I. The Myth of Abraham Lincoln
II. The P.O.U.M. in Spain
III. The Fallacy of the People’s Fronts
IV. Fascist Prototypes (II)
V. International Notes
The name of Abraham Lincoln has long been reverenced in American life. Textbooks in all the schools of the land redound with his glory. Children are taught to look up to Lincoln as the most outstanding man of the people America has ever produced. Even in the ranks of the conscious working class there is a widespread fooling that while the rest of the Presidents of the United States were fakers and grafters, while Washington was a slave-holding aristocrat and avaricious land shark, while Jefferson was a demagogue who knew well how to feather his own nest, nothing of the sort could be said for “Honest Old Abe” who, of the whole crew of politicians that put their hand on the public till, was the one outstanding exception.
Everyone knows how poor Abraham Lincoln’s parents were, how Lincoln grew up in a log cabin, struggling and persevering till he conquered. In this respect Lincoln typifies the poor but honest boy who made good, whom no amount of money could bribe from the path of honesty and humanity. Lincoln has become the outstanding example of a humanitarian. His phrase is oft repeated “With malice towards none and with charity towards all". Every school child know how Lincoln refused to allow a sentry to be shot for sleeping at his post. Every Negro is told the story that Lincoln was supposed to have suffered deeply and bitterly over the fact that slaves were sold on the auction block. Lincoln, then, was a man of the people and a friend of the Negro. This is the myth which, with the help of the Communist Party’s pamphlet on Abraham Lincoln, has poisoned the minds of even the most advanced section of the working class.
Such a story is very convenient for the ruling class of today to propagate. Through this myth the American people can be given the idea that a great man, a humanitarian, whose sole ideal is the welfare of the entire people, can be placed in the Presidential chair. The workers can be made to believe that the President can be their friend. The Negro people can be taught that a white man emancipated them and did for they what they never could have done for themselves. This is particularly vicious propaganda so far as the Negroes are concerned, for it cleverly fits in with the ideas of the capitalists that the Negroes are inferior, that of all the peoples of the world, they alone never fought for freedom but had to receive it as a gift from the representative of the white race. When a Negro looks at the history of other peoples he finds that whatever freedom and liberty they enjoyed, they won for themselves through bitter struggles. In America he is told, however, that the Negro was given his freedom on a silver platter through the goodness of heart of the white humanitarian President of the United States who took pity on those semi-brutes, the Negro slaves.
What sort of history is this for the Negro to study? Does this conception increase his self-respect? Does it give him a true picture of the times? Suffice it to say, the fable of Lincoln has done incalculable damage to the Negro people. The sooner it is exposed the better; the sooner will the Negro people break from the Republican Party and other agencies of the bosses; the sooner will a class line be drawn sharp and clear and the struggle of the proletariat for power be put on an unequivocal basis.
The purpose of this article is to break the myth of Lincoln from beginning to end so far as its main political lessons are concerned. Lincoln was not the friend of the Negro, but a friend of the slave-holder; he was not the friend of the working man but a friend of the big railroads whose lawyer he was; he was not the poor boy become President but the wealthy railroad lawyer made President by Big Business. The facts have been hidden but they are becoming increasingly well-known. One need only look at his own speeches and resolutions, to be found in his Complete Works (two volumes) to be convinced of the justice of the present article.
The first point in the Lincoln myth that must be exploded is the idea that Lincoln was a poor backwoodsman who was elected to the Presidency because of his championship of the poor farmer of the West and the laborer of the East. This is the idea that the big trusts of Henry Ford, McCormack, Schwab, Du Pont and others would like the American workers to believe. It is true that Lincoln did start as a poor rail splitter, but he soon saw that his future lay in an entirely different direction, and he became a lawyer. As a lawyer he could not help but be aware of the fact that the rise of the State in the wilderness of the West could only coincide with the rise of capitalism, at the same time the greatest force making for the development of the State and of the law of property. Naturally every lawyer tried to get the up-and-coming railroads as his client; and, on the other hand, the railroads saw to it that all the lawyers of talent or of any influence whatever, were brought over and made into company henchmen.
Abraham Lincoln was no exception to this general trend. “As a green legislator in Illinois he helped to promote the vicious legislation, which went into the laws of the state for excessive and unwise railroad building. As a rising lawyer some of his best clients were the railroads; although at times he appeared against them. He ‘chalked his hat’, or traveled on passes habitually. He was tempted with an offer from the New York Central which, if accepted, would have changed his entire political career. He was a guiding spirit behind the first line to the Far West—the Union Pacific—and he helped determine its gauge, which became the standard gauge of the country. In the famous Rock Island Bridge case he enunciated a right for common carriers which has become an accepted doctrine.” (J.W. Starr, Jr.: Lincoln and the Railroads)
The role of the railroads as a factor bringing about the development of the Western States and aiding anti-slavery capitalism has not been sufficiently analyzed by Marxists as yet. We hope in a succeeding article to deal with the forces leading to the Civil War. At this point all we wish to stress is that very early in his career, Lincoln became a successful railroad lawyer and was soon a man of considerable wealth. For only one of his railroad cases he collected a fee of $5,000, a really extraordinary amount at the time. The New York Central offered him $10,000 a year to retain him as counsel, and it was the high officials of that road who were seated on the platform at Cooper Union when Lincoln made the speech that was to bring him the Presidential nomination.
At this time the West was not hostile to the railroads but was exceedingly eager for railroad development. To get the railroad into their region, each group of Western politicians would make the most fabulous offers and grants of lands to the Eastern capitalists. This was the beginning of a truly golden period for Western railroading. Naturally, the railroads went into the election campaigns of the localities to back up men who were known as railroad men. They did their best to build up their own political machines and the party that responded most to them was the Whig Party. It was to this Party that Lincoln belonged. The Whig Party was the representative of the rising industrialists, financiers and railroad men of the North. These elements were not interested so much in the abolition of slavery as in its restriction to the South. They lived too much on the cheap labor of the cotton picking regions themselves to want to engage in any civil war to free the slaves.
The prevailing opinion in the North among the capitalist elements was well expressed by the Liberal Whigs headed by Henry Clay and typified by Abraham Lincoln. Their policy was to restrict the institution of slavery solely to the South. The Missouri Compromise was their crowning achievement. Lincoln articulated their views when, as legislator in Illinois, in 1837, he brought in the following protest declaring that the signers “ … believe that the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy, but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils. They believe that the Congress of the United States has no power under the constitution to interfere with the institution of slavery in the different States. They believe that the Congress of the United States has the power, under the constitution, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, but that the power ought not be exercised, unless at the request of the people of the District.” Lincoln knew, when he declared that Congress should not exercise its power unless at the request of the people of the District of Columbia, that that District was overrun with slave-holders and their sympathizers and that under such circumstances slavery would never be abolished in the capital.
At this point we can say, then, that Lincoln’s views were:
1. Slavery was on principle unjust, but
2. The abolitionists by their activity were worse than the slave-holders since they tended to increase the evils of slavery by thier attacks on the Southerners.
3. Congress had no power to interfere in the Southern States to end slavery.
4. Congress should not interfere in the District of Columbia unless the people requested Congress to act.
It is true that later, in 1849, when he was in Congress, Lincoln did announce his intention to introduce a Bill for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia with compensation to the owners, but attached to the Bill was a rider calling for the most stringent enforcement of the Fugitive Slave law. Section five of the Bill declared: That the municipality authorities of Washingtown and Georgetown within their respective jurisdictional limits are hereby empowered and required to provide active and efficient means to arrest and deliver up to their owners all fugitive slaves escaping into said District.” Thus, in the guise of ending slavery in the District, what Lincoln really wanted to do was to pass legislation putting teeth into the laws preventing fugitive slaves from being helped in any way. Lincoln’s proposal to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act was so obnoxious to even bourgeois Liberals of the North that Lincoln never introduced his proposed Bill. But where his sympathies lay could be easily seen by the friends he kept while in Congress. “Apparently Lincoln’s closest associates were Southern Whigs like Stephens and Toombs” with whom he was so closely bound up that he went “so far as to vote, with all Southern members and in opposition to most Northern members, against permitting Palfrey to introduce a bill to repeal all laws ‘establishing or maintaining slavery or the slave trade in the in the District of Columbia.’” (A.J. Beveridge: Abraham Lincoln).
Lincoln’s close friendship with the slave-holders in Congress, in this period, was closely bound up with his fear of the action of the masses and of slave rebellions and with his hatred of the abolitionists. Although Lincoln expressed fear of what he called the “mobocratic spirit,” he did not protest when the abolitionsit, Lovejoy, was lynched. On the contrary, he took the trouble to tell his audience in Worcester, Mass., “I have heard you have abolitionists here. We have a few in Illinois and we shot one the other day.” (See S. B. Leacock Lincoln Frees the Slaves). It is no wonder that Wendell Phillips called Lincoln the “slave hound from Illinois.”
When the Free Soil Party was formed in 1848 with a platform of free labor, free soil and free press, and was obtaining the adherence of such bourgeois democrats as Charles Sumner, then it was that Lincoln’s mentors, the Whig leaders, were even more virulent toward the Free Soilers than they were toward the Democrats, on the ground that the Free Soil Party was giving a foothold to the principles of abolitionism.
Lincoln’s views on the question of the Negro were well summed up in his statement made not long before he became candidate for President: “I will say they that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together onterms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race … I will to the very last stand by the law of this state which forbids the marrying of white people with negroes.” This speech was made September 18, 1856. So we see that Lincoln’s anti-Negro views had deepened as time went on.
What Lincoln opposed most of all was the extension of slavery into the North which had become the great danger ever since the Dred Scott decision. But even here it is well to bear in mind the exact reasons for Lincoln’s opposition to the extension of slavery. It was not merely economic but moral. Lincoln was against the extension of slavery into the North on the ground that this would have lead to intermarriage between white and black to which he was deadly opposed. He pointed with horror to the large number of mulattos and said this had been the vilest fruit of the slave regime of the South, that it had debased the whites so far that they had had intercourse with Negroes, even though it was in the form of rape. Lincoln was sure that if slaves were allowed in numbers in the North it would mean more white men would have sexual relations with those people and thus sin against the most holy precepts of God. To insure that Illinois would never tolerate mixed sex relations, Lincoln urged the people to elect Douglas, his pro-slavery opponent, to the Illinois legislature as a watchdog to keep the sex laws of Illinois pure.
Lincoln had his own solution of the Negro problem. He wanted to ship all the Negroes back to Africa as soon as possible. For in Africa these semi-beasts could never pollute the blood of the pure white Americans. He was strong for the development of Liberia which had been started with this purpose in mind. Of course he was in favor only of the very gradual emancipation of the Negroes since he knew he could not ship all of them out of the country at one time. For this reason, too, he was unwilling to judge harshly his Southern brethren for their tardiness in liberating their slaves. At the same time Lincoln strenuously objected to any interference with the institution of slavery in the South on the part of Congress and repeatedly declared that Congress had no power to act but only the people of the respective states themselves.
The feverish capitalist development of the North, the rise of the demands of the West as enunciated in the platform of the Free Soil Party and the relentless drive for more land by the South, toppled the old Missouri Compromise and with it the Whig Party to the earth. Lincoln found himself out of Congress and in a defunct party. The struggle had entered into the higher plane of “squatter sovereignty” where the classes fought it out directly with weapons in their hands. With the Dred Scott decision that gave the South a free hand to enter into all the regions of the North with its slaves, large numbers of moderate elements began to gravitate towards the Free Soil Movement. Out of these elements there was born the Republican Party.
The Republican Party was not a party of war. As a matter of fact, no large organized group in the North wanted war or even suspected it was so near. It was not a party of abolition, but one that merely stood against the extension of slavery. The other demands out forward, such as Free Homestead, Protective Tariff, and a Pacific Railway, clearly demonstrate the petty-bourgeois Liberal character of the organization. To keep the peace these Northern Liberals were willing to bend backward if necessary in their obeisance to slavery. They renounced the term “democracy” and went back to the idea of the Republic (Union). They were willing to take in such people as Lincoln who, however, disagreed with the platform of the Republican Party as too Radical.
At this point it is well to iterate just what Lincoln’s views were. He was against votes for Negroes, against putting them on juries, against political and social equality for the blacks. He was against intermarriage of the races but for shipping Negroes back to Africa. He believed the two races could never get together but that the white would always remain superior to the black. He was not in favor of the abolition of slavery in all the territories of the United States, but was for the Missouri Compromise and for the retention of slavery in the southern parts of the country where he believed Congress had no power to act. He was for the drastic enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act and for the prosecution of all abolitionists who were violating the laws. The Republican Party did not endorse these views. Many Republicans took an entirely different viewpoint and thus it was brought out that Lincoln, the candidate and supporter of the Republican Party, was not in favor of the platform of his own organization.
In his famous debates with Lincoln, Senator Douglas of Illinois pointed out that the platform of the Republican Party included advocacy of the abolition of slavery in the territories of the United States and in the District of Columbia, the rejection of all future slave States from the union and the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Acts. Douglas then taunted Lincoln with the fact that the latter had been against this platform all his life. Lincoln replied: “The plain truth is this … In our opposition to that measure we did not agree with one another in everything. The people of the North end of the State were for stronger measures of opposition than we of central and southern portions of the State.” In short, Lincoln came from Southern and Central Illinois and not from Northern Illinois and he was not for those parts of the Republican program enumerated by Douglas. Lincoln plainly stated that he would vote for the admission of slave States into the union in the future. It was in this spirit, too, that he would fight the Civil War, namely with mercy and charity to the slave-holders.
The chief aim of the Republican Party was the preservation of the Union at all costs. Fundamentally the issue between the Republicans and the extreme wind of the Southerners who wanted to secede from the Union was that the former wanted to keep slavery within the union and the latter wanted to take it out of the union. Lincoln stated the views of the Republicans accurately when he declared that if he could save the Union by abolishing slavery or by keeping slavery or by keeping slavery, his object was the maintenance of the Union. Indeed, had the Southern States succeeded in getting independence, in what a plight Northern capitalism would have been!
Although Lincoln reserved his greatest hatred and contempt for the abolitionists, especially of the direct action variety, John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry forced the issue throughout the country. Willy, nilly, Harper’s Ferry became the campaign issue of 1860. To the South, the “Black Republicans” were tarred with the same stick as “Nigger-Lover” Brown.
In vain Lincoln affirmed that Republicans were not Radicals but in declaring the right to control slavery in the territories were only carrying out the precedent of the “Founding Fathers” who had given the control of slavery in the territories of the country to Congress. In vain he appealed to the South that the Republicans did not stir up insurrections among the slaves. “John Brown was no Republican; and you have failed to implicate a single Republican in his Harper’s Ferry enterprise,” he shouted. And again: “Republican doctrines and declarations are accompanied with a continual protest against any interference whatever with you slaves or with you about your slaves. Surely this does not encourage them to revolt.”
Nevertheless, even Lincoln had refused to recognize the Dred Scott decision as final law, and the election of Lincoln did mean the sweeping out of the South from its political control at the head of the government. It meant that the old equilibration of forces was definitely ended, the old balance of power destroyed. Politics had begun to catch up with economics. The slaveocracy was doomed. And when Lincoln was elected with 1.9 million votes out of 4.7 million, the South decided to secede and fight. The die was cast.
We now turn to Lincoln’s method of conducting the Civil War. We can summarize his timid, vacillating, and even deadly policy at times, in one remark: He did his best to prevent the masses from taking matters into their own hands; he did the best on behalf of the slave-holders that a Western-Northern man could possibly do.
When the war first started, a tremendous enthusiasm was shown by the people who knew that the freedom of the slaves would mean an enormous step forward for democracy. Great crowds of recruits flocked to the enlistment stations, only to find that the government had made no preparations to receive them. They were sent home as too numerous to handle and as superfluous. Cold water was thrown on their enthusiasm, while recruiting was officially discouraged. The enlistment stations were not reopened until June, 1862. But it then rather late. A year later conscription was necessary.
It should have been a most elementary duty on the part of Lincoln and his government not only immediately to free the slaves of all those in actual rebellion, but to instigate a movement of the Blacks for a slave insurrection in the rear of the Southern armies. Instead, everything possible was done to prevent the slaves from rising on their own account. When Cameron, Secretary of the Treasury, in his report in 1861, urged the arming of the Negroes, Lincoln recalled the report by telegraph. “The constant charge of Southern newspapers, Southern politicians and their Northern sympathizers, that the war was an abolitionist war met with constant and indignant denial.” (W.E.B. Dubois: Black Reconstruction) Repeated appeals were made to the slave-holders that if they desisted they could keep their slaves and adequate compensation would be made them. It was forbidden to sing “John Brown’s Body” in the army. In his first Inaugural Address, President Lincoln pledged himself anew to carry out in full the provisions of the Fugitive Slave law. The Commander-in-Chief of the Northern forces in the field, General McClellan, and openly stated that he would take the side of the masters against the slaves, were the issue one of slavery rather than of the union. No doubt Lincoln felt the same way about it.
When masses of Negroes flocked into the camps of the Northern armies, not only were they rejected as soldiers, but the Union generals were informed they had to keep the Negroes intact as slaves for their masters. Lincoln repudiated the notion of General Fremont in freeing the slaves in Missouri although it had become clear that the Union armies were advancing most easily in precisely those areas where the Negro population was the densest. But such a situation could not long endure and when General Hunter faced Lincoln with the accomplished fact of numbers of slaves set free and armed the bars were let down to Negroes entering the army and helping the Union cause.
To the very end, however, no slave revolt was ever encouraged, and the South was able to free all her man power for fighting at the front. Only reluctantly, and after waiting till the last moment, when the cause of the North was at its lowest ebb and England was about to recognize the South, did Lincoln issue his Emancipation Proclamation. The net result of all this “humanitarianism” of Lincoln was fearfully to protract the War and to raise its toll to ghastly heights.
As soon as the call came for volunteers, free Negroes everywhere offered their services and everywhere their services were declined. It was only in September, 1862, that a regular Negro regiment was formed. All in all, 180,000 Negroes were accepted. But only under the meanest conditions. Even when giving their lives for the Union—and 68,000 Negroes were lost—they were allowed only half the pay of that the white soldiers got, or $7 a month!
It was no wonder that Wendell Phillips could exclaim: “I do not say that McClellan is a traitor, but I say this, that if he had been a traitor from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot he could not have carried on the war in more exact deference to the politics of that side of the Union. And almost the same thing may be said for Mr. Lincoln—that if he had been a traitor, he could not have worked better to strengthen one side and hazard the success of the other.” (Wendell Phillips’ estimate of Lincoln was: “I will tell you what he is. He is a first rate second-rate man.” (Speeches and Lectures)
If Lincoln was Liberal to the slave-owners, good railroad lawyer that he was, he was not forgetful of the rights of Big Business either. This was the period of the rise of many great American fortunes, but none zoomed so spectacularly as those of the railroads. Corruption and graft were rampant and the Republican Party lived up to its platform handsomely. Not only were charters granted to the Pacific Railroads but cash loans were made running as high as $16,000 to $48,000 per mile of road. Stupendous grants of the very best land, to the total of 129,000,000 acres, were given away. Thus, when the Homestead Act was finally passed and a settler could get a “free” farm, very little good land was left. Big Business had locked the frontier and cornered the market.
Tragically, the Western farmer fought the War to guarantee free competition and individual liberty. For this he gave his life unstintingly during the War. At the end not the farmer of the democratic West, but the oligarchic Trust dominated the scene and took control. The farmer had followed the bell-whether goat, Lincoln, and as usual had been duped by the capitalists of the East.
But if Lincoln had been easy on Northern capitalists, he was not so easy on Labor. The Civil War had the immediate effect of destroying the rising labor movement in the United States. Under Lincoln strikers were considered hostile to the Union and guilty of treason. Strikes were deemed illegal and were broken up by the military. Often Negroes were used as strike-breakers.
As the War continued, the misery of the working class greatly increased. Currency inflation became general, necessities rose sky-high and the standard of living of the masses fell sharply. At the same time Big Business refused to tax itself to pay for the War, issuing 7% bonds instead, which bonds could be bought in depreciated Greenbacks. Meanwhile the tariff was raised from 19% to 47%.
These rough economic measures against the common people coincided with rough political measures. Under Lincoln the writ of habeas corpus was suspended, freedom of press denied, and, to cap the climax, Congress passed the Conscription Act, the first time universal conscription had been decreed in the United States. This Conscription Act had the infamous provision that those who could procure a substitute or pay $300 in cash would be exempted from the draft. Thus could the blood-tax which the War demanded, be shifted onto the shoulders of the poor entirely.
Such unprecedented class legislation had its immediate reaction in the bloody draft riots of 1863 in New York City and elsewhere. The working class of the cities by this time had become thoroughly disillusioned with the conduct of the War. For four days in New York City were conducted violent and bitter struggles of the masses against conscription. In the end Lincoln prevailed, but only after several thousand people had been either killed or wounded in the pitched battles that were fought in the streets.
Here, then, is what we can remember Lincoln for, we men and women of the working class. Under his regime there was a taste of dictatorial action unheard of before in the history of this country, in favor of Big Business and against the mass of toilers. And at the end of the War it was Lincoln’s idea that the planters and wealthy men of the South be allowed to keep their huge estates and property intact. The Negroes were thrown helplessly in the streets. No means were given them to keep alive or to carry on for themselves. Lincoln did not even want to grant them the vote. But it was only the fact that of all the people of the South, only the Negro could be relied on to favor the Union forces that eventually compelled some legislation to be enacted giving the Negroes a meager portion of rights which the whites had enjoyed. But even this was not for long. Under the benevolent banner of the Republican Party and of Big capital in the North, the Southern rulers soon resumed control again. Peace reigned among all the sections of the wealthy throughout the land. The Negroes were deprived of whatever rights that theoretically had been granted them. They were enchained to the soil in peonage, and through the system of share-cropping tillage. The Civil War had been fought for capitalism and not for the masses.
Lincoln was the typical representative of capitalism in this historic crisis in America. He was a mediocrity whom force of circumstances had placed at the helm of the greatest events. He was a petty-fogging lawyer who could not perform the slightest historic act without covering it up with the mean phrases of the property sycophant. He was a white chauvinist who, despite himself, was compelled to endorse the breaking of the chains which the Negroes themselves had carried out without him and against his program. When all the tinsel that has been wrapped around Lincoln is removed, we find him to have been just a homely middle-class representative pushed forward by history and blindly following its currents without understanding them.
Neither the Negro masses nor the working classes have the slightest duty of respect to such a character.
In previous articles in the Class Struggle we have exposed the dreadfully false policies of those who have undertaken to lead the working class forces in Spain, namely the Stalinists, the Socialists, the Anarchists, and the Syndicalists. It is because of the crimes and blunders of these elements, each committing grievous mistakes in its own way, that the fascist-monarchist reactionaries have been able to carry on their fight for so long a time. However, there exists another organization in Spain, particularly in Catalonia, the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (P.O.U.M.) With which we intend to deal in the present article.
Many advanced workers, disillusioned with the Socialists and Stalinists, have been willing to believe that in the P.O.U.M. there is some hope that the workers will be able to surmount their difficulties and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat and a socialist regime. They point out that the most influential leader, Andreas Nin, was closely connected with Trotsky for many years and was a strong adherent of the theory of peasant revolution. They show that the P.O.U.M. in contradistinction to the other parties in Spain, has called for the rule of the workers, even for Soviets, and has steadily maintained its independence from the other opportunistic organizations.
On the other hand there are those workers who assert that the P.O.U.M. was willing to become a part of the capitalist Catalonian government and that no revolutionary party could possibly have taken such a move. They also declare that the Catalonian government, being capitalist, was as bad as the Madrid government and both were reactionary and against the working class.
In the light of this polemic, it seems to us that the best way to treat the question of revolutionary policy as involved as the actions of P.O.U.M. is to take up the following basic questions:
1. What is the character of the present governments of Madrid and of Catalonia; is it correct to call these governments “reactionary"?
2. Can a revolutionary party at any time enter a government such as that which exists in Madrid or Catalonia?
3. Can the Spanish workers rest their hopes upon the P.O.U.M.?
It seems to us entirely incorrect to estimate the present governments either of Madrid or of Catalonia as “reactionary". Certainly they are not reactionary from the point of view of the bourgeoisie. The present republican-democratic set-up can not be compared with the regime under Alphonso XIII. It is not the habit of Marxists to use the term “reactionary” as a mere expletive. The word “reactionary” means something: it means going backward. A reactionary system is one that would move the social order backward bringing back outworn techniques and methods of production and outworn political forms and social customs.. Alphonso XIII and his forces are clearly reactionary in that sense of the word since they rested state power upon the old feudal grandees and a system of production that was stifling Spain.
The government in Madrid, from the angle of the capitalists, is far from reactionary, since this government intends to unleash all the productive forces of Spain for their benefit. Power will shift from the country to the city, from agriculture to industry, from the landlord to the industrialists and modern capitalist elements. From the capitalist point of view the victory of the present Madrid or Catalonian government means the beginning of the modernization of Spain.
To draw an historical analogy: It might be said that the present Madrid government stands to Alphonso XIII as the French Revolitionary government stood to Louis XVI. There is, however, this vast distinction. In the 18th century the French Revolutionary Government, operating on behalf of modern capitalism, could not help be progressive and clear the road for the new social order. In the 20th century, there has appeared on the horizon a new class, a working class that should be able to make an independent bid for power. No longer tied to the apron strings of capital, the proletariat of Spain is ready to modernize Spain not in the capitalist sense but in the socialist sense. And thus the modernization of Spain in the capitalist sense has to be the work not of a progressive government but of forces that stifle and crush the revolutionary proletariat and the toiling masses.
Many of those who wish to modernize Spain from a bourgeois point of view are now with the forces of Franco precisely for this reason. The insurgents are not of one piece; there are the Carlists and the Bourbonists, but there are also the fascists. The fascists do not wish to bring back the old Spain that has been irrevocably destroyed. They too wish essentially to industrialize and modernize Spain, but they understand clearly that no longer is this the job of revolution—as was the case in France in 1789—but of counter-revolution.
In this the counter-revolutionary fascists disagree violently with their capitalist brethren who are still behind the Madrid government. The capitalists of the Madrid government who are in the Left Republican Parties, believe that the workers can be controlled, that they will not make a bid for power and that therefore the Madrid government can become, like the government of present day England or of France, a fine vehicle for the development of capital. The fascist capitalists, however, believe that the day is too late for this, that democratic control is too weak, that the working class can no longer be restrained and that the first job of the day is to crush the aspirations of the masses for Socialism. Only thus can capitalism be revived in Spain.
Here, then, are the exploiting classes divided. Generally speaking, it is the big capitalists of heavy industry and the financiers that take the side of the fascists; the landowners go with the monarchists; both units against the present Madrid regime. It is the petty bourgeoisie and the factory owners of small and light industry that tend to support the Madrid Republic or at least not openly fight against it.
Nor can it be said that even from the workers’ point of view that either the Catalonian government or the Madrid government was “reactionary". Were these governments engaged in shooting down the working class and putting down the lower orders, were the masses ready to push the revolution forward to socialism and were being kept back by the broad might of these governments, then it might be said that these governments were reactionary in the sense that they were preventing the people from building Socialism, the only system of society that could improve upon the moribund capitalism of the present.
But the fact of the matter is, the masses are more or less imprisoned by the opportunism of the Socialists and Stalinists on the one hand, and the Anarchists and Syndicalists on the other. The Socialists and Stalinists have openly declared that they are not fighting for Socialism but merely for bourgeois democracy. They have become ardent bourgeois democrats and republicans and have no other thought than loyal support of the status quo that was being attacked by the rebel reactionaries. The Socialists and Stalinists do not want Socialism, they do not want even workers’ control over production. They make no move to socialize the industries. They do not form Soviets. They do not resists the formation of a new capitalist army under the control of bourgeois officers. They do not break from the Azanas and the Companys, bourgeois leaders of the Madrid and Catelonian governments. They make no effort to carry the revolution forward for the benefit of the people. Instead they carry on bitter war against the Left Wing, especially the P.O.U.M. that tends to go in the revolutionary direction.
The Anarchists also have come out strongly against the dictatorship of the proletariat and it was for this reason that the Anarcho-Syndicalists of the C.N.T. refused to participate in the Asturias revolt of 1934 and quietly saw their own brethren shot down by the Madrid government of those days because the workers refused to pledge themselves to the Asturias revolt that they would not take the power and inaugurate Socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Today, together with the Socialists and Stalinists, the Anarchists and Syndicalists have also become part of the governmental forces of Madrid and of Catalonia. These Anarchists, who would not fight for the rule of the workers, are quit ready to give their lives for the continuance of Madrid rule, and thus they prove to be basically one with the petty-bourgeois reformists of the Socialist and Stalinist parties.
In the light of the fact that all of the big proletarian organizations, Anarchist, Syndicalist, Socialist and Stalinist support the present governments of Madrid and of Catalonia, it is difficult to call these governments reactionary. They would be reactionary only if the mass organizations were ready to go forward beyond the present capitalist system and were throwing themselves against this government. But for this there would have to be a genuinely revolutionary party guiding the masses. Up to the present, unfortunately, this is not the case; the masses through their organizations are heartily supporting the governmental regimes.
But if the Madrid and Catalonian governments are not reactionary, this does not mean that they are not capitalistic. For anyone to idealize the Madrid governments or the Left Madrid government that exists in Catalonia would be to make a criminal error. There is no such thing as a government without classes and class domination. The class that dominates Madrid and to a weaker degree Catalonia, is the capitalist class.
It is true there has been some talk of socialization of the factories in Catalonia and also in Madrid, but the Socialists and Stalinists have seen to it that it is mostly talk. There have been some spontaneous seizures of the factories by the workers and a degree of worker control over them, but private property in the means of production is still retained intact, on the whole. Foreign property is carefully protected; the property of the agrarian landholder is assured, the petty-bourgeoisie is quieted. During the present civil war, there may have to be some severe measures of confiscation, some degree of nationalization of industry and public utilities, as there was in the days of the Jacobins of the 18th century in France, but the system of private property remains secure. That is the situation today where the Republicans control.
Nor can much of a distinction be drawn between Catalonia and Madrid. It is true that Barcelona is the proletarian heart of Spain and events have gone considerably further there than elsewhere. But, at bottom, Barcelona has not gone too far beyond Madrid. As Azana, the bourgeois Radical heads the latter regime, the bourgeois Radical, Companys, heads the former.
We can sum up this part of our argument, therefore, as follows:
1. The governmental regime neither at Madrid nor at Catalonia can be called reactionary at present, either from the capitalist or from the workers’ point of view.
2. Both the Madrid and the Catalonian governments are capitalist governments which do not carry out a policy on behalf of the working class.
As soon as possible the workers must disassociate themselves from these governments and overthrow them as blocking the path to Socialism and the victory of the toiling masses in Spain.
The fact that the regime in Catalonia is a capitalist one, does not mean, however, that a revolutionary organization should not, under certain circumstances, have to join that government. To understand this we must study the concrete circumstances that exist in Spain and in Catalonia today.
Were the governments of Catalonia or of Madrid stable capitalist governments run by big bourgeois elements with all the reactionaries to keep the masses down, then, of course, it would be out of the question for a revolutionary organization to enter into such a government and accept the responsibility for its actions. This was the situation within the French government in the late 19th century and led to the split between the reformist and revolutionary groups. At that time the reformist Socialists, as represented by Millard and by Briand, believed they could enter the French cabinet. Their idea was to reform the State from within and peacefully and gradually through a series of reforms introduce a better society for the workers. In reality, through their entrance into the capitalist government, the reformist Socialists merely tied the workers to the wheels of capitalism still more tightly. As events unfolded themselves in Europe it became clear to the revolutionary working class that the capitalist State could not be reformed to be transformed, but had to be smashed and an entirely new regime set up.
But this is not the situation in Catalonia, nor in Madrid. The opening up of the revolution in 1930 established in reality two centers, a dual authority. On the one hand there was the regular government, successor to Alphonso XIII, which was elected when the Republic was founded: on the other hand, there were the mighty trade unions and other working class organizations that began to speak for themselves. The government could do little without the consent of these mass organizations. It might seem then that these organizations would strive to take over power themselves, but led as they were by the opportunist Socialists, Stalinists, Anarchists and Syndicalists, they made no effective effort to do so. On the other hand, the capitalists and agrarian lords strove with might and main to break down this second power of the people. In the course of their efforts they finally decided to attack the government itself and thus, in 1936, there broke out the present insurgent rebellion.
But with the rise of the reactionaries the people also began to strengthen themselves. The old reactionary forces were driven out of the government and the government made prisoner of the popular movement for the time being. A People’s Front Government was set up which expressed the coalition of the masses with certain weak elements of the bourgeoisie. In the course of the present civil war this People’s Government has moved even further to the Left. Now the administration of the State is in the hands of workers’ representatives directly. A Socialist is the premier, several Stalinists are in the cabinet together with other so-called revolutionary factors.
It would seem that since the workers’ organizations and representatives are actually leading the government, that the workers would try to remold that government to introduce Socialism. But Socialism cannot be introduced through bourgeois parliaments and through the State system set up by the capitalists. To set up the rule of the workers there would be necessary a complete new apparatus and governmental machine, on the style of the Soviets established in Russia. The fact that the Socialists, Stalinists and others have entered into the present governments of Madrid and of Catalonia means that they are fighting not for Socialism but for capitalism and mean to keep the capitalist forms and functions intact. Thus, although the government is made up of workers’ representatives, it is still a capitalist government, carrying out capitalist policies. It is a sign that the capitalist class in Spain was entirely too weak to carry out its own policies. As in Germany just after the War, so in Spain today, capitalism can be preserved only by the activity of the Socialists and Stalinists and other petty-bourgeois forces who do for the bosses what the bosses cannot do for themselves. It is the Socialists and Stalinists and the others who save the day for private property in Spain today.
However, this new government, precisely because of its composition, precisely because of the power of the people that put them into office, precisely because the chief task of the hour is the destruction of the reactionaries threatening the government, have not been able to put down the real strength of the people which is increasing all the time. A new dual power, even more menacing that before, has been set up. On the one hand are the Socialist and Stalinist functionaries and their ilk behind Azana or Companys who defend capitalism; on the other hand, there are the masses of workers who have taken over many of the factories and who mean to run them for themselves. This has taken place in a more extreme fashion in Catalonia than it has in Madrid or generally throughout Spain.
Again, it would seem that since the masses have taken control over the factories in many localities that they would form Soviets or new organizations that are not represented in the official government. But this has not occurred for several reasons. In the first place there has been developed no force that favors Soviets except the relatively weak P.O.U.M. Today the Stalinists and the others bend all their efforts to liquidate whatever Soviets may appear in the villages or towns. It is not as in Russia in 1905 and 1917 where the masses themselves spontaneously formed Soviets and all the revolutionary parties entered into these new bodies. Today the degenerate Socialists, Stalinists and others know full well the menace of such organs as the Soviets and in advance break them down wherever they are formed.
Secondly, the masses still have the illusion that because the workers’ representatives are in the government that the government is theirs, that they can really reform and change the government in their direction, that the government will socialize the factories and introduce workers’ rule, etc.
In the third place, it is not inevitable that Soviets must be formed in every country without exception. In Spain, there has existed a very strong tradition of Syndicalism and Anarchism which has taught the people that they must expect nothing through the State but must take things in their own hands. Even in Russia there arose at the time of the Workers Opposition in 1921 the question whether the Soviets should run the factories or the unions would run them. It was pointed out that if the unions gave up the factories to the Soviets, made up so overwhelmingly of peasants and petty-bourgeois elements, that the unions would decay: thus the dictatorship of the proletariat would in fact be destroyed. A good deal of what the Worker Opposition predicted actually has come to pass in Russia. On the other hand, it was argued that if the unions operated the factories and not the Soviets it would break the alliance of the workers with the peasants, something fatal in such a country as Russia. The workers had to exercise control through the Soviets and not independent of the Soviets.
Now in Spain the Syndicalists and the workers in the unions refuse to give up the factories to the State at the present moment. Fundamentally this is a sound policy, since, as we have pointed out, the State is still a capitalist one. But along with the idea that the unions should control the factories, the workers have thus militated against forming Soviets of workers that would rally the mass of toilers with them. They still work within the frame-work of their unions, and since their unions are tied up with the capitalist State, they have not been able to go beyond spontaneous operation and control of the factories. There has not been established the socialization of factories and a unified and systematized program of Socialism. Everything is in chaos and confusion, with the officials of the unions and of the workers’ parties doing their best to sabotage the Socialist direction of the workers and to keep capitalism intact in Spain and Catalonia.
Now it is this concrete situation with which we have to deal when treating of the question whether a truly revolutionary organization should enter the government of Catalonia at the present time. We can summarize the situation as follows: 1. The government is made up overwhelmingly of workers’ representatives. 2. The government has the confidence of masses of workers who believe that through this government Socialism can be established. 3. The government is fighting a progressive battle against reaction. 4. The masses have not formed Soviets but have workers’ organizations and united fronts which demand that every workers’ organization takes responsibility in supporting the defense of the Republic.
Under such circumstances, if the other workers’ organizations through their united front decide that all workers’ groups should enter the government to carry on the struggle against reaction and for Socialism, it would be impossible for the P.O.U.M.. or any other organization to stand aside. To stand aside would mean not to have confidence in the masses, to step aside from responsibility in the strughgle against the fascist-monarchist reaction. It would be the height of folly and sectarianism.
In Russia, when Lenin raised the slogan “All Power to the Soviets” at that time the Mensheviks and opportunists were in control of the Soviets. Had the Soviets taken power then, the leaders of the Soviets in Russia, as today in Spain, would have carried out a policy of capitalism. Yet Lenin was perfectly correct in using this slogan, because the victory of the Soviets would have meant a decisive defeat for reaction and such development of the power of the masses as would render insecure and precarious the hold of the opportunists upon them. Now if in Russia, the Soviets had decided to take the power and to give a seat or two to the Bolsheviks, the Bolsheviks would have had to take these seats, even though the government policy were a capitalist one and under control of the Mensheviks.
As a matter of fact, when the Soviets actually did take power, the Bolsheviks did not take all the cabinet seats but shared them with the Left Social-Revolutionary Party and offered other seats to opportunists of various organizations. The regime that was formed in November, 1917, did not immediately socialize the factories but kept boss ownership for almost a year, or rather in the city for seven months longer, after the power was taken.
A somewhat analogous situation prevails in Spain even though there are no Soviets. There is a united front of the proletarian organizations to carry on the civil war. Should this united front demand all workers’ organizations take on responsible posts, it is impossible for any workers’ group not to accept. Failure to accept would doom that party in the eyes of the struggling masses.
However, it is an entirely different question what a revolutionary party should do once it gets into such a transition government as that represented by the sick capitalist State of Madrid or Catalonia. Of course, a truly revolutionary party would expose the capitalist operations of the government of which it was temporarily a part. It would issue the slogan: Out with the Azanas and the Companys. Out with the capitalist elements from the government. Such an organization would expose the workings of the State from within. It would show the masses that in reality this government and this State could not possibly carry out the will of the people, could not possibly carry out the struggle against capitalism in the most effective manner.
A revolutionary party would call for a complete transformation of the present State to a workers’ State. It would call for all power to the united front councils of the workers’ and toilers’ organizations. It would call for the formation of a real people’s and proletarian army to defend the interests of the masses. Inside the State the proletarian organization would declare war against the capitalist elements there in and create an utterly impossible situation where either the government would have to be changed in a revolutionary direction or the revolutionary party would have to be ousted from the government.
In the latter case those who did the ousting would have the onerous duty of telling the people why. The whole question of who is to rule whom and for what the people are fighting would come up in the most dramatic and drastic manner. It would not be the revolutionary party that would be placed in the light of fighting against the revolution, but rather the persecutors of such a party.
Whether the revolutionary organization takes part in the government or not it has the duty to tell the people that the government is a capitalist one and must be destroyed. It must carry out the policy of fighting reaction but absolutely giving no support to the Kerenskys and similar capitalist agents controlling the government.
A revolutionary workers’ party in the government would strive to change the struggle from one against fascism and monarchism to one against capitalism as a whole. It would expose in detail the sabotage of the capitalist elements in the government and how these saboteurs are protected by the Socialists, Stalinists and others playing their game. The fact that the party was within the government and undertaking responsible tasks would weight mightily with the masses and would provide such a party with excellent first-hand material for its struggles.
The question now arises whether the P.O.U.M. has actually behaved in such a revolutionary manner. It is quite clear that it has not, although we are willing to admit that we may not have all the facts. In entering the government the P.O.U.M. did not sufficiently expose the capitalist nature of the present State. It is true that it has called for Soviets and for Socialism, but its calls have been rather vague and platonic. It did not fight sufficiently hard against the capitalist elements in the government nor demand their expulsion; it did not expose enough the capitalistic sabotage of the Socialists and Stalinists; it did not adopt the program of support to the policies of the present governments of Madrid and Catalonia even though it would do its share in fighting against reaction side by side with the forces of the government.
The weakness of the Workers Party of Marxist Unification could have been anticipated by the history of its formation, The P.O.U.M. is an incomplete amalgamation of two distinct trends: the trend represented by Maurin and that of Andreas Nin.
Maurin would have been called a Spanish variety of the American opportunist, Lovestone, although without the cowardice of the latter and his petty Jewish tricks. Maurin was a Right-Wing Communist of nationalist tendencies who favored a loose workers and peasants party and who hid his Communism in favor of opportunist policies. He was able to build in Catalonia an amorphous groupling which he called the Workers-Peasants Bloc within which his own communist tendency was supposed to work. The whole thing became affiliated to the Centrist international grouping, known as the London Bureau. Maurin held himself opposed to the line of the International Left Opposition although he did not agree with Stalinism.
With the liquidation of the forces of the Left by Trotsky when he sent his henchment into the Socialist parties everywhere, the Spanish group refused to follow the line of Trotsky and broke up into two parts, a minority going into the Spanish Socialist Party, but the rest following Nin who joined the Maurin group, which reformed itself into the Workers Party of Marxist Unification. The action of Nin was really no better than that of Trotsky; as Trotsky enterd the Socialist Party, Nin entered the “Left” Socialist grouping of Maurin. Both liquidated their own organizations and policies to enter into a hopeless Centrist outfit.
However, Nin had a far better chance to work than did the ordinary variety of Trotskyites who liquidated their forces. He was one of the principal leaders of the P.O.U.M. which, under the blows of the revolution, actually moved to the left (as did the Socialist Parties of Spain and of Catalonia for that matter). Furthermore, Maurin was killed in action in the present civil war, leaving Nin practically the chief leader. But far from producing a monolithic organization, this set of circumstances is only bringing to a head a crisis within the P.O.U.M.
A section of the old Maurinists refused to follow the line of the former Trotskyists, especially when that Trotskyist leadership means unmitigated hostility on the part of the Stalinists who are now fused with the Socialists into one party in Catalonia. This section of the P.O.U.M. is now flirting with the other Centrists and threatening to break away. And as the Socialist-Stalinist center rains heavy blows upon the P.O.U.M. and throws them out of the government, in spite of the relatively timid and cautious approach of Nin, the Right Wing all the more is worked on by the Russian nationalist Stalinists and becomes determined to dump Nin and join the coalition.
Here is proof that should the revolutionary nucleus give up its banner for some sort of Centrist program and “mass” organization, it does not do away with the crisis in its ranks that drives it to liquidation, but only postpones it and in the long run, aggravates it. The Trotskyites will find that they have no short cut to the path of building a really Bolshevik organization. Nin fused with Maurin as Cannon fused with Muste. In the case of Cannon, the rottenness of this amalgamation became clear within less than a year. In Spain the forces have held together longer because of the development of the revolution, but this has only heightened the crisis. Now Nin sees that his “mass” party with which he hoped to realize the proletarian revolution is crumbling under his hands. Furthermore, the opportunism latent in the Nins, that induced them to fuse with the Maurins also crops up again and makes the Nins constantly compromise with the Right Wing rather than utter a truly revolutionary line. After all, the Cannons are not much different from the Mustes when the fusion actually does take place. In the long run, water finds its level. So it has been with Nin in Spain.
The opportunist line of the Nins was clearly brought out in relation to the stand of the P.O.U.M. on the question of Moroccan independence. Every Leninist who knows even his A.B.C.s understands that one of the burning questions in Spain today is the question of fighting for the independence of Spanish Morocco. Because the Spanish workers took a nationalist and chauvinist position to Morocco and to the African colonials generally, they are now paying dearly and see the Moroccans closely allied with the fascist forces. The P.O.U.M. should have made this one of their main points from the very beginning and used all the forces at their disposal to attack and expose the Madrid and Catalonian governments and the Socialists, Stalinists and others for their false line. Reports, however, do not show that the P.O.U.M. took such an intransigent internationalist line, except perhaps a word or two in some sheet not read by those directly affected.
The opportunism of the Nins and of the P.O.U.M. is also clearly revealed in their adherence to the bankrupt Centrist International grouping, the London Bureau. Here is seen in all its nakedness that not only the Socialists and Stalinists have broken down but also the Trotskyists of almost every variety. It is a farce to expect an organization believing the London Bureau is a revolutionary factor, to carry out the revolution in Spain. The sad situation is that there is no genuine revolutionary party in Spain today. It is an indication that Europe as a whole is burning out as a revolutionary force and cannot solve its problems. The fight is not absolutely hopeless, however. No doubt there do exist germs of such a genuine party both within the P.O.U.M. and in the other organizations. It is a question, however, whether these germs will be able to find their developmental way into the leading force in time to save the day.
All this does not mean, because we do not support the P.O.U.M. in the sense of joining it or agreeing basically with its like, that we are not willing to send money to the P.O.U.M. The fact is, there is no better organization than the P.O.U.M. in Spain today. We cannot simply stand aside sneering at the heroic battles of the Spanish people. We must help in every possible way. It is our duty to raise money for Spain for the shipping of arms and munitions and supplies to carry on the civil war to the end that the reactionaries be defeated and the proletariat stimulated to carry forward the revolution to the end. It may be that our help in this regard will compel us to send money to the P.O.U.M. or to the London Bureau. But together with this help to the Spanish working class we also send our word that there is only one way out for them: To break with the Socialists, Stalinists and Trotskyists of the Trotsky-Nin stamp and build up a real internationalist Communist organization that will establish the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in Spain and extend the revolution throughout Europe.
The People’s Front is the strategen whereby Stalinism turns over the working class to the petty-bourgeois politicians, for the preservation of the capitalist system. It is the abandonment of the international revolutionary objective in the interests of national reformism. It is close collaboration substituted for independent working class action. It marks the final stage in the degeneration of Stalinism.
The People’s Front originated in France, growing out of the “Common Front". This combination grouped together the Communist Party and the Socialist Party into a variety of united front. But what sort of united front? Even in the “Common Front” the workers’ aspirations for unity in struggle were cynically betrayed. The pact between the two parties bound them to make no public criticism of each other. Thus the C.P. which supposedly should have had a revolutionary policy, tied itself to the wheels of the S.P. cart—the S.P., which in 1914 had sold out to imperialism and had been a good servant of capitalism ever since. Not only did the C.P. thus give up its independent policy, but the “Common Front” soon proved to be an end in itself, not a means to one and to fight Fascism and destroy the bourgeoisie. But this was only the beginning.
Already the C.P. and S.P. looked towards parliamentary victory, and it was this consideration which led them to the next step. In May, 1935 the “Common Front” was broadened or rather there was formed a supplementary People’s Front to which were added the Radical-Socialist Party, the trade unions, now “unified” in the General Confederation of Labor (C.G.T.), and a few broad organizations like the League of the Rights of Man, thus forming a double combination. It was this general coalition that in April, 1936, won the majority of seats in the Chamber and in the Ministries. By June, 1935, was held the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International at which the People’s Front was accepted as the universal policy of the Stalinists to be applied through devious ways in all countries. The People’s Front represents a fundamental reversal of Marxist and Leninist conceptions of revolutionary strategy.
First, it is based upon class-collaboration. The idea is presented in this way” The task of the hour now is to defeat Fascism. Therefore we will unite all elements of the population that are willing to fight Fascism in the People’s Front.” Simple and clear, isn’t it? Just as simple and clear as “One and one makes two.” The laws of social dynamics, however, are not the laws of arithmetic, and the alliances made by the People’s Fronts are of such a character as to betray the proletariat to the bourgeoisie.
The alliance with the Radical-Socialists in France affords a classic example. This party is composed of middle-class elements, small factory owners, storekeepers, small rentiers (coupon clippers), etc. Its program is for the Republic with some reforms. This section of the population is linked up with big capital and with the maintenance of the capitalist system. It is not a part of the discontented sections of the lower middle class (such as poor peasants, artisans, civil service and employees of certain categories, etc.). Since the formation of the People’s Front, this party has held the whip hand, making the price of its alliance that the S.P. and C.P. keep the workers in line, keep them from attacking capital itself. The great wave of sit-in strikes of the summer of 1936 plainly illustrated this principle. The most advanced elements among the workers certainly had the idea of pushing the sit-in strikes further; some may have even conceived the permanent occupation by the workers. At any rate, many especially among the metal workers, wanted to continue the strikes until all demands were granted. But the big bosses of France were exerting pressure to have the strikes settled at all costs. The Radical-Socialists, their agents within the People’s Front carried this pressure to the Premier Blum who in turn exerted it on the C.P. The C.P. did its best, together with the S.P., to get the workers back to work as soon as possible. All this was done, of course, in the name of law and order, of preserving peace, the national prosperity, etc. To its own membership the excuse for this and for all other acts of class- collaboration within the People’s Front, it gives the excuse: “Our hands are tied. We are bound to a pact with the other parties for four years; we cannot go against them now.”
In the matter of making alliances with other social classes, the C.P. can attempt to base itself on Lenin. Part of Lenin’s great contribution to revolutionary theory was the strategy of alliances with the peasantry and other parts of the lower middle class. But the difference between Lenin’s alliances and the class-collaboration of the People’s Fronts is as between night and day.
In Russia, in the course of the long struggle against Czarism, in the polemics Lenin and his comrades engaged in against the Populists, the legal Marxists, the Social-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks as well as in the discussions within the Bolshevik ranks, the question of the relation between peasantry and proletariat was thoroughly thrashed out. The proletariat had to have the hegemony in the alliance made. It kept its independent class policy as represented in the Bolshevik Party. Even when this Party was in the minority, as in the Soviets in the days of dual power, never did it abandon the right to criticize, never did it tie itself to another Party in a non-aggression pact. The firm proletarian line of the Bolsheviks, their correct slogans tested out by experience gradually won them a majority in the Soviets. The difference between the People’s Front may be expressed in this way: The Bolsheviki made alliances with the poorest sections of the middle class especially the poor peasantry, in order to break these groups away from the bourgeoisie. In the People’s Fronts the Stalinists make alliances with the upper and even with the top layers of the bourgeoisie (as in China) in which the Communist Party capitulates to the bourgeois policies of those groups which support capitalism. In China, the Communist International has the brass to tell the workers they must “refrain from so-called workers’ control of industry” the necessary conditions for which, according to them, do not exist. In other words, the workers are forbidden to proceed to the proletarian revolution.
Now as to the question of fighting Fascism. Can these alliances of the People’s Front defeat Fascism? Here, again, the “one plus one makes two” logic collapses completely. Today the Stalinists are picturing Fascism as though it were some sort of special calamity like a flood. Fascism is a form of organization of capitalism. In abolishing democracy, destroying the workers’ organizations and setting up a different political machinery, Fascism changes very much the social set-up, yet the fundamental relations of bourgeois private property and proletarian exploitation are not changed. The way to fight Fascism is to fight capitalism in all its forms. A decisive defeat of Fascism can be accomplished only by the extermination of capitalism, root and branch, by destruction of its state apparatus, expropriation of its factories, and other means of production by the proletariat, by the crushing of the bourgeois (Fascist) counter-revolution, by the setting up of a workers’ State to control and direct the social forces until the proletariat has been universally victorious. In the countries where Fascism has been victorious the fight of the proletariat takes on a different form from under democracy. Yet, when the stage of open civil war is reached, there will be little difference. In Spain the Fascist forces (including also Spanish monarchists and representing the interest of big capital big landowners, nobility and clergy—German and Italian fascism,—in other words all the exploiting groups) are not fundamentally different from the numerous interventionary armies that beset the Russian revolutionary forces in 1918.
The Stalinists express the present struggle as one of “democracy versus fascism.” The People’s Front is supposed to represent the forces of democracy lined up against Fascism. This abandons all theory of class struggle. It supposes that the struggle is merely one form of government against another form of government. Capitalism is no longer mentioned. The social revolution is forgotten.
The People’s Front becomes the excuse to cover up the abandonment of the proletariat. It is not even a case of struggling for reforms instead of for the destruction of capitalism. The capitalists can no longer afford to hand out social reforms (If the People’s Front passes social legislation, it is quickly nullified by inflation or by flat refusal of the bosses to grant the improvements the new laws require.) The Stalinists and Socialists through the People’s Front are really trying to buy off Fascism—they are offering to be good boys, to give up the struggle against capitalism, if only the labor fakers in charge of the organizations will be permitted to exist, if only the Fascists won’t crush the bureaucrats. To save their own miserable skins, these petty functionaries are ready to make alliances with those bosses that still wish democracy. But were not the Fascists of today the democrats of yesterday? Is there any guarantee that he democrats of today will not be the fascists of tomorrow? It will take further victories of Fscism to expose the fated futility of such maneuvers.
In France, the Communist Party has declared “There was no revolutionary situation” at times when the crisis of the bourgeoisie and ruling class was desperate and the workers were moving forward towards seizure of the factories. All that could be done, according to them, was to press for reforms within the frame-work of the People’s Front. Beyond that, no perspective was held out, no end was predicted for the capitalist system. No call was issued to fight it. And, indeed, it is very plain that the People’s Front means the end of a fight against the capitalist system. In the U.S.A. it is affirmed that the full program of the social revolution cannot be considered at this time. In Mexico the only struggle possible is declared to be the “bourgeois democratic” revolution. This also is the designation of the Spanish struggle.
It is in Spain that the betrayal of the proletariat in the People’s Front appears in its most flagrant light. Here the struggle in some parts of the country actually entered upon the stage of the social revolution. After six years of almost continual struggle in one form or another, the will of the Spanish masses has now been aroused to the utmost. They can no longer be restrained within the old frame-work. After going out to shed their blood on the battlefield, after seeing their homes destroyed and their families torn from them, is it to be supposed that the Spanish workers will want to come back and slave for a boss in factory? The C.P. with its slogan of “democracy versus fascism” is like a signalman standing with a false signal in his hand trying to turn aside an onrushing express train. The effect must be either to crush the signalman or to derail the engine, or both. We assume here that the Spanish Revolution here be allowed to continue its natural course and not be crushed by overwhelming intervention. Either the C.P. must be thrust aside, annihilated as an influence, or if its influence is allowed to predominate, the Spanish Revolution is doomed.
The declaration that the revolution in the backward countries like Mexico and Spain must confine itself to merely bourgeois-democratic phases, letting it rest there is in itself false and unMarxian. If a century ago Marx could call for the pressing on of the revolution to the very ending of the class struggle, making the revolution paramount, how terrible is the treachery of those who at this late decayed stage of capitalism, this era of chronic crisis, war and revolution, want to choke off the revolution at the bourgeois-democratic stage, want to behead the proletarian revolution or force it to lie down within a framework so narrow and outworn that it will crush the life out of the proletariat, growing and grasping for new forms of life.
In France, after the People’s Front majority was voted into the government last spring, it was proclaimed jubilantly among some sections of the workers, “We have taken the power". This brings up the question of what form of government is the People’s Front, where it is in power.
To the Socialists, “seizing the power” means getting a majority of votes. It was only necessary to get enough posts in the government of the capitalists to transform it into a socialist government. This as one of the basic distinctions made between Socialist and Communist in 1919.
The People’s Front Government may have varying strength of working class elements in different situations, but in no case can it be called a Worker’s Government. Its exact character may be clarified by looking at the situation in France. The winning of such a large number of votes by the Socialist and Communist parties indicated (1) The bourgeoisie is in a period of decay and weakness, unable to solve the contradictions of unemployment, unable to raise its production or stabilize its money system, etc., inwardly unstable, torn between elements looking towards Fascism, and others wishing to maintain democracy, divided on foreign policy. (2) The working class has grown in strength and consciousness of its own strength; the Socialist and Communist ideologies have considerable popularity (in spite of the distortions of the leadership of those parties, a question which does not enter immediately here). Such a working class constitutes a threat to the capitalist system, it is likely at any time to burst the confines of the labor organizations which strive to hold it back. It is the threat of this working class that has driven the capitalist class to the formation of a strong fascist movement.
Now let us ask: Just what is changed in the country by the election of the People’s Front government? The relationship of parties has changed. The Right Wing parties are now in the minority. The question now boils down to: Just what is the character of the majority parties? We have already described the role of the Radical-Socialists: small capitalist make-up, in practice knuckling under to big capital. The Socialist Party and the Communist Party are working class parties in the sense that the bulk of their membership is proletarian. But while they claim to represent the proletariat, all their policies and actions are such as to keep the capitalist system intact. By a clever duperie which we have explained in detail in previous articles on France, these parties at every step turn the revolutionary will of the proletariat into such channels that it cannot endanger the capitalist system fundamentally. Were these parties working class in policy, they would never have been in the government in the first place, since the whole idea of the People’s Front has the purpose of postponing the revolution and of maintaining the status quo.
The People’s Front changes nothing essential. Does not the bourgeoisie still control the Senate? Does it not keep its representatives in all the numerous departments of the State? Beyond a doubt, Fascist representatives must have infiltrated into the governmental apparatus, waiting quietly until the time comes for a Fascist coup detat. Furthermore, the repressive and coercive apparatus, the courts, the police, the army, and such, remain in the hands of the bourgeoisie. The working class parties make not the slightest attempt to attack these institutions. They have kept the colonial policy intact. The downtrodden peoples of Indo-China, Senegal, Morocco, and other colonials have looked in vain for any alleviation of their oppression. The People’s Front, so far from fighting for the freedom of the colonies, has not even granted minimum reforms. Repression continues as severe as ever.
What is most essential, the capitalist system in its property relations remains entirely unchanged. In the great general strike of last June the workers make a serious threat against bourgeois property; but under the kindly tutelage of the People’s Front they stopped short of decisive action. The mass of toilers are able to exert pressure on the People’s Front. They can compel it to pass legislation of a sort, but insofar as fundamental alteration of the capitalist system is concerned, the People’s Front stands as a solid wall between the workers and their goal. The difference between the People’s Front government and the preceding one may be dramatically illustrated thus: The Laval government passed a series of decree-laws which drastically lowered the standard of living. The People’s Front Government passed a series of social benefit laws raising wages, granting vacations with pay, etc. At the same time devaluation of the franc has sent prices sky high, more than offsetting the gain in wages, while the employers are chiselling away the other gains. There you have it in a nut-shell. Capitalist exploitation and government repression have simply changed their form.
The People’s Front is a complete contradiction to previous policies of the Communist International. From 1928 to 1933 the slogan was “class against class.” The Socialists were “social-fascists” and the Communists completely isolated themselves. What has occasioned this complete right about face? One thing alone—the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. The Stalinist clique thinks it to its interest to maintain the present status quo internationally. Thus it seeks to make alliances with such nations as also for the time being desire to maintain the status quo. These happen to be those nations which benefited from the Versailles Treaty and can still afford to maintain democracy. These nations now become the “Friends’ of the Soviet Union. The chief fire is turned on those hard-pressed nations which have already gone over openly to Fascism and military aggression: Germany, Italy and Japan.
In the days of Marx and Lenin people were divided horizontally on the international scale, workers were urged to unite internationally for the fight against the international capitalist class. At present there is affected a vertical division of nations. That the democratic nation of today will be Fascist tomorrow, that all capitalist nations would still be willing if need be to unite against the Soviet Union insofar as it still represents some notion of Communism, such considerations are shoveled into the background.
Within the action now too there is made a distinction of good and bad capitalists, the good, those who will support Russia, the bad, Russia’s enemies. This explains the covert support of the C.P. in the U.S. for Roosevelt. And with this goes a cessation of militant demonstrations against the government of Roosevelt. In France, there is talk of converting the People’s Front into a national front which would include all elements supporting the France-Soviet Pact. In Japan connection between Soviet Union foreign policy and the People’s Front is the most flagrant. There the Communist International has called for the Communists to unite with any and all elements that will fight against Japan. This includes not only native Chinese capital, little and big, but even foreign capital.. The strategy is: Japan is an enemy of the Soviet Union, if it can be weakened by a China united against it, that is all to the good for Russian nationalism. As far as the Chinese revolution—well, it is secondary in importance, it will just have to wait. It is the old Chang Kaishek betrayal, but this time the Stalinists are more open in disclosing their aims.
The People’s Front has brought forth in the Stalinist press and assemblies a wave of patriotism such that has not been seen since the Socialists turned chauvinist in 1914. If the Communists, forgetting the class struggle, are now part of the “people” what more natural than that they should accept all the traditions of “the people” as their own, making themselves doubly valuable thereby to the capitalist class which has moulded these traditions to secure their own domination. As a matter of fact, the merging of the proletariat in the general mass of people can only identify the proletariat with the bourgeoisie, since the bourgeoisie, the ruling class, could not possibly identify itself with the workers. Now it is “our France,” “Our America”, “Our industries”, “our culture”, etc. The heroes of the bourgeoisie are taken over bag and baggage to be worshipped regardless of what distortions of history are involved. In America it is “our constitution” that is defended by the Communists as patriotically as by the Republicans.
The goals of proletarian revolution being abandoned, it is now conceived as possible for the workers to achieve their ends within capitalism. Not merely has this fact influenced the tactics of the Stalinists, it colors even their propaganda; rarely indeed does a phrase about social revolution slip out, capitalism is glorified in such slogans as “Peace, Progress and Prosperity” which replace the hammer and sickle in the Daily Worker’s masthead.
The People’s Front may be called reactionary in that it clings to the by-gone era of reformism. As the same time, in its blindness to the real meaning of the present situation the People’s Front is actually paving the way for Fascism. Certain phases of its program help materially in getting the nation ready for the Fascist steam-roller. The People’s Front preaches national unity and classlessness which is in essence, as we have shown, class collaboration. This is exactly the ideology of Fascism, or at least its result. The merging of parties collaborating in the People’s Front is a step toward the one-party totalitarian state. The People’s Front breeds chauvinism and supports militarism.
Note that the Communist Party in France voted for war credits, and put down the workers when they went on strike in the arsenals in 1935. “Our Army” becomes a matter of pride and glory to the People’s Front which gives the military full support. Such a chauvinist militaristic outlook goes hand in hand with Fascism; with the preparation of the People’s Front the change to Fascism ideologically will not be too abrupt. In line with the policy of class collaboration, the People’s Front puts down direct action by the workers, suppresses their strikes and demonstrations. Again, this is exactly the Fascist attitude towards the workers: both the People’s Front and the Fascists defend the national unity, so necessary to a strong militarist front, and tolerate no action of any section of the population which would disrupt that unity.
In conclusion: the People’s Front must be exploded and swept off the historical stage if the workers are to fight Fascism. In its place we propose the drastic, irrevocable break with the bourgeoisie and their agents; the independence and leadership of the proletariat; chief reliance upon direct action in the day-to-day struggle and armed insurrection, not parliamentary maneuvers, to destroy the capitalist class.
As the evils of laissez-faire become felt, new schools of authoritarian statism arose to protest against the havoc of free competition. These schools were often connected with the remnants of the aristocracy still pleading for the restoration of their power by criticizing the capitalist regime as compared with the old days of the past. Naturally, such authoritarians developed strongly a tendency to romanticism which tinged all of their writings, whether literary or political. The romanticism luxuriated in the early and middled part of the 19th century especially England and Germany.
In England the literary genius of this type was Thomas Carlyle. Carlyle waged a bitter struggle against the Philosophical Radicalism of Bentham, Mill, and others who expressed the intolerance of the self-made capitalists towards aristocratic special privilege and who were the spokesmen of the movement for parliamentary reform.
Carlyle did not hesitate to point out the evils of capitalism. He was terribly afraid of the French Revolution and the riots that were spreading in England especially during the Chartist movement. He noted the huge and growing unemployment and demanded a change from the Midas system and an end to the laissez-faire anarchical and chaotic system that was reducing the English people to such misery. This was a line of approach, by the way, which was well adapted to the policies of the Tories and was used by that arch imperialist, Disraeli. It was in this period that “Disraeli declared boldly that the Queen ruled in reality ‘over two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each others’ habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants in different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws…the Rich and the Poor.’” (E.Neff:Carlyle and Mill,p.246)
It should be remarked here that an intolerable situation had been created in England at this time by the fact that while the hours of slave labor were limited, those of wage labor were unlimited and at a time when the workers in England were forced to labor fourteen hours a day in 1831 an order of council had forbidden the labor of slaves more than nine hours, night work and child labor being abolished. Thus the slave was better off than the “free” laborer.
Carlyle worked indomitably to idealize the feudal past. The State must end laissez-faire and organize industry. Instead of the cash nexus in which men were but a means to an end, the dignity of men must be restored. Only through work could man be enobled. A new chivalry of labor should be created. The foundation of the new era was to be a fair day’s wage and universal compulsory education. Against the ideal of free contract was to be placed the reality of permanent employment.
Carlyle fought for dictatorship—Cromwell was his great idol—for the rule of heroes who could get things done. Democracy could not bring out the worth of the individual but would only breed revolution. Not the ballot for all, but an open career to the talented. His was the ideal of the future. In this he seemed to agree with Charles I whose reported speech on the scaffold was: “For People are free under a Government, not by being sharers in it, but by the due administration of the Laws.”
Carlyle, however, had no intention of handing over the State to the old landlord class. Quite the contrary.. It is the captains of industry who must lead the way. “To reconcile Despotism with Freedom—well, is that such a mystery? Do you not already know the way? It is to make your Despotism just.” (Carlyle, Past and Present p.242) Governments were to organize industrial regiments of the New Era, and the acknowledged king was to introduce wisely in all his territory a universal system of drill, not military only, but human in all kinds.
There is no question but that the views of Carlyle could well be held by Adolph Hitler today, and that should Fascism develop in Great Britain, the ideology that Carlyle expressed will be a most important weapon in its hands.
Typically reactionary was Carlyle’s view that the system could be changed only by making men more moral which in turn could be effected only by mystical probing into the soul. “What is to be done?…by thee, for the present, almost nothing…. Thou shalt descend into the inner man, and see if there be any traces of a soul there; till then there can be nothing done!” (T..Carlyle: The Socialism and UnSocialism of Thomas Carlyle, Vol I, p. 30) And he denounces the British business men for treating the soul as some Slavonic dialects do, as synonymous with the word “stomach". Carlyle did not shrink from advocating the seizure of power by a determined and right-thinking minority whose actions would be thoroughly justified if the New Era were thereby inaugurated. Here, too, Carlyle shows himself a forerunner of the present Fascist movement. In his advocacy of the need for a dictatorship of the scientists and the elite, Carlyle was only following St. Simon whose influence he had strongly felt.
Carlyle’s philosophy could be summed up in the following doctrines: an aristocracy of talent and priesthood; the organization of labor and education through the establishment of order, responsibility and regimentation; a gospel of work that would unite labor and religion; the connection of industrial sovereignty and aristocracy under the rulership of captains of industry; the establishment of a universal brotherhood.
The disciple of Carlyle was John Ruskin who also announced that all must work under an aristocracy made up of landed proprietors, soldiers, captains of industry and professional classes similar to those of feudal times. The unfit were to be sterilized. A definite reaction was to be launched against the machine age; there must be built up again guilds and crafts and artistic quality in work. Work must be a joy. The State must force all to labor and fix the incomes of the owners of land and captains of industry.
In literature romantic Toryism flowered out in great style, being exemplified by such as Sir Walter Scott, Coleridge, Wordsworth and Southey. The last three had all started out as pretended Jacobean sympathisers but could not stomach the actions of the masses. From then on they turned their back on Liberalism and agreed with Coleridge. “Only in a voluntary surrender of himself to a corporate society can man find that mystic repayment of desire that is at once an expansion and a limitation. Only in state and church can the anarchy of nature and the order of civilization be reconciled” (C. Brinton: The Political Ideas of the English Romanticists, p. 84) Coleridge was to surrender himself not to corporate society but to the mysticism of opium.
Similarly, Southey developed a Tory humanitarianism, putting forth his schemes for a national grant for education, well ordered plan of emigration, factory laws, child labor restriction, commutation of tithes, allotment of land to laborers, buildup of a cooperative movement, etc.
It was with such crocodile tears that the wealthy aristocratic groups of England could weep for the poor, while in reality striving with might and main to maintain their special privileges. The Tories were so anxious to show the evils of capitalism, but they were equally concerned to improve the glorious wonders of the old days when they were in power.
These men of letters were seconded by the propaganda of various Christian and Catholic Socialists in England. In England the violence of the Chartists, especially the extreme Left atheistic wing had compelled the wealthy to take hold of the situation to control it. Under the initiatives of Maurice and Kingsley, a movement of Christian Socialists was organized in the middle of the 19th century whose principal object was to defeat the Reds. In their opinion the State should be conservative, but the church communistic. The increasing gap between the rich and the poor showed a lack of humanitarianism which must be terminated if England were to escape revolution. They contrasted their Christian Socialism with Left Wing Chartism as follows: The Reds wanted “all things to be mine,” whereas the church declared “all that is mine is thine.” The Christian Socialists were to preach this church doctrine to both the rich and the poor so as to bring the golden rule of Christ into the world.
Nowhere more than in Germany was there developed a reaction to French revolutionary Liberalism. The chief theoretician of the romantic school, hailing the past and insisting on the complete submergence of the individual to the State, was Hegel. According to Hegel, freedom consisted not in the absence of restraint but in self-determination to which restraint could be attached. The will of the individual was free only when fused with that of the State. The State is the true self into which the mere individual is absorbed. This is the corner-stone of moral and political obligation. In other words, we are morally free when our actions conform to our real will. Our real will is the general will and the general will is most fully embedded in the State.
According to Hegel, the State being the individual writ large, its own independence is the primary condition of its internal life and indeed of its freedom. And for this reason it imposes an absolute sacrifice on the individual when it is necessary to maintain it. War was not something that the State must fear; war is good when it leads to discipline and moral soundness.
The Struggle against the Napoleonic invasion and the humiliating Treaty of Tilsit permitted patriots to appear who glorified the State in order to mobilize the people under it to fight the French. This was the position of Fichte, who made it his business to attack the revolutionary anarchy of the laissez-faire schools and proposed instead a social and economic scheme for self-sufficient communities to be regulated by the State in which every able-bodied person would be organized according to occupation and have a modest but assured income. Foreign trade was to be reserved solely to the State. Behind Fichte’s plans was the tradition of mercantilism so strongly pervailing in the Hanseatic States of Germany,
In the revolution of 1848 two distinct movements were attacking capitalist Liberalism, namely, the agrarian aristocrats dominating the Prussian State and the German system, on the one hand, and the mass of laborers who had begun to organize themselves, on the other. At this stage there appeared intellectuals who tried to connect both these groups against the capitalists in favor of the State. While they were not able to make much headway with the factory workers who went towards the Marxists, the intellectuals were able, under the guidance of Karl Marlo (Professor Winkelblech), to connect themselves to the handicraftsmen.
“Winkelblech would heal the ills of society, and improve the condition of the working classes, by the adoption of a compromise between Liberalism and Communism. Among his demands are collective property in land, side by side with private ownership cooperative production, the handing over of means of communication to public bodies, and State participation in mining, forestry, and even trading and banking. But he would also restrict private undertakership and speculation whenever the interests of society require it, and he would grant to the laborer the right to work and to the incapable adequate means of subsistence.” (W. N. Dawson: German Socialism and Ferdinand Lassalle) Karl Marlo believed in the reconstitution of the guilds of old and the placing of obligation upon private property according to the old Christian Germanic law. His system he termed federal Socialism.
During the 1848 events the master handicraftsmen who met in their Congress at Frankfort formulated Marlo’s program. This was also accepted by the journeymen who met separately and who “practically agreed with their masters, although adding demands for suffrage, compulsory education, industrial schools, twelve-hour day, legal minimum wage, sickness insurance, progressive property and income tax, protective duty on wholly manufactured imports, partition of Crown lands and division among the landoworkers and peasants. It is significant that while the master handicraftsmen agreed with Marlo to try to turn back to the Middle Ages, the journeymen should accept the reactionary theory but yet add wholly modern and progressive demands. The past of the journeymen was indeed with their masters; their future was to be with the proletariat.
STALINISM AMONG THE NEW YORK PROJECT WORKERS
In November all of the Stalinists on the projects were yapping “Defeat Landon” “Vote the Labor Party ticket for Roosevelt.” Many workers thinking that a vote for Roosevelt would insure them their jobs heeded this advice. Now that Roosevelt is safely entrenched in office for another four years he makes good on his first election promise. The only trouble is that he is delivering the goods to the bosses and not to the people who elected him. In the last few weeks thousands of W.P.A. workers have received beautiful Christmas gifts from the administration—pink slips that mean dismissal and the old hopeless effort to get private employment. Once more the workers must start the old fight to get back on the relief rolls with their miserable starvation standards. Instead of continuing the fight for adequate unemployment insurance and for the prevailing rate of pay on project work that is paid elsewhere, the workers must begin where they started—prove that they are destitute and therefore are entitled to be placed on relief.
In all this the Communist party has played a most treacherous role in giving the workers the illusion that Roosevelt would do something for them. Instead of pointing out (as the Communist League of Struggle did) that we had to expect these wholesale dismissals and therefore prepare to fight them when they came, the C.P. spent all of its time painting such a dreadful picture of Landon under Hearst control that no time was left to prepare for physical struggle against these cuts in the number of workers on the project.
The workers, however, were not asleep even if the C.P. was. With the first batch of dismissals the workers engaged in a series of spontaneous, militant, sit-in strikes that won a few victories for them. Even though the C.P. bureaucracy sat heavily on their shoulders, the workers on the project immediately knew that if they did not strike back, soon all of them would be doomed. The Stalinists who always limp after the masses and from time to time put up a show of militancy so that they can betray better later on, were compelled to participate in the call for a mass demonstration for December 12, 1936, to which 13,000 workers responded in spite of the inclement weather.
The question now is—What next? Will the C.P. realize its mistake about Roosevelt and really start to fight the regime? To this, I for one can answer that they will do nothing except to lead the workers into a blind alley. This is seen from their attitude in my Union (the Teachers, Local 453) which from conversations with workers on other projects I know to be typical wherever they operate.
The main interest of the C.P. is not to improve the condition of the workers but to make them more efficient on their jobs. From the constant cry “We want work” they advanced to the point where once they got work they began to whine “Make the projects efficient". Worse in this respect than some of the most bribed American Federation of Labor leaders, the Stalinists constantly raised slogans at the union meetings and adopted or rejected policies in accordance with whether or not they made for efficient work.
When, for example, we originally fought for the prevailing professional rate of pay for the teachers, recreation workers and such, on the projects, and the administration refused to grant us this but agreed to reduce our hours from thirty a week to twenty-one, and still pay us the same salary, the C.P. actually made its rallying cry the fact that the project could not be efficient if we worked less than twenty-five hours a week! While it is true that they paid lip-service to the slogan of the prevailing professional wage, they completely ignored the question of pay in the fight that arose and continually focused the discussion on the proposition of not working less than twenty five hours a week. Said these great leaders of the working class: “The children come here five days a week for at least five hours a day, how can we work only twenty-one hours? The children need us.”
Here we were faced with the offer to reduce our hours and still receive the same weekly wages. This would be an increase in the hourly rate but still not the professional rate. Under the circumstances the fight should have been continued for the professional rate. If the administration wanted to reduce the number of hours per week to twenty-one, that was their business. We should have continued to ask for the same rate as the other teachers and recreation workers whose work we were carrying forward. The Stalinist officials, however, could not see things this way. To them the main thing was that if we did not work at least twenty-five hours, the project would not be efficient.
Similarly, when one of the men on the project who had five children was raised to a higher classification with a $2 increase in pay, the CP officials in the Union fought the appointment on the ground that the man was not qualified for the higher position and that efficiency would suffer. It is indeed marvelous how these bureaucrats never find time to carry on real struggles for the workers on the project but can burn up plenty of energy making the project efficient.
When the question of two active union members who were transferred from their job location by the head supervisor because of an argument with a non-union worker on the job the officials of the union capitulated without even a pretense of struggle. Then, at a union meeting, we demanded swift and uncompromising action on these transfers we were scored by the clique for making capital of such an unimportant issue. Can anyone expect a worker on the job to agitate for the union in view of this degrading precedent? What assurances has he that the union will support him if the administration clamps down upon him? Today it is a transfer, tomorrow it may be a dismissal. The union’s stand on this question, to say the least, tends to demoralize the more active members. This the officials refuse to recognize. It is not for nought that many Stalinist union leaders have been appointed by the administration as supervisors. For ‘nice people’ and good efficiency men the Stalinists make the best.
While playing ball with the administration, they stop at nothing in an attempt to discredit the progressive element. Many workers have been ousted for nothing more than issuing a leaflet calling for action. This writer was tried on trumped up charges of posing as a union member. What really happened was that instead of paying dues to the Teachers Union, a number of project workers continued paying dues to the City Project Council, the mother organization. While technically we were wrong and were willing to make amends, the Stalinists seized upon this as a needed pretext. Without even the formality of notice we were tried before the local membership with three recommendations from the executive board to be considered (1) Suspension from the union for 60 days; (2) Payment of several months’ back dues to the Teachers Union; (3) Trial before the General Membership Meeting.
It was very fortunate indeed that we had our union book from the City Project Council with us. The trial completely exposed the Stalinists. The workers gave their answer. With the exception of four negative votes by the leadership we were exonerated of all charges by the rank and file.
In answer to these persecutions the progressives must fight all the more determinedly for a correct policy. Counterposed to the method of fighting dismissals with telegrams and petitions we demand: (1) mighty demonstrations (2) more sit-down strikes (3) the union to lay plans for a one-day general stoppage to force the hand of the administration to grand demands (4) a fight for prevailing professional standards and wages on all the projects (5) instead of “We want work” a united front with all organizations to conduct a struggle for genuine unemployment insurance.
(Word has just reached me that the union has effected a compromise with the administration. In return for the reinstatement of 96 dismissed workers on the art projects, the officials agreed not to participate in any sit-down strikes for the time being. This is typical of these opportunists. Whether the workers will accept any such agreement is something they forgot to reckon with.)
EDITORIAL NOTE TO THE ABOVE: The situation on the teaching and playground involve three groups of interests, all of which the workers must defend: 1) the regular teachers 2) the project workers 3) the workers’ children in the schools. Needless to say, the Board of Education and the relief authorities take care of none of these interests. Especially would they like to see the unemployed thrown against the teachers here just as they strive to thrown the unemployed against the factory workers, in order to drag down wages and standards. The teachers have perhaps sensed this but have not always reacted class-consciously to defend the interests of the W.P.A. workers in the school. These workers (some of whom not as tutors, others as playground directors or assistants) have been treated as outcasts, no place provided for their work or for their comfort treated in fact as nuisances. While we ridicule the demand to make these boondoggling projects permanent yet we must support the fight of the project workers to get professional pay for the type of work he is compelled to do, and to be treated with dignity. At the same time, it must be realized that long waiting lists of trained teachers are set aside in order to use the cheaper project workers. Thus at the same time we must raise the demand for the regular lists to be drawn from first for appointments in the schools, the W.P.A. workers to be put on other work meanwhile.
The standards in the schools are none too good under capitalism. They are rigorous on technical points, yet they permit people of the pettiest character and narrowest experience to handle the workers’ children. Poor as these standards are, they must yet not be lowered still farther, and to this extent there is some justice in the resentment felt by the regular teachers at seeing untrained people taken into the schools. In the long run, the contact with the project workers may bring a fresh breath of the class struggle into the stifling, regimented atmosphere of the schools, not, however, as the Stalinists are handling the work, as the above article forcefully brings out.
THE CHIANG KAI-SHEK KIDNAPPING
When bourgeois journalism is at a loss to account for an important event, it falls back on the interpretation of national psychology. Hence the recent mysterious kidnapping of Chiang Kai-shek in China was laid to the trickery of oriental diplomacy, while the equally mysterious confessions of Zinoviev, Radek and others have been attributed to the unfathomable depths of the Russian mind. Our interpretation of the Chiang affair is at least more materialistic. We link it up with the Communist International policy for China. A kidnapping is not more adventurous than a Soviet revolution staged without basis and without preparation. The Communists may have felt a desperate urge to convince General Chiang that they are with him.
The unity of China is now the announced goal of both sides. From the Chinese nationalist point of view, it is the only hope of surviving as a nation, or preventing a complete, gradual dismemberment and conquest by Japan and other foreign powers. The Communists are supporting unity for quite different reasons. Elsewhere in this issue we show how the People’s Front policy can be traced quite definitely to the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. In the case of China the situation is less complicated than elsewhere and the raison d’etre for the people’s Front cannot be covered up. Japan has been creeping up on the Eastern borders of the U.S.S.R. It is only a question of time unitl she strikes. A unified China capable of defeating Japan, or at any rate, staving off her aggressions would serve as a buffer for Siberia. To this end all other considerations in China are subserved.
The other foreign powers involved in the exploitation of China are not likely to engage in war in the East at this time when the European entanglements make peace at home so precarious. But the Stalintern is eager to make every sacrifice to unite with these nations against Japan. Anti-Japan is the touchword now which determines friend or foe. The People’s Front in China (which has not yet materialized in the shape of a government in power) is supposed to take in any element that is willing to fight Japan. The Chinese bourgeoisie is included in this front and the Feudal landowners; also any foreign nation that is willing to line up against Japan.
Needless to say, the class struggle is completely thrust aside, and with it the interests of the proletariat are ruthlessly sacrificed. A few mild liberal demands are put forth by the People’s Front such as democratic liberties, universal free education, increases in wages, etc. But there is no real labor program. In fact the workers are very definitely told to get out, to reject all demands that “cannot be fulfilled today, or would lead to economic disorganization and unemployment.” Especially the workers are instructed to refrain from attempts at “so-called workers control of industry” the necessary conditions for which they are told do not exist as yet. Thus the proletarian revolution is very neatly strangled. All the workers’ bloodshed in the past, all the unbelievable sacrifices the Chinese Communists have made, these things are brazenly shoved aside. The Chinese comrades are told very plainly that their revolution does not count, it is secondary in importance, it must make way for Stalin and his factories and his Red Army and his Five Year Plans. One can only marvel at the loyalty that enables any member still to adhere to the C.P.
It is our guess that Chinese friends of Stalin had a long talk with Chiang Kai-shek while he was held prisoner of Chang Hsi-liang and that the kidnapping was really engineered with this in mind. During all the time that he did nothing against the encroachments of Japanese imperialism but instead concentrated on declaring war on the revolutionary masses within China, Chiang Kai-shek gave the excuse that Chinese unity was a prerequisite to struggle against Japan, that such a war against Japan was impossible while there were enemies of the regime in the rear. What this generalissimo of massacres of toilers really meant was that Chinese communists are more deadly to his interests than Japanese imperialists.
No doubt the Stalinists at this conference with Chiang Kai-shek impressed it upon him that they would completely abandon the struggle against him if he would form a front with them against Japan. The Chinese Communists would re-enter a bloc with him; they would give up the struggle against the Chinese exploiters and even against international imperialism that was friendly to Russia, if Chiang Kai-shek would now begin a struggle against Japan. Again the Communists will become adherents of the Kuo Min Tang; again the block of four classes will become a reality; again the workers will be coolies for the Chinese bourgeoisie; again Chiang Kai-shek will be supported in power. A new People’s Front and People’s Front Government is in the offing, this time it is not a front for democracy against Fascism, for no one can maintain for a moment that the Chinese regime is democratic, but a war front against Japan.
The Stalinists are only preparing new blood baths for the masses of China. They hide from the people that never can the Chiang Kai-sheks carry on successful war against Japan. He can only lead the masses to new slaughters and new defeats. Only a real people’s war, a war in which all the tellers are aroused through their own organizations, imbued with their own demands, demands that will emancipate the people from their military oppressors and economic exploiters, only such a war has a chance of any success whatsoever. That is to say war against Japan must not mean a cessation of struggle against Chinese criminal militarists who know how to run away but who are good for nothing else but sucking the blood of the people. War against Japan must be coupled with a crusade for the extermination of the Chiang Kai-sheks. And we say this from the point of view, that this is the only way the conceivably the war can be won by China against Japan.
Stalinism knows all this. It is quite deliberately sacrificing millions of Chinese lives, if only Japan is held back for a short time, if only Japan is even slightly weakened for the moment and absorbed in the hacking of China. What do the millions of Chinese matter to the eyes of Stalinism? Hand and hand with Chiang Kai-shek Stalin imagines he will save the revolution. Birds of a feather flock together.
THE NEW SOVIET TRIALS
There are a few new tricks in the latest Soviet trials which mark the further progress of Stalin’s desperate terrorism. Evidently he has realized from the comments of incredulity that everywhere arose, that the theme of the confessions of Zinoviev and Kamenov that they had become open enemies of the Soviet Union and agents of Fascism was too crude. So a new line is framed up for Radek and his political colleagues: it was supposedly their strategy to have Russia defeated by Japan and Germany in order to get rid of Stalin and bring Trotsky and themselves into power. While it is conceivable that to men long repressed seeing year after year pass with only further degeneration of the Revolution and ruthless persecution of all opposition, such a desperate recourse may have appeared the only way out. Yet it is not likely that this represents the truth of the situation.
We have to say of this trial as we said of the last that the whole set-up is entirely fantastic and unconvincing; there is the same lack of evidence, the same startling suddenness of the declarations of the defendants, the same inconsistency with all their past life. Whether the confessions are true or not, the fact still remains that Stalin has broken these men and that now a whole generation—the generation which led the October Revolution—is being given an ignominious exit from history. The few who remain, Radek, Bucharin, Rykov, will not remain long.
Stalin accuses the victims of trying to bring back capitalism. But it is Stalin who with seven league boots is striding towards capitalism, dragging the revolution in ruins behind him. Terrorism marks the last desperate stage of his career, as it marked the opening of his career. At present it points to the imminence of his downfall.
The “amalgam” in this latest trial likewise takes on a new turn. In former cases it was the G.P.U. agents posing as Fascist tools; now it is the saboteurs who are linked up with the Opposition labelled “Trotskyist". The sabotage may have been real or it may not have been, but its linking up with political opponents in order to discredit them constitutes Stalin’s own dastardly frame-up methods.
If the plots of Radek and company were real and their confessions are to be taken at face value, then another line of speculation is opened up. What sort of party is this which hatches such poisonous eggs? If these enemies are suddenly uncovered in the top leadership of the party, how many more are there not yet uncovered? If yesterday’s leader is today’s exposed criminal, then it is the obvious corollary that some at least of today’s respected leaders will be tomorrow’s traitors ready for the firing squad. What confidence then can the parties of the Third International merit anywhere in the world? The merest scratch, the least test of history will bring to light not merely political capitulators but thugs, criminals, men capable of the most desperate acts. In his methods of work Stalin and his henchmen have already proved a leadership of gangsterism, terrorists and murderers. This gang must be stamped out, exterminated by the indignant action of the proletariat.
Since the accusations brought forth in the trials have all been tied up with Trotsky, an open international trial would be an excellent procedure, in which proof could be brought forth of the despicable methods Stalin has used to convict the accused. If Trotsky is now “defended” by Liberals and Socialists, this shows the company Trotsky is now keeping. It is significant that there is no workers’ body which defends him. But we would like to see a workers’ committee of exposure of the trials, not for partisan defense of Trotsky, but for denunciation of the methods of Stalin, methods which are used against the real opposition, the internationalist communists, as well as against the opposition which has capitulated.
STATEMENT OF THE COMMUNIST LEAGUE OF STRUGGLE
Re: The Defence of Leon Trotsky
It has been called to our attention that there have been formed various Committees for the Defense of Leon Trotsky or for the Right of Asylum of Leon Trotsky, etc. The Communist League of Struggle takes the following position on this question.
1. We are for a struggle for the right of asylum for all workers and their representatives, even though they are opportunists and Centrists like Trotsky. In such cases, however, we do not make this a major activity of ours, especially when the composition of the committees are decidedly petty-bourgeois and alien to the workers.
2. We are not particularly for the defense of Trotsky; no more than we are for the defense of any Centrist capitulator. Let the dead bury the dead.
3. We are for a struggle to expose the deadly character of Stalinism. We will participate in any activity that will show the anti-working class and counter-revolutionary character of the murderers operating under Stalinism. Where “Defense of Trotsky” committees are really committees to examine the anti-working class character of Stalinism and are committees for the defense of the October Revolution, then we will participate in such activities.
4. It is clear that in his fight against Stalinism, Trotsky is leaning upon counter-revolutionary elements just as in its fight against Trotskyism, Stalinism leans upon counter-revolutionary interests. In our struggle to expose Stalinism, we do not defend Trotsky’s capitulatory politics. In our struggle against Stalinists, we do not fight against the true Terror of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat against its anti-working class enemies.
5. We are for the formation of Workers’ Committees made up of workers organizations that will investigate the Soviet Trials from the standpoint of examining the workers interests involved and the true situation in Russia and the international revolutionary movement. Such a Committee in our opinion would be a great step forward in launching a Fourth International of genuine internationalist Communists.
THE CONGRESS FOR THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL
The Communist League of Struggle considers it necessary to participate in the forthcoming Congress to form a new international which the P.O.U.M. together with the London Bureau is arranging probably in Barcelona. Our participation does not bind us to join anybody or any center formed. Whether we join a grouping, national or international, depends upon whether we agree with the program adopted by that grouping.
We do not consider the London Bureau, to which the P.O.U.M. is affiliated, to be the nucleus of the new International. The London Bureau itself has little of a common program, but its affiliated bodies have so far been unwilling to take a definite stand for the new international; they have shown conciliatory tendencies toward Stalinism, have been ambiguous in their analyses of the Soviet Union and on the war question, rely too much upon parliamentary methods. For this reason we have considered them a Centrist rather than a genuine Internationalist Communist grouping.
Nevertheless, we feel it would be incorrect to with hold from any attempt in the direction of the Fourth International. We wish to get together with whatever really Left elements may be present, in order to fight for a Marxist line in the Congress. Furthermore, participation in the Congress is to a certain extent an attempt to help the Spanish Revolutionists of different groups in the solving of their problems.
Mitzy is our cat. All during the time the heat was being turned on the King Edward-Wallace Simpson bout she was grinning madly trying to put her kittenish tabs on the tabby cat from Baltimore. We finally decided to let her mew her piece in the Class Struggle. She has promised hard not to be catty.
Is it not delightful how history drops the outworn with a hearty guffaw? This is the healthy course which evolution takes. In the old days the amours of the King of England would have been the serious subject for learned men of the whole kingdom to worry about. If the King and Lord had the “Right of First Night,” with every lass about to be a bride, the King’s Councillors had the ‘Right before the First Night,” with the King’s bride.
The King had to marry as the interests of the State dictated. Through a judicious use of his sex organs, he might win vast riches for his family and extend his kingdom involving his people in new murderous wars. In those days the King was a creative force. No wonder the doughty men of the realm hung around the King’s bedroom and became his Knights of the Garter or Knights of the Bath; no doubt it was owing to their heavy concentration on the King’s genitalia.
Love had nothing to do with the matter. That was the King’s private affair. He could keep all the concubines he pleased. And all the knightly courtiers ran around trying to be pimps procuring for his majesty the women who could give them favors. He King maintained his home by keeping love out of it. His was the lovely morality that all the bishops and preachers of the realm set down before the head of the State.
But several events have come to change this idyllic scene. In the first place, the King does not matter very much anymore. Of all the important countries, only in Japan can he play a really decisive role. In England, he has become a mere symbol within whose hard shell he is made first a prisoner. Eugene Debs used to be fond of the expression: If you look at the other end of the chain which is fastened to the limbs of the slave you will see it fastened to the limbs of the master. Never was it more true than in the case of Edward.
Notice the “constitutional” evolution of the relation of King to Parliament that has taken place in England. This relationship has had several stages: First Stage (16th century) Absolute Monarchy; Second Stage (First part of 17th century) Parliament pretends to be the King’s Court and Council but does not challenge the basic fact that the law of the land is the King’s law; Third Stage (middle 17th century) Parliament decides it and it alone can interpret the King’s law; Fourth Stage (18th century) Parliament is now the sole source of law, although the King may advise and administer; Fifth Stage (19th century) The King can do nothing except what he is told to do. He can’t even marry without permission.
Such a situation might have remained tolerable were there enough regal women left who would be a fitting match for a King of England. But, alas, Kings are left only in 5th rate countries today—a Bulgaria, a Denmark, a Siam—and what Edward VIII, Rex and Imperator, wants to marry into these holes? There remained, of course, the noble women of England and Scotland. But abdication were better than that!
In bourgeois society generally, marriage is the mask to cover adultery. With Edward there would be no such mask. Understanding his degenerate position, Edward combined his sighs for lost power with a hatred for his smug bourgeois wardens of the Baldwin type. He was driven to a position of extremes. He felt that he and not Parliament represented the people and in his own way he exposed the hypocrisy of the oligarchy that ruled Parliament. This was more than the fakers of the Labor Party had ever done, at any rate. In revenge, the Labor Party would support Baldwin against the King. Edward took to sympathizing with the poor, with the Plebeian. No wonder he became so fond of Americans.
To Englishmen, all Americans are plebeian. Americans have no “Class.” They aren’t rooted or set; they have no traditions; they are uncouth and illiterate. Hating the British snobs who were his captors, the degenerate King revelled in the first American set of ex-patriots who lived in Britain and on the Continent.
Consider these Americans, especially the women. They were parasitic parvenues who were trying to become “classy". They were willing to mix their cocktails in any boudoir with any titled whore-master any time. They fled America as they fled work. For them the chief slogan was “carpe diem,” “Seize the pleasures of the hour.” Wallace Simpson was a member of this set—flotsam and jetsam cast off from the shores of the hard working United States and pollution on the shores of Britain. Naturally, they were made welcome at the Court of King James. Little did they realize as they simperingly kissed the rear end of the King as they were presented at Court, that he really was dreaming of kissing theirs.
The King did learn something from the Americans anyway. He began to appreciate the fact that England was thoroughly behind the times. Compared to America, his country was a back number. American women appealed to him as he admired America as the great capitalist colossus of the world. What he saw in Wallace Simpson was a self-made woman, emancipated in American style, capable of handling herself anywhere. The more incompetent he felt himself to be the more he thought he needed Wally.
The contemplated marriage of the King to the Commoner, Wally, meant a real revolution in the old morals and divorce laws of England; the King exposed their antiquated character nicely. Furthermore, the King was deriding the whole theory of Kingly marriages. First he was marrying for love; this alone was enough to condemn him. Second, he was marrying a commoner, showing that the rest of the kingly crew was hopelessly out-of-date. Third, he was favoring America, England’s greatest creditor and rival.
In politics the King was stepping out of the empty shell of symbolism. This would give an opportunity for a strong executive to arise. It might lead to Fascism, and the British Fascist organizations hailed his step for this reason. It would lead to a criticism of the old status-quo. Fundamentally it meant the change of England from Victorian habits to modern life and a shifting of relations of classes which to the bourgeoisie meant a dangerous step into the unknown. All the Baldwins at once rushed to force the King to abdicate. They would stand by old England. But it cannot be said that the victory of Baldwin over the King was a victory of modern capitalism over antiquated forms. Quite the contrary is really the situation. Since England would not modernize herself under the influence of sex appeal, she will have to do so later when increasing contradictions will force a far greater social explosion.
What about Wally? Like all hard-boiled American women, she was ambitious; she wanted to get on the throne. But America is fated not to get crowns, but to pull down crowns. Wally completed the American Revolution,. Now that Edward has given up his crown, will Wally remain with the King? That is problematical. Wally can build no home for the King; Americans can build no homes for themselves. And what sort of Queen would Wally have made? Who ever heard of an American being Queen? Who would respect her? The only queens we know of in America are queens for Mardi-Gras, for fairs, burlesques and bathing beauties. The American as Queen is a joke, a farce. The fact that a King would make an American a queen shows what a joke royalty has become.