be recorded, however, that the firm now insists the union affiliate itself with a national grouping (probably the C.I.O.).
The workers’ urge to organize has led them into an organization which is just as much a blind alley for them as far as its official policies go as the A.F.L. There is this difference, that in the A.F.L. the masses were excluded, the unions were small groups based on craft, jealous of each other, distrustful of the unskilled, hide bound by tradition. In the C.I.O. there is the life and movement of a fresh organization. There is more than that, there are masses of workers now brought together in a common group on the basis of production. Here is a vast power which will be able to break through the strongest bonds the Lewis’, Hillmans, McGradys and Martins can forge around them. It is these union workers who began with sit-down strikes today, who tomorrow will forge ahead towards the making of the social revolution.
THE SUPREME COURT AND THE WORKERS
Riddle: Which is more reactionary and which more proletarian: 9 capitalist judges or 15 capitalist judges?
To put the question this way would summarize the discussion that is taking place in the labor movement. It is a strange sight we are treated to of leaders of labor, even those who call themselves “Communist” arguing heatedly for “progressive” and “democratic” measures,—not for reforms to give some improvement to the working class, but to add six new judges to one of the most reactionary tribunals in the world. The C.I.O., the A.F.L., the C.P., Labor’s NON-Partisan League and others, all have come out for Roosevelt’s plan.
In reality, Roosevelt’s proposal would leave the Supreme Court just as it is as far as its powers are concerned. He asks only that if a Supreme court judge reaches the age of 70 and does not retire (the bill passed recently by the House for voluntary retirement at 70 being deemed unlikely to bring results) that the President may appoint another judge, until the Court reaches the number of 15. Six new judges could be immediately appointed if this plan is enacted into law.
Much more drastic proposals are being made from other sources. Several Senators have brought in amendments to the Constitution, one providing that if the Supreme Court declares an act of Congress unconstitutional, Congress, after a Congressional election has been held may override the Court’s decision by again passing the same Act, thereby making it constitutional. Other resolutions forbid the Supreme Court to declare an Act of Congress unconstitutional. Still others call for a vote of six to three or even of seven to two.
Roosevelt is adhering to the policy which has been his from the beginning, not to touch the Constitution, but to try to get as broad an interpretation as possible of the Constitution as it now stands in order to achieve his ends. Until the Supreme Court stepped in and invalidated the N.R.A., Roosevelt had managed to put over a complete reorganization of the functioning of the State and of the country’s economy without a single constitutional amendment. In fact, by his very abiding by the Constitution in these drastic changes, he was able to belittle the Constitution in fact and to give others the basis for raising the slogan: “To hell with the Constitution.”
It is obvious that what Roosevelt wants is to put through another N.R.A. under a Supreme Court more favorable to his trends so that it will not be again invalidated. But let us keep in mind that fundamentally the powers of the Court are not altered. Roosevelt’s administration is not eternal, but the Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life. A justice is not compelled to retire at 70, and he may if he so wishes hang on for another decade or until an administration suiting his own views is in force, to retire so he may be replaced by another justice of similar tendencies, thus to enlarge the Court to 15 in the long run simply make it a larger, more powerful force for conservatism than it is now.
Let us keep in mind too, that temporary circumstances may influence decisions without altering the fundamental character of the body. This is what has happened in the two recent decisions on the Wagner Act and on the Angele Herndon case. Neither of these decisions is in line with the previous acts of the Court as a whole. The Wagner Act bolsters up Roosevelt’s policies and the freeing of Herndon favors labor and communist agitation. But the Court has been under a great deal of attack from the left and it must put its left foot forward, for the time being at least.
There is no great power in the world except Russia and no other European country except the Irish Free State where the courts have such powers as the Supreme Court of the United States., including the right to nullify legislation. With these exceptions, only some South American countries have similar powers relegated to their high courts. To see why the courts and judges are so powerful in America, overriding the State itself we have to look into early United States history. The key to the problem lies in the fact that the American Republic was established without a democratic revolution. There were no decisive insurrectionary struggles of oppressed masses, no street fighting, no barricades as there had been in Europe. The Constitution and Government of the United States were established by a counter revolution rather than by a revolution. The Constitution itself was put over by a tiny majority of the population, since property qualifications kept the majority from voting. The small property holders, who could vote, were lead in the trail of the big property holders, the big slave owners of the South, who ruled the country up to the Civil War, who were responsible for framing the constitution and who originated the system of government with its checks and balances.
In other countries like England and France, which were constantly disturbed by warfare both internal and external, the governments had become highly centralized with a strong executive power which alone would carry out the interests of the ruling class quickly and surely. In such countries the courts were instruments subordinate to the State, and not, as here, controllers of the State. But in the United States, the chief problem in the early days was creating order out of chaos. Society, living in the midst of the chaotic wilderness had no great need at first for a strong central executive power with a large army behind it.
What was most needed was for each farmer, each frontiersman, to be able to determine how much land was his and to keep his claim on that land. This spelled business for the lawyer and the land court. As soon as private property had to be protected, it became necessary to appeal to some officer of the law and so magistrates and sheriffs were set up. In many parts of the country for a long time these were the only state officers known. In England and other countries the main duties of the courts, especially in the beginning, were to keep the peace. This was not quite so in the U.S. No one knew, often enough, whether murder was committed in the countryside or not; it was the law of contracts and of real estate that called forth so many lawyers on this side of the Atlantic.
It must be remembered, too, that the average backwoodsman and farmer of those days could not read or write, or even if he could, he could not follow the complexities of the English common law which had become the law here also. As De Tocueville, a French writer visiting America at that time put it: “The French lawyer is simply man extensively acquainted with the status of his country, but the English or American lawyer resembles “the hierophants of Egypt, for, like them, he is the sole interpreter of an occult science.” (A. de Tocueville : Democracy in America I.282)
The powers of the Supreme Court was already pretty well established by the Federalists by the time John Marshall was put in as Chief Justice (and in order to get him in while he was Secretary of State, the incumbent Chief Justice had to be made to resign). The principles upon which the power of the Supreme Court rested were its powers to nullify the Acts of Congress or of the President and to become the solo guardian of the Constitution. These powers it has kept to the present day. There have been changes in the number of the chief justices at various times, since their number is left to Congress to determine, but the number does not vitally affect the powers of the court.
A whole line of reactionary decisions can be traced of the Supreme Court proving their hostility to labor and small property interests. In 1857 they ruled unconstitutional the Missouri Compromise, which had prohibited slavery within the Louisiana territory, thus greatly extending the slave territory. In 1858 they sustained the fugitive Slave law. In 1895 they made rulings on the Sherman Anti-Trust Law of such a character as to limit its application. Under the 15th Amendment Congress passed a law prohibiting discrimination against the Negroes in inns, railroads, etc. This the Supreme Court held unconstitutional. Congress passed a Federal anti-lynching law and the Supreme Court held it unconstitutional, likewise, an Act of Congress prohibiting disenfranchisement of the Negro.
In labor legislation, their record is as bad. In 1905 they ruled the Bakers 10-hour law of New York State unconstitutional, and held invalid an Act of Congress forbidding the discharge by a railroad of any employee for belonging to a labor union. In 1918 they declared the first Federal Child Labor Act unconstitutional and in 1923 ruled out the second Child Labor Act. They have invalidated anti-injunction legislation and have held the minimum wage law of New York State for women unconstitutional. (Recently under pressure of criticism they have made a contradictory decision on another case.) They upheld the conviction of Anita Whitney by the California Criminal Syndicalism laws and refused to entertain an appeal in the cases of Sacco and Vanzetti and Tom Moony.
Labor must declare emphatically and unconditionally that it has nothing to do with this institution of the Supreme Court, which above all others is removed from the people and can only be a puppet of the powers of wealth. This is not a whit less true if Roosevelt succeeds in adding six of his own people. The struggle between Roosevelt and the Supreme Court is not the struggle between the people and the powers of reaction. It is the struggle between the advanced sections of the capitalist class on the one hand, which see that the old individualism is doomed and that collectivism regulated by the state is the only way out for capitalism, and the old die hards on the other hand who want to rule each in his own way, with company policy and company unions as his only law and the domination of the market by his trust as his security. This struggle together with the over sharpening class struggle between capital and labor, underlies most of the social and political developments of our days.
One thing is certain, whether the Roosevelt proposals pass or not, the Supreme Court has been dealt a blow it will not recover from. In spite of all the support the Supreme Court has received, the picture Roosevelt has propagated of nine dotards toppling on the edge of the grave is one that will stick. And so another institution is deprived of its sacredness, if not of its power. Congress has been emasculated. The Constitution has been quietly shoved aside and laughed at, and now the Supreme Court tumbles from its pedestal. The crumbling of the old paves the way for the new. For United States capitalism, Roosevelt, the Democrat and Liberal, is quietly paving the way for Fascism. For the workers, the decay of the old institutions must mean further reliance upon direct action, further aggressions against private property. Sooner or later, the battle must be fought out. In the meantime, let the workers repudiate their misleader who have done every thing possible to tie them to the wheels of Roosevelt’s band wagon, and begin the organization of political grouping really communist to guide them in their struggle.
WILL THE NEW BILL STOP LYNCHING?
In a heat of controversy induced by the latest brutal torture and murder of two Negroes in the South, the United States House of Representatives has passed an anti-lynching bill. Before we attempt to answer the question whether this bill, if passed by the Senate and not invalidated by the Supreme Court, can stop lynching, let us take a look at the bill itself. One glaring deficiency strikes us. There is no penalty for anyone in the lynching mob except the state officer, who must be proved to have surrendered his prisoner to the mob or to have connived with the mob to lynch the person. The sheriff may or may not be a leading spirit in the crowd of human bloodhounds, but always behind the sheriff are the local white property owners, who have a class interest in keeping the Negroes a degraded, helpless group from whom super profits can be made.
When a murder case is tried in a law court, always anyone who can be proved to have in any way helped plan the murder or in any way took part in carrying it out is included in the indictment. Following this legal logic, is not the whole lynch mob to be held responsible, including not only the instigators, but those who get the rope and those who light the torches, those who contribute their automobiles and get the mob together, even those who simply stand by and shout insults at the wretched victim. According to this bill, all such persons (who may number from a dozen to several hundred) go scot free. The penalty is attached to one person only.
Then there is the second point of the light penalty which the bill fixes for the crime. For the officer who “surrenders” the prisoner to the mob, there is a maximum fine of $5000 and five years imprisonment. For the officer who “conspires” with the mob to put the prisoner to death the penalty is a prison term which may go up to 25 years and may be as low as five. Lynching is surely a deliberate, cold-blooded murder in any human sense of the term, a crime which is given the death penalty in almost every state, or at least life-long imprisonment. Rape of a white woman by a colored man is punishable by death in some of the very states where the anti-lynch law will be in for and even “miscegenation” (intermarriage of black and white) is punishable by imprisonment in some states. The weak penalty inflicted for such an atrocious crime as deliberately torturing and putting another human being to death is another flagrant lack in this bill.
The question of enforcement also comes to the fore. Who is to testify that this or that state officer surrendered his prisoner or conspired to the crime? Lynching are carried out in most cases in solitary spots with only the victim and the lynchers present. Those, whose bodies are reduced to corpses, if not to ashes, can prove nothing. Even if the victim escapes his intended doom, will any one believe his word in a white court if the case ever comes to trial? Or if there is a trial and conviction is not all of tradition against the infliction of penalty for crimes committed by white people against Negroes? In the very state of Mississippi where the recent lynching took place, a white man was convicted for torch murder of two Negroes in 1932 and sentenced to death. But after four reprieves he is still alive, though in prison. But there is little likelihood that, following the requirements of this bill, someone who participated in the mob will step forth and testify against the sheriff. It is plain there will be few convictions under this law.
Now for the question whether laws can stop lynching. Society has reeked with the abuses of capitalism now for 300 years. Wars and unemployment, crime and disease, persecution and bloodshed have always been rampant. Curbed for a while in one spot, they break out only more violently elsewhere. Do laws help at all? Let us look at some particular legislation aimed to curb some of the outrages of capitalism. Child Labor Acts, which had been passed, were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1918 and 1923. A Child Labor amendment now pending lacks sufficient votes of the States. And child labor goes tragically on. Two million children between the ages of ten and sixteen are reported as working. And we know that in agriculture children can begin working at six or at five! Suppose the number of children working is less than at some previous periods, is it not still an appalling army of child laborers?
The same logic may be applied to the Federal anti-kidnapping law which has not stopped kidnapping, to the Prohibition Amendment, which never stopped drinking and rum-running, to the Sherman Anti- Trust Law which has not curbed the Trusts, etc.
To the well meaning people, who place so much confidence in legislation, all that this world needs is just the proper sort of regulating, and the proper enforcement of the regulations. In reality legislation is much more a reflection of conditions than it is a controlling factor. The laws governing property relations (and these are the most important laws) were set up after the property relations had been determined by force. When the workers are able to become the dominant factor in society, they will be able to legislate in their own interests.
We are far from saying, however, that legislation is of no interest to the working class. Legislation that benefits workers in industry, that shortens hours, protect the interests of the unemployed, or to improve living conditions, such as housing programs, all such legislation should be advocated by labor organizations and fought for by militant means. Laws enforcing shorter work hours, for example, tend to lengthen the life of the worker and to curtail capitalist profits. Similarly with minimum wage bills, however, the benefit obtained can be only temporary, and for this reason, legislation and the fight for legislation can never be the prime object of the working class, only the means to the end of overthrowing capitalism.
A bill to curb lynching does not fall in the same category as the above mentioned bills. Lynching is a deeply rooted custom in this country, tracing back to the pioneer days before the state apparatus had been created. We believe it is too deeply rooted, like other traditions of violence that grace these United States, to be scared out of people by laws. We propose that a counter force be organized against lynching, that the down trodden share cropper farmers of the South, white and black, form secret defense groups to be ready to resist lynching when they threaten. Let us keep in mind that lynching is not wholly a Negro problem, although Negroes are the principle victims. But white labor organizers are sometimes lynched, and flogged and driven out of town, if not lynched. This fact indeed gives us one clue as to why the lynchings take place. At first sight it appears as though it appears it is because the Negro is black that he is the victim. This is not the case, however. It is because the Negro represents labor and nothing else. As a group the Negroes are the purest representatives of labor, labor that cannot hope to rise to another class, and this is the essence of the hatred against them. It is because classes have always been so obscured in this country, because white labor has always hoped to escape its fate, that white labor does not line up beside its colored brothers, but joins in the hue and cry against them.
What we propose to cope with lynching is that the direction of the lynching be changed. We propose the lynching of the lynchers of the Negroes and poor toilers. The lynching bill is likely to be a dead letter, like so much other well meaning legislation, but the formation of defense groups can grow into a mighty movement whereby the poor toilers of the country can assert themselves.
A colored friend with whom I discussed the anti-lynching bill described the advice he had received from his older relatives as a young man growing up in the South, “You know what the customs are down there,” they told him. “And we advise you to get out. But if you stay, remember this, if you hear a mob is coming to get you, don’t you run to the woods or hide behind a rain barrel. You get yourself a gun and shoot and keep on shooting until they hit you.” Here is an instinctive reaction, founded on experience, that is very sound, except that the resistance must be an organized one by many people if it is to be effective. Let the Negroes realize they have power if they will get together and use it. Not humanitarian weeping over lynching nor dead letter bills will curb it, but only a show of force by the Negroes and other poor toilers themselves will lessen the lynching atrocities.
FASCIST PROTOTYPES (Concluded)
In England, too, about the middle of the 19th century, the Catholics developed a social action movement, under the leadership of Bishop Manning. This was, of course, supplementary to the Protestant Christian Socialism of Maurice and Kingsley and was created from the same millieu.
Bishop Manning pretended to be greatly contemptuous of the “talking mill” at Westminster and declared his politics were social politics. Labor was the cause of wealth and was a state of dignity. As such, labor was entitled not only to the rights of property but to the rights of liberty and to the right to protect itself. Manning recognized the right to strike, “As frequently the only weapon in the hands of the workers strong enough to rebuke the deception of capital.” (S.P. McEntac: The Social Catholic Movement in Great Britain, p. 25)
The outbursts of Manning were more radical than those of the Catholics in Europe. The Catholic Church in Great Britain was such an insignificant minority that it had to use “more radical phrases to win popularity. Thus, Manning talked of the right to strike, something which was carefully denounced in the Catholic circles on the Continent. Also, in England the strike was far removed from revolution, while on the Continent strikes were too often connected with threats against the State, which itself might be Catholic. Manning had not the identical concern in the protection of the anti-Catholic State in Great Britain that the Catholics had in Europe.
The social Catholic movement did not develop very strongly in England, not only because it could not win the sympathy of the ruling groups who were strongly dominated by Liberalism and did not believe revolution was near. On the other hand, the social Catholics could not become popular with the British workers. In recent years the Catholic Social Guild did its utmost to break the 1925 general strike of British labor,
Connected with the theories of the social Catholic movement was the Guild Socialist grouping that arose in Great Britain. The extreme Right wing of this hodge-podge group was represented by A.J. Penty, who was a disciple of the Social Catholics. To Penty the Middle Ages was one of real enlightenment and he actually believed that society could and should put the clock back to restore those model times. (A.J.Penty, A Guildsman’s Interpretation of History pg. 298). The materialist conception was one-sided and the theory of class war utterly false. Christianity would restore the sense of brotherhood and bring back the guilds each with its “just price". The great evil of mankind was capitalism. By a return to the Catholic Churchand to the mediaeval view of reciprocal rights and duties, by throwing overboard modern intellectualism, by concentrating on the revival of a prosperous peasantry, England would again be restored to her former virility.
Industrialism had brought in a standard of quantity. Penty wanted to return to the standard of quality. (A.J. Penty: Means and Ends pg.82). By no means was the present any progress over the past. We must return again to a program based on the law of nature and justice, with its just and fixed price and elimination of usury. We must fuse again spirit and matter, and bring the kindom of heaven on earth. The great question of the day was “how to make Christians understand what is true in Socialism, and Socialists to understand the truth of Christianity.” (A.J. Penty: Toward a Christian Sociology, pg.18). This was the great task of the Guild Socialists. There could be no doubt that the struggles of the future would be between Marx and the guilds.
According to Penty, “Materialist Communism is a contradiction in terms. Communism is a spiritual idea. It is only possible with people who put spiritual things first, (A.J. Penty: Guilds and The Social Crisis, pg.77). And against the theory of Bolshevism, which transforms a nation into a mechanism of robots and idolizes machinery, Penty would take us back to the old days of crafts and handicrafts. His program called for protection of industry, national self-sufficiency, a regulated industry and the revival of agriculture. Especially this last was important, since if England was to grow its own food supply, it would not need a big navy; the present navy was a proof that free trade was not the support of pacifisim, but led to war.
The only alternative to Marxism was a return to the principles of Christianity. One must recognize human nature as it is, and thus respect the eternity of private property, but while accepting self-interest as a fact, society must put a fence around it. This was the principle of the guilds in the Middle Ages where prices and wages were fixed and property better distributed.
The reactionary plans of these Guild Socialists can be seen in Penty’s program calling for a restriction of the use of machinery where it conflicts with the needs of personality. The application of machinery creating economic disorder by unemployment should be prevented as conflicting with the claims of the crafts and arts. No over production should be tolerated. England should return to the theory of the small work shop.
In its insistence on the organization of guilds taking in all employees, and in its idea of social responsibility and regulation, the Guild Socialists showed how closely they stemmed from the romantic feudalist school of Carlyle. At the same time in their demands for a self-sufficient nation and empire, they could easily become the tools of modern imperialist industry. As the Guild Socialist movement died out, their theories were partially taken over by the Fascists, with the primary difference that, whereas, as was usual for the reactionist before the war, the Guildmen had appealed for peaceful methods, the Fascists envisioned the realization of guilds through violence.
One of the contributions of the Guild Socialists was to insist upon the abolition of the territorial parliament and the establishment of a State represented by occupations organized in guilds and corporations. By the Right wing this theory was interpreted similarly to the Fascist practice. To the Left Wing, however, it appeared as a policy more revolutionary than that of the other Socialists since it looks like “self-government in industry". The Left Wing was particularly active in the trade union movement, but soon became split on the question of the future relationship of the workers’ organizations to the State.
Hobson, one of the leaders, held to the view that the State was to hold the final authority over industrial affairs and would be the owner of the tools of production, handing them over to the guilds as trustees, but remaining the final court of appeal. The State would still have the power to tax. This theory was opposed to the guild-commune theory of Cole, who denied sovereignty to the State and would have local and regional communes under the workers’ control.
In this respect, Cole passed as a harbinger for the British trade union movement, which right after the war through the Miners’ federation of Great Britain, had put forward a demand for the erection of a Miners’ Council to be composed half of workers’ organizations and half of the capitalist groups, which controlled mining, but had said nothing about nationalization of the mines. In 1925 the British Labor Party made a similar proposal to the Samuel Commission, with the difference, however, that the members of the Miners’ Council were to be individuals rather than delegates from organizations. Cole could interpret these actions to mean that modern Socialists had abandoned their previous advocacy of direct government ownership and were stressing only workers’ control and thus becoming more in harmony with the basic program of this Wing of the Guild Socialists.
The Cole group of the Guild Socialists had steadfastly countered the collectivism of those, who demanded that the industries should be run by civil service and be nationalized. Instead, Cole called for self government in industry and for an industrial government to be based on the direct representation of the workers. The Guild Socialist advocated, “That the State should acquire the ownership of industry, but should hand over its administration, under a charter, to a Guild composed of the whole body of workers engaged in it.” (G.D.H. Cole: Modern Theories and Forms of Industrial Organization, p. 66)
Here, then, was a modern question, which had been opened up by the Guild Socialists: Should the workers of each particular industry be the ones to administer that industry, or should the State as a whole take charge? The decentralized system proposed by Cole was not far from that advocated by the communist Anarchists of Italy. On the other hand, the whole Socialist movement previously had urged the nationalization of industry, the workers controlling it through their control of the State. When the revolution broke out in Russia, the 1920 conference of the Guild Sociologists welcomed the Soviet system, but would not bind themselves to the Russian formulas. The Soviet system, indeed, was a distinct repudiation of the idea that each set of workers would control their own factory and their own industry. The workers controlled all through their State.
In their controversies with the opportunist Socialists, who called for nationalization of industry, however, it cannot be said that the Guild Socialists were worse than the others. It is trust that the nationalization of industry is the development of State capitalism, which in turn brings all the contradictions of society to a head and paves the way for the new social order. But it is extremely questionable whether it is the function of the Socialists to bolster up the maturity of the capitalist State by advocating today such measures as nationalization of industry, even though the Socialists took on the additional demand of “workers’ control” or “demonstration management.” These very Socialists who have so warmly advocated the nationalization of industry have invariably turned out to be counter-revolutionists in the period of active labor struggle. Especially opportunist was the joining of the idea of nationalization to the belief in the perpetuation of the parliamentary State as the finest expression of pure democracy.
The Left wing guild Socialists also advocated the reorganization of the unions on an industrial basis and the abolition of craft unionism. While they would not endorse the militancy of the shop-steward movement that arose after the war, they did not disapprove of that form of organization. The workers must found their own unions for the control of industry and the establishment of industrial democracy. However, Cole did not believe in direct action, while Hobson wanted to buy out capitalism.
On the whole the literary guildsmen of the Left Wing who found it so convenient to unite with the Catholic reactionists of the Penty school, played a very slight part in influencing the labor movement. After the war their views died out.
FURTHER REMARKS ON THE MOSCOW TRIALS
Since the last issue of the Class Struggle appeared there has come out a special issue of the Moscow News containing a part of the actual testimony given in the trial of Radek, Piatokov, and 15 others. A reading of this testimony has induced some further consideration of the extraordinary trials. Reflection causes us to ask the question, “What possible basis of truth can there be in the charges, so elaborately worked out and carefully placed together?” Is it possible that all the defendants merely memorized material handed them by the G.P.U.? Certainly, one thing is clear, the testimony given by the 17 defendants goes into a mass of detailed evidence that to the ordinary reader would be most persuasive.
In the previous issue of the paper we remarked that it was very difficult for us to believe that men so long in the movement, who, indeed, had been partners to Lenin, would have been guilty of the actions to which they had confessed. Yet the confessions are so detailed and complete that we must also declare that it is most difficult for us to believe that such a mass of facts could have been memorized, that all of the defendants had rehearsed their parts together and that they would be willing to do so at the behest of the G.P.U. If it be assumed that their confessions were all false does it not assume that we are no longer dealing with men of character, but completely broken down hacks. And if we have such miserable creatures before us, can it not be possible that they could be actually guilty of the things to which they confessed.
Let us stop a moment on the personnel of those tried. It is true that they were revolutionaries in the days of Lenin but several other things are also true. First, these men were intellectuals who for the greater part of their lives made their living from the party. Such intellectuals can be broken down by great presure of the Stalinist apparatus. Where the intellectual is fused with the masses and absorbed in their struggles he can make a contribution of great value. But where he is divorced from the masses for any length of time, then it is not so hard for him to revert to type, to take on petty bourgeois caracteristics of oppertuneism, of adventurism. The fact is that the intellectuals placed on trial had for years been divorced from the masses, had not engaged in the class struggle directly against capitalism, had lived a soft and easy life.
The second point to remember is that all of them had already capitulated to Stalinism. This, to a genuine revolutionary is decisive. It means that in his own eyes the person in question has lost his character, has sold himself for immediate safety and comforts. To such intellectuals, the loss of self-respect brings with it a loss of integrity and stability. Now one no longer knows just what to expect. The barriers of character once broken down, a flood of perfidious actions is let loose which are hard to anticipate.
The history of these very creatures put on trial forms a good illustration of this point. They had capitulated to Stalinism, to nationalism, to chauvinism, to counter-revolution. Having gone that far, is there any limit to which they can now not go? Stalin holds them hostage and has them completely in his hands. They in their inner souls try to justify their position by declaring that they have not really capitulated at bottom, that they are really Trotskyists but are only waiting their chance to bring their old principles to life. But Stalin is no fool. He knows full well that he has to deal with swindling former revolutionists turned counter-revolutionary cowards. He knows what to expect and with oriental patience waits for his chance to trap them in their secret moves of double bookkeeping.
What is the lesson of all this? Is it not clear that the Radeks and Piztokovs began their treacherous, treasonable course, not when they became Trotskyists, but at the moment they declared they had become convinced of Stalinism, while at the same time, they carried on double-bookkeeping with themselves and with all the members of the party to which they had joined? Their character now broken, is it not possible for them to do all sorts of things of a vile character and to testify to them, even to things not done, on the order of the Stalinist apparatus?
The indictment against these unfortunate creatures declares that their program was one where they called for the admission of private capital is the U.S.S.R., where they advocated the dissolution of the collective forms; the liquidation of the State forms, the leasing of Soviet enterprises to foreign capitalists granting great concessions in industry and territory. They are further indicted as assassins, as wreckers, as terrorists, as agents of Fascism and Japanese militarism.
We have said before that it was most difficult for us to belive that men of 30 years training in the revolutionary movement could have been guility of these actions, but sinse these people have confessed to them, can we disbelive them? Shall we say that they were afraid of their lives? But they knew they would be shoot anyway. And besides people afraid of their lives, are no longer revolutionists and are capable of doing anything under pressure. No revolutionists can have any confidence in these hacks and broken down intellectuals who have been placed on trial.
It is quite possible that some of them advocated the liquidation of the State farms. WHY SHOULD THEY NOT HAVE REACHED THIS POSITION WHEN STALIN HIMSELF HAS REACHED THIS POSITION? The news has just reached us that the entire farms, the pride and joy of the Leninists in the past, have been ordered liquidated to give way to the collectives. This means that the Soviet industry gives way to the semi-private joint stock company which the collective can readily become. It means that the agricultural proletariat gives way to the peasant. It means that the socialist sector of Soviet economy gives way to the private property sector. Here again we see the transition to capitalism that Stalin is preparing for us.
The point is that if the official apparatus was moving in this direction it was quite possible for the broken down hacks to have taken this position also. But now far more important than the views of a few intellectuals is the fact that Stalin has used the trial to cover up the fact of his own capitulation, of his own retreat in the countryside towards the Kulik, the peasant, the capitalist market. STALINISM IS GUILTY OF THE VERY THINGS THE DEFENDANTS ARE CHARGED WITH, NAMELY THE DISSOLUTION OF THE STATE FARMS, WITH THIS DIFFERENCE, THAT WHEREAS THE DEFENDANTS ARE CHARGED WITH ONLY SECRETLY ADVOCATING THIS CHANGE STALIN HAS ACTUALLY PUT IT INTO EFFECT.
To the naive Westerner unused to this oriental trickery of the Djugashvillis (Stalins) it might be asked how can it be that the Stalins can kill the defendants and yet take on the alleged program of the defendants? Yet is this not an excellent way for Stalin through the trial to throw the masses off the scent of his own actions. Having executed those who he declared were guilty of treason for advocating the dissolution of the State farms, Stalin can now go ahead and actually liquidate these State farms without anyone thinking this great champion of the workers to be guilty of this treason himself.
If now we are on the right track in our reasoning, then we can afford to drop from sight the miserable defendants for a moment and concentrate on the fearsome motives and tricks of our Georgian Djugnshvili. It will be noted that in the former trial, Zinoviev and Kamenev and the others then executed were tried for treason, part of which consisted in their program to terminate the soviet form of government and bring in another political form of government. The same charge, incidentally, is raised at the Radek trial. But it is very interesting to note that before the trial and after the trial there was carried through by Stalin himself the very treasonable point for which the defendants had been killed, namely a change in the political form of government in which the Soviets were annihilated and bourgeois forms of democracy set up. Let us be very clear on this point. Charging Zinoviev and Kameney with wanting to change the Soviet form of government. Immediately after the trial a new constitution was affected, which did change the soviet form of government and moved rapidly towards capitalism in politics.
Now at this trial it is declared that the Radeks wanted to dissolve the State farms. No sooner is the trial over than Stalin dissolves the State farms. Soon there will be another trial, involving Bukharin, Rykov, Uglanov and others. Can it be that after this trial there will be a new swing to the right and the other treasonable points will be carried out by Stalin, namely the liquidation of the collectives, the leasing of soviet enterprises to foreign capitalists, etc.? This is not entirely out of the question for Stalin to do and the point bears the utmost watching.
We do know that through the trials Stalin has been enabled to throw the blame for all his crimes in industrializing Russia upon the backs of the scapegoat defendants. Has heavy industry greatly lagged behind the estimates of the Five Year Plan? How simple to blame Piatokov and leave Ordjonokidzie and Stalin blameless. Has the organization of the railroads been conducted in scandalous fashion? How easy to put the responsibility on Lifschitz and others. Have hundreds of workers been murdered by Stalinist bureaucracy? Trotsky is to blame!
Here we must note a startling point of difference between the former trials of saboteurs and wreckers and the last one. In previous cases the villains were Czarist officers, bourgeois agents and disgruntled professionals. Today it seems those elements are no longer charged with sabotage, but only prominent leaders of the Party (!), who are opposed to Stalin (So.) Thus the trials further protect the bureaucratic specialist and further indict the Communist Party.
And if the specialist is such a fine loyal fellow and the former revolutionists so terrible, why not bring in more specialists from the outside? Why not lease Soviet factories to them? Neither peasants nor bureaucrats will object, especially as war is near and the damage done by worker-communists must be repaired!
We must ask ourselves also whether there is anything in Trotskyism as now preached by Trotsky and with which we violently disagree which could lend itself to justifying the recent trial. All his life Trotsky has fought the ideas with which Stalin now charges him and wishes to execute him for. While Stalin was isolating the Soviet Union and moving towards capitalism, Trotsky had taken the leading role in fighting Stalin’s policies, which went so far as actually to work with Fascism as in the selling of oil to Italy during the Ethiopian war.
There are, nonetheless, several points espoused by Trotsky that can bear analysis in this connection. First there is the theory that to remove Stalinism there is necessary not civil war, but “police action”, It is possible that to broken down desperate types, “police action” could mean individual assassination. But no Trotskyist ever stood for such anarchist action. The C.L.S. has firmly agreed to the viewpoint that civil war was not needed to remove Stalinism, since Russia was still a Workers State. But the C.L.S. has always been careful to point out that this “police action” will be carried through by the mass of proletarians themselves and will be the culmination of a long process of mass actions and not a tiny conspiracy.
Today Stalin fears assassination more than anything else—and rightly so. He knows the workers are becoming increasingly discontented while the bureaucrats grow stronger. Both sides want to dispose of him. He knows too that in time of war, the enemy will make every effort to remove him, since he has destroyed the other old leaders and now stands alone. This fear of assassination causes Stalin to invent the charge of assassination against Trotsky and all oppositionists. But by his reign of terror, Stalin only accentuates those conditions that will finally lend to the success of the assassin.
The second point which Trotsky has recently espoused is his theory that Stalinism is Nonpartisan and that Thermidor has been completed. Long ago we pointed out the dangerous implications of such a theory (Class Struggle, October, 1935); that it confused the Soviet Union with capitalism, that it was bound to lead to a counter-revolutionary course. With such a theory it is quite possible for people to commit the deeds charged by Stalin.
But the main point to understand is that Stalin is not fighting degenerate Trotskyism so much as he is fighting against the rise of the Fourth International. Trotskyism is no longer a menace; the genuine Fourth International, which will repudiate the Trotskyists’ entrance into the Socialist parties, will condemn their theory of Bonapartism and their clique methods of organization, is a menace.
It is the Fourth International that throws its shadow in Spain, in France, in Russia. The Fourth International means the extension of the World Revolution, the end of Stalinism.
In his fight against Trotskyism, Stalin leans upon capitalist elements and has as his real purpose the prevention of the Fourth International. In his defense against Stalin, Trotsky also leans on bourgeois liberal elements of the Right Wing and has as his result the demoralization of the movement for the Fourth International. We say to hell with both bankrupts. Long live the Fourth International!
“GOOD NEIGHBORISM” (Roosevelt in Latin America)
When Roosevelt came into power in 1933, the Latin American people believed they would have a “New Deal” in their relations with the United States. The new President had announced that he would try to bring his country and the republics to the south of the Rio Grande into a closer friendship, adopting a policy of mutual respect and rapprochement that he himself called the “Good Neighbor” policy.
Our countries saw the withdrawal of the marines that had been stationed for many years in Nicaragua and Haiti. We were assured that there would be no intervention in Cuba and saw that even the famous Platt Amendment, which gave the United States the right to intervene had been blotted out forever from the Cuban constitution. Besides we observed that the Monroe Doctrine was not mentioned, leaving the impression that it also had been buried forever.
Of course, the policy of “Good Neighborism” was highly praised among the governing circles in South America. For many old style politicians the United States had at last begun to understand what should be its true attitude and to take the place of elder brother towards them. For others, including some that had struggled before against North American penetration, Yankee Imperialism no longer existed and should be thought of now simply as a thing of the past. And finally, there were those who proclaimed that Latin America now had its best friend in the United States in the view of Japanese encroachment.
Of course the working class of Latin America never held these innocent or interested opinions. And, notwithstanding the propaganda made by the capitalistic press mostly in possession of or under the control of that very same Yankee Imperialism, the toilers soon understood that the new attitude of North America was only a change of front. It was the abandonment of the barbarous, primitive methods of “Dollar Diplomacy” and the “Big Stick” for the adoption of a more gentle, refined method. Owing to the drive of other imperialism the United States had to change its procedure in order to resist its English and Japanese rivals.
The old North American policy had aroused an enormous resistance in Latin America creating an anti-Yankee atmosphere which was most unfavorable to the commercial interests of the United States. Hence it was necessary to destroy that sentiment, adopting a new foreign policy, which is the one now being followed. But does the policy of the “Good Neighbor” signify the disappearance of North American imperialism? Quite the contrary. It is easy to understand that today the United States does not need to maintain troops to guard her interests in the Central American Republics. In the face of the growing popular discontent, the best allies of the United States are the local bureaucracy. Now, more than ever, the native bureaucrats feel themselves at one with the imperialistic force, in the presence of the grave menace that the growing of a revolutionary consciousness among the Caribbean proletariat constitutes for their privileges. The troops therefore are replaced by local regiments, instructed by North American officers and ready to put down the strikes or any movement that might endanger the interests of Wall Street.
As for the abandonment of the right to intervene in Cuba, which the Plait Amendment had conceded, it is evident, also, that this is nothing more than an effective gesture, a paper modification, since with or without the Plait Amendment, the United States will intervene in Cuba to defend its financial interests as soon as these are menaced. We have already seen that on account of the revolutionary movements that followed the fall of Machade a large Yankee fleet was anchored in front of Havana, ready for any emergency. Neither is it possible to say that the activities of Yankee Imperialism in South America have diminished with the “Good Neighbor” policy.
If anything, there is a general intensification of activity in the new period. Apart from the Chaco war, provoked by the antagonism with the British interests, we see how the dominion of the United States goes spreading over all the Pacific nations. It has obtained tremendous concessions in the new commercial treaties signed with our countries, like the agreement with Brazil and Cuba, as well as the intensification of the struggle to drive out her English rival from the River Plate, the most coveted South American market.
The new foreign policy of the U.S. consequently is no more than a modification of the former imperialistic proceedings that are now made more dangerous and more audacious hiding behind the mask of “Good Neighborism".
It was following the general line of that policy that President Roosevelt at the beginning of last year personally sent out his invitation to all the Latin American countries to meet in a Peace Conference to take place in Buenos Airos. The purpose was vaguely celebrated with lyric eagerness by the pacifists. The program was to be determined before the general acceptance of the governments that had been invited. At this insinuation Washington started to receive favorable answers from the Latin American countries. Like docile lambs, all were ready to follow the road that their shepherds indicated, and meet together in the sheepfold that was being prepared for them in Buenos Aires, where they would bleat to the tune he gave out.
The meeting was held in this city with the greatest publicity and in the presence of high officials of the United States. The preparations were long and the program timorous but complete. Everything had been thought of to be able to hold the assembly—everything—except the opinion of the public. For in reality the people of South America did not understand, nor have they yet come to understand, the meaning of the conference in Buenos Aires. It can well be said that seldom has a meeting of this nature been held before such great indifference and incomprehension of the people.
The affairs of Spain have attracted the attention of South America in such a way that the Inter-American Conference merely took them by surprise. President Roosevelt arrived in Buenos Aires as if fallen from the sky, and the reception which awaited him in spite of all the capitalist papers had said about it, was cold and inferior compared with those given to other high officials, who have come to Buenos Aires lately, including President Vargus of Brazil in 1935. Besides, the working class was not present at this reception where most of the people gathered out of curiosity. Of course when the President of the United States drove through the city, it was always through the aristocratic districts, where the capitalist ladies were ready to throw him flowers.
The conference was opened by President Roosevelt with a speech in which he castigated all the countries, who taxed their economy in the manufacture of armaments, although it is well known that the United States is among the nations that are rearming themselves at a great rate today. The purpose of the conference was clearly stated: a) To maintain the order that exists at present in South America and provide against any alterations of peace that could result from movements and strikes of the working class on the continent. b) To create a neutrality pact and draw to the side of the U.S. all the Latin American republics in case of war and to secure exclusively the use of their raw materials in that case. c) To consolidate the empire of Wall Street over the continent and try to dislodge its imperialistic rivals of Europe and Asia.
Seventy schemes were dispatched in 20 days by the six deputies marking a record of activity in the conferences. But while mountains of papers were being piled up with the conventions, resolutions, discourses, etc., the conflict between Bolivia and Paraguay still remained and continued to remain.
The first important point determined in Buenos Aires was the agreement signed for the maintenance of the status quo in the Western Hemisphere. This new pact in which the dictatorial as well as the so called “democratic” governments participated on equal terms is nothing more than an agreement of cooperation for mutual help to maintain the existing exploitation of the working classes in Latin America, to prevent any uprising of the masses and to insure the privileges of the local capitalists and the benefits of the imperialist invasion in our country.
In 1934, Argentina and Brazil signed a treaty to help each other mutually in case of an armed rebellion that might endanger the existing institutions. At the beginning of 1936, all the reactionary papers in South America stirred up public opinion about the necessity of forming a continental anti-marxist alliance to prevent the propagation of the revolutionary spirit among the working class, such as had been manifested in January, 1936. In case of an alteration of the peace, how is this mutual help to be reconciled with the additional agreement in which the nations of the Western hemisphere promise not to intervene in each others’ affairs. Does this mean that the United States renounces definitively the chance to intervene in the Latin American countries? Of course not, only from now on the local capitalists, feeling themselves more and more united with the imperialistic interests against the working class in their respective countries, in case of these rebelling. They would oblige the U.S. to intervene to maintain peace upon the solicitation of the Latin American governments and not upon the initiative of the U.S.
The other important point of the resolutions of Buenos Aires is the one referring to the convention of neutrality by which they try to tie the Latin Americans to the United States in case of war, attempting to secure for themselves exclusively the raw materials, at the cost of the opponents of the U.S. But, when discussing this agreement, contrary to what had occurred in the preceding one, at once through the Argentina, England protested that she did not accept the agreement as obligatory and reserved the right of the confiscation of food stuffs, which happen to be the sole exports from our country, and which are indispensable to the United Kingdom in the event of war. So that the success of the United States was not complete and this must surely have been the basic reason, which determined them to leave the creation of a League of American Nations as projected by the White House, to the conference of Lima in 1938.
As for the customs arrangements and the reduction of tariffs, no more was done in Buenos Aires than to follow the road designated by the conference of Montovides in 1933, trying to preserve the South American market for the U.S. at the expense of its Asiatic and European rivals.
The Inter-American Consolidation Conference was in a word nothing more than a new aspect of the Imperialistic preparation for war and of the struggle for South America which is developing throughout the whole continent.
Precisely the day after the opening of the Conference in Buenos Aires the new treaty of commerce was signed between Argentine and England which signifies a greater extension of the economy of the country by British Imperialism. A few weeks beforehand, the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Argentina, Mr. Savedia Lamas, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, had gone to Europe to preside over the assembly of the League of Nations, and to get directives in London with the object also of presiding over the conference in Buenos Aires. Therefore the United States has not so far obtained the complete success it desired in submitting these countries to its designs. English Imperialism is firmly settled in the countries of the river Plate and everything tends to show it will not be easy to drive it out. The latest war of the Chaco is an expression of this situation. On the other hand, Japan and Germany have also appeared as competitors and are invading South America with their products. Germany has succeeded in dislodging the United States from its prominent place in the Brazilian market.
Therefore, the Inter-American Peace Conference, which provoked as much praise from the Hearst papers as well as from L’Humanite (the French Stalinist paper) is no more than another of the Yankee Imperialist forces to confirm its positions. And our people have understood it more and more notwithstanding that the interested press wants them to believe the contrary and to accept as sincere the famous “Good Neighborism” of Roosevelt, which is nothing more than a new Monroeism. The working masses of South America know that there cannot be a permanent peace on the continent while they are being exploited, and that the only war which latin America can have is not with extra continental countries as the law of neutrality voted by Washington seems to believe but against the United States itself to free our people from the oppressive influence of its imperialism.
Buenos Aires, 1937
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE ILLINOIS WORKERS ALLIANCE
I. THE ILLINOIS STATE-WIDE CONFERENCE ON UNEMPLOYMENT AND RELIEF
On March 7th in Chicago there took place an Illinois State-Wide Conference on unemployment and relief. The purpose of this conference was to support a permanent program of legislation to be enacted in Springfield and was one of a series of regional meetings held all over the country by the Workers Alliance of America.
The conference, therefore, from the start was restricted only to legislative proposals. No real action or demonstration was even to be whispered about. To ensure the thoroughly legal and servile character of the meeting State Relief officials were invited to explain the activity of the government on the workers’ behalf. These gentlemen took up most of the time, very little being left for reports and discussions from the Alliance members.
Not a single bona-fide union of actual productive workers sent a delegate to the conference. After so many years of activity, the leadership of the Illinois Workers Alliance exposed themselves as completely isolated from the trade unions and working population. Of the 135 delegates, 84 came from the I.W.A., of whom 67 were from Cook County. Only five locals outside Chicago sent delegates. Eleven delegates came from five “unions” of social workers, artists and similar elements; fourteen delegates came from eight churches and fraternal bodies; eleven delegates came from four political groups (Communist Party, Socialist Party, Labor Party, Communist League of Struggle) and four were miscellaneous delegates.
The relief official, Mr. Martini, who spoke in the morning had to make some startling disclosures and admissions. In July 1936, there were 143,000 cases on home relief; in February, 1937, despite the WPA there were 175,000 such cases, an increase of over 30,000 or over 20%. The relief costs had jumped from 3.1 million to 5.3 million dollars per month. He admitted that the sum was woefully inadequate and said it should be 10 million monthly or 120 million yearly.
Comrade Weisbord then rose to ask a question and showed, amid great applause, that Federal boards had repeatedly estimated the bare minimum needed for the average family to be $1000 annually. This would total about 175,000 million dollars annually for the number now on relief. How did it come about that the highest dreams of another Federal department reached only 120 million or 50 million less than the bare minimum declared by physicians and economists to be absolutely essential for health? Mr. Martini admitted he was stumped and could not answer.
Interesting too, were Mr. Martini’s admissions that the large private corporations were not drawing their recently hired employees from the relief lists. He also declared that no longer would new men, except skilled workers, who had to preserve their skill, be put on W.P.A. This showed two things: First that the government was trying to separate the skilled from the unskilled and second that the W.P.A. was being gradually dissolved.
Mr. Martini also admitted the chaos in the relief administration. Since July, 1936, the relief was being administered by 1,454 local relief units in the State of Illinois. Each unit was handing out different relief, in many places woefully inadequate. Some places refused to tax themselves so as to receive their State quota. Others had depleted treasuries. Of the large amounts collected by the 3% sales tax, only one-third went for relief purposes, the other two-thirds being diverted by the politicians. The result of this situation was extreme chaos. In some counties relief amounted to but seven cents per day per person. In others there was great staff fluctuation of relief workers.
The remedy of all this to Mr. Martini as well as to the I.W.A. officials was to set up permanent machinery, since unemployment must now be considered a permanent thing—and to have an adequate staff of well paid relief clerks controlled by a central administration all of whom would be permanently employed to give relief.
It was very clear how closely I.W.A. officials were in agreement with Mr. Martini. The chairman “retranslated” questions of hostile delegates so as to take the sting out of them and tried his best to show the I.W.A. wanted to cooperate with the capitalist state as much as possible. The rank and file delegates, however, were clearly hostile to the whole relief set-up. But the whole set-up of the conference was so arranged that the delegates could not discuss policy, but only ask questions of government hirelings.
Assuming “relief” was now to be a permanent matter, there was registered no protest against a system that doomed millions of people to such a permanent outlook, where they would be permanently in a relief swamp, permanently State pan-handlers and politician suckers, permanently on the verge of starvation and destitution, permanently divorced from the productive process of the nation and from the factories which they themselves had built. Is it any wonder that the unions shied away from the conferences? What a “permanent” outlook to have! Only Socialist and Stalinist social workers could have conceived it.
This whole servile program was challenged by the Communist League of Struggle supported by several I.W.A. locals.
The official program was:
1. Placing the unemployment relief on a state basis and state responsibility with federal subsidies when needed.
2. Adoption of a State Works program to supplement the Federal Program, and union wages on all such jobs.
3. Directing works authorities to choose useful projects. Housing for workers and others.
4. Adoption of a genuine State Unemployment Insurance—along the lines of the old Frazier-Lundeen Bill.
5. Amendment of the State Constitution to allow a graduated income tax, and then passage of such a tax to replace the present sales tax.
The Communist League of Struggle in opposition presented the following resolutions:
1. It is now seven full years since the employers began their policy of sabotaging the productive capacity of the country, destroying untold wealth and locking out millions of workers, who have created all the employers possessed. In these seven years, private ownership of industry has proven itself utterly bankrupt, unable to do anything better than throw the millions of unemployed on to the mercies of the State, which in turn has degraded them to the level of paupers and placed them on a starvation diet.
2. Today we are faced with a fierce pre-war boom, and the factories, mills, mines and other productive units are reaching 1929 levels again. (It seems the bosses can end their sabotage only when they plan war: The rusting of individual factories and men then to give way to mass destruction). But still the many millions of workers thrown out at the beginning of the crisis remain divorced from production. Evidently the unemployed are to be beaten into unemployable and made permanent outcasts; at the same time the bosses are laying the basis for new lay-offs and new crises in the future.
3. The State Projects are no substitute for the regular productive employment for which the workers have been trained. Men, who are tailors or weavers or other factory workers, have been put to work digging ditches or picking papers from the parks or similar activity in the course of which they have begun to loose their old training and capacity to work so as to find it even more difficult than ever to get work in private industry. No projects are allowed to compete with the capitalists who hog for themselves all the essential productive activities of the nation.
4. This State Wide Conference on Unemployment and Relief Needs demands that the factories now be opened to the unemployed. We demand (a) That no employer shall have the right to dismiss any worker from the job. (b) Those who have been locked out must be reinstated and places found for them to work. (c) The hours must be immediately shortened to allow all to work; the pay must be raised to give all a decent standard of living. (d) The ware houses and reserve supplies of the nation must be opened up to the hungry.
5. The sabotage and dog-in-the-manger attitude of the proffit mongering employers must be brushed aside. If they can’t run the factories, give constructive work and plenty for all, they must make way for the control of the workers. Boss control means continued starvation and unemployment alternated by world wars. Workers’ control of production alone offers a way out.
6. We must make it clear to the Government that W.P.A. projects in pay and quality satisfy us not at all. We must see to it that a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work is obtained for the W.P,A. workers. Unless regular pay is given to the project workers equal to prevailing union rates elsewhere the W.P.A. workers must refuse to work and fight against the imposition of a chain gang system on the unemployed.
7. Our Conference goes on record as asking the C.I.O. movement to organize the W.P.A. workers into a regular industrial union (to be also affiliated with the W.A.A.) so as to terminate their status as outcasts and are treated like regular workers in industry.
8. We call on the trade and industrial unions movement of this country to join us in raising the demand for the immediate reinstatement of all workers locked out during the crisis. In all strikes there must be raised the demand for the 30-hour week so that the unemployed can be taken back. The unemployed must participate in all such strikes, and in sit-down strikes to help occupy the factories. Only by the close unity of the employed and unemployed can the economic royalists be defeated and unemployment needs be met.”
Although the Resolutions Committee refused to read our whole resolution it was forced to give the gist of the demands. At once the Stalinists, who dominated the meeting arose in full force. They had the brass to intimate that Weisbord was an “agent provocateur” and a paid hireling of Hearst. The resolution was voted down as advocating Social Revolution.
The Stalinists then went still further. They actually brought in a resolution endorsing President Roosevelt’s packing of the Supreme Court. To the Stalinists 15 capitalist judges are more proletarian than 9 capitalist judges, and the President is the worker’s friend. Again the C.L.S. took the lead in exposing the treachery of the Stalinists and although the resolution finally passed, a number of locals of the I.W.A. arose to declare they wanted to be recorded against.
All the stock Stalinist resolutions were passed but not a word regarding the Illinois floods and the crimes of the Roosevelt relief administration in those areas. Not a word about the unemployed participation in the wave of sit-down strikes taking place in the Middle West, not a word about real action to end unemployment forever. Such were the highlights of the conference. It marked a new low in militancy, and a new high in misleadership. ----- A.W.
II. THE RECENT DEMONSTRATIONS IN CHICAGO.
Chicago’s relief crisis grows. According to figures computed by a committee to investigate the “extravagant” use of relief funds in New York, it is pointed out that the ratio of relief expenditures to the general population is two times greater in New York than in Chicago. The agents of blood sucking capitalism are the first to point out the abominable standards of Chicago in the hope of establishing them elsewhere. Rents have been raised throughout the entire city, but there has been no increase in the rent allotment for those on relief. Under normal circumstances it is very difficult for the unemployed to get a flat. Of course it is worst of all for the Negroes, who are relegated to the most run-down rat holes. Add to this the uncertainty of receiving the rent allotments regularly.
For a time the food allotments returned to the “kindergarten” stage, i.e. grocery orders. Temporarily cash relief has been continued, but, according to a statement of Relief Commissioner Lyons, on May 15th the cash relief is likely to be discontinued or perhaps combined with grocery orders. The press of Chicago has already announced a new relief cut to take place on May 15th, with single men and women being taken off the home relief. The single men are to go to the flop houses, and the single women apparently are to go to hell, as there are no flop houses for women. Of course, this has been denied by the relief authorities, but members of the I.W.A. have already been sent to the flop houses.
What has been the attitude of the I.W.A. and the nature of its activities under these circumstances? Beginning with the conference on legislation held at the Hull House on March 7th, followed by the active support of the taxi strike and by a series of activities, there has been a good amount of effort on the part of the vanguard elements of the organization. Yet, the Alliance fails to stir up the mass of unemployed and in all its actions appears to be isolated. This can be directly attributed to the class collaboration attitude of the leaders and the reformist nature of their program.
In some cases the plans laid out by the House of Delegates failed because of lack of sufficient preparation and poor leadership at the point of execution. The demonstration at the City Council on April 7th, brought this out in bold relief, The Alliance plans were to have a mass demonstration outside the City Chamber while the Executive Committee presented the demands to the Council men. About 100 people at most showed up—the same few who are active in all the work with only a few newcomers. These people congregated and hung around in such a confused and disorganized manner that none of the neutral observers in the corridor knew what organization they represented or what they were trying to do.
The Executive Committee never showed up as a body, the reason being plain, that nearly all of them are working, and although they had promised to quit work for a few hours to present the demands to the Council, they did not do so. Several members of the Executive floated around at different times during the day (the “demonstration” went on from 11 in the morning until 5 or so p.m.) but at no time did the Committee appear as a solid body giving leadership to the mass.
The Council cleverly postponed its meeting from 11 to 2 p.m. to head us off. At 1 p.m. about a dozen policemen appeared outside the council Chamber door, (they had been quietly congregating for some time previous) and herded the people outside to a farther end of the corridor. No protest was made, the unemployed waited with astonishing patience, while hours passed. Suddenly the doorman came and picked eight people at random from the crowd and admitted them. But they were not prepared and could not speak. At the very end of the afternoon, one member of the Committee was admitted to present the mild demands of the Alliance.
It must be emphasized that at no time were the “demonstrators” utilized to apply real organized pressure to enforce our protest. The mere fact that we were able after six hours of waiting to get one member to present our demands to a group of corrupt politicians was hailed as a victory by the Executive in its report. The poor methods of struggle led to a humorous incident, which is worth mentioning. At the time of the City Council demonstration, there were about 15 sit-down strikes taking place in Chicago alone. After hanging around the corridor so long, one woman finally sank to the floor in sheer exhaustion, and others followed suit. Immediately the rumor spread around that a sit-down strike was being declared, and indeed this could have materialized if there had been any sort of leadership.
Prior to this demonstration, the Executive Board conceived of another plan to “drive the officials to the Left” (a la Stalinism). Committees of the various locals were elected to visit the Council men individually with a questionnaire on the relief situation. This was supposed to signify who were the friends and who the enemies of the unemployed. As was to be expected, the more candid Council men were hostile, the cautious once more evasive in their answers. A good deal of energy and time was wasted in proving what the mass of unemployed knew already, but what the Executive seems very slow in learning, namely that the Councilmen like the State Representatives are linked up with one or the other of the two capitalist parties, and cannot be anything but the agents of the capitalist state.
On April 10th, another demonstration took place this time at the Merchandise Mart, where the headquarters of the Relief Commission is located. Here again the plans were to present the demands of the Alliance through the Executive Committee backed up by a mass picket line. A C.L.S. member proposed the obvious measure of a steering committee to operate between the Executive and the pickets and to give directions in case of emergency. This was very well received by the house of Delegates, who had seen the disorganization of the City Council affair. In the case where the meeting was shifted to some other place, the sentiment of the delegates was that the picket line should follow to be effective.
The picket line was composed of about 200 people, again, the old standbys. Picketing took place from 9 to 12. After the picket line was called off, the writer inquired of a member of the steering committee what had become of the committee to see Lyons and was informed that the meeting was to take place elsewhere, at the Public Relations Bureau. When it was pointed out the picket line should have followed the Executive he meekly replied: “Yeah, I know, but the Committee told me to keep going until 12 and then call it off.”
One of the major issues placed before the official seeing the committee was a recent bulletin, which had been sent out to all case workers calling for substantial cuts in the relief handed out. Rents, gas and light were to be given only in “emergency”, meaning when the family had ben put out on the street. This bulletin had already been affirmed by numerous unemployed, who had seen their meager allotment cut down, their rent stopped, etc. when presented with the knowledge of this document by our committee, the official (Mr. Domgard, head of the P.R.B.) said it was a “mistake” and would not go into effect. This outrageous excuse apparently satisfied the committee for reporting on the meeting to the members. It was clear no attempt had been made to refute or to give examples of the results of the bulletin. Many members manifested their exasperation at such mild conduct of the Executive.
The most militant section of the Alliance in Chicago is the South Side District. There are several reasons for this, the most important being of course that this district houses the terribly impoverished Negro masses, who are Jim-Crowed here. Again, the South Side has the tradition of having been most active in the early days of the crisis. Some workers, in fact, having lost their lives in the colored district in fighting evictions and many having gone to jail.
The activities of the C.L.S. have been concentrated chiefly upon this district. We were among those to revive the District Committee and to help put it on a functioning basis. We saw the possibilities of carrying on actual concrete work here. When the present crisis was approaching, arrangements were made to hold a series of sit-down strikes in the relief stations. The first attempt to hold the strikes failed due to lack of sufficient preparation. Neither the locals nor the masses outside were sufficiently mobilized. After the first attempt, although elaborate plans had been made and although there were many members of the strategy committee were eager to continue the efforts, activity has been dropped. Active workers are saying that it is plain to them the Executive and the present leaders in the District do not want the strike.
The political maneuvering of the C.P. and S.P. both hamper the efforts to mobilize the unemployed. In the South Side District, when it became plain the C.P. was packing the District Committee, the S.P. countered by splitting the district, thus weakening it at a critical time. The C.P. is using the present arrests to criticize the Executive but not in any disinterested or constructive way. The purpose of the C.P. is for itself to get control in Cook County and in the State. Its policies are no better than those of the S.P., and in addition it has shown its usual vicious intolerance of any tendencies not lined up with the C.P.
The division between the Executive Committee and the active workers of the Alliance came out clearly in the question of holding a mass demonstration on April 24th to protect the relief cuts. The recommendation of the Executive was for an indoor mass meeting. The great majority of the delegates heatedly argued for an outdoor street demonstration and this was passed. At the next meeting of the House a recommendation was brought in by the Executive to hold an outdoor meeting instead of the street demonstration, thus attempting to defeat the will of the House. This was defeated, but the delay and the half-hearted preparations of the Executive were such that the demonstration could not have been successful. A pouring rain on April 24th saved the face of the Committee.
The reasons given against the street demonstration were numerous but all were linked up with the false line of both C.P. and S.P. The crux of their arguments were: 1. The Alliance could not muster 3,000 for the demonstration. 2. The following week there would be a May Day demonstration and it would be incorrect to detract from that. The C.P. members of course did not mention that their party has been against militant street demonstrations ever since Roosevelt recognized Russia, not wanting to antagonize this great friend of Stalin. In regard to the first point mentioned we have heard it from both Stalinists and Socialists ad nauseam. “Don’t be provoked comrades, don’t hold demonstrations because you won’t get support.” As for the second point, a militant demonstration of unemployed could only have encouraged the future May Day parade. These shallow arguments completely overlook the fact that to build a virile and militant organization means to make yourself known to the entire community through the example of struggle so that the workers will see something to join the organization for.
What are the perspectives for the Illinois Workers Alliance in the future? Already the policy of peaceful collaboration with the relief authorities has begun to react in an unfavorable manner. The method of settling grievances by writing them up and presenting them at the Public Relations bureau has suited the authorities very well and has relieved them of the embarrassment of committees and demonstrations at the local stations. But it has proved ineffective in obtaining the needs of the clients. Unless the I.W.A. will find the means to carry on demonstrations around the stations and to act militantly on grievance it will be doomed to remain small and isolated.
On a broader scale, the Alliance must make all efforts to link up their lot with the employed workers. The demands raised in the conference of March 7th by the C.L.S. must be boldly fought for. Increased activity and united front work in the rent crisis will help. A carefully planned demonstration at Springfield should appeal to the unions both here and in Springfield and go there determined to carry on a demonstration and not a Sunday School picnic. We need leadership that will represent those on relief as well as W.P.A., that will not courageously and lead, not be left behind the rank and file membership of the organization. We need an I.W.A. that is really non-partisan and devoted to the interests of the unemployed and of the working class as a whole, not maneuvered this way and that to suit the aims of some outside political grouping. ---- I.C.
TROTSKY’S “IMPARTIAL” TRIAL
We were impressed by the fact, when Trotsky issued a statement on the Moscow trials some months ago, that he called for an “honorable and impartial” press to give him space to defend himself before the world against Stalin’s accusations. It seemed that Trotsky had forgotten that the Class Struggle holds the press in its grip. Perhaps it is because he does not live in New York where periodicals that formerly were looked upon as the purest liberal or strictly devoted to facts now are found to be insidiously infiltrated by Stalinists.
We had always supposed that Communists when they were in need of defense, so far from looking for a classless ("impartial") press to defend them, would appeal to the working class and its press for help. Even where the one attacked represents a minority current, still the bringing of his issues before the working class organizations can hope to create at least some clarity. Surely the issues involved, if they are broader than the mere individual, concern the working class more than the liberals, the traditional “impartial” ones.
When the news was published of Trotsky’s trial in the house of Diego de Riviera at Cayocoan, Mexico, it seemed at last we were to know who were the “impartial and honorable” people. There was the high souled John Dewey, the Last of the Liberals; there were writers such as B. Stelberg and Carlton Beals (who as a Mexican expert seemed to fit in with the background). There was Otto Rueblo, mother of that exhaustively documented life of Karl Marx, who considered Marx to have been the victim of an inferiority complex. In the background hovered that benign artistic genius, DeRivera with his pretty wife, picturesquely clad, no doubt, against the colorful Mexican scene.
We seemed about to get the question of impartiality all straightened out when suddenly Pop! The impulsive journalist Carlton Beals ups and resigns from the committee, on the ground of ….its partiality! the whole thing was a farce, according to him; it was plain the whole committee was sold in advance to Trotskyism, and the impartially minded journalist thirsting to cross examine and get a view of the case other than what Trotsky’s followers desired to give out, hadn’t a flicker of a chance. Alas for the seekers of honorable impartiality in this blessed world!
But who are these “Trotskyists” who according to Carlton Beals are so devoted to the Master….writers, artists, educators, lawyers …. there is not a single representative of the working class among them. And so it is with the committees to defend Trotsky throughout. They are composed of intelligentsia and artistic elements. The working class is conspicuous by its absence. Where are all these Socialists whom Trotsky considered so all powerful, for whose sake he let fall the banner of the independent Marxist party and sent his comrades looking for masses inside the Socialist parties. A hollow silence answers. Not a single socialist steps forth to defend Trotsky. Those for whom he deserted his truly revolutionary comrades have deserted him.
Trotsky’s defense in his trial is not the defense of a movement opposed to Stalinism (if we can judge by the newspaper accounts, which are all that are available now). It is a defense of Trotsky personally. And that indeed is all that Trotsky today has to defend. His exile from Russia and Continued isolation were not of his choice; they were forced upon him. But the logic of history is remorseless; Trotsky has paid the price for the long isolation in his continued orientation upon Russia. In his failure ever to root his movements in any country so that they remained always critical and negative. Finally he culminated the logic of his isolation by a desperate attempt to fly in the face of this logic and to make up at one stroke what he had not been able to do in years of work. But in joining the S.P. it is plain he has isolated himself still further. Driven out of the S.P. or silenced within its ranks, the Trotskyists, now calling themselves the Committee for the Fourth International, appear as ineffective as ever the Left Opposition was or any of the subsequent groupings. This Committee has no group in Spain where the most critical struggle is going on and where, if anywhere, there is the basis for actually founding the Fourth International. The shifting in policy first orienting on correcting the C.P., then towards independence, then into the S.P., then out again and once more for independence. All this has created nothing but confusion and has made the Trotskyists a laughing stock.
The struggle between Stalin and the communist opposition so far as it is dramatized in the persons of Stalin and Trotsky had reached the place of the fantastic. Stalin, bloated Frankenstein is created by the Russian revolution, is endowed with all the physical powers the revolution has placed in his hands. But the soul, the mind of the revolution are missing. He lunges wildly, striking at one side and then at another. But the enemy he most wishes to get he cannot reach. And in the meantime his mad blows rock the crazy structure that sustains him, the travesty that he has made of the Workers’ State. The workers, who through their revolution reared this Frankenstein must themselves destroy him and once more take the helm into their own hands, putting forth again an organization that can guide their revolution back to working class channels.
Trotsky, in whom on the other hand the mind and soul of the Russian Revolution had crystallized more than in any one else, since Lenin, seems to have faded into a retired literary gentleman. He can play no role in the world revolution following his present policies. The task he started must be carried on by those groups that have not compromised, that have had the insight and courage to carry on through the days of obscurity until the historic obstacles are passed and the proletariat can once more assert itself victoriously.
THE POUM INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
Although the POUM international conference has been postponed again and the actual holding of it is not certain, nevertheless the Communist League of Struggle has sent Comrade Albert Weisbord as its delegate to Europe. Whether the POUM conference is held or not, the left groupings of other countries are getting together in closer contact.
The pioneer work undertaken by the C.L.S. in 1935 has been continued and is bearing fruit. On March 6th and 7th a meeting of international delegates was held in Paris. Thus our delegate was not in time to attend. However, a resolution was drawn up dealing chiefly with the Spanish situation. Also, an Information Bureau was created with the authority to put out a discussion bulletin. This step, which we attempted to initiate in 1935, will greatly further the exchange of ideas and the rounding out of an international policy. For so many years the groups have been working under conditions of isolation, with no international gathering taking place, that differences of opinion exist unnecessarily, which no doubt can be ironed out through closer contact. We hope to have in our next issue a report from our delegate and a discussion on the situation among the left groups internationally.
ALBERT WEISBORD’S “THE CONQUEST OF POWER” (Book Review by Vera Buch)
The work of four arduous years is completed with the publication of Comrade Weisbord’s book “The Conquest of Power”, (Covici Friede, March, 1937, $7.50). We can say in hailing its appearance that for the first time in the English speaking working class movement a Marxist work of great scope has been attempted. The Stalinist hacks pour out their pamphlets in rapid succession, rehashing the documents received from the Comintern and adulating Stalin on every page. Such original work as has been attempted at all has come from the pens of the “pseudo-Communist” intellectuals, the Sydney Hooks, the Max Eastmans, the Coreys and Stracheys. But these writers are either Stalinized to a great extent like Strachey or they are outspokenly revisionists of Marx.
The Conquest of Power rests upon a firm Marxist foundation and may be called a brilliant exposition of the method of dialectical materialism. The book deals with the political covenants that have struggled for power during the capitalist epoch, (Liberalism, Anarchism, Syndicalism, Socialism, Fascism and Communism). The book is thus in effect a political history of capitalism in all the major countries. But it is much more than that.
It shows the rise, apogee and decline of each of the movements and their connections and inter-relations one with the other and as the whole and each one changed from time to time and varied in different countries. Each movement is treated as a stranded cable of events for which the movement is responsible and from which it springs, of men, who struggled and of program, philosophic, political, economic and social, which they espouse. The book analyzes the evolution of revolutions and serves to expose the hidden laws of motion in the various movements of modern times. For the first time an attempt is made to probe and generalize on the methods by which a class arrives at power.
The book is also a guide to the every day reader who wants to familiarize himself with the meaning of the political movements he constantly hears about. It is a basis for understanding such things as the clashes in Europe, the victory of Hitler, the civil war in Spain, or the supreme Court controversy, or the Moscow trials. It throws new light on many problems of American life. It attempts to arrive at a synthesis of the various movements dealt with, tracing them through the victory of capitalism, the rise of the working class political movements to the titanic struggle of our day between Fascism and Communism. And, finally, it gives a guide to action for the sake of proletarian leaders and who will find the book in every way invaluable in their work. From this point of view the Conquest of Power may be called a manual of insurrection.
The part dealing with Liberalism begins with the rise of capitalism at the end of the Middle Ages, takes us from the English Civil Wars and the origins of the monarchy through the modern industrialist period. From there we go to the French Revolution, then to the United States. As far as these countries are concerned we have a complete history of their development, with glimpses of other countries such as Italy, Germany, the Netherlands. etc.
“Anarchism” and “Syndicalism” clarify two movements, which have come to the fore in the Spanish revolution today. The opinions of the anarchists and syndicalists of all countries are given objectively, substantiated by quotations from their works. This part shows the differences that exist between the various shades of anarchism,—liberal anarchism, mutualism, libertarianism, collectivist and communist anarchism. The analysis of the Syndicalist movement not only gives us the differences between the syndicalism of France, of Italy and Spain, it gives also a history of the trade union movements of these countries as well as the United States. The reasons are shown why these two movements never attained very great influence among workers, and why they have been superseded by Socialism and Communism, to a great extent.
The section on Socialism is the most complete that can be found within the confines of any one study. Marxism, the foundations of the socialist movement, is carefully outlined, and the movement is traced from its early origins with the Utopian Socialists to the development of the First International, then through the Second International, Revisionism, the breakdown of the movement during the World War, and its history since.
“Fascism” begins with an analysis of the material basis for the development of this last phase of capitalism in the sections on the Age of Violence and the Chronic Crisis. The section on Fascist Prototypes, bringing to light the little known facts on the forerunners of the Fascist movement from Macniavelli to Carlyle, will be much appreciated. A thorough study of the developments and philosophy of Fascism in Germany and Italy, and the differences between them is followed by a section on “Fascist Trends in the United States” and “The Future Physiognomy of American Fascism.
“Communism” is the largest part of all as this is the movement destined to supersede all others. Beginning with the communist uprisings of the early capitalist period, we proceed, following a red thread running consistently through the actions of the oppressed sections of the population, to the Paris Commune. Bolshevism is then thoroughly analyzed, based upon the works of Lenin. The Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917 are gone into. Under the chapter on “The Third International Under Lenin”, we see not only the principles upon which that International was founded, we see also its weaknesses, points which are rarely brought to light in spite of the many polemics that have taken place. We see the work accomplished by the first four Congresses and at the same time the poor quality of the groups adhering to these Congresses, thus laying the basis for the corruption of the whole Comintern.
Under “Stalinism” the history of the degeneration of the Comintern is unrolled in page after page of convincing argument always substantiated by facts. Let the Stalinists answer these facts if they can. We know how the Stalinist press treats scientific works proceeding from the opposition communist movement. For example Souvarine’s huge volume on Stalin was designated as a “pamphlet". Perhaps the 1200 pages of Comrade Weisbord’s monumental work will be boiled down to an “article” by the Stalinist slanders. But the glaring facts of the errors of the right-wing period of the Comintern in 1925-27, and isolation and collapse of the “Third Period” stand mountains high, above any lying distortions that may be launched against the book.
Finally a chapter on the Fourth International gives a program of action, based on the theoretical struggle and active participation in the movement of the C.L.S. during its six years of existence.
We cannot fail to mention a number of points which are original contributions and which add to the great value of this work. First, there is the analysis of the Catholic Church as based not on land tenure, but rather on the development of commerce in a society still agrarian. This is far from the orthodox treatment of the Catholic Church since most historians make the material basis of that Church rest on the land system of feudalism rather than on the commercial systems arising within the framework of feudalism. This is a point that must give an entirely new light to the activities of the Catholic Church from the 12th to the 19th century.
Second, there is the exposure of the relationship of the Constitution of the United States to the Secret Society of Cincinnati. It is common knowledge that the body of men who came together in Philadelphia to create the Federal Constitution, “put something over” on the people of the country. But there never has been an exposure before of just what group did the job and how they did it. It is plain from the study of original documents made by Comrade Weisbord that the group of men who did the actual plotting and caucus work was none other than the Society of Cincinnati. This point alone would have had a book written about it had some college professor uncovered it.
Third, there is the bringing to light the all but buried material on Abraham Lincoln and his relation to slavery and the slave system. Today, the people of the United States are no longer familiar with Lincoln as the prosperous railroad lawyer denounced by Abolitionists as the “slave hound from Illinois". Nor has there ever been adequately illuminated his miserable role in the Civil War. Here then, this book gives a new picture of one of the greatest figures in American History.
Fourth, what is new in “Liberalism” is the thorough examination of the national peculiarities in the customs and politics of the people of different countries. We see the Germans different from the Italians, the English different from the American. True, this theme has been done before and even overworked, but never has it been so done, as here, that the national peculiarities of each people become part of the study of political science.
We are not mentioning here a host of other points, such as the thesis that the West really had no “democracy” for a long time, because it had no state. Nor the point made under “Fascism” that deals with criminalit in the United States, based upon a first hand study of little known of official reports. Little has been written, also, on the question of the forerunners of Fascism.
The Conquest of Power, monumental though it is in its scope, is no mere encyclopedia of facts, but a live, vital work written by one, though a young man has already given 20 years to the labor movement. The thoroughness of its documentation is matched by intimacy of Comrade Weisbord’s contact with the socialist and communist movements, the National Secretary of the Y.P.S.L. as well as a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party down to 1929 and as the organizer of many prominent strikes. No one, who feels concerned with the truth or the wants to understand world affairs can afford to be without this book.