The Spanish Revolution
The Schism in the A.F. of L.
The Communist Party and the Negro
The Strategy of the Fourth International (I)
Also: The Hunger March to Springfield, Illinois;
THE SPANISH REVOLUTION
Ever since the fall of 1930 when the Spanish Revolution began there has been no surcease of the struggle in Spain. For a long time there was a deadlock of forces, an equilibrium in the tug of war between the property holders and the destitute. Now the equilibrium is being definitely broken. The issue before Spain is either Communism or Fascism. The matter is being fought out not with ballots but with bullets and ruthless civil war. Slowly the political revolution is being definitively turned into a social revolution.
From the very beginning, the mass of workers of Spain, both in the city and in the country were the decisive elements. When the students rioted before the universities in 1930 it was only when the workers joined them with a vast general strike that the regime of the military dictator, Primo de Rivera, fell and the temporary regime of General Berenguer set up. When General Berenguer tried to hold fake elections without extending the franchise to all, it was another general strike that overthrew the regime, compelled new elections, forced the king to flee and established the republic in April 1931.
At this point the Syndicalist and Anarchist workers began to miscalculate their forces. Syndicalism and Anarchism, in spite of their revolutionary phraseology were able only to overthrow the old regime and to allow the new democratic republic to be set up; but these movements could not go forward to the positive constructive tasks of setting up the rule of the workers. These antiquated movements were good enough to accomplish the negative and critical tasks of overthrowing an antiquated monarchy; they did not know how to deal with a modern bourgeois republic.
In the course of the revolutionary movement there was set up what in fact amounts to a dual power, the masses respecting the authority of the unions and the revolutionary organizations, the government being forced at times to yield to the opinions of these mass organizations on vital questions. At one time the bourgeois government was even forced to declare that Spain was a workers republic and to feign friendliness toward the Soviet Union.
The leaders of the toilers’ organizations, however, did not know what to do with their power. The lending groups were composed of four principal elements: the Anarchists, the Syndicalists, the Socialists and the Communists. The Anarchists were powerful enough within the trade union movement to exercise decisive influence for a time upon the whole situation. With their Bakuninist idealism they did not appreciate the necessity of preparing for revolt by building powerful organizations in all discontented strata of the population. They attempted one adventure after another and believed that the State could be abolished and all oppression ended by one blow struck by a militant minority. After each failure of the Anarchist workers, the working class would lose some of its strength, the reaction would pick up its head, the government would consolidate its position. All that the Anarchists could do was to wear out the working class in ill prepared battles, in fruitless adventures and to strengthen the reactionary forces.
The failure of the Anarchists who controlled goodly sections of the trade union movement brought about with it also a failure of the Syndicalist movement. A split occurred among the Syndicalists, some breaking from Anarchism and urging the formation of centralized authoritarian bodies leading to the dictatorship of the proletariat. These Syndicalists, however, agreed with the Anarchists in boycotting the State and in ignoring the work of the political parties, in failing to reach the widest strata of the population, etc.
As the Syndicalists too began to be discredited and the working class forces to turn a bit weary, the masses began to flock to the Socialist party banner. In the beginning of the revolution the million organized Spanish workmen had been divided somewhat as follows: about 200,000 belonging to the General Labor Union controlled by the Socialists and about 800,000 under the control of the C.N.T. , the National Federation of Labor led by the Syndicalists and Anarchists. With the deepening of the revolution, however, the masses began to move from the Anarcho-Syndicalists and to join the General Labor Union, so that by 1934 the relation was changed the other way around, 800,000 workers being members and sympathizers of the General Labor Union of the Socialists.
In the meantime the Socialists themselves had undergone somewhat of a change. In the early days of the republic it was the Right Wing Socialists typified by Prieto who controlled the Socialist Party. These were the gentlemen who took office in 1932 together with the Liberals and who at that time declared that they hoped they would not receive a majority of the votes since Spain was not yet ready for Socialism, the masses evidently, being too dumb, to understand our Socialist heroes. Within the government the Socialists aided the Liberals to put the people back to work under capitalist control, to stop the revolution and restore order. If hitherto the revolutions in Spain had mostly of a palace and camarilla variety now it was to be a superficial political revolution only, leaving the basic problems entirely untouched.
Thanks to the Socialist Party, none of the chief demands of the masses were carried out. The land of the wealthy was neither confiscated nor partitioned and given to the poor peasantry, thus the land question still remained a burning one. Inflation robbed the workers of any gain that they might have won through strikes, thus the labor question remained unsolved. The church property which was supposed to be confiscated was left intact and the government proved very slow in separating church from state and in disbanding the disloyal religious orders. Thus the religious question has been left for mass direct action to solve. On their part, the leaders of the workers organizations made no attempt really to arm the people and to establish a workers militia; they did not try to raise the question of workers’ control over production to guaranty to each worker security and life; they did not make the slightest effort to set up revolutionary organs, soviets, to take state power.
Thus, the workers, after turning from the Anarchists and Syndicalists to the Socialists, could not find any better solution to their problems. In time of revolutionary advance it was the Syndicalists that led the way, but since these advances were always defeated, it was the Socialists that gained ultimately. In times of retreat, the workers took to parliamentary actions and to day-to-day economic struggles that placed them under the banner of the Socialists without involving them in a battle for political power. At least under the Socialists the workers were able to build authoritarian centralized mass organizations that recognized that the workers had to capture the state. Only the Socialists believed that they could take control of the state in a peaceful and parliamentary manner.
The Stalinist Communist Party showed itself completely bewildered and futile in all of this action. The entire Spanish revolution caught the Communist International unprepared. In the beginning the Communist Party did its best to attack the Socialists and rejected the united front of all workers’ organizations to fight the capitalist enemy. Instead of the united front they began their crazy tactics of building paper unions, splitting up labor’s forces, etc. The result of this was miserable failure. In the end the Stalinists gave up their special trade union organizations and fused them with the Socialists’ General Labor Union.
In the meantime the Spanish reactionaries had taken heart at the defects and disunity of the workers and prepared one blow after another. They were able to see to it that all the revolutionary measures which the masses had favored were postponed by the Liberal-Coalition government which continued to live only because of the collaboration of the Socialists with it and because the workers did not know what to do with the power they had organized. Having stalled the revolution, the monarchist reactionaries then began their counter-offensive, the most important phase being the attempt of General Sanjurjo with part of the army and Civil Guards.
It was in such periods when reaction threatened that the masses were able to isolate the reactionary cliques and give them crushing blows. The Sanjurjo revolt was quickly put down and the masses demanded death to the traitors and the confiscation of their property. Again the Liberals of the Zanorra-Azana stripe ran to the aid of the reactionaries to protect them from the wrath of the people. Thus the deadlock continued for a number of years. However, this unstable equilibrium could not last forever. The intensifying contradictions throughout the world and within Spain compelled the political movements to give permanent answers to the burning problems of the day.
The great growth of Fascism in Europe, particularly its brutal victory in Germany and Austria, compelled the masses of France and Spain to draw the necessary lessons that the ruling class would never give up its power without a fight. The murder of so many Socialists broke up the Socialist International and caused certain parties to revise their position on legalism and parliamentarism. The Socialists got angry because, in spite of their servility to capitalism, capitalism in its Fascist phase, was kicking the Socialists out of office and making them lose their social reform and nice jobs. These reformists saw that they would have to fight to keep their reforms. The masses, under Socialists influence, were demanding action against Fascism. As the Socialist International now split into fragments, in France and in Spain the Right Wing began to lose influence and to separate itself from the Socialist Party proper. Now it was the turn not of Prieto, but of Caballero, leader of the Socialist “Left” to take control.
The rise of Fascism also occasioned the bankruptcy of Stalinism; these Stalinists now rushed to hide behind the mass organizations of the Socialists and in joining forces with the Socialists, the Stalinists could not but add to the Left Wing strength. The Trotskyites also capitulated and joined the Socialist Party. Thus encouraged by this unification, the Socialist workers demanded that the aims of the Spanish revolution begin to attain realization. The workers called for social insurance, for workers’ control over production, for the division or confiscation of estates, for the real separation of church and state, etc. Then the Liberal-Radical government, now thoroughly under the influence of reactionary forces led by Lerroux, Robles and March, tried to deny the will of the masses, in 1934 there took place, under the banner of the united alliance of Socialists, Communists and certain elements of the Syndicalists who broke away from the Anarchists, the great insurrectionary movement among the miners and other workers in the Asturias region of Spain. The revolt was put down by the government with much cruelty, many hundreds being shot and thousands perishing in the battles.
The Asturias revolt was of enormous significance to the Spanish people. In the first place, it showed the capitalists and large land holders that the people were not going to wait further but were going to divide the land and control their jobs. These reactionaries now began to mobilize their power in earnest. The monarchist agrarian elements now began to cement their close alliance with the capitalist city forces led by Juan March and Gil Robles and others who were forming Fascist groups. As the property even of the Liberal Azana began to be invaded by the peasants, these worthies, the Azana Liberals, leaned all the more closely to the reactionaries, permitting them to have the greatest leeway politically, especially in the organization of their forces in the army. The Liberals no longer would form a coalition with the Socialists under the new terms that the Socialists were compelled to ask but formed a coalition with the rightist element and thus the Socialists were placed outside the ruling bodies of the government. However, by this action the government only made itself still more unpopular and made the Socialist Party lend itself even more to activities of the left groups. The Socialist politicians saw that they could hold their jobs and their heads only by yielding to the demands of the masses and organize them for action.
In the second place the Asturias revolt taught the masses that to win they would have to knock out the state apparatus and set up their own dictatorship. The workers broke forever with rotten Anarchism that had stood aside in the most treacherous manner while the masses were fighting and being shot down. The C.N.T. had refused to take part in the Asturias action; this damned the Anarcho-Syndicalists forever in the eyes of the conscious workers of Spain.
In the third place the fighting gave the masses many lessons in the art of civil war. While it had unified all forces temporarily under the banner of the opportunist Socialist Party, whose opportunism and cowardice was directly responsible, incidentally, for the defeat and isolation of the workers of the Asturias, it had taught the workers and toilers the value of unity in action and the meaning of revolution. The defeat of the workers forced the revolutionary masses to take to parliamentary activity for the time being. This they could do only under the banner of the Socialist Party and at the next election the mass of people for the first time sent an overwhelming leftist delegation to the Cortes. This leftist delegation was made up of Communists, Socialists and Left Radicals, who being more responsive to the masses, at once made an attempt to execute the decrees already passed in 1931 but not yet executed. It is to be noted that the Socialist Party of Spain, under the pressure of the Left Wing, did not take part in forming the government but kept in opposition. By this fact alone, the Socialist Party of Spain showed how more advanced it was than the Socialist Party of France, whose leader, Leon Blum, is premier to do the dirty work for the capitalist class of France and who uses the government to prevent the French from attaining Socialism. In this respect the Spanish revolutionary movement is far more advanced than the French.
In order to execute the decrees desired by the people, the government had to take real control of the army and thus was forced very timidly to begin the reorganization of the army by removing certain Fascist and reactionary generals and officers. The reactionists, however, could not afford to lose the army. They would have to fight rather than give up their chief weapon. At the moment time was pressing heavily against the reactionists. The government in Spain was being pushed to the Left not only by the Spanish masses but by the “People’s” government in France. The great general strike movement in France had shown that the workers were not following the “People’s Front” government in France so much as the “People’s Front” government was following the workers. It was the workers that were taking the initiative and spontaneously forcing the hand of the government, compelling the government to yield on one demand after another. Faced with such powerful support the Leftist government of Spain could not help but go forward and allow the masses to have their will. And in this they were aided by the great strike movement that began to shake Spain as it shook France. The workers were becoming increasingly bolder. Now was the time for the Fascists to strike their blow or never. Such, at least, was the opinion of those sections of the former ruling class and land owners who could no longer wait for favorable world conditions to break for them.
It should be remembered, too, that in Spain the army had always been a paramount political force in the country. He who controlled the army, controlled Spain and the army men had been accustomed to make and unmake governments. This was owing to the fact that for centuries Spain had stagnated and up to recently there had been no class capable of challenging the will of the monarch who ruled through the army and ____ who was displaced by palace revolutions led by men controlling that army. The Spanish army was no good in foreign war. It was, however, an invaluable weapon internally to ________ any resistance to the dictatorships set up within Spain. The Spanish army was also a place where grandees could regain their lost fortunes and get fat salaries doing nothing.
The Spanish revolution, however, had unleashed new forces that were changing the entire character and role of the army. No longer was the army necessarily a decisive force in Spanish history. It was the people who were speaking now in their own name, who demanded the entire dissolution of the old army and the establishment of a workers militia. Up to 1934 the Socialists and others were able to sabotage that demand for a workers’ militia, but with the Asturias uprising and afterward the workers army became a fact and showed its great potentialities. The day of the mercenary standing army with its great pack of generals and officers was doomed, once the revolution was allowed definitely to swing to the Left. No wonder these officers, as one man, looked with hatred and fury upon the revolution and aspired to crush it.
But to put down the masses, the Rightists now had to put down the Leftist parliamentary regime that showed itself so weak before the people. The revolt, therefore, had to be a revolt against the government itself. Thus the Spanish revolution now shows itself to be a replica of the Russian Revolution, as the Revolution had moved to the Left, the Right Wing capitalist elements had conspired against it and were forced to fight the government of the Liberal-Radicals of Kerensky. And in Russia, too, although the masses hated Kerensky and the whole parliamentary frame work and wanted to give all power to the Soviets, yet the workers were compelled to defend Kerensky and parliamentarism. but in the course of this defense the masses were taught to go still further to the Left and wipe out both Kerensky and parliament and establish the Soviet regime and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Comparing the Russian with the Spanish revolutions, we can see that the Russians moved much faster than the Spaniards. It took only nine months for the Russians to complete their revolution and cap it with the rule of the workers. It is now six years since the first “February” days of the Spanish Revolution in 1930 and the Spaniards are no further advanced than the Russians were at the end of six months. The principal reason for this slowness is that the Russian Revolution occurred during the terrible time of the world war when solutions had to be made quickly. Another reason for the slowness is that there is no genuine revolutionary party in Spain. Not as in Russia where there was a Lenin and a genuine Bolshevik party already in existence, long tested and strong, in Spain the workers must now only begin to form their real revolutionary organization. The Spanish workers are groping their way and must create their revolutionary party while they fight. This is a costly and slow process.
The present rebellion offers many important lessons which it will pay the workers of the world to learn very carefully. In the first place we must note that the counter-revolution was evidently carefully prepared and that it was practically able to take with it almost all of the officers. Furthermore, in a very large number of cases, the soldiers have gone with the officers or at least only in a small number of cases have the soldiers revolted from the reactionary officers or has the government been able to use their regular troops against the reactionary rebels. Only in the case of the navy has the government been able to find firm adherents.
All this requires explanation. One of the first things that a revolution must accomplish is to win control over the army. When the revolution first broke out and a republic was formed, it was only the Internationalist Communists who insisted on the necessity of forming Soviets and of reorganizing the army. In fact, the army was left untouched, thanks to the Liberals, Radicals and Socialists who supported the government. The army was left practically untouched because the government was afraid that the masses would go further than a mere republic and begin to form Soviets and to take over industry and land as in Russia. The Liberals then made a firm alliance with the officers of the army to put down the people. We have seen how, in 1934, in the Asturias revolt, it was this very group of Fascist and monarchist officers that did its best to save the bourgeois republic against the proletariat.
A similar situation occurred in the German revolution right after the war. Although in this case it was the German Socialists that took the power, the Socialist leaders, Noske and Scheidemann, allied themselves with the Prussian officers of the Kaisers general staff to shoot down the workers by the hundreds and thousands. This alliance of Liberalism and Socialism with the reactionary military officers in Germany was the only thing that prevented the victory of Communism in that country in 1918, just as it was the only force that prevented the victory of the Asturias revolt in 1934, that is, if we leave out the mistakes made by the workers themselves.
In refusing to clean out the army, the Liberals and the Socialists always like to appear as though they were polite gentlemen and the revolution is to give everyone a new deal. There is to be no more brutality __________ no more struggles; everything is going to work out fine and all will join hands to preserve the revolution. With such a theory there is then no real reason for changing the army or its officers. Socialism will come through the army, which is now democratic, as well as through persuasion. This is the tripe which the yellow Socialists and Liberals always hand out to the workers—with disastrous results. Already in the counter-revolution led by General Sanjurjo in 1933 it was clear that Sanjurjo had recruited all his forces in the national army and Civil Guards and that it was absolutely necessary to clean out that stable of intrigue. But the Liberal government did its best to protect Sanjurjo. It refused to let the masses kill him but promised to give him a trial and execute him itself; then it postponed the trial and did not execute him so that finally he was allowed to leave the country and go to Portugal there to plot against the safety of the Spanish Republic. As a reward for the goodness of the Spanish people to him, General Sanjurjo became the leading light in the present reactionary rebellion until he was killed in an airplane crash.
From the widespread character of the revolt, which occurred simultaneously in the Canaries, in the Balearic Islands, in Africa and in three parts of Spain, in the Basque country, in Catalonia, and in Southern Spain, as well as outbursts elsewhere as in Madrid itself, it is clear that the government forces must have known of the plot and conspiracy against the people. The treacherous Azana type, however, did absolutely nothing to prevent the consummation of the plot. It is only with the new government that came in recently that the first effort is made to cope with the problem. Thus we can see that it is the Liberals and so-called Republican bourgeois who prove their treachery from first to last, who fill the army with monarchists and Fascists, who allow the leading Fascists like Juan March and Gil Robles and Sanjurjo to go scot free, who join hands with them in fact to shoot down the masses. These Liberals and Radicals prove to be the agents of counter-revolution in all of their activities.
Why, then, are these traitors to the people allowed to remain in the government? Solely because the Socialist and Communist Parties give them permission to do so, protect and defend them. The People’s Front that contains these Liberal and Radical scoundrels could not last one minute were it not for the Socialist and Communist bureaucracies which support them. And why are they supported? Because the Socialists and Stalinists refuse to take the power, they refuse to establish Soviets, they refuse to take over the factories, they have degenerated from instruments of the revolutionary masses to instruments to save capitalism in spite of itself.
Why have not the soldiers broken from their rebellious officers? Why cannot the government rely on its regular troops, why must it call in the workers and toilers of Spain to do the fighting? The answer is very simple. In all the course of the Revolution, the Socialists were allied with the Liberals who in turn supported the officers against the soldiers and who ordered the soldiers to shoot down the people. The Socialists and Communists did nothing to protect the soldier, did nothing to work within the army so as to form revolutionary nuclei in advance. Both Socialists and Communists wanted to concentrate on legal, parliamentary work. Work within the army was too dangerous for these politicians. Thus the army was entirely neglected with fatal results.
Only in the Navy did the government get adequate support. The sailors here killed their officers or jailed them and ran up the Republican and Red flags. It is the navy that has done yeomen work. The ships have prevented the passage of thousands of Moroccan troops controlled by the Rightists which would have been used against the Spanish people. The seamen of the Spanish navy by their action illustrate again what has been noted in the German and Russian revolutions and also seen after war in France and in England, namely, that the sailors are the closest to the proletariat in the armed forces of the state and respond the quickest to the calls of the proletarian revolution.
There are many reasons for this which we shall give briefly: First, the sailors are recruited from elements of the proletariat in the cities: Second, the work of the seamen on modern warships is work similar to that of a regular mechanic and workman. Third, the work is extremely disagreeable, tedious and monotonous and the tyranny of the officers is especially irksome. Fourth, the seamen are never called on to shoot down the people. This is left to the army. They are totally unused to handling mobs of their own nationality and have instead been always accustomed to look for foreign enemies only. Fifth, the travels and mode of life of the sailors permit them to look at events from an international angle and to discuss all matters thoroughly on the ship. Communication and organization of sailors one with the other is extremely simplified and easy. There are many other reasons to explain the difference between the two arms of the military machine, the land and sea forces, but these are enough to account for the revolts in the Black Sea, in the Baltic and in the Kiel Canal in the various revolutions in the past, as well as for the more recent outbreaks in the British, Dutch and Chilean navies.
The chief force behind the government is the workers and the peasant toilers. Here again lengthy explanations are needed to account for this. It is possible that the government can really rely on a number of regiments of soldiers and on thousands of police and Civil Guards. The reports are not clear. At any rate these soldiers and policemen are not being sent to the front. They are being kept to protect the government from its own supporters, the workers and peasants who may get out of control of the Socialist and Communist parties and may begin to get reckless and take over private property in their own interests. Thus we read this ominous account in the Chicago Tribune: “Refugees from Barcelona reported… that the full force of the Civil Guard had been mobilized to combat what they called ‘anarchy’.”
In ordinary revolutionary situations the masses try to win over the army but are forced to exterminate the professional police against the regular army. But if this is true, such a situation could only come about first because of the failure of the workers’ organizations to do serious work in the army, and second, through the fact that the workers are being taught to be merely coolies to help out the Liberal bourgeois republic. Soon enough the masses will begin to shoot down the police as their most bitter enemies the moment the revolution goes beyond mere defense of the “People’s Front” government. Incidentally, it is here seen just what sort of a “people’s government the present government is when it can be supported by the scum of the Spanish police force which has been founded and constantly used to kill the workers and the peasants.
But if the government can not rely on its regular force but must arm the workers and toilers then why should the latter fight for the bourgeoisie? Why don’t these workers form their own revolutionary bodies and take over the government? Since the only real force on the side of the government is the masses, then why should not the masses go the whole way? Here we see the counter-revolutionary role of the Socialists and Communists clearly exposed. Whereas the tactics of Lenin in the Russian Revolution was as follows: The Soviets should call out the masses to fight the counter-revolutionary Kornilov but not to support the Kerensky regime which also was against the people, even thought immediately it would be the Kerensky regime that would be saved from Kornilov. The line of the Spanish Stalinists is not that of Lenin, namely to organize the separate forces of the proletariat to defeat reaction but not to support the government bosses, but rather the Stalinist line is to defend the government and merge the workers’ troops with those of the government bosses.
Thus here again the Socialists and Stalinists show the workers that they are to fight for the government bosses and not for themselves. Instead of demanding a change in the government, instead of forcing Soviets and increasing their dual power, instead of raising the cry of a workers’ and people’s militia, instead of marching separately toward power and toward Socialism, the Socialists and Communists do all in their power to keep in office the bankrupt treacherous Liberals and bourgeois forces whom all despise and who have no supporters of their own any more.
Thus the workers and toilers who should be fighting to overthrow the capitalist government of Spain are now its chief defenders. The Communists and Socialists who should be exposing the aid to the enemy that the government has given is covering up the crimes of Azana and the rest. In short, the policy of the Communists is exactly the policy of the Mensheviks and Socialists in all countries to save capitalism.
However, there is one very bright side to the situation. The masses have actually been able to obtain arms and have been able to meet the forces of the regular army. Frederick Engels long ago had pointed out that a civilian population could not hope to defeat a regular army unless it could split this army. Here the army is practically a unit and is not split, so far as we can see from reports which state that the government does not use regular troops much against the rebels. On the other hand, it has the navy and some few of the aviation corps with it and has also neutralized and paralyzed a section of the army. Thus the people have some of the armed forces on their side. This has been sufficient to encourage the workers and to make them feel that they can meet the regular army and defeat it in open battle. It is to be noted too that the rebels have been much scattered and unable to form one single great force.
In the cities like Barcelona the garrison was crushed soon enough by the mighty force of the proletariat. In Madrid the process was a bit longer since Madrid is not an industrial center like Barcelona but eventually the same result was obtained. Similarly in other cities. Thus the ordinary aspects of internecine civil war, street by street and house by house have as yet been avoided. Because of the smallness of the active rebel army, the people have been able to stop the army by means of guerrilla warfare of which the mountainous terrain of Spain and the training and traditions of the people are peculiarly adapted.
The fact of the matter is that Frederick Engels’ statement must be modified in the light of present day events. In many countries the whole population today is trained to the use of arms or had served in the army. In the present period marked by perpetual violence, war and civil war, it is quite possible that there exist elements among the population able to defeat the regular army in open battle, relying on their overwhelming numbers to overcome the army’s superior organization and techniques. Especially is this true where the army is small, weak, mercenary and unused to real battles, while the population has gone through the experiences of world wars and revolutionary battles.
The present battles are unifying the whole Spanish people are putting an end to the interminable provincialities and narrow petty sectionalisms that divided the Spanish workers and toilers. After the Asturias revolt it has become clear that reaction can be defeated only when the entire Spanish proletariat gets into action all together and simultaneously. On the other hand it is seen that reaction is well aware of the need of national concertedeffortto defeat the Spanish proletariat. Thus one of the great results of the Spanish battles will be to kill the old Liberal and Anarchist particularisms and federalisms that have flourished for so long a time in Spain. The people will become more unified than ever.
Particularly significant in the struggle of the masses against reaction is the attitude of the Spanish women, many of who have entered into the people’s army and are bearing the brunt of the fighting. Only a few months ago the Spanish Socialists were bewailing the “reactionary” character of the Spanish women. They were weeping that the Socialists were forced to introduce votes for women in Spain when the women were affected by the priests and would be against the Socialists. Now the women are in the very forefront of the struggle. This shows how little the Socialist Party understood the situation, how little they understood the Spanish women and the revolutionary potentialities of the Spanish masses. Because the Spanish women didn’t fool around with the trivialities of ballot box parliamentarism, because they could see through the Socialist pompous phrasemongerers and careerists, this did not at all mean that once the revolution really started the women of the working class would not show themselves infinitely more revolutionary than the Socialist officials and their philistine philosophers.
The prolongation of the fighting is only turning the civil war into deeper and deeper channels and driving the masses more and more to the Left. This is the best guarantee that the rebellion will be liquidated entirely and the reactionists thoroughly defeated. But the prolongation of the struggle has permitted the Spanish fighting to take on an international aspect. Italy and Germany are openly aiding the Spanish rebels and it is reported that in return the rebels will turn over certain Spanish African colonies to the Fascists.
The English, now thoroughly alarmed for their own empire, have been forced to put aside their favoritism for the Spanish reaction and take a more favorable view of the Leftist government. At first the British would not at all help the navy of the Spanish government, refusing it coal, oil and supplies. But this is changing, what with the shipping over of airplanes and materials by Italy to the Rightists.
France, too, is beginning to be worried. The Blum regime has been compelled to take a friendly view of the Spanish Leftist government since it is practically of the same character. But the Blum government could look on complacently enough while the reactionary forces were beating the government which lacked supplies and was looking to France for help. Only when it had become clear that should the rebels win France would be surrounded by Fascist states, that Spain would then ally itself with Italy and thus greatly diminish the power of France in the Mediterranean, that the Spanish victory of the Right would precipitate civil war in France too, that French Morocco is also moving to revolt as Spanish Morocco has done, only when all this had become acute did the French Socialist regime make a move to help the Spanish government. Of course should the rebellion fall and the Spanish government need help to put down the threatening masses, of course the French government will help with all its might.
In the meantime all the governments of Europe are arming, feverishly preparing to intervene if necessary for their own imperialist aims. There is, for example, the great prize of Spanish Morocco. What would not Italy or Germany give for this prize! Even before the world war, the attempt on the part of Germany to win a foothold in this part of Africa led to the Algeciras affair and almost precipitated armed conflict then. Now the same situation is arising. England can maintain her hold on Gibraltar only if a weak and friendly country controls both sides of the Straights. England could never permit an Italy or a Germany to hold this ground. But this is precisely what the Spanish rebels are offering to Italy in return for support. This can only mean war should Italy accept the offer.
But there is something else of great importance to worry the “People’s Front” governments of France and Spain. It is highly significant that the chief forces of the reactionists come from Morocco. We do not refer to the Foreign Legion stationed there. The Foreign Legion is made up of the scum and criminal element of the world and is everywhere ready for Fascist adventure and for slaughter of the civilian population at the behest of its leading butchers. We refer to the native Moroccan troops. Why do the Moroccan troops take this side against the government? The reason is that the workers’ organizations, the Socialists and Communists of Spain never bothered their heads with demanding the freedom of Morocco from Spanish imperialism. The Spanish Republic has carried on the same policy of imperialism as King Alphonso. And to this day the Communists make no demand nor does the “Leftist” government utter one word on the question of freedom for Morocco. Thus the Spanish Communists show themselves to be imperialists or capitalist tools interested in maintaining their domination in Africa over the Moors and the Negroes. Is it any wonder, then, that the Moroccans should retaliate with a struggle to the death against the Socialists and Communists who support the imperialist government of Spain? The crimes of the Socialists and Communists have furnished to the General Francos and Mollas, reactionists , their best troops against the people of Spain. Of course, Franco does his work with promises that he will help the Moroccans. In the meantime the rebellion would have been crushed a long time ago had the “People’s Front” government come out for the self-determination and liberation of Morocco and the other African colonies.
A similar situation is brewing in France. The wonderful “People’s Front” government of France under the premiership of Leo Blum has also refused to free the French colonies. Already a revolt had to be crushed in French Morocco and the French Fascists are now busy stirring up discontent against the “People’s Front” government and are preparing to use the African Colonial troops in France in the same way that the Spanish general, Franco has used them in Spain. Thus the treachery of the Socialist and Communist parties on the colonial question is costing thousands of workers’ lives and making it extraordinarily difficult to put down the enemy bourgeoisie. This is only another illustration of the rule that the workers are not fit to win unless they can burn out all the garbage and pus that capitalism has filled them with. If they do not know how to free the colonial slaves, if they work hand in glove with their bosses, then the workers will be defeated and perish by the hundreds of thousands and even millions until they learn the basic lesson that workers can not win freedom without fighting for the freedom of all.
What are the perspectives for the Spanish Revolution and what are the lines of struggle of the workers? The general principles have been well laid down by Marx some 85 years ago when he declared (See his “Two Speeches"): “The democratic petty bourgeoisie, far from desiring to revolutionize the whole society, are aiming only at such changes of the social conditions as would make life in existing society more comfortable and profitable… As for the workingman--well, they should remain wage workers; for whom, however, the democratic party would procure higher wages, better labor conditions and a secure existence. The democrats hope to achieve that part through state and municipal management and through welfare institutions. In short they hope to bribe the working class into acquiescence and thus to weaken their revolutionary spirit by monetary concessions and comforts.”
“The democratic demands can never satisfy the party of the proletariat. While the democratic petty bourgeoisie would like to bring the revolution to a close as soon as their demands are more less complied with, it is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent, to keep it going until all the ruling and possessing classes are deprived of power, the governmental machinery occupied… with us it is not a matter of reforming private property but of abolishing it.”
“It is a matter of course that in the future sanguinary conflicts as in all previous ones, the working men by their courage, resolution and self-sacrifice will form the main force in the attainment of victory. As hitherto, so in the coming struggle, the petty bourgeoisie as a whole will maintain an attitude of delay, irresolution and inactivity as long as possible in order that, as soon as victory is assured, they may arrogate it to themselves and call upon the workers to avoid so-called excesses and thus shut off the workers from the fruits of victory… The workers must not be swept off their feet by the general elation and enthusiasms of the new order of things which usually follow upon street battles; they must quench all ardor by a cool and dispassionate conception of the new conditions and must manifest upon distrust of the new government.”
“Besides the official government they must set up a revolutionary workers government, either in the form of local executives and communal councils or workers clubs or workers committees so that the bourgeois democratic governments not only immediately lose all backing among the workers but from the commencement find themselves under the supervision and threats of authorities behind whom stands the entire mass of the working class. In short, from the first moment of victory we must no longer direct our distrust against the beaten reactionary enemy but against our former allies, against the party who are now about to exploit the common victory for their own ends.”
It can be seen that the Stalinists and Socialists have violated all the precepts laid down by Marx just as they have violated the fundamental advice of Lenin. Under the lethal influence of Stalin, the petty bourgeois government is supported in all of its criminal activities and the workers become the coolies for the property holders.
However, what is very hopeful in the situation is that there is the strongest possibility of the masses breaking away from the Socialist and Communist parties in the course of the present struggles and really adopting a revolutionary line that will lead to the building up of genuine revolutionary organizations.
There is no doubt but that the Spanish Revolution must take a great jump to the Left in the immediate future. The present rebellion, from all reports, will be put down within Spain itself. The whole army will then have to be reorganized and for once there will be approximated a people’s army or workers’ militia. The government will oppose this tooth and nail but the government will be pushed aside. The masses will be armed. The prestige of the workers’ organizations is enormous. There will be no force within Spain capable of defeating the workers movement now, except the blunders of the masses themselves. The peasants will begin more fiercely than ever to seize the land, the workers will begin to institute a control over industry to guaranty a living wage and security for all. Once the rebels are defeated the workers will have to solve the problem of unemployment and sabotage of the bosses. This can only lead them to the question of taking power themselves. The government has become thoroughly exposed as completely impotent and utterly dependent upon the masses.
All this must lead the workers to join en masse their organizations and take over the situation. Already the union membership has jumped to 1,500,000 according to all reports. The workers in their shop committees and unions will come together into joint councils and begin to take action in their own behalf. Thus will the dual power really be established. Out of these shop committees will come real Communists who will build a new internationalist Communist force capable of leading the workers to victory.
From press reports we learn that all the so-called “revolutionary” parties have now come together in Catalonia where the Communist Party, the Socialist Party and the Party of Marxist Unity (Maurin-Nin groups) have come together to form one organization. This will prove to be a step forward in spite of the combined bureaucracy which now confronts the workers. The consolidation was effected not in order to protect the gains of the revolution but to prevent the masses from breaking the discipline set down by the Socialists and Stalinists and to stop the masses from going too far in overthrowing capitalism.
The masses will want to dissolve the parliamentary regime and set up their own dictatorship through revolutionary juntas or soviets. This the Socialists and Stalinists will do their best to prevent. If these parties lose control of the masses, then we shall see the very Liberals who gave the workers arms, presumptively, to fight the Fascists now go over wholesale to the side of the reaction. The Civil Guards and the rest of the soldiers will be used against the people. The British and French regimes will send in their armed forces to crush the Spanish proletarian revolution.
And yet the formation of Soviets and the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat is the only real way out for the Spanish people. Now is the time, when the people are armed, to form Soviets, to socialize industry, to create the rule of the workers and peasants and stamp out the enemy, capitalism. Such resolute action in Spain will be bound to precipitate the proletarian revolution in France and to throw the whole European situation into the vital struggle of Communism or Fascism. From that battle there can come but one result. Faced with a victorious worker’s revolution in France and Spain from the West, and with a mighty Red Army that will have brushed aside Stalinism, from the East, the Fascists of Central Europe will be torn to pieces.
If the workers follow the Socialists and Stalinists, however, then the bourgeois governments will remain, the workers will lose their gains, chaos will return, reaction will raise its head, ultimately the People’s Front government will be defeated by Fascism even in France. Here is the terrible price the workers will have to pay unless they can build up their own Communist parties and Fourth International.
Since the above article was written events have crowded thick and fast upon the Spanish scene. Revolution, that locomotive of history, is moving at terrific spead making evident once more to all observers how mind limps after matter and how far behind is even the keenest watcher during such moments. In this postscript we jot down some additional remarks we deem of importance.
Because of the miserable mistakes of the workers’ leaders and the ample preparations of the counter-revolution the present civil war is entering into an extremely bitter phase. This is fortunate rather than otherwise since it means that it will take the utmost heroism of all the people to win the day; consequently in the heat of the struggle the opportunism and blundering so prevalent in the beginning of the action will be burned out and the masses will be able to form new revolutionary organizations steeled in struggle and truly their own. Each day’s prolongation of the civil war draws new layers into the struggle and strengthens the workers’ forces. Each day’s struggle makes the tasks of the Fascist-Monarchist coalition harder to perform.
The hope of all such minority rebellions lies in their superior organization and technique, in the use of their preparations to the fullest advantage, in striking hard and suddenly at the important points, demoralizing the centers and taking control before the masses can be aroused. This was the original plan of the counter-revolution but it failed. Now the reaction must conquer every hill and road only after heavy casualties. No sooner does it win a point when it must settle down with large forces to hold that point. To survive the reactionists must terrorize the countryside and carry on ruthless executions of masses of people. Thus every day’s continuance of the war sinks the reaction deeper and deeper into a swamp from which they cannot hack themselves out and where they cannot be sustained.
In the meantime the volunteer corps of the workers are becoming formidable armies. Lessons are being learned, old mistakes are no longer repeated. The enemy is being physically wiped out everywhere. The government is forced to rely entirely upon the strength of the toilers who sooner or later must take things completely into their own hands and decide their destiny for themselves. Already they have exposed how the government republican officials are playing into the hands of the bourgeoisie by refusing to let the workers fight the battles in the way that will bring victory. The miners want to blast out the enemy from their strongholds with dynamite which they know hot to use with great effectiveness. It is the republican government that refuses to let them do so. Daily the treachery, the weakness, the idiocy of the government republican officials became known to the masses. The government begins to lose its standing. The masses became ready to take over for themselves.
We have already noted that it was only when in the last elections the Lefts had polled about 4 1/2 million votes and had obtained 266 delegates to the Cortes to the 217 of the Rights and Centrists, that the first steps had been taken to push the revolution forward. Amnesty was given to the 30,000 prisoners of the 1934 revolt; the statute granting Catalonian autonomy was restored, payments by tenant farmers pending redistribution of the big estates were suspended, the church and state were separated an army shakeup occurred and the Fascist Falange Espanola was dissolved. It was these measures that provoked the counter-revolution; but at the same time it was the bourgeois republicans who hoped to use these measures to keep control of the situation and prevent the ‘rods’ from going farther.
Although the elections had thrown out Zamorra as President of the Republic and had installed Azana (Zamorra had been responsible for the use of force against the 1934 revolt) Azana had no love for the real left forces since already the peasants were seizing his (Azana’s) estates and partitioning them and as a “Left” he could hardly protest. But as “Current History” reported at the time: “Responsible banking quarters feel Azana will do everything in his power to resist Socialist pressure for extreme measures pointing out that in the Popular Front program he rejected the Laborites’ demand for nationalization of land and banks and a dole for the unemployed. (May, 1936, p 92)
All the signs point to the desertion of the ship of state by the bourgeois republican rats. In the course of the struggle the Socialists headed by Largo Cabellero who is playing with the title of the “Spanish Lenin”, will have to take over the government. Of course the Socialists will not want to transform the government into Soviets. Indeed, the Socialists will take over the government only in order to prevent the Soviets and the organizations of the workers from dominating the scene and deciding events. Rather than allow Soviets to be formed the bourgeois republicans will turn parliament over to the Socialists. Once in power the Socialists may temporarily talk about nationalization of certain industries, but that will be only while the fighting is on. By no means will they countenance the taking over the factories by the workers. But the workers will begin to do this anyway. Thus the very taking over of power by the Socialists will mean the rupture with the republican bourgeoisie who will go over to the side of the reactionary enemy. This will result in an intensification of the civil war which in turn will make the compromising position of the Socialists utterly untenable and the Socialists too will be forced to quit the scene as a progressive force.
Within the Anarchist and Syndicalist ranks there exists great confusion and the best of these elements are abandoning their old theoretical positions and moving closer to the Communist one. That is, instead of being Communist-Anarchist or Communist-Anarcho-Syndicalists they are becoming Communists although retaining to some extent their Anarchist or Syndicalist traditions and tendencies. Thus, for example, we see that a special committee of fifteen is taking over the government of Catalonia and that several Anarchists and Syndicalists are on this committee. Anarchists on a government committee! Who would have possibly believed that this evolution would take place! And yet, all that this means is that the Anarchists are keeping their old name and some of their tendencies but that the revolution has caused them to wake up to the real situation, namely that the dictatorship of the proletariat is inevitable and is the only method by which to crush the enemy. It is the same with the Syndicalists. In spite of their different traditions and concepts they have been forced into the general direction of genuine Communism.
As these Anarchist and Syndicalist groups move to the Left it is natural that they begin to regain their influence, especially when the masses are forced to turn away from the fake Communists, the Stalinists, in increasing number. While some of the Anarchists and Syndicalists actually want to form the dictatorship of the proletariat and have the workers take over the factories, build a red army and crush the enemy, the scurvy of the Stalinists are reported to have the following position: “The Central Committee of the Spanish Communist Party, an important element in the Popular Front regime in Madrid, announced through the French Communist Party tonight that it planned no ‘installation of a dictatorship of the proletariat. The Spanish Communists said they were fighting the Fascists with other Spanish republican organizations ‘only for the defense of the republican order in respect to property."’ (N.Y. Times report, Aug. 2nd, Paris dateline)
An increasingly important role is being played by the Proletarian Party of Marxist Unity. The program of this party (led by Nin) is the closest approximation to the one that we have set forth and calls for the taking over of the factories, the confiscation of the land and the moving forward towards Soviets. Nothing, however has been reported as to its policy on Morocco. Only recently Trotsky was denouncing Nin for not joining the Socialist party. Like the Communist League of Struggle, Nin has taken the course away from the Socialist Party and had broken from Trotsky on this. Now Nin’s group is playing a far greater revolutionary role than the Trotsky followers ever could hope to play within the socialist Party. Here, again, Trotsky has missed up.
In the meantime we have to note the poor role that Russia is playing in all of this affair. After it was announced that the Russian unions were going to collect money to help the Spanish revolution, suddenly, without explanation, the Russian bureaucrats called off the drive. This, apparently, in deference to the wishes of Leon Blum and the French capitalists, or at least that is how the matter was reported. Even if this money had been collected it would have been sent to the Spanish government, that is to the traitor Azana and not to the Spanish workers’ organizations although the money was collected not by the government itself but by workers. In the meantime the Fascist countries, Italy and Germany, are playing an increasing role in aid of the rebels. Were Russia to help the Spanish government this would call for no objection from the capitalist governments since it has been long established that a friendly government can aid another government but not a rebellion against that government. It is Italy and Germany who are openly violating this international rule. On the other hand Russia would have been entirely within her rights even from a capitalist angle had she shipped aid to the Spanish Leftist Government. But she has done nothing of the sort. As usual Stalinism, with its theory of Socialism in one country, says to the workers of the world, “We have got ours, the hell with you.”
It has now become increasingly clear that the backbone of the rebels’ army is the Moroccan troops. The Moroccans, after the capture of Abd-El-Krim, were disarmed by the Spanish government; the Fascists have now rearmed the Moroccans. This is a step forward for the Moroccans. How could the Moroccans have refused to take these arms when it means the possibility of making another fight for freedom? Nor is it incorrect for the Moroccans to fight the Spanish Government! Whom else shall the Moroccans fight? It is the existing government of Spain that has oppressed them and this is the real enemy they must overthrow. Thus the colonial troops have a fine spirit and morale. They eagerly kill the Spanish workers who refuse to call for the independence of Morocco. And in a measure they are correct. They are correct to take arms wherever they can get them. They are correct to resist and fight the Spanish government. They are correct too in their estimation that their real enemy is the existing government no matter who composes it and that after they defeat the Spanish government they can defeat the few officers in their ranks who might try to prevent them from obtaining freedom.
There is only one way to deal with this problem and that is for the workers of Spain themselves to fight their capitalist republican government, to overthrow it and show to the Moroccans in deed that their cause is one that the same fight that will free the Spanish workers will free the colonial toilers and masses of the world.
As the Communist International turns more and more into nationalistic channels and becomes merely a cheap agency for Soviet foreign diplomacy, the American section of the Comintern, the Communist Party of the U.S.A. takes on an increasingly chauvinistic attitude towards the Negroes. As the Russian Stalinists handled Ethiopia and the French Stalinists handle the African colonial question, so do the Americans handle the Negroes of this country.
The degeneration that is steadily occurring among the Stalinists is taking place without any discussion or open acknowledgment. As usual, the changes take place surreptitiously from the top and then the new orders are given to those below. There is no congress, there are no debates, there is no attempt at any analysis of the objective circumstances as to whether a change in line is warranted. The changes take place gradually until all at once the honest members realize how far they have gone in a counter-revolutionary direction. Then they leave the Communist Party making way for new members who go through the same process, enter enthusiastically, soon become disillusioned and quit.
The so-called Negro leaders of the Communist Party are in intimate cahoots with the general leadership to betray the Negro masses. They know very well that the moment they dare to think for themselves and really try to help the Negro people their careers will be cut off immediately and their nice jobs will be ended. It is time that we exposed these petty fakers in the Communist movement and the whole line of degeneration of the Communist International on the Negro question.
Russian Nationalism and Ethiopia
The first great objective test of what the Stalinists would do regarding the Negro question was show clearly in Russia’s and the Comintern’s attitude on the Ethiopian question. The struggle between Ethiopia and Italy was of the highest importance in world affairs. In the first place it was a sign that the colonial peoples of Africa had the spirit and the will to fight against imperialism. Second, it meant a severe loss and defeat for world Fascism and reaction were the struggle to cost Mussolini’s forces many casualties. A long drawn out war, no matter what the outcome physically would be in Africa, would inevitably lead to the overthrow of Fascism in Italy and the sharpening to its highest pitch of the revolutionary movement in Europe.
This was all the more important since Fascism had won repeated victories, thanks to the failure of the Socialists and Stalinists everywhere. The Stalinists had run away in Germany without even a fight and like yellow dogs had placed their tails between their legs in fright as they fled. The Socialists in Austria had demonstrated that they were incapable of fighting in any effective way. In both these countries the masses were tied too closely to the Socialist and Communist party machines to put up an independent battle. Only in France and in Spain where the masses were able to retain their own initiative and violates the discipline of both Socialist and Communist parties and force the politicians of these parties into the struggle with them has any sort of battle been put up against Fascism. At this period of deadly retreat and revolutionary bankruptcy in the face of Fascist advances all over the world, then, it was the African Negroes of Ethiopia who decided to engage in a life and death struggle with Italian Fascism and world reaction.
In the struggle between Ethiopia and Italian Fascism it was the paramount duty of all genuine Communists to aid Ethiopia with all of their power. So far as the world revolution was concerned it was not even necessary that Ethiopia should win the war and resist invasion to the end--something difficult for such a backward, weak country--all that was necessary that Ethiopia should put up such a battle as to weaken and ruin Italian Fascism. This in turn would stir up the Italians to revolution and help the proletariat of the world and the colonial masses of Africa. It is in the light of this relatively modest task that we can judge the complete failure of the Communist International and Communist Russia. For it is a fact that far from helping Ethiopia the Communists in reality helped Italian Fascism and did their share to bring about the victory of reaction.
When the conflict between Italian Fascism and Ethiopia opened up the proletariat all over the world began to raise the demand that an embargo be placed on all Italian trade. Seamen began to refuse to carry Italian goods, workers everywhere began to send in their protests. At this moment the Soviet Union could find no better outlet for their oil and petroleum than to ship them to Italy let big contracts with the Soviet Union for these important war commodities. Thus while the workers throughout the world were protesting against helping Italy, the country of the working-class under the leadership of that so-called revolutionist, Stalin, did all in its power to nullify that embargo and to help the Italian Fascists.
The Stalinists have claimed that these contracts were already made and that the Soviet Union could not repudiate them. This is nonsense, since contracts can always be made subject to new and changed conditions uncontemplated when the contract was originally made. Besides, how often have we heard that phrase “sanctity of contracts” from the lips of the bourgeoisie or the A.F.L. fakers whenever it became necessary to divide the workers of the world and to get one section to scab on the other. Furthermore, some of these contracts for Soviet oil were made after it had become clear that the oil was to be used for war purposes to crush the Negroes of Africa.
The Stalinists have argued that if the Soviets had refused to sell the oil, Italy would have become the implacable enemy of the Soviet Union and this would have led directly to war. But no amount of oil will smoothen out the troubled waters between world Fascism and Communism. The war is bound to go between them to the finish whether contracts are fulfilled or not it is absolutely ridiculous to imagine that Italy would have declared war on Russia because of her refusal to sell oil.
They claim that if Russia had not sold the oil, Italy would have been able to purchase the oil elsewhere. This is perfectly true and yet we must keep in mind that the whole object of the Communists should have been to prolong and make the war as difficult for Mussolini to carry out as possible. Every bit of advantage should have been taken to make the war costly and to bankrupt Italian Fascism. As it was Italy was able to win precious time by means of the fine execution of the Soviets contracts for oil.
Finally, the C.P. declares that Russia could not have acted all alone without support from the rest of the world. But as a matter of fact in a short while the League of Nations came out for certain forms of economic sanctions and Russia would no longer have been isolated and alone. It is hardly to be believed the if Russia would have acted prior to the League that then the League of Nations would have refused to act itself. Quite the contrary, it might very well have stimulated the League to act even more drastically and efficiently. But most important of all, it must always be remembered that the rest of the world is capitalistic while Russia is supposed to be run by the workers and that Russia would always have to go it alone were she to work for the revolution.
But even if we assume that Russia had to fulfill these contracts, then certainly Russia should have been willing at least to aid Ethiopia as well. But this was far from the reality. When Ethiopia sent a special appeal to Russia to help it, there was no answer given. Russia refused to separate itself from the capitalist countries in the League of Nations, it refused to take the initiative to help the oppressed colonial peoples of Africa. The least that Soviet Russia could have done was to turn over the profits made on the oil deals with Italy to Ethiopia. The least the workers of the Soviet Union could have done was to aid Ethiopia with arms and credits and supplies of all sorts. If Russia could enter into contracts with Italy, why could it not have sold guns and supplies to Ethiopia also on credit? The fact of the matter is that Russia acted in an entirely anti-revolutionary manner, in a nationalist manner, making it plain that it would stand by the imperialists of the world in this fight and that it did not intend to help the Ethiopians in the slightest.
In order to hide its treachery, the Soviet Union began to make an appearance of activity within the League of Nations to “help” Ethiopia. Within the League of Nations it began to call for sanctions for the carrying out of the Covenant of the League of Nations to which Italy and Ethiopia had been partners. It is necessary to expose the thorough hypocrisy and treachery to the workers of the world involved in this demagogy for “sanctions.”
Russia and the Communist International knew very well that action through the League of Nations was absolutely worthless and could never be achieved. But Russia has found it to its purpose to foster illusions in the League of Nations. To Lenin, the League of Nations was a band of robbers, but to Stalin, who believes that you can build Socialism in one country alone and that capitalism and Socialism can coexist side by side peacefully, the League of Nations is a happy family of civilized peoples. Lenin declared war on the League of Nations, Stalin joins the League and praises it, as a force for “democracy” and against Fascism.
Even before the conflict broke out in Ethiopia, Stalinism had made it very plain that it had no sympathy with the outbreak of the African masses against imperialism. Some years before, Litvinoff, Soviet emissary, had argued heatedly for a disarmament plan. According to him this was the way to reach eternal peace, not through civil war of the workers and colonial masses but through pleas for “disarmament.” In these disarmament proposals of his, Litvinoff very carefully made an exception of the “police force” of the imperialist countries which were supposed to disarm. They were supposed to give up tanks and big cannon, etc., but to keep their colonial armies, their machine guns and small arms, precisely the very weapons and the very forces which have kept colonial masses in subjection. In these plans all that Russia was concerned in was her own national development and she was quite prepared to sacrifice the interests of the colonial masses all over the world.
Russia knows very well that the countries still in the League of Nations are the greatest holders of African territory, the greatest slavers and lynchers of the Negroes in Africa. Great Britain and France and a few others together practically control all of Africa at a tremendous cost to the natives. It was brought out in an official report, for example, that it cost 1,000 Negroes’ lives for every mile of railroad built in the Belgian Congo. By joining the League of Nations, Stalinism joined forces with the greatest oppressors of the Africans and the Negroes of the world. But Stalinism is quite ready to sacrifice the 150,000,000 Africans so long as she can get a few promises to back up her rotten nationalism.
If the League of Nations was ready to fight Italy on the question of Ethiopia, it was not because Britain or France cared a whoop about Ethiopia. In fact, the secret agreements had already been made which acknowledged Italy’s claims in Ethiopia. What England above all was afraid of was that her own vast slave domain would be challenged by Italy. She wanted to grab part of Ethiopia to herself or at least to share it together with France and Italy that had also put in claims. Actually these crooks and robbers got together during the conflict to work out some sort of compromise on how to share the loot. The meeting broke up only because Italy insisted on grabbing everything for herself and giving the other slave holders and lynchers of the Negroes nothing whatever. Then it was that England and France began to get active and to move the League of Nations into protesting.
Now for Russia not to expose these secret deals was to become a partner to them. For Russia to put faith in the action of these anti-Negro slavers was to betray the cause of the world revolution. For Russia to “play the game” of the League of Nations was to help unchain the African masses even still further.
It is plain to every real revolutionist that it was the duty of the Communist International to have aided Ethiopia in every possible manner within Africa itself. The Communists should have called on the Egyptians to help Ethiopia and to revolt against England. The Communists should have tried to stir up revolt in the French Sudan and in Senegal, among the Zulus and the Kaffirs and the other militant African tribes. It was very plain that the fight of Ethiopia was the opportunity of all Africa to throw off the imperialist chains.
But nowhere did the Communists urge the Negroes of the French and British colonies to revolt. France and Britain, you see, are the “friends"? It may be said that the Russian government could not have issued any appeals for the Africans to revolt, but this would not hold good for the Communists of Africa, of England, of France or of Italy. There is not to be found a single article in the entire world Stalinist press that even whispered this line of action, namely that every effort must be bent to widen and deepen the struggle in Africa to include all the masses in a struggle no only against Italian imperialism but against all imperialisms, that of the robbers of the League of Nations as well.
In former days, as for example, in the days when Abd-El-Krim revolted in Morocco, the Communists then urged all to aid Abd-El-Krim as much as possible. They ignored the fact that Abd-El-Krim was the hereditary chief of his tribe and also believed in slavery. This was one of the excuses that the Stalinists now give why they did not help Haile Selaissie. Of course to help Ethiopia did not necessarily mean to help Haile Selaissie. If the Communists had really meant to spread the African war the whole conflict would have been taken out of the hands of Haile Selaissie and all like him and would have become a great struggle of the colonial masses themselves. But even this excuse cannot be given in the light of the fact that the Communist International had aided Abd-El-Krim in 1923 and later.
The real difference between Ethiopia and Morocco is, however, just this: In those days the Russians believed that the chief enemy of Russia was France and everything that bothered and weakened France was considered good for Russia. Then Stalin was praising Germany to the skies and denouncing France. Now France is supposed to be the “friend” of the Russian workers according to Stalinism. And so it is necessary to harness the workers and Communists of the world to the French capitalists and bosses and African slave holders. In both cases all that Stalinism looked out for was its own nationalist interests.
How ripe Africa was for revolt can be seen in the discontent that has broken out in Egypt against British imperialism and in Morocco against Spanish and French imperialism. Unbelievable as it seems it was left for Fascism and reaction to stir up the masses and not the “revolutionary” Communists who did their best to put down the revolts of the African masses.
We come now to the fake and treacherous activity of Russia within the League of Nations supposedly in behalf of Ethiopia. As we have pointed out, Russia knew very well that sanctions would never be enforced by the League of Nations and that this was only a talking point to try to show that Stalinism was acting in behalf of the Negro people after all. However, it should be made very clear that the remedy that Russian Stalinism proposed, namely, “Military sanctions” was even worse and far more deadly to the workers of the world than the disease it proposed to cure, namely, the Italian attack against Ethiopia.
To propose military sanctions to the League of Nations meant for Russia to propose that the governments of the League of Nations declare ware on Italy. War against Fascism is perfectly all right but military sanctions would mean a world war in which the workers of England would boost their capitalist navy and support their bosses; the workers of France would build up their capitalist army and support the French slave holders, etc. In short, it would mean a new world war on a capitalist basis and on the question which of the imperialist robbers should grab new colonies and territories and slaves for themselves. The workers in such a war would merely be pawns once more in the game of international imperialism.
Stalinism did not propose that the workers of France take over the French factories and the army and by means of the struggle against their own bosses carry on the war against Italian Fascism and for the liberation of Africa. Stalinism did not propose that the English workers overthrow the capitalist slave driving government of Britain and turn the navy against the bosses of England as well as the bosses of Italy. No, all that Russia was evidently trying to do was to fish in the troubled waters to build an alliance against Germany in the coming war and to use the Italo-Ethiopian difficulty for its own nationalist purposes.
Stalinism did not want sanctions in order to help Ethiopia. Stalinism did not want sanctions as a means of liberating Africa. All that Stalinism desired was to throw England and France against Italy so that when the next world war would break out these countries would be divided against each other. And to carry out its diplomatic game Stalinism was ready to pledge the English and French workers to their respective bosses and to guarantee that the workers of these countries would be good cannon fodder in the coming war.
From this point of view, the Italo-Ethiopian war was a good rehearsal for the coming world slaughter and already we can see the dastardly role of Stalinism in full. The trade union leaders in France and England and the Labor, Socialist and Communist parties of these countries all began to holler for military sanctions. They all began to curse Italy and to urge their own countries to go to war. The British worker was taught to forget that the British bosses were sucking his blood and were the greatest slave holders in Africa, the French bosses were made to overlook French poverty and exploitation and that France had the greatest territory in Africa. Suddenly all of these workers became interested in Ethiopia and in the name of Ethiopia and the fight against fascism they volunteered to go to war to support their own slave drivers and bosses.
If they were so revolutionary why did not these Socialists and Communists call for the liberation of French and British African slaves as well? Why did they not try to arouse these colonies to revolt against all imperialism and join hands with the Ethiopians? No, like good imperialist puppets and tools as they were the Socialists and Communists of these countries were helping their own bosses to keep their hold and to extend their influence in Africa. And Stalinism was the driving force throughout the world of this shameful demonstration. We see how that Stalinism is willing to sacrifice the whole world revolution so long as the bureaucrats of Russia can keep their cushy jobs; that Stalinism will do its best to mobilize the workers for new slaughters where one worker will shoot down his brother for the benefit of his own capitalist class.
Stalinism is the social patriotism and the social chauvinism of today. It is anti-Negro through and through.
The African Question in France and Spain
The Communist Party is now a force to be reckoned with not only in Russia but at the present time in France and Spain as well. Now while the Russians had no Negro problem to deal with both France and Spain have African colonies and we can test out what Stalinism means for the Negro people by observing the actions of the Communist Party of France and of Spain. We shall treat mostly of France since that is the most important country yet to be heard from.
In France, the Communist Party has formed a People’s Front made up of three elements: the Communist workers, the Socialist workers and their petty bourgeois friends, and, thirdly, the bourgeois radical republicans. It can be seen that the People’s Front is thus made up of divergent elements: The bourgeois radicals are composed of bosses and capitalists who wish to keep the republic but are not opposed to certain democratic reforms to keep the masses quiet. The Socialists are reformist skilled workers and petty bourgeois civil employees, professionals and other elements who want social insurance and measures similar to this but who defend capitalism on the whole. The Communists are supposed to be made up of revolutionary workers who want the end of capitalism.
Now it would seem that while these elements might go together for a slight part of the way, they cannot go together the whole way and that the capitalist republicans will do their best to put down the workers and harness them to the capitalist machine. In such a situation it is absolutely necessary for the Communist workers to keep their forces entirely separate from the capitalists, to watch their capitalist allies of the moment like enemies and to expose every treacherous action to which they may be addicted. Communists can never support capitalists.
Instead of this the Communist Party has joined the People’s Front entirely uncritically. In every possible way it tries to liquidate itself and to join the reformist Socialist party. This is what the Communists have done in fact in Catalonia, according to reports in the “New York Times.” While trying to fuse with the opportunists the Communists also support the People’s Front Government unconditionally and thus support the capitalist radicals in the government. In the People’s Front government of France, headed by Blum, the most important ministerial posts, the secretary of foreign affairs, the secretary of war and such, for example, are in the hands of this capitalist party.
We have to ask ourselves how does it come about that supposedly revolutionary Communists should ally themselves with their bosses? The answer is that the Communist Party of France is run by the Stalinists in favor of Russian nationalism. Russian nationalism has just signed a France-Soviet pact by which the Communists of Russia pledge to aid capitalist French democracy and to build up its army and its power. Thus if the French bosses are friends of Russia, then the French Communists cannot fight the French capitalists, they have to give up their anti-military work in the army and their strikes in the factories. That is why the last general strike in France involving fully 20% of all of France’s proletariat was not led by the Communists but was carried on in spite of the Communist Party doing its best to tell the workers to go back to work.
Here, fore example, are the reports given in the capitalist weekly “Time” of June 15th, 1936 regarding the action of the Socialists and Communists in the general strike wave: “These strikes have been spontaneous and were instigated neither by Communist leaders nor the regular trade unions.” Leon Blum spend his time pleading for time and declaring that the strikes were not at all revolutionary. “Red newspapers in many cases appealed for swift ending of the strikes on the ground that a France in which the munitions industry was paralyzed would be easy game for Germany.” And in the report on the situation a week later, “Time” declared that Thorez made the following speech: “Strikers must know how to end their strike. They must even know how to consent to a compromise so as not to lose any of their force and especially so as not to facilitate any campaign of reaction.”
Naturally, if the Communist Party and the People’s Front are collaborating directly with the French “democratic” bosses generally, they do so on the Negro question as well. For example, France has the greatest African territories of any power and brutally mistreats, lynches and enslaves the Negro masses. The People’s Front does not say one word about the liberation of the African colonies. Leon Blum, so-called Socialist and his Communist brethren of the Stalinist variety have not raised one peep about the colonial question. The People’s Front government still shoots down the natives of Morocco, still keeps a formidable army in all of the African colonies, still maintains the slave property of the French bosses.
When the French and British bosses were getting together with the Italian Fascists on how to partition Ethiopia among themselves there was hardly a murmur from the Communist Party leaders on this band of robbers further plundering the Africans. When recently the Moroccans began to riot for their freedom, the People’s Front government sent its army to crush the disturbances ruthlessly. Is it any wonder that the Moroccans have turned against the People’s Front government of France and against the workers there and that the Moroccan troops have become the mainstay of reactionary forces both in France and in Spain? In the last general strike wave in France it was the Moroccan troops that were held in readiness by the People’s Front government to shoot down the French workers if need be. In the present Spanish outbreak it is the Moroccan troops made up of Moors and Negroes that have done their best to smash the treacherous Spanish Republic that refuses to liberate the African colonies.
In the long program of the People’s Front, both in France and in Spain, there is not one word as to the liberation of the African peoples and the Negro slaves. And the Communist Party supports this People’s Front uncritically and does not raise its tiniest finger to put demands for the liberation of the colonies.
And how could it be different when, for example, in France, one of the parties of the People’s Front, the Radicals, have capitalist plantation owners and Negro slave drivers in their party? How can it be different when Stalin tells the French Communists to build up the French army that is used to crush the native colonial masses of Africa? How can it be different when the skilled workers in the French Socialist party are bribed by imperialism and enjoy a portion of the profits wrung from the lives of the Negro slaves in Africa? The People’s Front government is an imperialist government. The Communist Party is an imperialist party supporting the continuance of Negro slavery.
Communist Nationalism in the U.S.
The anti-Negro nationalism of the Stalinist Party has taken a particularly rampant and arrogant character in the United States. The petty bourgeois politicians like Browder and his stamp have gone in very heavily for waving the American flag, praising the “spirit of 1776”, and the “fathers” of the American revolution, Abraham Lincoln and what not. As the Communist Party platform in the election tries to put it, “Communism is 20th century Americanism"; that is to say American nationalism is all right but must be modernized and brought up to date and this Communism will do. In taking such a patriotic and nationalist position the Communist Party moves steadily away from the Negro people.
Practically all the “fathers” of the revolution whom the Communist Party praises were either slave holders or in sympathy with slave holders. While the African slavers of New England and the plantation owners of the South were intimately bound up with the slave traffic, the Quakers and other elements of the Middle Atlantic colonies even where they denounced slavery looked upon any move of the slaves to free themselves with the greatest horror and dread. It was against these very “fathers” of the American revolution, a revolution in which the mass of people did not participate and which brought forth directly no democratic results but which led to the formation of a non-democratic republic, that the Negroes had to fight most of all.
The inspiration of the American Communists must come not from the “spirit” of 1776 but in the reality of the various Negro revolts, the Haitian revolts of 1791 and 1804, the revolt of the Negro slaves in New York in 1741, the Richmond revolt of the slaves in 1800, the Charlestown revolt in 1822 and the Newburn insurrection in 1826; these and a host of other slave rebellions are the true forerunners of the proletarian revolution in America. It is for this reason that so many Negroes have been lynched in capitalist America, because of the fact that the Negro so truly represents the heart of the revolutionary labor movement.
But the Communist Party forgets these Negro revolts. Instead it praises the very “fathers” of the American capitalist revolution who did their best to crush these Negro forerunners of the modern proletariat. While the Negro people fought the “fathers” and while the “fathers” enslaved the Negro people, the Communist Party side with the “fathers” and passes over the Negro revolts. In the Daily Worker today repeatedly can be found words of praise for men who were slave holders and who were wholeheartedly for the slave system.
We shall not in this article deal with the despicable role of Abraham Lincoln whom the Communist Party has made into some sort of hero. We shall reserve this for a special article in itself later since it is about time that the whole question became debunked once and for all and that the Negro masses understood the conspiracy that has been woven around American history to give them the illusion that Lincoln was the Negroes’ friend. But we cannot avoid touching on the particularly disgusting attitude of the Communist Party toward the Roosevelt regime and its relation to the Negro problem in America.
Following the orders of Stalinism, the Communist Party has begun to weave a web of friendliness around F.D. Roosevelt ever since he signed the treaty recognizing Russia. Now the Daily Worker comes out with claims that Landon and the Republicans are Fascists, Roosevelt is a democrat and it is imperative to defeat Landon even if Roosevelt gets the votes and not the Communists. In the course of this wonderful “Communist” analysis the speakers of the Stalinist party miss entirely the role of the Democratic Party and Roosevelt regarding the Negro question.
They forget that the history of the Democratic Party was one of pro-slavery from the very beginning. They forget that those who made up the Ku Klux Klan and who have been responsible for all of the lynchings in the Southern states, lynchings that run into the thousands, have been Democratic Party politicians and their henchmen. In their Russian nationalism the Stalinists have turned over the Negro people to the hangmen. In their eagerness to kiss the boots of the American bosses around Roosevelt the Stalinists refuse to emphasize that even the Republican Party platform had the decency to talk about equal rights for Negroes and for whites while the Democratic Party does not mention a word about the discrimination and the lynchings of the Negroes that goes on under its administration.
No longer does the Communist Party put forth as one of its main demands the self-determination of the Negro people. The Communist Party now has a “country” to defend, you see. How can the Negroes take anything from “our” country? To press the case of the right of a separate Negro republic if the Negroes want it would offend the Democratic Party and Roosevelt. The Communist Party therefore has quietly dumped the demands of the Negro people as a separate minority. If the question of self-determination is mentioned, it is done so on the side. Of course, the Communist Party does not openly drop the slogan. That would call attention to its treachery, so it simply drops the slogan and one hears of it practically no more. Only where the C.P. has some sort of a Negro base that it is afraid it will lose does it mention the slogan in its literature (As, for example in the Illinois state election platform.)
As Stalinism licks the boots of Roosevelt so the Communist Party abandons all idea of organizing the Negro workers into unions and mass organizations. It has formed a petty-bourgeois National Negro Congress in the leadership of which is not Negro workers and revolutionists but Negro politicians, ministers and petty bourgeois elements through and through. The organization of the Negro workers it leaves to the fakers of the A.F. of L. , the John L. Lewises and Company.
But to leave the organization of the Negroes to John L. Lewis is to refuse to organize the Negroes into fighting unions at all. The organization of the Negro masses into unions together with the whites will be met with the sternest resistance on the part of the American bosses. The men who attempt to do this must be made of stern revolutionary stuff. Does anyone imagine that John L. Lewis will risk one penny of his fortune, no less than one hair of his head for the “dirty niggers"? Here we see that just as in the political field so in the trade union and economic field the Communist Party makes its alliance with the slave holders and lynchers and has abandoned the interests of the Negro people and workers.
It will not be long before the Negro masses will become thoroughly aware of this treacherous conduct on the part of the Communist Party. Already many of them have passed through the state where Communism as such is a great novelty and awakening. They have passed the imitative stage and are reaching the critical stage. This is a very hopeful sign for it shows that the Negro people are attaining their maturity and reaching out for the rightful place in the leadership of a truly American Communist movement and not some Russian caricature.
Already the Communist League of Struggle, the genuine internationalist Communists have been able to reach them with a message of real revolutionary Communism. There is being organized a Negro Chamber of Labor that will soon make its way felt among the Negro people and bring the best of them to the fore. The Negro advanced worker will repudiate the treacherous anti-Negro policy and action of the Stalinists and turn in ever increasing numbers to the Fourth International.
In 1933, with the advent of Hitler in Germany and the collapse of the Communists all over the world as a revolutionary force, we pointed out the dire need for the formation of a new and genuine Communist International, the Fourth International. Since that time all the political events that have occurred have but reinforced this viewpoint. At present the situations breaking forth in Spain and in France will not give added point to the demand for a Fourth International but must inevitably help to mature its actual realization. In France, for example, the masses have clearly broken the discipline of the old Socialist and Communist parties which are becoming increasingly exposed as weapons of the capitalist classes. But the workers know very well that mere breaking of discipline is not enough, it is imperative to create a party of their own that will really place the question of revolution on the order of the day in the most effective manner possible. As the situation grows more acute day by day in France as well as elsewhere the workers are bound to throw up their own organizations that will gravitate towards the idea of a Fourth International and will create it.
Last year the Communist League of Struggle sent a delegate to Europe to investigate the field and see what organizations existed which were really for the Fourth International. Our delegate was able to contact a number of groups but they were all small and but the mere beginnings of a movement. Now, however, the situation must be quite different. Spurred on by the events of the day there must be far larger numbers ready to get together to discuss the program and strategy of the new Communist International. It is for the sake of these elements especially that we propose the following outline of a strategy for the Fourth International for discussion.
It is to be noted that we speak above all of a strategy for the Fourth International and not of a program or of tactics for such an international. The reason for this will become increasingly clear as the article progresses. But it may be said here that what is lacking among the workers is not so much an understanding of the program of socialism or a knowledge of how to fight the day to day battles of the workers. What is needed more than anything else at the present time is a strategy of action that will link up the tactics to the programs and help to realize the program in the quickest possible time. In military terms we have to deal not so much with deployment of troops as with logistics and strategies.
The program of Communism is pretty well known to large numbers of conscious workers. By program is meant the general principles that underlie the science of socialism. In philosophy it embraces the theories of dialectical materialism and when applied to history, the conception of historical materialism. In economics it has to do with the theory of surplus value and the theory of accumulation of capital. In politics it deals with the class struggle leading to the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is the essence of the program as laid down by Marx and Engels, the founders of scientific Socialism.
The theories of Marx and Engels were especially adapted to the period of the 19th century competitive capitalism. With the advent of imperialism in the 20th century, the program had to be adapted to the new conditions then arising. This programmatic development was best achieved by Lenin. In economics he was able to elaborate the theory of super-profits by which the relation of imperialist to colonial countries could best be understood and furnished a key to the understanding of the uneven development of capitalism and the contradictions existing between the skilled and the unskilled workers on the one hand, and the working class and the peasantry on the other. The theory of super-profits enabled the conscious workers to understand better the law of uneven development as related to the theories connected with the permanent revolution. In politics the works of Lenin gave us a clearer picture of the era of imperialism with its wars and revolutions and brought us face to face with the fact that the world as a whole was ripe for Socialism and that this was the era for the realization of the dictatorship of the proletarian revolution.
The activity of Lenin marked a great turning point in scientific Socialism since it brought the workers face to face with the actual achievement on a large scale of a dictatorship of the proletariat in alliance with the poor peasantry in one country alone. There had then to be developed the scientific principles of the relation of such a country to the rest of the capitalist world as well as the social laws prevailing with such a unique country in such a period. The study of the concrete working of such a proletarian dictatorship, the examination of its effects upon world capitalism, especially with the advent of Fascism, all such analyses have to be taken into the Communist program of today and embraced within the general principles of scientific Socialism. We can say that it was Leon Trotsky who contributed to an advancement of understanding of these problems more than any one else, up to the time of the arrival of Fascism in Germany and the collapse of the Third International. With this collapse, strange to say Trotsky also collapsed. Historically, he was able to make the best critique of the Third International but proved incapable of forming the Fourth International. This work has to be completed by the entirely new elements that have come forth as veterans in the struggles of the masses since the coming of the Russian Revolution.
The Communist programs as they have been laid out by Marx and Engels and Lenin and Trotsky have also had to take up the general outline of social laws to be found in the new society of Socialism which was yet to be founded and organized. Studying the laws of motion of the present capitalist system, the programs could not avoid the question of what situation was capitalism evolving to and what would be the basic structure of society under Socialism. Thus the Communist programs were also scientific prognoses of the future workings of society. This was richly concretized with the advent of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union.
The program of Communism as it was laid out had little to do with the laws governing the actual mobilization of the masses and the rules of revolutionary struggle. The program merely represented the end, the goal, the objective of the movement but hardly dealt with the means, the instruments, the actual process by which the aim was attained. Such laws are in the realm of strategy and tactics and organization rather than in the realm of program. Strategy, as distinct from program, takes into intimate account and presupposes an organization of people and a platform of action. If the program represented the general principles of Socialism and the objective to be achieved, strategy and tactics represent the totality of the rules of practice by which this program is to be realized.
Of course there is a great difference between strategy and tactics. Tactical questions are those that have to do with problems pertaining to the mobilization and deployment and maneuvering of troops on any single part of the battle front. They have to do with day to day and relatively petty problems. Strategy represents the general principles underlying the whole system or series of tactical operations. Strategy is the red thread that ties up the tactical questions and holds them together along some definite purposeful line. Without strategy there is no alignment of the battle front, there is no coordination of the various fields of battle, there is no general direction given to the struggle. Strategy has to do with the attaining of the victory in the least possible time and with the smallest amount of energy. It has to do with the orientation and general direction of the line of march and is not concerned with the mass of details necessary to keep the entire force in that direction. Strategy has to do with collation of material, with evaluation and estimation of relative importance of various actions.
In short, the principles of strategy lie somewhat between the rules of tactics and the standards and norms of the program. Strategy ties up the every day practice with a purpose and on the other hand is able to realize the generalities of the program in life. It is concerned both with the practical matters of every day life and with the strategic objective striven for and coordinates both. It is the temporal link that connects the present with the future.
Tactics are the means by which the strategical aim is attained, just as strategy is the means by which the program is realized. To the soldiers who are digging into a shell hole in order to hold a hill the strategical aim of keeping the hill is the highest goal of their endeavor. To the general who has a clearer picture of the relation of each tactical part to the strategical whole, the holding of the hill is but a means to the end of smashing the enemy and winning the programmatic objective. Tactics, therefore, represent secondary actions, maneuvers, methods. The system of strategy works out the primary means by which the programmatic ends may be reached.
This does not at all mean that tactics is unimportant or less vital than strategy or program in accomplishing the mission of the proletariat. Quite the contrary, program alone, that is a general body of ideas, can accomplish nothing unless there is an army imbued with the idea of putting this program into reality. Such an army functions only according to the rules of tactics and strategy. To imagine that the program will be realized of itself and that all that is necessary is to state the desirability of the goal is pure idealism. Behind every “right” is the “might” necessary to establish it as a “right.”
Also, within the realm of practice it is not true that tactics is unimportant or that questions of tactics are but secondary matters. Unless the tactics are appropriate, unless the proper means are used realistically, then the whole strategy is doomed to fail. Very often differences in tactics reveal great differences in strategy and in program as well. Again, people may be willing to accept the phrases of the program but secretly give them different interpretations, which differences come out not in the debate on the program but only in the course of the concrete actions to realize the programs. Then the differences first appear as differences in “tactics” when in reality behind these differences on small questions there are revealed truly gigantic disagreements that place the contestant parties on opposite sides of the barricades.
Some silly amateurs in the revolutionary movement have often expressed the matter as follows: disagreements on matters of tactics are always secondary disagreements and do not lead to splits in the movement. Splits are justified only when the disagreements are one of programs. This is a typical student formulation having nothing to do with the real revolutionary moment. Outside of the fact that all differences even in tactics if pursued long enough must become differences in direction and in purpose, that is differences in strategy and program, it is of course ridiculous to assume that the only time people can disobey their orders is when they have abstract differences concerning the kind of society they want to build or in the general principles of their movement.
In real life we have many cases in history where the armies of social movements have split on questions of tactics concerning what to do at the movement, since very often the solution of the concrete tactical question may involve the very life and death of the movement as a whole. If, in order to capture a given hill, for example, a general wantonly orders his men to march fully exposed to be shot down, the order of how to march may be purely “tactical” but may nevertheless lead to such a terrible defeat as to ruin the whole cause of the entire army. And if the corps thus sacrificed disobeys the general’s “tactical” instructions and advances under cover to win the hill, it will be the general that will lose his head and not the army.
The true situation is not that tactics are secondary to strategy or that differences on tactics are picayune and must not cause too great dissensions in the ranks of the revolutionary proletariat, but rather that the workers must fight about every question whether program, strategy or tactics which is really vital and may lead to defeat or victory. Splits not only can occur but must occur on questions of tactics and organization wherever such questions involve the life and death of the whole movement at the given moment.
Let us pause to give various illustrations of this general principle just enunciated. In the revolutionary movement it can be said that ordinarily tactics would include the following type of questions:
1. Types of demonstrations. Should the demonstration be indoors or outdoors; what should be its size and character and tone; what should be the slogans, etc. These matters might be considered matters of tactics and yet they can be absolutely vital to the welfare of the movement at any given time.
2. Questions of “dates". What should be the date for a given strike or insurrection. It might seem that the matter of “date” is such a trifling circumstance in relation to the vast problems of Socialism that comrades could well disagree with dates and yet remain comrades. And yet behind the question of dates might stand the whole welfare and future of the revolution itself. These merely opposing a given date might be postponing the day of victory until it becomes too late and leads to a terrible blood bath for the workers. Here, again, behind the question of the “trifling” matter of date might be a whole analysis of the situation of the world and the relation of forces. Certainly it might be correct for splits to occur in a revolutionary party on the question of setting the date for the insurrection, just as, under some circumstances, splits could occur in unions on the question of setting the date for a strike.
3. A third matter of tactics is the question of what demands to bring forward in the interests of the workers and toilers. The formulation of these demands truly belongs in the domain of tactics, and yet how many times have movements failed completely because of unrealistic demands which in turn exposed the false strategy and orientation of the entire movement.
4. It is the same with the host of questions relating to the tactical matters of how to approach a given problem. Questions of just how to approach a given situation may be considered relatively secondary and in the field of tactics but often become decisive in the struggle. And wherever they become truly decisive then it is imperative that they be solved correctly and the conscious workers in the revolutionary movement have it as their duty to see to it at all costs that all the problems, big and little, which may cost the working class its head, are solved in the proper manner and victory is assured. It will do no good for such revolutionary elements to maintain that on “tactical” questions they did not want to press forward their differences to the point of split. Once convinced that the entire safety of the movement is embodied precisely in these so-called tactical questions, it becomes the duty of the class conscious vanguard to probe these tactical differences to their bottom, to show the differences of strategy and program that really lie behind them, and, if necessary, to split on these matters to insure the victory of the workers as a whole.
Just as splits can occur on questions of tactics, so can they occur on questions of organization as well. For the problem of organization is only another method of presenting problems of program and strategy and tactics. The organization must be the instrument to accomplish the goal set and those who build organizational structures obviously unfit to accomplish the goal have in reality changed the goal and the aim of the movement.
The program of Communism was enunciated before there was a great body of proletarians in every important country of Europe and America. Naturally, in those days of the very beginnings of the movement, the question of program played the most important part. The Communist League of Karl Marx has gone down in history primarily because of the Marxist program enunciated by that organization.
This is not to say that strategy did not exist even in those early days. Quite the contrary, the Communist League participated actively in all the revolutionary events of 1848 and as an organization of action it had to deal with problems of strategy, tactics and organization as well as with the general questions of program.
The strategy of the Communist League was not so much concerned however, with the question of the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat as it was the question of the overthrow of the ancien regime and the clearing of the decks for action for the proletariat later. It was not a matter of defeating the enemies of the workers so much as defeating the enemy of their enemies. The strategy of the Communist League was then the strategy of how the proletarian forces could work with the democratic forces of capitalism and overthrow the old order, winning as many concessions for the workers as possible, casting off the illusions among the proletarians and preparing them and strengthening them for future struggles for Socialism.
The strategy of the Communist League was primarily one of the permanent revolution, that is, how to start the revolution forward and to keep it moving at the most rapid tempo until the victory of the proletariat when the revolution would come to an end and become permanent. Together with this strategy went all the principles of how to work with those going along the same road as the proletariat up to the time when the quondam allies would break apart and face each other as mortal enemies.
The strategy of the Communist League, carried forward later by the First International, then, involved the following questions:
1. The matter of overthrowing reaction, the old order, the absolute monarchies and the feudalistic landlords, especially entrenched in Prussia, Austria and Russia. Here is the key to understanding the Marxists’ reactions to the Crimean War, to the American Civil War, to the Revolutions of 1848, etc.
2. The question of pushing the bourgeois republic forward to adopting the utmost democratic forms and social reforms which would allow the proletariat free play to organize and to mobilize its strength and to develop generally.
3. The question of alliances of the proletariat with the peasantry and other masses of toilers against the ruling groups of the country. With this went the problem of the separation of the petty bourgeoisie from the bourgeois rulers, the problems of the united front with petty bourgeois elements to win them towards favorable action with the working class.
Although, even from the earliest days, the Marxists insisted on combining theory with practice and uniting their program to whatever actions of the day promised to realize them even in part, nevertheless the Communist League is known not so much for its practical action as for its theoretical achievements in advancing scientific Socialism. The immature modern proletariat was then just groping about trying to find its way.
A similar situation existed with the First International organized somewhat later in 1864. The First International, too, is known by its programmatic contributions, by its propaganda rather than by its practice. The great task of the First International was to hammer out the ideas of Marx and Engels and in doing this it laid the foundation for the revolutionary movement to come.
Again it must be stressed that this emphasis on propaganda and on theory did not mean that the First International did not enter into revolutionary events. Indeed, the bourgeoisie made the First International responsible for the actions of the Paris Commune. But the action of the First International was spasmodic and ephemeral. What was lasting, what was the most important part of the First International’s life was the programmatic line of action that it laid down for the workers for all time to come in the struggle against capital.
By the time of the foundation of the Second International in 1889 the situation had entirely changed. It was no longer the vanguard of the workers organized in propaganda league that was inspired to tell the world of the future of Socialism and the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeoisie. The grandiose plans and schemes had given way to prosaic day-to-day interests. The labor movement was growing up and becoming “realistic” and “practical". It was winning various concessions from the bosses for the skilled and bribed imperialistic workers and was quite content to avoid the abstract questions of revolution and pay attention to the immediate bread and butter problems of the day.
The Second International was interested neither in the program of Socialism so much nor in the strategy of revolution, but concentrated almost entirely in its real life upon the tactics of the moment. Viewing the period in question (1889-1914) from the broad historical perspective, we can truly say that the Second International in reality lived up to what the workers could have achieved and no further. The workers could win reform, they were too weak to accomplish the revolution. The job then was to organize and to form mass organizations, teaching the workers the rudiments of discipline and organizational solidarity.
Of course, under the First International, there had also been tactics, and the systematic working out of the problems of organization and advancement of the interest of sections of the workers. The Communist League began the job of organizing unions throughout Europe. In the First International the majority of the organizations affiliated were trade unions. But it is not this aspect of their activity for which the First International is remembered while it is precisely this aspect, namely the organization of large masses, the mobilization of broad strata of the population for which the Second International has come to stand.
The mass organizations of the proletariat could be formed only on the most primitive base and only on questions of immediate practical interest. This was the period of trade union building, of cooperative formations, of all sorts of associative effort among the workers to ameliorate their lot concretely. It was not the period of revolutionary activity of the masses, throughout the important industrial countries of Europe and America.
It was not that the Second International did not carry on abstract discussions on the program of Socialism and did not help to disseminate in its own fashion the revolutionary views of Marx and Engels. But it did not understand these revolutionary views which it was so diligently disseminating and in real life it betrayed them again and again. Program was entirely divorced from tactics, theory from practice. While abstractly, these people called themselves Socialists they believed that Socialism was a long way off and that many hundreds of years of education would be necessary perhaps before the world would be ready for the new social order.
Separating their practical activity from their general Socialist program as they did, the members of the Second International became either crass opportunists and narrow and provincial organizers living only from moment to moment, or they became leftist sectarians livings in a world of words and abstract ideas of Marxist terms. All that one side could see was the matter of a few cents an hour increase for a small number of workers; all that the other could call for was the unconditional surrender of capitalism or otherwise they would not play ball. As their practice became non-revolutionary on both sides their program became eclectic, vague, ambiguous, loose and non-revolutionary as well. On may sum up the matter with the statement that if the First International was an International of Program, the Second International was an International of Tactics.
It is with the Third International that we find at last a definite effort made to link up the day-to-day life of the masses and their immediate problems with the general program of Socialism. By 1919 the world proletariat is faced with entirely different problems. It is now a period of action, not of molecular tiny action for a small handful of the workers in a few exceptional countries, but now capitalism is definitely on the decline bringing in its wake mighty convulsions that shake all the nations of the world throwing them into one crisis after another.
Now that action is on the order of the day and the workers must act or perish, now that there is no other way out of the concrete practical dilemmas facing the masses except revolution and the overthrow of capitalism, there becomes developed a strategy of revolution. Under the guidance of Lenin, the gap between theory and practice begins to be closed, tactics and program become tightly connected. It would be totally wrong to say, as, for example, Max Eastman does in one of his many superficial works, that Marx was the theoretician and Lenin the practitioner, or rather that Marx was the abstruse dialectician and Lenin the great revolutionary technician or engineer. Marx and Engels also engaged in the action of their time, but their time did not permit much steady revolutionary action and they were confined to working out the general laws of Socialism and spreading the propaganda of their science. On the other hand, Lenin contributed much to political science but his life was to a very considerable extent overwhelmed with the practical activity of the revolutionary movements. As Lenin wrote in his “State and Revolution": “It is more pleasant and more useful to live through the experience of a revolution than to write about it.”
If the Second International could be said to have had a strategy at all then in fact it was a strategy of no strategy, that is to say it was a strategy of following the bourgeoisie and working for democratic and social reforms. The strategy of the Second International was to be the tail end of the bourgeois Liberals and to carry out their wishes in the ranks of the proletariat.
The strategy of the Third International in an era of wars and revolutions was an entirely different one, it was a strategy of definitely making a bid for power. To turn imperialist war into civil war, to organize instruments of struggle of the masses such as soviets, by which workers and peasants could unite for the conquest of power under the leadership of the industrial workers, to connect the revolutionary movement with the colonial uprising and agrarian problems of the oppressed sections of the countryside, to conduct an organized uprising and insurrection and to defend the revolution on the battlefield of world counter-revolutionary intervention, these are the contributions of Leninism in the field of strategy.
Unfortunately , the Third International was not able to maintain the high revolutionary level set by Lenin. Under the influence of Stalinism which arrived with the defeat of the first world revolutionary wave, the Third International has steadily been liquidated as a revolutionary force until today it plays the worst possible role within the ranks of the workers. Furthermore, new situations have arisen which compel the Communists of the world to take stock of the objective circumstances once again to see whether there is any need to revise their strategy and policies. Take, for example, the question of parliamentarism. In Germany and in other countries where Fascism is now victorious this question of participation in parliamentary activities has been automatically solved by the events themselves for in these countries there is no parliament and no such activities and elections where the masses may freely participate.
Should the genuine Internationalist-Communists have occasion to gather themselves together in a new world congress to form the basis for the Fourth International, they would have to take up at least the following strategical problems: 1. Workers Control over Production; 2. Direct Action; 3. Permanent Revolution; 4. Arming of the Proletariat; 5. United Front; 6. Strategy of Insurrection. There would be also other problems such as the relation of such Communists to the Soviet Union, their action in the light of the concrete war danger involving the workers of the world, their policy toward Fascism and problems concerning the Fourth International itself. We do not care at this time to make an exhaustive analysis of all these questions. However, we shall, in the series of articles before us, open up a discussion on some of these vital points so as to help clear the way for those whose task will be to carry forward the banner of revolution throughout the world.
(to be continued)
Secretariat, International Bureau for Revolutionary Socialist Unity
I.L.P. Head Office, 35 St. Bride Street
London, E.C.4 England
July 28, 1936
We are in receipt of your communications inviting us to participate in an international congress against War, Fascism and Imperialism to be held either in Brussels or Paris during October of this year. We have already signified our willingness to participate in such a Congress and we shall try to send a delegate to represent us in October.
At the same time we cannot refrain from commenting adversely on the nature of the call which was sent out for the congress. We note that the congress has the same vague character which the Stalinists used to adopt for their own futile congresses, namely, the congress is abstractly against war in general, we are for civil war of the workers and toilers against their oppressors and exploiters, we are for colonial wars against imperialism and for all other wars which are part of the class struggle of the workers against capitalism. We are against imperialist and capitalist wars. We fear that according to the call the congress will have an obtuse pacifist character, where the resolutions adopted will be so ambiguous that every bourgeois or petty bourgeois pacifist will be able to endorse them.
The ambiguous pacifist character of the congress is implied also by such slogans as action to “safeguard peace.” The “peace” under capitalist-imperialist is a form of bloody war against the workers and toilers of the world. We certainly do not want to “safeguard” that sort of peace. We wish, on the contrary, to safeguard that action that will lead the workers and toilers of the world to break the capitalist peace and engage in victorious civil war.
The call is entirely too negative. It declares against national unity but not for international solidarity, against reliance on capitalist governments but not for the overthrow of those governments, against reliance on the League of Nations but not for the smashing of that band of robbers. In short, the call does not go far enough in separating the centrist and socialist opportunist groups from the genuine revolutionary ones and thus lays the basis for the creation of a congress that will merely mouth some pious resolutions which can be interpreted in a thousand different ways according to the interests of the most diverse groups.
We wish to point out also that it has now become almost impossible to use the flat slogan of “Defend the Soviet Union” if only from the fact that the Stalinists have liquidated the Soviets within the Soviet Union. Officially, once the new constitution comes into being, there will be no longer any soviets as the revolutionary movement has understood the term, and thus there will be no “soviets” to defend unless we help to recreate them. Indeed, it has now become the duty of all revolutionists within the U.S.S.R. to raise again the slogan “All Power to the Soviets” and “Down with the Constituent Assembly.” Instead of defending Stalinism what we have to defend is the workers of the Soviet Union or the Russian Revolution. If the congress wishes to defend the idea of soviets it must go on record for the annihilation of the influence of Stalinism.
Fascism could never have become victorious in such important countries of Europe as it has, the working class would never have been placed in such a precarious position as the present were it not for the blunders and crimes of the socialist centrism and communist degeneration. If we wish to fight Fascism we cannot avoid turning our attention to these blunders and crimes and discussing them in full. However, under the present call, this discussion has become more or less impossible. The congress takes in practically everybody under the sun who wants to come. Such a congress must be absolutely futile in results. In our opinion it would have been far better to have organized a more narrow congress, excluding pacifistic phrasemongerers, whether from the left or from the right, and insuring discussion leading to real clarification and united action.
Albert Weisbord, Secretary
Communist League of Struggle
The split in the ranks of the A.F. of L. seems now certain. The union bureaucrats around the Committee for Industrial Organization are getting a taste of their own medicine. The same slimy methods they have so often used to get rid of militants from their own unions are now being used by Green, Hutchinson and company against them. this is the first major split that has occurred in the A.F. of L and it signifies something much deeper than a mere squabble of leaders, deeper even than the principle of industrial versus craft unionism. It expresses in fact the needs of the modern period of mass production in which the unskilled workers at last become an active factor in the labor movement. This split proves conclusively that the A.F. of L. in its hide bound craft form could not organize the unorganized. The industrial form is the only one which can admit the masses of unskilled workers who compose the majority in the basic industries. And so great is the resistance of the majority of the Executive Council of the A.F. of L. to the admission of the unskilled that rather than accept the industrial form, they prefer to split the organization.
This action of the Council can be readily understood when we know that the fusion of the craft unions into industrial ones would mean the loss of jobs and of power of many of the old-time fakers and the rise of an entirely different kind of bureaucracy within the labor unions. The Executive Council majority is really fighting for its very life and not merely for its hegemony. And in order to preserve itself the Executive Council of the A.F. of L. did not even wait for a meeting of the general convention held annually to decide the question but acted to expel the unions connected with the C.I.O. before the convention met. These bureaucrats have always declared that the A.F. of L. is a “federation” and not a tightly disciplined body but when it comes to preserving their jobs, how ready are the labor fakers to change their “theories” to fit their interests! It is very problematical whether the majority of the Executive Council will be able to keep the majority of their membership after the split has become an irrevocable fact.
An organization based on the unskilled must contain in its ranks the elements of a progressive movement. And yet the leadership of the C.I.O. is just as reactionary, just as corrupt, just as much part of the capitalist class as the majority of the Executive Council. This is the contradiction which such people as the Stalinists and others have failed to see when they hail John L. Lewis and his associates as “progressives.” In a previous article we have exposed the fake “progressiveness” of these people. (see Jan., 1936 Class Struggle) The heads of the C.I.O. are “progressive” in one sense only--in the sense that they are lining up behind the most advanced tendencies of capitalist decay.
Comparing Roosevelt with Landon, we see in the former a fore-sighted capitalist taking the only course along which capitalism today can hope to survive even for a time longer--the course of state capitalism, state control and regulation of industry, government financing of private industry, government work projects and work relief. This form of organization of capitalism is along the road to open Fascism, and must in its turn engender intolerable contradictions, such as the enormous piling up of the public debt, and such as the antagonizing of certain numerous sections of the bourgeoisie, as well as the sharpening of the class struggle between labor and capital through the unbearable misery of the workers.
Landon stands for old time methods, but if Landon wins, it will be only a short time before it becomes plain that the old time methods (wage-cutting, lengthening of hours, ruthless cutting down and elimination of relief, etc.) will lead to a mountain of contradictions, to hunger riots, bloody strikes, if not to actual revolt. While the two methods are superficially opposed, yet the iron logic of events moves both in the same direction. If Landon will soon be forced to turn to schemes of the same sort Roosevelt has used, Roosevelt on the other hand has seen some of his pet schemes thrown out while he is still in office, by some sections of the capitalist class not yet ready for collectivism, on the path towards Fascism. While still in office, Roosevelt has seen the N.R.A. declared unconstitutional; he has cut down relief as the enormous government outlay for relief becomes already impossible to sustain.
A large section of the leaders of labor from the A.F. of L., to the Stalinists are fitting in very well with Roosevelt’s plans. Part of his scheme was to appear as the paternal benefactor of labor through the so-called “right to organize” in the N.R.A. as well as through the restriction of hours and the minimum wage. We have pointed out many times already that the minimum wage provisions of the New Deal simply served to freeze wages at the lowest point they had reached in many years. So low were the wages that the workers were forced to come out in mass strikes such as had not taken place in a long period previously. With pay rates of 25¢ to 40¢ an hour for unskilled labor the reduced hours meant starvation pay envelopes.
In addition to this, the New Deal included the binding of the A.F. of L. organizationally to the Roosevelt Administration through the system of Labor Relations Boards which are none other than class-collaboration and strike-breaking outfits. In these boards many of the prominent officials received posts and thus became part and parcel of the Roosevelt machine. Particularly it is those officials now at the head of the C.I.O. who have been prominent in the government posts. From these soft jobs, these labor officials are not willing so easily to be separated. If many chiefs of the A.F. of L. from the very beginning of the New Deal hailed it as a tremendous benefit to labor, we now see the leaders of the C.I.O. attempting to bind labor through its mass organizations to the support of Roosevelt.
But the movement headed by hopeless labor bureaucrats such as Lewis, McMahon and Hillman is much greater than these officials and their motives. What is the C.I.O.? With its industrial organization of the mass production industries, it stands for the infiltration of the skilled workers into the ranks of the unskilled. During the 19th century, a distinct separation prevailed between the skilled and unskilled. The skilled alone had education, organization. Their organizations, excluding and despising the unskilled workers, helped the employers in their policy of dividing labor’s ranks. The unskilled, low-paid, foreign-born to a great extent, inarticulate, suffered the brunt of exploitation. The skilled literally sat on their backs, enjoying high wages, leisure, culture, in fact an existence more resembling that of the petty-bourgeoisie than of the working class.
But this situation is now radically changed. With the advance of machinery unskilled labor has so multiplied that it has become the bulk of all labor. The role of the skilled, while it is by no means eliminated, is very much reduced. Not merely that, but the great masses of the unskilled are no longer the dumb victims of exploitation that they used to be. Especially since the period of the New Deal, fresh ranks of workers have been stirring and have burst forth in strikes. Women, youth, Negroes, Mexicans, Southern whites, these severely exploited and formerly backward sections are beginning to come into their own.
The skilled workers have dominated the organizations of the working class both economic and political, only to harness them to capitalism. Today we are seeing in all countries the collapse of this type of organization. The fight to abolish capitalism, it is plain, must be carried on by the unskilled. The methods of the unskilled, wherever they have come to the forefront are the methods of direct action, of militant struggle. Now in the present American period there is a chance that the unskilled, if left to themselves, will develop militant class struggle unions. The C.I.O. attempts to circumvent this possibility. It wishes to make sure that the unskilled are organized together and under the control of the old layers of conservative workers with their life-long training in class collaboration methods of thinking and acting. It attempts to keep the restless millions of unskilled under the thumb of experienced labor lieutenants of the capitalist class who will be able to sell out their strikes, to keep them under the thumb of the Labor Relations Boards and of the government.
In this connection it is important to compare the percentage of strikes led by union groups in various years. From 1921 down to 1933 the percentage of strikes under union auspices showed a steady decline, until in 1933 only slightly more than half the strikes were organized strikes, that is in control of the fakers in the unions. No wonder the government began to advocate “vertical unions” and to help the A.F. of L. officials to take control of this threatening movement. The result was that in 1934 and 1935 three-quarters of the strikes were led by the A.F. of L. In the main it was the same misleaders at the head of the C.I.O. who rushed in to control this strike wave and to regulate the discontent of the workers into safe channels.
But the C.I.O. miscalculates in the long run. The unskilled are now the backbone of labor and it will be they who must dominate the movements of the coming period. Their methods of ruthless struggle are the only methods that can avail the working class at all in the present period. Legalism, pacifism, class-collaboration, these spell death for the workers in our days of crisis, Fascism and war. The skilled workers will either be kicked aside if they cannot learn the lessons of history or they must adopt themselves to the needs and methods of the unskilled who are now the great majority and the most essential section of the producers. In the long run instead of the skilled workers diluting the energy of the mass of workers, it will be the mass of workers who will tend to radicalize the skilled workers and bring them along into the battles for power.
We can now see the folly of all those who hail the Lewis crowd as a real left wing in the American lab or scene. Strange, is it not, that the great zeal of the industrial unionists to organize the unorganized did not put in appearance before 1933, although from 1929 to 1933 were very bitters years for the American workers, sweatshops part-time work, wage cuts and inhuman long hours were rampant and workers in industries slaved a whole week for $3. Yet it was only when Roosevelt saw the possibilities of organizing the unorganized in the way of support for his administration that the leaders of the A.F. of L. now heading the C.I.O. also saw its possibilities for themselves.
The jobs in the government which bring these gentry into national prominence, make them real big shots in the country. Naturally are they going to support Roosevelt who has given them these jobs. Hence we see the C.I.O. union officials moving on the political field to harness labor to Roosevelt and to re-elect him. The Labor Non-Partisan League is organized from on top for the avowed purpose of supporting Roosevelt. It is not a spontaneous mass movement, nor have the American masses at last turned to parliamentary action in their own name. On the contrary, the exploited mass of people here have always turned to direct action. The restiveness bred by the crisis, notwithstanding the efforts of labor leaders of all stripes to turn it into legal channels, has turned more and more into strikes of a violent character. The labor party is foisted on the masses. Yet it will serve its historic purpose of holding back from revolutionary action, it will focus their political awakening on objectives that serve their enemies rather than themselves.
The groups participating in the formation of the first Labor Non-Partisan League, in New York State are of a right wing character. Besides the C.I.O. unions, there is the People’s Party, the Old Guard Socialists. As we predicted in a former article in the Class Struggle, (August, 1934) the only possible line for the Old Guard is to attach itself to the Labor Party. As for the Socialist Party, there are elements both for and against the Labor Party in its ranks and its support has not yet definitely been given. Then there is the Commonwealth Federation. This latter is a group of declassed middle class people looking confusedly for a way out. One of its leaders is Alfred Bingham, author of a book on the role of the middle class in America in which he ridicules the workers as a revolutionary element, picturing them as well satisfied with life under capitalism and incapable of great struggle to overthrow the system. It is the middle classes, according to this Labor Party leader, that are to play the leading role in any social upturn in America. One of those active in the New York State group is the same Mrs. Herrick who as a member of the Labor Relations Board in New York City, achieved infamy in helping to break the hotel strike in 1934.
The Communist Party which for two years has been whooping it up for the labor party (if not for the Farmer-Labor Party) and which has heartily endorsed the C.I.O. is likewise supporting the Non-Partisan League. The Non-Partisan League, so far, however is not falling for the wiles of the Browders and Hathaways. The affiliation of the C.P. is not accepted. There are no worse Communist haters than Lewis and the Socialist and middle class liberals who are with him, but this does not prevent Ben Gold of the Furriers Union making campaign speeches endorsing them and Roosevelt and the banker Lehman. And why should not the Stalinist endorse the Non-Partisan League supporting Roosevelt after the Communist International has instructed them openly to give him their support? Did not Roosevelt sign the trade agreements with Russia and is he not therefore classified among the “good” capitalists who are supporting Russia? And is he not a “democrat” and therefore preferable to the “Fascist” Landon? With such devious arguments as these the Communist Party is giving up all struggle for the revolution and is in fact little different today from the elements with which it lines up.
An examination of strike figures for the years 1935 and 1934 confirms certain of our conclusions on the present trends in the A.F. and L. A big increase in the number of strikes and strikers is shown in these two years over 1933. There were over a million strikers in 1935 and a million and a half in 1934 as compared with less than 800,000 recorded in 1933. In 1935 there were 2,014 strikes recorded, the largest number since 1921, but not reaching the peak of 3,630 strikes with over four million.
We have already pointed out that the number of organized strikes steadily declined to 1933 when it picked up in 1934 and 1935. The statistics do not show, but we knew by experience that most of the strikes taking place have been in the newly organized industries. It is significant that many struggles have been first engaged in by the rank and file either against the advice and instructions of the union leaders who are only later drawn into the struggle, or by unorganized workers who have been drawn into the A.F. of L. in the course of their strikes. In 1934 and 1935 there were also 13% of the total number of strikes led by independent unions. Only 8% were recorded as “spontaneous” without union auspices. The treacherous activity of the Labor Boards is shown too in the settlement of about one-third of the total strikes.
Now that the A.F. of L. has so extended its organization together with the C.I.O. unions it is now difficult to enter the fields it has covered without the handicap of “dual unionism". Yet there is still need for militant unionism in fields of mass production where the A.F. of L. and the C.I.O. is carrying on maneuvers from the top, at the same time thwarting the will of the rank and file to struggle. This would include rubber, oil and gas, steel, automobiles, etc. It is the duty of the Communists to go into this field to organize the unorganized. Not that we must not work in the A.F. of L. or the C.I.O. but when we do it is with the avowed purpose to drive out not only the Greens but the Lewises and Hillmans from the movement.
What is the probable course of the trade union movement? The A.F. of L. weakened by the loss of over a million members and destined to loss more, cut off now from contact with the most basic production of the country, must be doomed to isolation and to withering away. As for the C.I.O. a conflict must go on within its ranks just as hitherto has gone on within the A.F.L. The C.I.O. as it is can no more organize the unorganized than could the Greens and the Hutchinsons.
The mere industrial form of union organization is no guaranty that it will be a militant union fighting the class struggle. The Lewises and Hillmans are incapable of leading their union in such a direction. A new struggle on a higher plane must now be engaged in within the C.I.O. which, if events develop along the lines now indicated will have to set itself up as a new trade union center. A left wing in the C.I.O. would have good opportunity for work but only carrying on the same uncompromising struggle that would be carried on against Wm. Green or Matthew Woll. The upsurge of the unskilled workers, as the facts on strike struggles prove, is too powerful long to be chained to the Roosevelt machine or to any other capitalist force. It is the most vital movement in America today. It will set aside the Lewises and Dubinskys and with them the Browders and Fords just as it has set aside the Greens and the Wolls.
During the latter of July there was organized by the Illinois Workers Alliance a Hunger March to be held in Springfield August 4th. With relief cut down and starvation and evictions rampant, the enthusiasm for this demonstration among the unemployed was very high.
The trucks containing approximately 350 people, many of them colored workers, left Chicago at 10 p.m. and proceeded directly to Springfield. Outside the Springfield city limits the trucks were stopped by state troopers and told they could not enter Springfield so early in the morning (It was 7 a.m. at the time). The writer of these lines immediately protested to his car captain and succeeded in convincing him that it was foolish to wait for the O.K. from the state troopers. When our car started the rest followed and we entered Springfield. There we went directly to the union hall and were shipped from there to Douglas Park. By this time it was clear to all the delegates that something had happened to the down-state delegation, for the small group of 350 from Cook County was not enlarged by more than 40 people. At about 11 o’clock a report was made by Ruisso to the assembled delegates. He reported that the capitol grounds were under heavy police guard (600 state troopers) who had told the committee under no circumstances would the demonstrators be allowed to enter the capitol grounds. Ruisso reported further that the committee had then gone to see Commissioner Williams to demand entry into the capitol grounds and to be allowed into the legislators’ gallery. Williams had informed them this could not be done, that he had his orders from “somebody on top” and under no circumstances would there be a repetition of Harrisburg Pa. there in Springfield.
We could see from this that the agents of the capitalist class learn the lessons of struggle much quicker than do the leaders of the unemployed. Ruisso concluded his report by saying that the committee had an appointment to see the Speaker of the House of Representatives Devine in 15 minutes asked for authority from the delegates to do this. At this point one worker suggested a mass picket line at the state capitol while the committee was seeing Devine. This was discussed for a few minutes and upon its return to decide upon the matter of the picket line.
The committee was gone four hours, during which we hung around the park. Finally a meeting was called to decide upon some action. Some one suggested another committee go to find what had happened to the first one, and that we all go as this committee, carrying our placards with us. This brought on a barrage of discussion pro and con and while this was going on the committee returned. A report was made telling us the committee had seen Speaker Devine and he had allowed five members of the committee 10 minutes each to present our demands. The five who had spoken were Schneid, Ruisso, McCulloch, Horn and Foley. Foley who was the last to report to the delegates spoke bitterly against those who had wanted to send another committee, claiming this would have spoiled all the “good work” already accomplished. During the course of the reports it appeared that the leadership sensed the discontent of the delegates. The reports told of a “possible” appropriation of 3 1/2 million that was due to our being in Springfield. It was then announced that the legislature had gone home for the day and the committee was to see Gov. Horner soon. It was therefore not necessary to hold a demonstration but simply to wait for the committee to return from its visit to the Governor to decide upon future action.
One thing that was noticeable throughout was the complete isolation of the unemployed marchers in Springfield. There was no effort made to arouse support among the population of the city. No demonstrations were held in Springfield itself nor along the line of march. As a matter of fact the only type of demonstration that entered the minds of the steering committee was a demonstration at the state capitol building. This being prohibited, this was for them the end of any struggle whatsoever. the question of food was also decided so as to be perfectly “respectable.” Instead of appealing to the various unions or to food stores for donations, everything was bought and paid for from the funds collected in Chicago. I suppose the demonstrators couldn’t stand the disgrace of asking for food in Springfield The workers organizations of Springfield were conspicuous by their absence. When it became certain we were to remain in Springfield Tuesday night there was no attempt made to find shelter for the delegates. A pouring rain came down and the whole 400 delegates had to stay out in the park in the rain, men, women and children getting drenched to the skin.
Late in the afternoon the committee returned from its visit to Gov. Horner. The report made by Ruisso was a bitter disappointment to the delegates. He told us the legislature had adjourned until next Monday and Horner had said in no uncertain terms there was nothing for the delegation to do but to get out of Springfield and go home. He told them of an agreement reached between himself and the legislature which would be voted the following Monday. Of course, with the legislature now adjourned the steering committee did not know what to do. In concluding the report Foley deplored the attitude of certain delegates who would make “political capital” of the fact that there was no picket line. He gave a long list of details of how the committee was “bottled” up in the state capitol, making it impossible for them to return to the park to organize a picket line. Apparently this had not been thought of before hand and no preparations were made.
After spending a miserable night in a bad rain that continued throughout the morning, it was decided to circle the capitol twice displaying our signs (nobody was in there by that time except a few office workers) and then to head for home. This last pathetic gesture was a sop to the more disgruntled delegates who were bitter at the thought of having traveled four hundred miles merely to listen to reports and get a soaking in the rain. As a matter of fact, even the numerous placards that had been brought along were not displayed until the trip homeward.
The method of organization of this demonstration was entirely legalistic, and made no effort to stir up the mass pressure and support so sorely needed by the unemployed. The principal hindrance to a big demonstration was the exorbitant tax of $1 put on the delegates. This, of course, excluded a large section of the unemployed who had been on relief for some time and could not possible spare a dollar. It is clear that in this way that section of the unemployed who had the best reason to demonstrate were kept out of the demonstration. The comrades of the C.L.S. had urged their locals to hold neighborhood demonstrations prior to the Springfield march, in the workers neighborhoods, so as to get the support of great mass of unemployed. This the local heads would not hear of, giving the weak excuse, “We don’t want to detract from the main demonstration at Springfield.” Because of the poor preparation the demonstration received no support from any substantial number of W.P.H. or P.W.A workers. The great body of these workers never even hearing of the demonstration. The American Separation of Labor (A.F. of L.) that is supposed to support the Workers Alliance nationally would do nothing to help it in this demonstration.
The lessons for future action are very clear: 1. The practical details of future demonstrations should be fully discussed ahead of time in the locals. 2. All efforts should be made to link the struggles of the unemployed with those of the employed. This requires demanding support from the A.F. L. It requires including W.P.A and P.W.A. workers in like demonstrations and specifying them as part of the demonstration. 3. Mass meetings should be held in workers neighborhoods prior to a state-wide demonstration. Wherever possible the neighborhood demonstration should be near a food warehouse, so that this can make clear the terrible contradiction of food rotting away while workers starve. 4. The Workers Alliance should form a Project Workers Industrial Union. These workers when organized will be a splendid ally of the unemployed in future struggles. 5. The struggle for unemployment insurance and for adequate relief should be increased with the slogan “One Day General Strike for Unemployment Insurance.” I.C.
I am writing you a few lines about the conditions of railroad laborers in general and about an interesting experience I had the last time I was shipped out.
Most workers on “Ghandi jobs” in this locality are shipped out from Chicago. There is a reason for this: Chicago is an important railroad center and the great body of transitory workers must pass through here at one time or another. These workers, most of them tired of the endless search for work, are willing to grab any sort of job just to keep going. In former times some of them made the harvest fields but with the use of modern machinery, the few nickels they could pick up this way are no longer to be had.
In Chicago, there are about 10 commissaries that will ship you out for the sum of $2. This commissary is also in charge of the board in the camps. In other words, they can make money at both ends, first they ship you out and then in camp they charge $ a day for food that is worth half that much. The wages on these jobs is around 30¢ an hour. In other words, when the insurance and federal taxes are deducted as well as the board, if it don’t rain you make about $9 or $10 a week, working ten hours a day.
On the job there are to be found a lot of Mexicans, some Negroes, a few Poles and a fair sprinkling of native Americans. I was shipped out on a bad job last week and got into some trouble. After working a half a day we got back to our camp for lunch. One Mexican fellow who had worked on the job for some time, wanted to leave and go back to Chicago, so he went to the gang boss and asked him for a pass. The boss told him, using some choice cuss words, that he couldn’t get one, and then went into his “bunk” for dinner. The Mexican knew this meant waiting all afternoon till he could catch a freight back home. He brooded a while, then started throwing rocks at the gang boss’s bunk. This aroused all the other Mexicans in the camp who sided with their countryman. Soon one straw boss (emancipated Ghandi dancer) grabbed a pick handle and started swinging at the crowd. This brought on a free for all. As for myself, I got a worse shellacking trying to stop the fight than those who were in it. The state trooper finally arrived and arrested some 20 of us, among whom I found myself. We were left in jail two days before we were given a trial. I soon proved my innocence, but the Mexicans were given 30 days. Of course they were plainly discriminated against, but the railroad company had to make an example of some one.
With my new freedom I road back to Chicago on a freight train, with the engine blowing cinders in my eyes as I clung to the top of a car of pigs.
—Ex Ghandi dancer.
On Chicago’s South Side there is a “Black Belt” housing the majority of Negroes in this city. In this section are to be found the colored workers employed in the steel mills and stock yards as well as domestic and laundry workers and many unemployed. They are, of course, the most heavily exploited section of the working class in this city. Suffering from all sorts of vicious practices and discrimination, the Negro section is alive with discontent.
This is therefore the section that the C.L.S. picked as the most favorable base of operation for its activities. What seemed to be most needed was a militant Negro center which would organize the strength of the South Side Negroes to compel the unity of black and white.
There exists a Negro forum supposedly non-partisan but under the careful domination of the Stalinists. We went there to discuss the over-mounting problems of the Negro and to give a positive program. After Comrade Weisbord had spoken there three times we had a sizable nucleus for the formation of a Negro Chamber of Labor. As for the members of the nucleus we knew many of them were members of the C.P. but we hoped the petty factional interest would not deter them.
A meeting was called to form the N.C.L. and the program was heartily endorsed by all. Of course, there was the usual skepticism of Negroes to white men, but this was soon eradicated. We explained at great length that leadership would be in the hands of competent Negroes and that if a white worker were given an important post, he would first have to be tested in the actual struggle. There was a general enthusiasm and it was decided to call another meeting a few days thence.
At the second meeting, it was clear the C.P. had begun its sabotage. Upon arriving at the place where the meeting was to be held, we were informed that the meeting was called off. The excuse was given that it was “too soon” to form the N.C.L. It was clear that the party center had given its instructions. Some of the Negroes made it plain that the only obstacle in the way was the objection of the C.P. When this became certain, we decided to denounce those petty politicians in the C.P. before the Negro workers. We were given the floor several times at the Washington Park forum and exposed the false party line towards the Negroes, in the idealization of Lincoln, in the Farmer Labor Party, in the support of Roosevelt, on the Moroccan question, etc. Finally a rank and file C.P. member challenged us to a debate on “The C.P. and the Negro,” which we readily accepted, wondering meanwhile whether the C.P. would so far depart from its precedent as to debate us.
When the time for debate came, the chairman announced that the debate would not take place. But we got together with the party fraction and easily convinced them--since this was their own desire--to go on with the debate. After our speaker had finished there was a weak attempt by a rank and filer to defend the C.P. line. Meanwhile, word had been sent to the district or section office that the debate was going on, Comrade Lightfoot then hot-footed it down to the park and spoke for an hour and a half in “rebuttal,” talking on everything except the challenge our speaker raised: “Why did Russia aid Italy in the recent war?” The party has since done everything possible to stir up a lynching spirit and drive us out, but without success. Our paper “Struggle” is meeting with great success, and a successful meeting has recently been held on “Africa Strikes Back” with B. Jennings of the National Negro Congress and Munroe Parker of the Workers Alliance as well as Comrade Weisbord.