I. The Results of the Elections—And Perspectives
II. The Imminence of Stalin’s Downfall
III. French Imperialism in Indo-China
IV. The Strategy of the Fourth International (III)
I. The Fiasco of Non-Intervention in Spain.
II. The Sharpening of the Class Struggle in England
III. Nationals in Palestine
IV. The Struggles of the Belgium Workers
Incidentally, the present age has come to remind intellectuals that the best method of pedagogy is the one in which practice is the teacher. Today, opinions must literally be fought for. This means that the days of hyperbolic polemics are over. Opinions will be restricted to those which are important and over which the protagonist is deadly in earnest. This alone will spell the death knell of the dilettante intellectual from Hobohemia or Sexopathia who has inhabited the fringe of the proletarian movement. Fascism has a way of driving the chatterbox out of the movement and allowing only those who mean business to remain. This is another guaranty that the proletarian movement will be placed on the tracks of direct action. Action and theory will tend to become more united within the revolutionary movement; democracy and free speech will be for the doers only.
Direct action in the past has taken either economic or political forms, of a reformistic or revolutionary character. Heretofore there has been ample room between the rehearsal and the final act of the drama, between the period of preparation and the actual insurrection. The present period, however, is distinguished by the fact that the struggle for reform leads directly and immediately to the struggle for power in many instances. Under Fascism even the reform demonstration is not permitted and one takes one’s life in his hands when asking even for the most moderate improvements for the masses. Since every action of the masses becomes so fraught with consequences, the organization of these actions must be carefully studied in every instance.
If the present epoch is one of direct action it is another sign that the revolutionary movement must shift further from the idea that gyrations of representative or delegate can be substituted for the action of the mass itself. Direct action places before every participant the full consequences of his activity. He himself must fight out all the doubtful questions that besiege him before entering into the battle. In representative action the masses remain passive; the field is open for bureaucracy. In direct action it is the masses themselves who live; the representative is merely the leader and that leader is best who knows how to train others for leadership. In a period of direct action the units of the revolutionary party must be small and each member must be capable of standing on his own feet. Responsibility and capability become tested and developed.
Direct action of an economic, secondary nature may occur in the industries, among the unemployed and among the mass of consumers. With the producers, it takes the form of strikes which in the present period tend to lose their simple economic character, even where the strikes have purely economic aims, and to take on important political consequences. In Germany today any large strike would be bound to have violent political repercussions. The very reason for existence of Fascism is its ability to crush all organization and united action of the working class. The mere fact of a united strike under Fascism would be a complete challenge to the entire regime no matter what the aims of the strike. Under Fascism every strike would quickly have to turn into insurrection. And for that reason the workers are slow to strike, knowing well the consequences of their actions.
In all countries of course it is the strategy of the Communists to widen and deepen every physical demonstration of the workers, to raise its political level, to connect the strike with the issue of workers’ power. Where the strike becomes a general strike, there the question of power becomes a pressing one on the immediate order of the day.
The question of strike is intimately connected with the active boycott as a weapon of direct action. The boycott can transform a local action to a wide-spread general struggle tying up both consumers and producers and uniting the working class as a whole. Connected with the boycott is the question of mass retaliation for injuries and mass sabotage. Revenge is not an inconsequential motive here and the Communists will not generally restrain the spontaneity of the mass even though spontaneity is not enough for victory.
If it is true that we live in an anti-reform period, then every struggle for reform must meet the sternest resistance. Thus even the organization of new trade unions embodying layers of unskilled workers will meet the fiercest opposition. It is for this reason that we can predict that the American Federation of Labor with its Liberal hesitating policies will never be able to organize the mass of Negroes, or the unskilled workers in the South. Those who go out to win reforms today must be made of the hard fibre of revolutionists. It is not peaceful persuasion that will accomplish the job, at a time when capitalism is on the down-grade, but only hard struggle. More and more the organization of the unorganized and the building up of unions for struggle belong to the revolutionary elements. It is only the revolutionist who can be even a successful reformist.
In the unemployed field, the genuine revolutionary Communist will tend to make the unemployed organization rely entirely upon direct action to improve conditions. Adequate unemployment insurance is impossible today when the armies of unemployed are so enormous. The unemployed, therefore, must be taught to help themselves. Communists and unemployed will not spend much time in legislatures petitioning but will mobilize their forces rather in militant demonstrations and will concentrate their attention on the places where food is stored, where fuel and clothing may be obtained. Whole neighborhoods can be aroused over the question of evictions in order to make every eviction as costly as possible for the landlords. The general idea is that the wealthy must find it dearer to worsen conditions than to allow them to remain as they are.
Today, direct action can be not only a weapon to remedy conditions but a preventative force. The proletariat, knowing the menace of Fascism, can physically annihilate the Fascist movement at the very start. After all, in some countries the organized labor movement is well entrenched. If it knows that the days of Liberalism are numbered and must give way to Fascist violence, then it will be forewarned enough to make it impossible for the Fascist forces to appear in workers’ quarters.
The strategy of the Communists in this period must be to make the demonstrations as brutal and powerful as possible. In every case where the workers have been defeated, sentimentality and Liberal illusions have played far too great a part. The more firm and positive the action the better the demonstration.
In the United States, the question of the fight against lynching of the Negro, of the labor organizer and poor white toiler furnishes a good illustration of the correct method. The Communist will not bewail the institution of lynching, but will try to use that institution against the instigators of lynching. The slogan “Lynch the lynchers of the Negroes and poor toilers” will mark the adoption of American methods to terminate the slaughter of the innocent workers. As part of this policy, everywhere the Negroes would be induced to organize white and black physical defense bodies that would protect the poor masses and build up the power of the lowest strata of the population.
Direct action logically leads to insurrection. The strike, the boycott, the demonstration, all have this as their ultimate objective and goal.
On the road to insurrection for every class striving for power lies the problem of disarming the rulers and arming its own cohorts. This question is not peculiar to the proletariat alone and it is interesting to note how the bourgeoisie solved the problem of the disarming of the ancien regime and the arming of its own forces. Generally speaking, the nascent capitalist class accomplished its task first by winning over the biggest baron or prince to their side and making him supreme through its monetary and material support. The reliance of the military upon gunpowder, cannon and manufactured instruments naturally gave the advantage to the manufacturers of these articles or to those with the money to purchase them. As the capitalists’ enemies, the feudal lords and knights, became reduced in power, they were gradually disarmed; their old retainers were disbanded, they themselves becoming bedroom courtiers, knights of the bath or of the garter.
The next task of the bourgeoisie was to take command of the apparatus of the State, and, in particular of certain key sections of the armed forces. Generally, the capitalists managed to obtain important posts such as Ministers of Finance, so that at critical moments in the struggle they could entirely disorganize their opponent in power. Then, too, they managed in Britain to control the vital forces of the navy. In America they trained themselves through the French and Indian wars. Everywhere they endeavored to influence certain corps of the army, especially the artillery department where the needed engineers and scientists were located. If the cavalry often belonged to the Royalists, the artillery frequently followed the capitalists. Once the bourgeoisie found themselves with fetters unbound or in control of the State, they quickly formed their own special forces, such as the Garde Mobile in France. Sometimes they used these special forces to crack the regular army of the old regime and win it over to their cause.
The proletariat has had a more difficult time than the bourgeoisie in disarming the forces of the State and arming itself. Let us remember that the bourgeoisie seized power in most cases long after it had become the dominating factor in production; hence it had money and other material means at its disposal. The proletariat, on the other hand, must seize power in order to make sure its possession of the means of production; It must make the struggle for power as a dispossessed, oppressed class. Hence, the weapons it needs—unless it is armed by the bourgeoisie for war purposes—must be taken from the bourgeoisie by force. This arming of itself is an inevitable process and the Fourth International will have to take cognizance of the tasks to be performed. First of all, there is the fact that proletarian revolutions today do not need to wait for world wars to break out. They can mature, as China, Cuba and Spain have shown, even where there is no war to throw all antagonisms into sharpest relief.
In considering the armed forces of the State, many distinctions must be drawn. First it must be determined whether the army is a mercenary volunteer one or a conscript army. Naturally, the approach will be different and the possibilities for work vary in each case. Then there are the questions pertaining to each branch of the service. In general it will be found that the artillery and aviation corps will be firmly under the control of the capitalists, the calvary in charge of the agrarian element and the infantry made up of both workers and farmers or peasants. Each branch of the armed forces will offer special problems. This does not mean that the proletariat will not be able to get a foothold in all these divisions. In the aviation corps, for example, much depends upon the aviation mechanic who is closely bound to the working class and can even be unionized and induced to strike in solidarity with his brethren. As the armed forces become increasingly motorized and mechanized, the number of plain workmen attached to the army increases. The proletariat enters into the heart of even the most mercenary armed force today.
Then there are the other divisions of the armed forces,—such special super-loyal groups as the U.S. Marines who act as police over the army and navy, such groups as the National Guard or State Militia which are in between the regular army and the police and which offer diverse problems. In the United States these groups are often filled with working class and farmer elements who are sympathetic to strikers. The National Guard and State Militia, however, are intended to be particularly loyal to the bourgeoisie and to be used for internal work, against the enemy at home. Therefore the effort to crack this particular body of men becomes especially important to revolutionists in ordinary times of strike or where insurrection is not yet on the order of the day so as to warrant the use of the regular army. In the European countries special Mobile Guards of National Guards are formed for this sole purpose of domestic action.
Besides this group some countries have special nationalized and centralized police forces, like the French gendarmerie who are highly paid but removed from the local influence of the people. Further down the line there are the specialized and permanent forces of the police such as the “Industrial squads,” the detective forces, etc. In all countries a sharp line has been drawn between the regular army and the police, the proletariat abandoning all hope of winning the police over to their side, but concentrating instead upon the regular soldiers where they have a better chance. In America there is still another division, the posse of the sheriff. This is made up of citizens, most often of citizens completely controlled by the capitalists.
Around the armed forces are to be found large numbers of proletarians who are part of the civilian population needed to sustain the soldiers. As a general rule, the advance of capitalism has increasingly intertwined the army with industry, and while war has become the greatest industry of modern time, tending completely to subordinate all other branches to itself, simultaneously the military machine has been forced to rely increasingly upon the factories and productive processes of the country. Thus, strikes, boycotts, sabotage can become an increasingly powerful weapon to demoralize and crack the armed forces by removing material support from them at critical moments. But further than that, there are the armories and arsenals which are filled with workers and which these workers can take over at the right time. This is highly important since to control the armory or arsenal means to get the possibility of arming the masses directly and to remove the guns and other armament from the regular forces of the State. Besides these depots, there are the camps and cantonments of all sorts which have large numbers of workmen attached to them, workmen who if properly organized and directed could do inestimable damage in winning the soldiery to the cause of the revolution. Finally, of course, there is the method of direct and indirect fraternization between the members of the army and the ordinary working population. Wherever these soldiers go in the cities, during recreation periods or otherwise, they are bound to come in contact with the mass of people and to become infected with the prevailing social views.
Extremely important, and often furnishing an invaluable link in reaching the military ranks, are the social-military reserves which the capitalist State is forced to maintain. These reserves are of various sorts; conscripts who are liable to be called to the colors, officers who are on call, veteran organizations, military training groups, and such bodies as in America are represented by the Reserve Officers Training Corps, the Citizens Military Training Camps, the various rifle clubs, authorized by the government, military schools and similar institutions.
The attitude of the Communist changes according to the specific character and purpose of each body. As much as possible these social organizations are utilized to penetrate both into the regular armed forces and into the ranks of the lines next in reserve.
Part of the strategy of disarming of the bourgeoisie is the dissolution of the capitalist armies in time of war. The line of Lenin was the defeatist line, that is, the policy whereby the Communists worked for the defeat of their own ruling class and did their best to win the workers and conscripts in the army to their cause by denouncing the war and organizing mutinies to subdue the officers and transform imperialist war to civil war. Of course the Communists have to work differently from the agents of the foreign governments at war with one another. Not every form of defeatism is revolutionary defeatism; the mere fact that the troops are defeated does not necessarily mean a strengthening of the workers’ forces. In times of war the capitalists always try to make the Communists into agents provocateur or spies for the enemy ruling class and this is a great danger that must be avoided. The defeatism of the Leninist takes the form of accentuating the class struggle in all its ramifications; by no means can it take the form of consciously favoring the capitalist class of the hostile country. (This was the form taken by the ill-fated Irish Rebellion of 1916. In many places the bourgeoisie has cooperated with the ruling classes of opposing countries but this can not be the policy of the working class.) Naturally, these precautions do not hold so far as contracting the workers of the other belligerent countries are concerned, and every effort must be made at fraternization with the workers and soldiers of the opposing armies so as to break down capitalist and imperialist divisions.
The defeatism of the proletariat can not only take the form of strikes at home and mutinies in the army, but also must make use of the pacifistic tendencies in the ranks of the petty bourgeoisie. Pacifism can be used to demoralize the ranks of the supporters of the capitalist class just as it is normally used to demoralize the ranks of the workers. The militant sections of the advanced workers certainly cannot ignore the traditions and sentiments of pacifism which a large number of the petty bourgeoisie hold as their own, but must learn how to use these feelings for a revolutionary purpose. After all, it is not generally the working class that declares wars but the rulers, and the opposition of pacifism can assume a sincere note that will help the pacifists to work in alliance with the revolutionists. This was seen in the conference of Zimmerwald and elsewhere in the early part of the last war.
The bourgeoisie internationally can also become disarmed by divisions in its ranks as well as by exhaustion. Where actually the workers are in charge of a State faced with the possibility of a capitalist united front against it, it is perfectly proper for that workers’ State to try to prevent the consolidation of the hostile capitalist world. It has the duty of making alliances that will split up the opposing forces as much as possible. Furthermore, if the war must break out it would be better for it to break out in the capitalist world than against the country which is controlled by the workers for the time being. But there must be no illusions that the capitalist classes of the world also do not appreciate this danger and will not ultimately unite their forces against the country won by the workers. What is wrong with the Franco-Soviet Pact is not that the Soviet Union has tried to make alliances with capitalist countries, but rather that in order to make that alliance it has sacrificed the interests of the world revolution, preventing the French Revolution from breaking out and thus further isolating the Soviet Union itself.
Where colonial countries like Morocco under Abd-El-Krim and Ethiopia under Haile Selassie revolt against imperialism it is the duty of the Communists to support the colonial forces in revolt, even where there is no possibility of introducing Communism in those countries. The storming of the main fortress of capitalism in Europe and America can only be accomplished by making use of the vast guerilla fighting that breaks out in the colonial countries, from Asia to Latin America. The colonial warfare, if it does nothing else, at least weakens the forces of imperialism and permits the workers better to attack in the industrial countries.
Hand in hand with the question of disarming the bourgeoisie goes the problem of the arming of the class that is coming to power, the proletariat. The general tendency of capitalism is to arm the entire people and mobilize it for war. It is clear that an oppressed class that has never used arms cannot conquer power. Therefore the strategy of the Communists must be to train as many of the working class population as possible in fighting and in the use of arms. As in the slogan “Lynch the Lynchers of the Negroes and poor toilers,” it is not the action of fighting that is condemned but the direction that the fighting takes. In the case of the armed forces, what the Communists try to do is to turn the army against its own officers and to throw the armed people against the bourgeois State.
In the 19th century when many States had standing armies of mercenary soldiers, the Marxists predicted that following the French Revolution the inevitable tendency would be for universal military training and conscription; and to this change they were not opposed. Today, however, the attitude of the Communists towards universal military training can not be confined to generalities but must be entirely concrete and specific. The world can be divided into three principal sections, in this respect.
In Europe where universal military training has been a fact for a along time, where the devastating world war has brought home the meaning of revolution to the entire population and where the mass of workers have been in the trenches and already know the use of arms, here the Communists can no longer support the demand for universal military training although not necessarily must they be in opposition to it. The demand in Europe must be for a People’s or for a Workers’ Militia. Especially appropriate is this in countries where the People’s Front rules. It can be demonstrated that only when the entire people are armed that peace is assured as evidenced by the fact that the first country to stop fighting in the last world war was precisely that country that dissolved its regular army and armed the people—Russia.
In the colonial and semi-colonial countries, however, an entirely different situation prevails. In such cases as China, India, Nicaragua or the Philippines, the imperialists rule through mercenary armies separate and apart from the people. In such countries the demand for universal military training would arouse the masses to the highest pitch of enthusiasm and fill the rulers with dread. One of the great signs of hope in China today is the fact that the old traditions of Confucius which looked askance at military training are rapidly disappearing. If the incessant fighting in China has done nothing else it has at least been a great training school for the masses to learn the use of arms. This is the beginning of the end of imperialism.
In such countries as the United State, Canada, Australia and similar regions where the masses are not trained in the use of arms and have never had conscription for any length of time, here universal military training can serve a decidedly useful purpose for the Communists. In such countries, then, it is not the duty of the Communists to oppose universal military training, but rather to favor it, although they may not always be in the position openly to demand it, since traditions of pacifism in a given country might make the general labor movement misinterpret this demand. Yet there is no other way out to arm the masses. In this category of countries the time is not ripe to raise the slogan Workers’ Militia. It is significant that in the United States the ruling class itself is not in a hurry to introduce universal military training.
In the United States the Communists will have to take a clear position in regard to the special militarist groups such as the Reserve Officers Training Corps, the Citizens Military Training Camps, the National Guard and so forth. In regard to the first, the Communists put forth steady opposition since this body is for the training only of bourgeois cadres. All work that Communists do within this body is work to destroy and nullify its activity. In regard to the Citizens Military Training Camps a different position might be taken. On the one hand, these camps take in wide numbers of workers and train them in the use of arms. On the other hand, the workers are partially selected and given a thorough bourgeois patriotic training that puts them in an entirely different environment than a universally conscripted army would engender. Under such circumstances it would seem that the Communists cannot oppose nor raise the cry of boycott of the C.M.T.C.’s, nor yet can they advocate such selected camps, but rather must work within them to raise the political level of their members and to win them for Communism.
In regard to the National Guard, the workers must do everything in their power to break up and destroy this specialized armed force of the bourgeoisie whose purpose is strike-breaking and the smashing of workers demonstrations. This does not, however, preclude work within this guard, slogans to favor the rank and file against the officers, agitation for the election of officers and similar measures.
Wherever other bodies exist such as the Citizens Conservation Corps, the Boy Scouts and various sports and drill societies, the action of the Communists depends upon the composition and function of the group. Where the group is thoroughly selected and under careful bourgeois guidance but made up of plain working class elements, there the policy will be similar to that of the C.M.T.C. On the other hand, as much as possible the workers must build up their own sports and drill clubs, their own defense corps. This is the best answer that Labor can make to the Ku Klux Klan, the Black Legion or similar organizations potentially of great menace to the labor movement in the United States.
The arming of the proletariat has now reached a different stage in world history with the conquest of power by the workers of one part of the world. For the first time the workers have a vast army and incalculable resources at their disposal. Within the Soviet Union everything that is done to strengthen the armed might of the people strengthens the entire working class. What is ‘wrong with Stalinism is that it has disarmed the people by replacing their creative will by the initiative and power of a bureaucracy. Stalinism cannot defend the Soviet Union adequately and in the course of the coming war, when this becomes known, the proletariat will soon enough have to take action to remove the bureaucracy and reinstitute its own direct rule.
However, so long as the Soviet Union remains a Workers’ State, then every advance that it wins in the form of recognition or credits and supplies from a capitalist world goes to strengthen the world proletariat, provided of course the price is not so great that the workers lose more than they gain. And it is precisely the crime of Stalinism that it pays much more than it gets in return; the advantage to the Soviet Union is counter-balanced by the defeat of the world revolution which the policies of the leaders help to bring about.
The Soviet Union can not be neutral in any war of a major character that breaks out. Even should the capitalists not drag Russia into the war, it would be the duty of the Soviet Union at critical moments to throw the vast weight of its economic and military forces into the struggle but only in such a way as to further the emancipation of the workers of the belligerent countries and to spread the world revolution. It would be criminal for the Soviet Union to take sides in the coming war, helping one set of capitalists against the other. This is exactly what Stalinism intends to do. Here the Russian officials will have to reckon with the soldiers and workers in their own country who also will have something to say, and once the war breaks out, will be in a better position to speak to the bureaucracy.
On the other hand, the proletariat of the world cannot be neutral in any war against the Soviet Union. It is not only a matter of aiding the Soviet Union—which can best be done only by the working class extending the proletarian revolution—but also a question of struggling against any capitalist country at war with the Soviets. For the proper policy which the Communists of the Fourth International must pursue we refer the reader to the Class Struggle of November, 1935.
The strategy of the Fourth International will deal with the question of the strategy of insurrection. And for this it will have to make a thorough examination of all the revolutions that have taken place from the time of the Peasants War of the 15th and 16th centuries to the present. So far as modern times are concerned, there will have to be a distinction made between various stages of the movement. There is first the period before the revolutionary situation has arisen and when the fight is one for preparation of the struggle through the fight for secondary reforms. Second, there is the phase just prior to the actual insurrection where the situation has become revolutionary and the proletarian vanguard is thoroughly prepared and organized for the seizure of power. Finally, there is the moment of insurrection itself.
That every social revolution will have to culminate in a period of actual insurrection is now the commonplace among the advanced workers. That this insurrection must not just “happen” haphazardly but can be planned by the vanguard, is also a truism since the days of Lenin. What is not sufficiently recognized, however, is the decisive character of the subjective factor, the Party, in the present period and the possibilities of the Communists themselves to change the level of development from one plane to another. Especially will this be true in highly industrialized regions where the very organization of the working class even for reforms may lead at once to the question of power. While it is hard to start the revolution in these countries, once the situation is ripe the revolutionary movement can run with tremendous speed and directness through all its phases.
The periods through which a People’s revolution has generally traveled in modern times are mainly the spontaneous outburst, the “Honeymoon” stage, the “July Days,” the counter-revolt, the further revolutionary advance leading to the victory of the proletariat, the period of civil war and then retreat. Together with this is the study of the mutual relationship of limited democracy, broad democracy, democratic-dictatorship and dictatorship of the proletariat, both direct and indirect. The evolution of the party from the sectarian stage, to the mass stage, to the heroic period and to degeneration via the route of Thermidor, the Directorate, the consulate and Bonapartism, all must be given careful study.
Revolutions have their own evolution and laws of development, but these laws are laws of social explosions. The revolutionary movement often goes far beyond the point where it can maintain itself and is then driven backward far beyond the point necessary. Thus it is only as a resultant of the most violent swings in one direction and the other that the revolution finally comes to rest at the spot commensurate with the relationship of social forces at the time. It is necessary to study not only the law of the zig-zag, but also the laws by which the zig-zags become so exaggerated and extreme. The laws of revolutions contain also within themselves the laws regulating the tempo and form of mutation movements, of sympdial developments.
Having studied the laws of social action and reaction both in their exaggerated and normal aspects within the general movement known as revolution, the revolutionists then can be prepared to take up the various instruments which they can use to test out in what moment of the social revolution they find themselves. Here we find ourselves not in the realm of social statics but of social dynamics and the ordinary instruments and barometers are not sufficient. The Communist can use the barometer of parliamentary elections in these periods, the amount of votes being a rough indication of the stage of the movement; or he can use the method of direct action on a secondary scale. In all cases his demands must be timed to meet the actual real situation.
But those mechanical instruments are not sufficient. The Communist Party must use far more delicate dials. It must be intimately bound up with the toilers so that there is a constant transfusion of blood between the two. It must make use of those fine electrical devices which can measure the temper, the feelings, the electrical irradiation of the masses from moment to moment. This can be done only by a party that truly springs from the bowels of the class striving for power and represents its very soul. Feelings, passions, moods, psychological irradiations of the mass, the party must be so attuned to them by intimate personal contact with the people that it can sway them through the mechanism of politics to bring forth social conclusions. A bureaucracy in the party is fatal to such machinery of adjustment. If it is capable of understanding the rough laws of gravitation, it can never understand the laws of electro-dynamics.
The Fourth International will have to make a scientific study of the proper organs of insurrection. There is parliament which can become the medium of the mass struggle, as Spain shows today and the French, English and American Revolutions demonstrated long ago. The modifications that parliament undergoes in the course of the struggle and its limitation as an effective organ of proletarian struggle has to be understood in all its aspects. Then there are the economic bodies of the workers, the shop committees, the trade union councils and similar groups. Finally, there are the Soviets either in the shape given by the Russian Revolution or in some modified form. Concrete circumstances may demand specific adaptations of the organs of insurrection.
In regard to the insurrection itself, there is always to be considered the dictum of Marx that insurrection is an art, the essence of which lies in the audacious offensive and the determination to carry through to the end what is once started. Since the party will have to form its Military- Insurrectionary Committee, the experiences of such committees as have been formed in the past must be thoroughly digested. The question of the element of surprise in the seizure of key places, such as radio stations, means of communication and transportation, public places, stores of arms, factories, and so forth becomes part of the problem. Hand in hand with this problem is the one of the organization of the armed forces responsible for the insurrection.
Insurrectionary strategy will have to take into account the lessons of barricade fighting of the past, the Paris Commune, the 1905 experience, the fighting in Vienna in 1934, and similar occasions. In such a country as the United States, for example, where there are over 25 million automobiles, the question of barricading streets becomes of special importance since these automobiles can make mobile and easily constructed barricades even for the broadest highways. It is no longer necessary to rip up the streets or to throw down furniture from the houses to form barricades in such a country.
Finally, it must be considered that the insurrection is not the culmination of the Social Revolution but its true beginning. While the workers may seize power they will have to hold it against desperate resistance. Insurrection is followed by civil war. The Fourth International must draw the military technical lessons from the civil wars fought by the proletariat in the past. The question of the value of airplanes, small arms, cannon, tanks, mines, grenades and gas in relation both to guerilla warfare of the peasantry dispersed over a large territory and to masses of workers congested in large cities must play an important role in this respect.
From all this it can be seen what an entirely different body the Fourth International will be compared with its predecessors. It will be a body which will recognize that the peaceful period of capitalism is over, that riots, bloodshed, violence, insurrection, revolution, war, civil war, is the normal atmosphere in which we must live and work. It will also recognize that there has been a tremendous gap between the general theoretical knowledge of the workers and the strategy of what is to be done to make Communism a reality. The Fourth International will concentrate entirely upon the strategy of the world revolution.
On September 21, 1936, the golden jubilee and 21st convention of the Bakery and Confectionary Workers International Unions of America was held at Pittsburgh, Pa. This organization is in existence since 1886. It has at the present time a dues paying membership of 25,000 and about 12 to 15,000 more on the books, all of whom are in 244 locals in the United States and Canada. The number of bakery workers in this country is figured approximately at a quarter of a million. Thus there are about 200,000 unorganized, or more than five times the number in the union. This small organization has a reserve fund of $1,200,000, also a sick and death benefit fund of $200,000.
Up to the last convention that was held in St. Louis in 1929, the number of good standing members was 21,000 which fell to 16,000 in 1933. During the past 41 years of its existence the organization has paid out $2,811,969 in sick and death benefits. Of this sum over a million was paid out during the seven years of the crisis. This proves how deeply and painfully the years of the crisis have affected the health and life of the bakery workers.
From the above authentic hard figures, we must draw the following picture: That the large amount of money which has been accumulated during the long period of the union’s existence is due to the fact that the general office of this organization has never engaged in any major campaign to organize the unorganized bakery workers. Neither has the general office ever tried to stimulate any local union to undertake anything of the sort, although the workers in the local unions were paying for it all the time. All organization activities were always left to the local unions themselves, with their provincial local politicians, who are mainly interested in being good fellows for the bosses, to enable them to get the best jobs. Whenever these provincials did do something to organize, it was always in a bakery that happened to be next door to the union hall, or to the saloon where they held their meetings in the backroom. With every strike, the membership of the local union involved bleeds to death financially, and the general office will not contribute two cents from its huge reserve fund.
Another situation that prevails today is that the organized shops are those of employers who could not expand their business and move out of the cellars into modern improved bakeshops up- town. The result is that the union help still works in the cellars that were condemned by the Board of Health twenty-five years ago. Not only the cellar bakeshops but even the buildings have since been condemned as unhabitable. These are the workshops of the union, while the modern improved workshops are completely unorganized. If it were not for the very low pay the unorganized bakery workers receive, we would say that they were better off than the organized, for at least they have a ray of sun shining into their shops, at least the light of nature cheers them up a little for some of their heartaches. The union man has not even that.
During the war time, the Jewish bakery workers in the City of New York succeeded at least among their own nationality, to increase their scale of wages sufficiently to compensate for the appalling conditions of the bakeshop itself. About the same time, or a short time before the world war broke out, a split occurred in this organization, which resulted in the bakery workers having two unions instead of one. The split took place because the Jewish convention delegates succeeded in passing a resolution at that time, that the organization should also issue a weekly paper in Jewish as well as English and German. At a time when nationalism was at its height among the German speaking workers, this step was sufficient for the German element to organize a separate union for themselves, called “The Amalgamated Food Workers of America.”
The title of the new organization sounded good but in order for the union to exist it had to accept any scale of wages at all. So long as an employer was willing to sign an agreement with the Amalgamated and was willing to have his store picketed by the Yiddish speaking workers, this union agreed to anything. In this way a situation came about where employers ceased to mind a sandwich man walking up and down in front of their stores. A cent cheaper on a loaf of bread bought many poor customers. For what the employer lost by lowering the price on his products, he made up by under paying his help. The difference of wages paid by an employer under agreement with the Amalgamated and by those under contract with the Jewish local unions of the International was from twenty-five to forty dollars a week per man. The Amalgamated was also compelled, by reason of these circumstances, to tell its members that they must shift for themselves. They had to find jobs for themselves in open shops. The shops signed with the Jewish local unions were regarded as open shops by them. Every good German worker had to go into one, during a strike or otherwise, and try his best to convert it into a shop for the Amalgamated.
In this way the officials were not even responsible to obtain jobs for their own members, all they had to do was to collect dues from the rank and file. A fund of more than $30,000 thus accumulated in a single local. Local politicians of the Amalgamated got whatever their hearts desired, for the supplying of help to employers on strike against a Jewish local union. Those were sweet days for them. Both unions had different labels mainly to designate who each was and appeal to the public; the one to appeal to the Jewish public to help the Yiddish speaking workers by not patronizing the products of the German speaking workers, the other to inform the gentiles to support the German union.
As the Amalgamated continued its policy it succeeded not only in getting employers to sign agreements with it but also in having some employers under contract with the Yiddish speaking workers to support the dual movement financially and in every other way. For by this time the Amalgamated had become a barrier to control the Yiddish workers and to keep them in line. Such was the situation for over 20 years and until the month of February, 1935.
During the summer of 1934, through the medium of an employer by name Burzinsky, who was under agreement with the Amalgamated, and Joseph Schmidt of the General Executive Board of that organization, negotiations for reaffiliation started and finally an understanding was reached. All this time everything was kept secret from the representatives of the International local unions. They had to be kept ignorant until everything was over. Then, one day in February, 1935, the Secretary-Treasurer of the International, A. Myrup who is the highest authority in this organization, arrived from Chicago and called to a conference the delegates of the Jewish Joint Council (an empty shell, so far as any activities whatsoever are concerned and entirely a distinct body from the Joint Executive Board). At the meeting in the Hotel Taft although the local representatives were absent form the meeting the terms of the fusion were stated for the first time.
The terms were: First, that the old charters were being reinstated and the locals would continue just as though nothing at all had happened. Second, that shops producing over 50% of German or American products were to be classified as American shops, as such jurisdiction would belong to the reaffiliated locals. Shops producing over 50% sour rye bread were to be classified as Jewish shops; as such jurisdiction would belong to the Jewish local unions. These terms the short- sighted local officials accepted thinking that a monopoly over the whole Jewish trade was here granted to them. They probably thought this would be a wonderful reward for all the struggles the Yiddish speaking workers had gone through in the past. In accepting these terms the Council delegates disregarded and acted contrary to all previous transactions, which had taken place directly among the local unions on both sides. Under pressure of the membership on both sides to stop the fight of brother against brother, many joint meetings and conferences had been held but unfortunately, without results. At those joint meetings and conferences the Yiddish speaking workers demanded the end of dual authority and the complete liquidation of all the locals of the Amalgamated, the members to be fused with the Jewish workers into one set of locals and not two. Furthermore, and what was most important, they demanded that the wage scales of the German workers should be raised to equal that of the Yiddish.
The delegates of the Jewish Joint Council never brought these results of their negotiations to a membership meeting. (Of course, this was on the advice of the big chief, A. Myrup.) The membership was kept in ignorance, just as the local officials had been kept ignorant during the summer months of 1934, until negotiations were completed. Some of the rank-and-file members first learned about the fusion from others who happened by accident to glance through the reports of the General Executive Board in the weekly Bakers Journal and found one from the Hotel Taft by Myrup, together with a memorandum concerning the reaffiliation.
The membership, not realizing or suspecting what had been cooked up for them, felt happy about it for a brief moment. They were saying: “Even though everything was done without our knowledge at least there is now going to be a united bakery workers movement in this city. In the future, if we shall have trouble with our employers refusing to renew agreements, or demanding of us another reduction in wages, why we will have the German speaking workers to come out with us in a sympathy strike, maybe a general strike. It is all possible now that we belong to the same International.” Such were the sincere hopes then. How bitterly disappointed the same workers feel today would require space for another article.
The result of the fusion was to divide and redivide the ranks of the bakery workers within the International by the tricky device of “national products” and on the basis of this device to form separate locals on the basis of nationality. Moreover, because of this “national product” trick the reaffiliated locals of the former Amalgamated were permitted and still are allowed to maintain the same differential scale of wages as prior to the “adjustment.” But the truth of the matter is that more and more bakery products are being produced in factories by large-scale modern baking trusts which are completely devoid of any sort of union, save Employer-Employee Welfare Associations.
The chief purpose of the general office is to safeguard the huge reserve fund. By attempting to equalize the wage scale in the City of New York the union would become involved in many strikes. If the General Office should so order, it may be forced, for once in its life, to support the struggle financially. The reserve fund might then be decreased and the precedent would be set for the locals calling on the fund for help. This the officials would never tolerate. The whole question came up in relation to the different wage scales prevailing in New York City.
The Jewish Joint Council had complained that employers were moving from one locality to another, although in the same city, and thereby transferring their jurisdiction to German locals where they were getting the same products produced for almost half the price in wages. In changing from one local to another the employers were not only dumping the former union workers but were competing against the other employers who still were tied up with the Jewish locals by delivering bread in the same sections and either driving them out or reducing their business so that Jewish workers were laid off. Here was an intolerable situation which the employers were utilizing to the full.
In answer to the complaints, the International Secretary-Treasurer, Myrup declared that the locals must shift for themselves and not call on the general organization for help. Says Myrup: “Your international will not assume the role of a dictatorship. You, yourselves must try to remedy your own problems…. You may fail once and try again and fail again, but eventually you will establish order in your city. If you call on me to solve your momentous problems, you must regard me as a magician which I am not.” These words sounded very democratic and served their purpose of appeasing and satisfying the local council once again.
The locals themselves tried to establish order before this “national products” dish was cooked for them. Now that all are in the same union the former antagonisms that had existed for 20 years among the locals have been definitely increased. This can be seen every time there is a session of the Joint Executive Board. There one can hear words to this effect: “Why should we take notice of what the other side suggests? They cost us plenty.” These words coming from the former Amalgamated delegates are a picture of their intentions that they never meant to stop the brother against brother fight. Instead, now the situation has so changed, that those who were fought can turn the tables on the militant fighters.
How often have we suggested at the Joint Executive Board meetings and even passed motions and resolutions, to establish an equalized scale of wages, uniform agreements and one local union for all the bakery workers in the City of New York, instead of maintaining the 16 locals we now have. But when it comes to carrying out these motions and resolutions, the reaffiliated locals claim that local autonomy rights were granted to them at the time of the negotiations for reaffiliation. A letter was sent from the Joint Executive Board to the General Office demanding that the locals be instructed to abide by majority rule. The reply was that locals which voted “yes” are obliged to comply with motions and resolutions passed; those locals which voted “no” are not obliged to comply. This reply is contrary even to the provisions of the constitution of the Bakery and Confectionary International Unions of America.
The Jewish locals have sent delegates to the 21st Convention in Pittsburgh with the hope that the convention will be more reasonable and that it will adopt a favorable resolution which may remedy the painful situation in New York. For this convention the Jewish Council put out a bulletin which, oblivious of the treachery of the officials, reads as follows: “Let historians record the glorious achievements. We limit ourselves to an expression of our devotion to our International for its splendid record and achievements and to convey here our unfailing support and loyalty towards the organization that was our cradle and has been our guardian for the past fifty years. May you continue your splendid work for the bakery workers and the liberation of the toiling masses as a whole.” Such boot-licking will never require historians to record; every bakery worker who suffers from the situation recorded above will ever have it recorded in his own mind.
Conventions may be all right to unify a national or intentional movement, but, we believe, a single city does not need a national convention to remedy its local problem. The Joint Executive Board is the city convention. There is nothing in the provisions of the constitution to prevent the locals in this city from adjusting their problems for the benefit of all bakery workers, if they only wished to do so. Instead they are complying with the wishes and interests of the Master Bakery Owners’ Assn., Burzinsky and Co. Already the Burzinskys are demanding another reduction in wages. Although he pays less to his German speaking workers than to the Jewish, his heart aches that others must pay more. Obviously, he can not further reduce the scale of the Germans, so long as the Jewish scale is maintained as it is. Thus the New York bakery workers are faced with new struggles because of their divided condition.
And if a sincere, conscientious worker should not succeed in his efforts to prevent the employers and their agents from putting over their objectives, he may as well take a broom and go where horses walk and start sweeping manure in respect to all his own conscience and person.
The slight delay in the issuance of our November number permits us to take account of the Presidential elections and to draw some hasty conclusions. President Roosevelt and the New Deal won a sweeping victory, capturing 46 out of the 48 States, increasing the number of Democratic Senators and Representatives in Congress. This victory was a foregone conclusion. The signs were plentiful.
The first sign was the great electoral victory in 1934 where although it has been the general precedent in American life that in the off years the party of “outs” beats the party of “ins” the Democrats of the New Deal won a smashing victory. At that time we wrote: “All that the Republican Party can do is to call attention to the high taxes that exist and demand their reduction, failing to see that it is precisely the high taxes that are preventing matters from growing infinitely worse and the people taking matters into their own hands. The Republicans are living in a by-gone era. They do not understand the tense relationships that exist among the classes, the general radicalization of the masses that is taking place. If the Republicans continue such a course they are doomed…. For the mass of small property owners, there could be no return to the sterile days of unprotected individualism. Security, protection, order, these are the crying needs of the day, for them….
“The sweeping mobilization of large and small property elements behind the New Deal has put the Republican Party in a crisis. If it remains chained to the chariot of individualism it must go under and be destroyed as a mechanism of fooling and winning the support of the mass of people.
“We have very advisedly talked of the victory of the New Deal and not of the Democratic Party. The vote was not for the Democratic Party but for Roosevelt. Just as the judicial and legislative departments of government are giving way to the executive, so the party is giving way to the leader and the leader is building his own apparatus and program independent of the party. The party, as such, simply follows along as best it can. Strange as it may seem at first sight, the Democratic Party has not been strengthened but actually weakened by the elections. Around the strong man Roosevelt there are gathering within the Democratic Party two alien and antagonistic forces. On the one hand, there is big business, the trusts and imperialist capital. They look at Roosevelt as a stepping stone to Fascism. Then there are the trusting petty-bourgeois elements who see in the New Deal some sort of Socialistic egalitarianism and release from debt; some sort of organized painless capitalism.”
This is what we wrote in January, 1935 and recent events, if anything, have only confirmed our prognosis.
The second sign of the inevitability of Roosevelt’s victory was the Republican Party Convention. The industrial capitalists of the country showed there that they had learned nothing from recent political events. They believed that by giving themselves fancy names like “Grass Roots” farmers, and placing a Western man at the head of the ticket they could work some of the magic that similar tricks had done before. But this is no longer the age for such sleight-of-hand. More than tricks was needed to beat the New Deal and this the Republican dull-heads did not realize. They could not even pick a colorful candidate but sensing that they were making a last-ditch fight they got a—Landon. Had the Republicans really believed they had a chance to win they never would have given the man from Kansas the nomination. If there was a beating to be taken, the city slicks wanted to see the country hick get it.
The Republican platform and campaign emphasized three issues: Balance the Budget, the sanctity of the Constitution and rugged individualism. Behind these issues was another, restoration of the gold dollar. Here was the program of big business of the Middle West. But it was a program that won victory only in the hills of Vermont and the forests of Maine. Practically every important city in the entire country repudiated them. And in these days it is the city that dominates the countryside and not vice versa. But more than that, even the farmers, those old stand-bys of rugged individualism, no longer favor such a program when 25% of them are on relief, and many others have to come crying for government help. It was not rugged individualism that paid them so many hundreds of millions of dollars for not producing cotton and other products; it was not rugged individualism that aided them in time of drought; it was not rugged individualism that made a gesture to safeguard their bank deposits and released them from the pressure of mortgage sharks. While this group did not like the high taxes, so far as the great mass of poor agrarians and small city tax payers were concerned, they were getting more from the government than they were contributing in taxes.
Behind the Roosevelt regime were the enormous funds from the W.P.A., A.A.A., H.O.L.C., and other agencies which were potent instruments for the purchase of votes. Furthermore, there was the fact that business was picking up and jobs were a little more plentiful than in the dismal days of 1932-1933. In the third place there was the danger of war in Europe and the belief that the humanitarian Roosevelt would keep the country out of war. Fourth, was the fear of Fascist tendencies sweeping over the country. Finally, there was the activity of the labor elements, from William Green to Earl Browder, an almost complete united front of the labor fakers to sell the people the Liberalism of Roosevelt. This was a mighty hard combination to buck up against.
The old Guard of the Republican Party wanted to insist that there were no classes in America but only individuals; Roosevelt has been astute enough to recognize that a class consciousness is definitely emerging in American political life. He advocated a plan of class collaboration, of class harmony and in this he has been rewarded by finding himself backed by an agglomeration at the one end of which stands Garner of Texas and at the other end Dubinsky of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union of New York, at one side Banker Lehman, at the other side Communist Browder. It is for this very reason that the Democratic Party has contained within itself various irreconcilable elements that enable us to say so assuredly that the victory of Roosevelt can only lead to a further differentiation in the Democratic Party and a break up of its forces.
Already a beginning in this direction has been made when the Right Wing Smith, Davis and Liberty League elements broke and voted for Landon. They, too, refused to see that were it not for the change of front represented by Roosevelt by this time the toilers of America would have taken far more than the measly relief sums allotted by the New Dealers. To these Right Wing Democrats as well as to the Republicans the economic depression had been a mere accident, just another incident in the history of this country the effects of which would soon be lost in the great forward economic sweep American was bound to take again. It is the Roosevelts who are keen enough to understand that America has reached a definite turn in the road of political life. America is now living in a capitalist world on the brink of ruin. Individualism everywhere is giving place to collectivism. The bankers have been quicker to see this than the mid-western industrialists. Their eyes are nearer Europe and they can learn some simple lessons quicker.
Perhaps it is not quite correct, however, to put the issues of the election so baldly as being confined to individualism versus collectivism. On the one hand, the Roosevelts themselves wish to go only as far as Welfare Liberalism although the gap between Welfare Liberalism and collectivism is not very wide. On the other hand, the Republican big businessmen also believe in collectivism and welfare in their own way. They have company unions that initiate welfare schemes; their monopolies have wiped out individualism in their particular fields of business. What big business wants, however, is to control the workers themselves directly and not through other media. If they must deal with their workmen, it is to be through their company unions meeting on their own premises with a basic program of no-strike and full cooperation with the boss. They do not want the inconvenience and lack of security that is involved in dealing with the petty bourgeois labor leader who often wishes to deal with them as power to power, and has proven very costly to buy off.
Big business is quite willing to have some sort of social insurance if the employers themselves can control it and not the politicians of the petty bourgeoisie in Washington. They are willing to “grant” unemployment insurance or other measures as a “privilege” but not as a “right.” Having been accustomed to think of themselves to understanding that this is an era of the bankruptcy of private industry and the omnipotence of the State.
The dishonest Communist Party has declared all over the country—and for this reason it was given such a generous use of the radio—that Landon and the Republican Party stood for Fascism. As a matter of fact, the Landon platform called for a greater degree of State rights, for a restriction of the power of the central government and of the executive arm, for a reaffirmation of the constitution as the document of individual Liberalism and for equal rights for the Negroes. None of these things would a Fascist endorse; and none of them did Roosevelt endorse. It is, on the contrary, Roosevelt who is paving the way for Bonapartism on the road to Fascism in this country.
Of course, the Republican elements would not be averse to Fascism, should it be necessary to save their profits. In this respect their difference with the Roosevelt regime would be that the Republicans would want to bring about Fascism brutally and suddenly, while the present President understands that the situation is not yet ripe for such methods, that Fascist tendencies must be introduced gradually and piece-meal.
Now that Roosevelt has been elected for the second term the prospects are that a definite swing to the Right is in order. The government will not go on indefinitely increasing its debt four billion dollars annually. Nor is it to be expected that a President who can declare that “nobody has business more at heart than I do” will make the taxes on the business man any higher. The easiest form of increasing the burden upon the people is through inflation, a further development of which can well be expected.
The general line of policy will be to increase still further the power of the State. In the first place there may be attempted certain forms of State capitalism, the nationalization of the banks or of the electric and power resources or if not their nationalization their far more rigid control. This may even be extended to munitions factories and such plants. The decision of French capitalism to nationalize certain elements of private industry in the light of the war danger shows clearly that any form of State capitalism is but a step nearer to Fascism and farther from Socialism.
In the second place there may be reintroduced a new N.R.A. that will codify industry and regiment labor. Certainly more attempts at “organized planning” will be attempted by the Brain trusters in charge. The difference between Roosevelt codes and Republican Party codes is that the trusts would like to keep their codes secret as a matter of private business among the few; and they would not like to deal with labor at the same conference table. With Roosevelt, the State becomes the chief arbiter and ruler over just what code is to be put over and just what the profit should be. With the Republican Party the dictatorship of big business is direct and immediate; with Roosevelt it is made to work through the State apparatus itself which becomes more and more omnipotent.
The growth of the power of the State calls for a reorganization of the government structure. The prestige of the Supreme Court has received a great setback and the power of the President greatly exalted. Up to now the Supreme Court has posed as saving the people from a dictator; this case now becomes very unbecoming when the people themselves vote by a ten million plurality for that same dictator. The 1936 elections have become a plebiscite for the President to take his next steps forward to Bonapartism. How will he be able to curb the antiquated Supreme Court? By waiting for the death of the members of that body? By placing additional members? By more draconian measures? By trying a Constitutional Amendment? All of these ways are open, but it will take great provocation before the last method of Constitutional Amendment is tried. This is a dangerous procedure for American capitalism since it will give all sorts of openings for the Left Wing and for the members of the working class to demonstrate in their own right and name as to what the Amendments should be.
It is possible also that the next term of the Roosevelt administration will see far more effective attempts to set up a Federal Police force. Such a police force is inevitable once the State begins to take on the functions which Roosevelt evidently is planning for it. Together with the federal police will be new powers to the federal functionaries, such as those in charge of relief. Finally, the armed forces of the State will be increased to unprecedented heights under the new term.
What will be Roosevelt’s labor policy? A reorganization of relief along the lines of further regimentation, a lowering of wage scale through inflation and codes at the same time an amalgamation of the labor bureaucracy with the State apparatus, drawing the labor officials closer to the government, giving them places in the administration. All this will be invaluable to Roosevelt in time of war. That Roosevelt knows how to mobilize the masses, the 1933 N.R.A. parades very clearly.
Particularly miserable was the showing of labor in the present elections. The leftward swing that the masses were ready to take was entirely shunted in the direction of Roosevelt. The trade union bureaucrats formed an American Labor Party in order to support the banker Lehman and the millionaire Roosevelt. And trailing along were the Communists in the trade unions who shouted with the rest for these candidates of wealth and property.
It must not be imagined that all of labor was for Roosevelt. In no bourgeois democratic country of importance do elections so little represent the actual unskilled laborer as in this country. There are well over 85 million people over 21 years of age but only 45 million or so registered and perhaps not more than 36 to 40 million voted. The mass of workers did not vote at all and the mass of those who did vote were not wage-workers. Nevertheless, insofar as the skilled and organized workers have traditionally been the parliamentary mouthpiece for the entire working class, this action on the part of the American Labor Party, the Labor Non-Partisan League, and the Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota and elsewhere in support of Roosevelt did carry great weight behind it and contribute mightily to the unprecedented vote given Roosevelt.
Yet labor will not be able to collect on this support after election day. The fact that it had to form its own organizations, its own Labor Party, shows that even the bureaucrats understand that the time when the working class will step in the field of politics in its own right is not far away. While large numbers of the Farmer-Labor Partyites have entered the ranks of the Democratic Party, the new policies that Roosevelt must adopt will drive them to break from the capitalist class that still controls the Democratic Party and in whose behalf Roosevelt will work so ardently. If labor believes that it will be served by Roosevelt’s victory, it will learn soon enough that the elections were a great victory for Wall Street and big business after all.
All the signs point to the fact that as the masses become more restless and disillusioned with the Democratic Party the labor fakers will form their Labor Party. But this Labor Party will be quite different from the one formed in England in 1906. “The British Labor Party was organized by elements all of which were moving to the Left. The Labor Party in the U.S. will have been organized by groups fleeing the revolutionary movement. It is well to bear this possibility in mind” (from same article in January 1935, Class Struggle).
The formation of a Labor Party will coincide with the complete reorganization of the Republican Party. This Party must now completely redress its ranks with a platform of collectivism calling for speedy development of Fascism dominated by the big trusts. The Democratic Party Right Wing will also have to join hands with this new grouping. On the other side will appear the Labor Party to challenge these reactionary forces. The middle-of-the-road humanitarians will disappear as active creative forces. We will then be well on the way to the open class struggle in America.
The tiny vote for the Socialist Party is a sign that the masses, in spite of their discontent and Leftward swing, are passing the Socialist Party by. After all that party represents antiquated methods of parliamentarism which have been proven bankrupt in Europe. For that matter so has the Labor Party proved bankrupt in Europe but at least the Labor Party can offer some promise of development by the mere fact of its general formlessness, its newness, its huge size, etc. There is no hope for the moribund Socialist Party. Incidentally, the split at the last convention drove all the trade unionists away, leaving Normal Thomas and the intellectuals by themselves.
But what shall we say of the Communist Party sect whose servile obsequiousness to Roosevelt is matched only by its treacherous conduct to the workers? Only a short while ago, in 1933, the Daily Worker was screaming that Roosevelt was bringing in Fascism with lightning speed, that the N.R.A. was purely a Fascist measure, etc. Then Roosevelt signed the treaty recognizing Russia and presto—the Daily Worker now screams: At all costs defeat Landon, even if Roosevelt gets the votes and not the Communist Party. No longer does the Communist Party stand for the struggle of the workers; it is now the ardent champion for bourgeois democracy as against that devil Fascist Landon. The miserable showing of the Communists in the ranks of the workers is matched by the miserable showing of Lemke for the petty bourgeoisie. Both classes will have to get entirely new organizations.
In all this ballyhoo of elections, one group has been entirely forgotten. Now that “Fascism has been defeated” (Daily Worker stuff) and the “Man-who-gave-us-a-break” Roosevelt (Trade Union press) is reelected, the Negroes will continue to be lynched. The time is not far off, however, when the Negroes will no longer be content to be the true forgotten man of America, to be kicked around by all from the Communist Partyites and Labor Unionists to the Fascists of this country. When that time comes the Communist League of Struggle will be close by their side fighting for the victory of the proletariat and the extirpation of the bourgeoisie in the United States.
Once the revolution reaches the point of civil war in the imperialist countries, the colonial question is bound to become a decisive one. Will anyone deny that it was with the aid of the Moroccan troops that the Spanish “rebels” were first able to launch their attack or that the use of the Moors has been decisive in enabling them to continue their aggressions? It is the Spanish Revolution that poses this question first as one to make or to destroy the proletarian revolution. Sooner or later, this question must come to the fore in France also.
The only way the workers in the imperialist country can win the colonial peoples as allies in their struggle is to demand and fight for the freedom of the colonies. Just as the existence of the mother imperialist country depends upon the revenues sucked like so much blood from the veins of the colony, so indeed must the maintenance of the revolution for such countries as France, England or Spain depend upon setting free the colonial masses. Can anyone imagine a Workers’ State owning colonies? This is, however, no question of morality or abstract economics. In the life and death struggle between the capitalist regime and the budding workers’ power, if the colonies are not won to the workers’ side, they will become vast reserves for the reactionary Fascist forces to draw upon, to the defeat of the workers both in the colonies and in the mother country.
So far, the experience of Spain and France would seem to show that this question has not been in the least understood. It is the nationalism of the Second International that prevails. The Leninist theses of the Third Congress of the Third International are buried so deep that no thought of bringing the demand of freedom for the colonies to the fore ever ruffles the pages of L’Humanite nor indeed, so far as we can see, agitates very much even the advanced groups of Spain and France. Yet in this colonies themselves the advent of the People’s Front in France and the events of the civil war in Spain must have aroused deep agitation and hope. We quote to this effect from La Lutte, an Indo-Chinese paper in the French language, to which, by the way, we are indebted for the descriptions of life in Indo China which follow: “We, the colonial peoples, deprived of all rights and liberty, are awaiting a change in our conditions. …The victory of the People’s Front in France will open up a new era full of promise and hope for the colonial peoples.” (April 22, 1936)
But in each subsequent issue of the paper, we find only the failure of these hopes recorded as the months of the People’s Front government go by. Evidently, the sufferings of the colonial masses are still a matter of indifference to the worker in the industrial country. So wrapped up is he in his own national struggle that he does not see that his conditions, which are so wretched as to drive him to revolution are still miles beyond the darkness of such places as Indo-China. Nor does he realize that these same oppressed peoples can strike a body blow at that very power he is trying to defeat, if he will but help them in their struggle.
The French colonial system is a classic one in the sense that all its enormous territories including the African colonies, Madagascar, Indo-China, French Guiana and other American possessions, have been kept at the most backward possible level. Here is a country of only a little over 210,000 square miles in area, possessing colonies that total nearly five million square miles. The imperialist country is here seen as the apex of a pyramid which has as its base a vast mass of over 60 millions of people, most of them belonging to the colored races. In none of these colonies has industry been developed to any considerable extent. They are sources of raw material and especially of revenue which is squeezed out of the wretched bodies of natives who are forced to live in ignorance, poverty and terror.
The conditions in Indo China, the most important of the French colonies from the point of view of population and trade, may be taken as typical of those prevailing in any colony. With this difference, however, that Indo-China is far more backward than such colonial or semi-colonial countries as India or China. There at least industry has been allowed to thrive up to a certain point; there the working class has reached a degree of strength to organize and even force some concessions for itself; there the national revolution has been carried on for generations and has compelled a certain amount of bourgeois development to be tolerated within the country. But the French colonies suffer from being the dependencies of a decadent country, a country living on revenues rather than on the expansion of industry; they are victims of economic and social stagnation as well as of terrible oppression.
French Indo-China, in a total area of about the size of Texas, comprises six provinces, of which the smallest, KwangChow, is leased from China. Cochin-China (ceded to France in 1862 by the King of Annam) has the status of a colony, the other four provinces (Annam, Cambodia, Tonkin and Laos) are kingdoms under a French protectorate. The nationalities included are Annamite, Chinese and Hindu as well as a small number of French and other Europeans. Practically all of this country is given over to agriculture (rice, rubber, and cotton plantations and small economy) or to jungles. There are few cities, and no city of great size. Saigon, the seaport of Cochin China and former capital, has 123,291 inhabitants. Of about the same size is the present capital, Hanoi, in Tonkin. Roads of a sort have been built, and some railroads, so that the raw materials and products may be exported. The industries are coal-mining in Tonkin especially (1,680,000 tons of coal were produced in 1932), some sugar refineries and distilleries, saw mills, match and glass factories, tobacco, cotton and paper manufacture. In Laos there are extensive teakwood forests, and some gold, tin and lead is produced. The working class of Indo-China totals about two million in a population of about 21 million. With the exception of a small percentage of natives surrounding the native kings and part of the government apparatus as petty officials, the vast mass of the population are either serfs or poor peasants raising a little rice and vegetables and catching fish for a living. The country is under the jurisdiction of a French Governor-General (R. Robin at the present time) with French governors in the provinces, supplemented by figureheads of native kings. The whole government apparatus down to the lowest native official is corrupt, and graft is rampant.
Most of the people enjoy no civil rights. The natives are subjected to a constant hounding by the ever-present officials. Especially the collection of taxes burdens them. There is a yearly personal tax upon payment of which the native is given a card. Woe to him who cannot show his card, the receipt for his tax! Periodically the local police round up all the people they can find in the market or other public place, and thrust into prison such as cannot produce their card. Or as an alternative, in districts where the government is constructing a road or other public works, the poor wretch without a card may have the privilege of working off his tax. To quote from the pages of La Lutte (The Struggle), faithful chronicler of the abuses of Indo-China: “…In VinhLong, along the colonial highway, the Administration is digging a long canal. Here, under the leaden sun, a crowd of coolies are toiling in the mud, their heads barely protected by a poor hat of palm leaves. They are paid thirty cents a day, the Administration keeps 20 cents for the payment of the personal tax. At the end of a month’s time, the coolie will have worked off his tax; in reality he will have earned ten cents a day for a ten-hour day’s work. …Even this forced labor is a favor. It provides a means of liberation unknown in other places where the man-hunt fills the prisons and police stations.” Not merely is the penniless native subject to imprisonment for the non-payment of his tax, but he is fallen upon and beaten barbarously by the “guardians of the peace” who arrest him.
As for the conditions of life of the peasants, the following story will give an idea (from La Lutte, June 24, 1935):
“The other day at Bung (Thuydaumot) I met an extremely poor peasant, by the name of Nguyen-van-Buu. He told me all his troubles. As I listened, I seemed to be transported into an unreal world. “He owns a bit of land, a tiny plot. It is an ungrateful soil like all that part of eastern Cochin- China. The whole year he digs this land, his only resource. He alternates the raising of rice and of vegetables. His average harvest is about 40 gia, that is, about 1,600 litres of paddy, worth about 20 piastres (Note—the piaster in 1930 was worth 10 francs). “This rice must do after a fashion to feed a family of six mouths, he, his wife and four children. His wife sells salted fish, or vegetables, anything she can get. After paying the taxes, her earnings are ten cents a day. Even if she can work a whole year, she does not earn more than 30 piastres a year.”
The result of such poverty is that the poor peasants everywhere fall victim to the loan sharks, the curse of every poor countryside. Once in debt, it is practically hopeless ever to get out of it. The debtor is at the mercy of the money-lender as well as of the legal authorities who support him. The poor quality of the soil as well as the backward methods of cultivation make famine a frequent occurrence here, carrying off thousands in North Annam particularly. As for these who live and till the land of others, the serfs, they have no rights at all. If it is found that a serf has erected a new hut of straw for himself, even though the old one was burned down or destroyed, he can still be ordered to tear down his house, if he has not obtained the necessary permission from the local authorities to build it.
On the plantations the exploitation is unspeakable. The working day is 10 to 12 hours; the wages of 20 or 30 cents leave the coolie penniless when he gets ready to go. More often than not, however, he is bound by contract so that he cannot leave until death by fever or overwork claims him. As for the public works which the government undertakes, it is not an exaggeration to say that thousands of natives literally pay for these with their lives. In some provinces such as Laos, where a new road is now under construction, the natives are compelled to give the government 16 days work in addition to paying their personal tax. Only by paying four piastres can this forced labor be escaped. But in Laos the agricultural worker earns only 12 piastres in a whole year (a woman worker only 6) so that very few can pay their way out.
The natives must walk 100 or 150 kilometres through the dense forest to reach the work camp. There, instead of 16 days’ work, they find tasks assigned them that will take a month or six weeks. To protest would mean immediately to be thrown into prison. Sometimes the victims risk everything and flee, crossing the frontier into Siam. Theoretically the coolie is paid 25 a day, out of which he must provide his own food. But he is at the mercy of the contractor. The latter brings his relatives to the camp where they set up commissaries and charge what they please for the coolie’s rice and dried fish. The work consists in felling age-old trees of great size, and moving tons of earth and rocks. The sleeping quarters are in the dank forest with no protection from the swarms of mosquitoes, carrying the germs of swamp-fever to which the workers, underfed, overworked, without suitable drinking water, succumb like flies.
Wherever one looks, whether to the railroad workers, to the dock workers, or to the factories, there is the same savage exploitation. In the factories, there is unlimited child labor and night work of both men and women. Sanitary precautions or compensation for accidents are unknown. Children of 8 to 14 years have had their arms crushed in the sugar cane factories. For a mangled arm, one worker was given three piasters by his employer…about $2. …But after all, where life altogether is so cheap to the exploiters, need we wonder that one arms costs only $2?
All the abuses that prevail have not been endured without protest. In spite of the peaceful character of the people, there have been many rebellions in Indo-China, the last, in the years 1930 to 1933, having been bloodily repressed. One city was bombarded, machine guns were used as well as all ordinary means of brutality. The jails were filled to overflowing. Most of the rebels condemned at that time, as well as many arrested since for organizational activity or for real or suspected seditious opinions, still remain in prison. In Poulo-Condore, a penal island prison are kept a few thousands of political prisoners under unspeakable conditions.
These unfortunate men are compelled to work as much as fifteen hours a day at hard labor. They are fed the worst quality of rice mixed with gravel, boiled weeds in place of vegetables, and rotten fish which stinks to heaven. Tuberculosis, dysentery and scurvy are common. Not merely this, but the helpless prisoners are visited with punishment upon the least or no provocation. The sadism of the keepers vents itself sometimes in orgies of beating, kicking and blows with clubs lasting for hours. Death has resulted for some prisoners for these frightful attacks; others will never regain normal health. In Saigon at the police station is a torture chamber to which any militant who is arrested is taken and subjected to “treatment” in the hope of forcing a confession from him involving his friends. In order to leave no marks on the victim, modern methods are used such as the electric current and “gizzard twisting.” Once released, the victim is a nervous wreck for life.
In spite of the relentless persecution by the authorities, in spite of the prohibition of meetings and of the right of organization, nevertheless there have taken place many strikes both on the plantations, in the factories and in the prisons. The struggle has been, however, sporadic rather than continuous, and strong working class organizations have not as yet been built. There is an Indo- Chinese Communist Party and even a group of Trotskyists and of internationalist communists. We do not know the policies of these groups, but we are safe in saying that their members are willing to suffer heroically for the freedom of their people. In fact, a secretary of the C.P. has recently died as a result of the terrible tortures inflicted upon him when arrested. Opposition to the government centers to a great extent around certain newspapers such as La Lutte and others in the native language. These papers expose the abuses and advocate as radical a policy as they dare.
The election of the People’s Front government in France meant a great awakening for the downtrodden people of Indo-China. Not daring to hope for freedom, they still believed that some alleviation of their conditions would be granted, that at least the political prisoners would be freed and that some of the codes for workers in France, such as the 40 hour week, would be applied to them. The radical papers like La Lutte have carried on a constant agitation and have petitioned the central government in France. The appointment of a former militant socialist, Marius Moutet, to the post of Minister of Colonies aroused more hope than they dared express.
But what has been the outcome? The only tangible move of the Blum government for Indo- China has been … to promise a Commission of Inquiry. Even this crumb has been taken very seriously. A demand has been raised for a national Congress to formulate the demands to be placed before this Commission of Inquiry when it comes. A provisional committee has been formed which has met. It is no easy matter to organize such a congress in a country where all rights are forbidden, and where everyone is so poverty stricken and illiterate. In order to further the calling of the Congress, Committees of Action are being formed on all sides. These are little groups of workers, of peasants, or of intellectuals who get together in threes and fours or perhaps half a dozen at a time to discuss their grievances, to seek out the causes of their oppression, and to send in demands to the Congress. All this activity has been within the realms of legality. The committees are never more than 19 in number, for if they were 20 it would be called a “meeting” and would be illegal.
What has been the response from France, from the great liberating People’s Front government? Two telegrams have been sent to the government in Indo-China by Marius Moutet. The first was a somewhat wordy document giving publicity to the Commission of Inquiry and asking cooperation in putting over this move harmoniously. Guardedly it cautioned against agitation or demonstrations which would make matters difficult. But the second telegram was much more to the point. It came after the Committees of Action had spread like wild fire and were becoming one of the biggest popular movements these colonies had ever seen. It read as follows: “You will keep public order by all legitimate and legal means, even by pursuit of those who attempt to disturb it should this seem necessary.”
The authorities have not hesitated one minute to use this authorization and everywhere there have been raids, arrests and persecutions of those who were active in the Committees of Action and the National Congress. A fake Congress was hastily organized, with the members of the provisional committee for the real congress notified that they must send in their demands in four days, and must dissolve their organization as well as the committees of Action. Thus by violence and ruse everything is being done to break up this real people’s movement which is putting forth nothing extreme, but is asking only the most elementary rights of freedom of the press and assembly, the right to organize and strike, amnesty for political prisoners, relief for the unemployed, etc.
Now indeed have the Indo Chinese militants become disillusioned with the People’s Front. Now do they see that not merely is no demand for their freedom raised in France, but that entirely the old policy of repression, the boot, the club and the machine gun is the People’s Front policy for the colonies. And they are saying that they must continue the struggle alone. Yet this conclusion of disillusionment is not correct either. The colonies must have the help of the workers of the mother country, but they will get this help only when the workers there have learned to break the discipline of the parties they have now and to set up fresh organs of struggle that will really join hands with the colonial people and fight for their freedom as for their own.
Politically speaking, the flame of Stalinism is flickering its highest just before it is doomed to be distinguished. It would seem on the surface that all the enemies of Stalin have been destroyed. The full report of the New York Times of October 21st stated that Zinoviev and the others had been dragged along the floor of the toilet one hour or so after their trial had been over and had been kicked and shot to death. The internationalist wing of the Communists, apparently has been entirely smashed; thousands have been jailed and shot. All is quiet on the Eastern Front.
And yet with apodictic precision we can affirm that Stalinism is doomed. It will be destroyed either by the war that will soon break out against the Soviet Union or by the growth of the world revolutionary forces that are accumulating in the West.
There is absolutely no question of the fact that the capitalist world is girding its strength for a united campaign to destroy the Soviet Union. In the first attempt to crush the proletarian rule in Russia, in 1918-1921, the capitalist world was divided and weakened by world war. It tried to destroy the workers’ State by means of haphazard flank attacks North and South, East and West. It could not reach the heart of the Soviets very well for in the rear of the interventionary armies on the West were the defeated German States, very near the breaking point, and on the East China stood as a vast buffer for thousands of miles.
Capitalism has now learned its lessons well. Instead of a haphazard attack, there will be a carefully coordinated attack both East and West, led not by second-rate organizations, but by the most ferocious military machine the world has ever seen. There will be no mere flank attacks but a deadly surge through the very heart of Russia by a united Germany-Poland. Not the navy of Britain but the well prepared army of central Europe will take the lead. On the Asiatic front, Japan will have remedied all the defects that existed in 1919 and stands ready to plunge her forces deep into the heart of Siberia toward Lake Baikal and Russian Turkestan. And instead of a proletariat ready to rise up in defense of the world revolution, today in the key countries of Central Europe and Asia, the proletariat lies crushed under the heel of Fascist-Militarism,—thanks to the policy of Stalinism. And the Communist International is no more.
How has Stalinism prepared for this titanic struggle that faces it? The fact of the matter is that the Russian bureaucrats have paved the way for the Soviets to receive the most dismal defeats. From the political point of view, the Russian workers have become completely isolated; what with the destruction of the proletarian and Communist forces throughout the important countries preparing to attack world Communism. From the military point of view, Stalinism has lost most valuable opportunities in refusing to take the offensive when the German revolutionary situation was ripe and in declaring that Russia would defend itself only when its physical borders were invaded. This gave world capitalism all the time in the world to crush the opposition of the workers at home, to consolidate its forces and prepare its positions for the inevitable attack.
In order to defeat world reaction the entire people of Russia must be mobilized with the highest revolutionary morale. The most powerful political instruments for the conducting of the class struggle are the Soviets. The proper functioning of the Soviets and the other proletarian organizations would rouse the initiative of the masses and make the vast population of Russia an immensely powerful armed force for the world revolution. Instead of relying upon the enthusiasm and revolutionary morale of the masses, however, Stalinism has done its best to destroy these. It has tended to separate the workers from the army, has loosened the dictatorship of the proletariat, has destroyed the working class organizations and has dissolved the Soviets. As Spain has amply shown, Parliament is not an instrument for struggle against Fascism—the prolongation of the Civil War in Spain is due precisely because the revolutionists refuse to form Soviets. Yet it is just at this time that Russia decided to abandon her Soviets and go back to parliamentarism, thus fatally weakening herself for the fight.
Instead of the firm will of the proletariat for international victory we have in Russia the omnipotence of the bureaucrats, backed up by the small property holders in every sphere of economic and political life. The trouble with the bureaucrat is not necessarily that he is crooked, or lazy, or even inefficient, but that the task is too vast, the enemy too strong, to be conquered by the bureaucracy alone as the sole creative force in Soviet history. Just as in the course of the Five Year Plan many mistakes were made by functionaries because they were removed from the people, so in time of war when the pressure is infinitely greater and the mistakes far more costly, will the bureaucracy be entirely unable to solve the problems before it without the help of the million-headed volunteers of the proletariat and peasant toilers. Without the ambition, the enthusiasm, the initiative of the entire working population of the country, the Soviet Union will never be able to defeat militant world capitalism.
The Stalinists do not appreciate this lethal fact. Boastingly, they have asserted that they will catch us with and surpass the foremost capitalist countries of the world including the United States. In the military sphere they have bragged about what they would do with the Fascist pigs who dared to poke their snouts into the garden of Eden that was Russia. The Stalinists, indeed, have even gone so far in their last world congress as to give as one of their arguments for fusion with the Socialists that today Russia is so strong that the Communists will be able to swamp the Socialists and there is no longer any danger of the Communist cadres turning opportunist. In other words, Russia, with her money and economic and political strength, would be able to make up for a genuine international and swing the opportunists into line behind it. Not only would there be Socialism in one country, but through the Socialism in that one country there would flow such material and cultural strength to the parties of Communism everywhere that they would be able to capture the majority of the working class by reliance on the might of Russia alone. Here is boasting with a vengeance.
But because the Communists of all the other countries now look to Russia to save them and bring the world revolution for them, they have abandoned their own fight on the orders of that same Stalinist Russia and have in fact given up the struggle for power. It is not that Russia will win the support of the Socialists of other countries, but rather that these Socialists are dragging the Stalinists into all sorts of deals with their bosses in the name of the defense of the Soviet Union. As the world revolution suffers further defeats, Russian influence becomes even less powerful throughout the world.
The balloons of Stalinism will soon be pricked once war is declared. Then the complete isolation of Russia will be seen in all its nakedness. There will be no proletariat to defend it; the Fascists will be able to launch a completely frictionless machine against the workers’ State. The capitalists will forget their pacts, unless Russia turns capitalistic again; the Socialists abroad will refuse to fight for any bosses except their own and unless their own country is attacked; thus the Communists of those countries will find themselves isolated, insignificant sects unable to do any effective work in defense of the embattled workers of Russia.
Within Russia the masses will pay for the fact that they have no longer any guide to allow them to judge their own affairs so that they will know what is going on throughout the world. Without unions, Soviets or adequate vanguard nuclei, the masses of Russia will enter the war without knowing the true relationship of forces. There will come one defeat after another, a mountain of dead, millions of wounded, before the drugged masses will awaken to the fact that a bureaucracy in charge of a workers’ State means ruin for the cause of Socialism and disaster to the people of the country.
The Stalinist bureaucracy has persisted so long in charge of the workers’ State because of the peculiar equilibrium that was established throughout the world whereby Communism and capitalism, entrenched in different parts of the globe, were forced mutually to tolerate each other. The result of this dualism was another dualism within Russia in which the workers lost direct control over their State and factories but yet capitalism was not yet restored. In such a situation the bureaucratic functionaries of the State, party, union, cooperative, factories and elsewhere seemed to be sitting securely in their posts and acting independently of the proletariat which had fought and died for Socialism through the stern years of the civil war of 1918-1921. However, once capitalism and Communism come into open death grips, either through war against Russia or through the break out of the proletarian revolution in Spain, France, Belgium and Western Europe, the bureaucrats no longer can sit so securely. They must give way either to the rule of the bourgeoisie or to the direct rule of the proletariat. Neither class can longer be content to see these fathead functionaries in charge of the destinies of the masses of the world.
Even in the capitalist States, where bureaucracy is part and parcel of the everyday existence of the system, the ruling classes have not been able to tolerate the petty bourgeois functionaries of the unions and Socialist parties who believed that they could save capitalism from the working class. The Socialists and unions have been destroyed and the leaders shot and jailed because not even capitalism can place any further reliance upon the efficiency of these elements. Just as the capitalists must turn to Fascism as a more efficient instrument in the era of wars and revolutions, so far more must the proletariat also find the bureaucracy inefficient for its own purposes and dismiss it as quickly as possible.
Once the war is on in Russia, the Nepmen and Kulaks, the petty property holders will try hard to put their pressure upon bureaucratic Stalinism. Through certain elements within the Communist Party they may even try to assassinate some of the leaders and stage a coup d’etat of a Bonapartist nature. There is no telling just what a brood of chicks the Stalinist hen is hatching. But far more important than this will be the pressure of the masses whose millions will now have arms and will be fighting for their lives in the armed forces of the State.
As the war progresses the proletariat is bound to try to revive its unions, its nuclei, its organizations. An entirely new set of leaders will press forward in the course of the bitter struggles against the enemy. It will be no longer possible to avoid a full discussion of all the problems of the day; conferences and conventions will be held on all sides. The working class will thus be able to come together to discuss the crimes of the bureaucracy. In the rear, because of the fact that the bureaucracy will not be able to keep the economic machinery going without the full support of the workers, there will occur a break-down in the production of stuffs for the front; strikes may occur because of the harsh conditions given the workers, and the Stalinists will order the soldiers to shoot down the workers. This will place the whole question again on the order of the day in Russia: Really who does rule whom? Does the proletariat rule or some alien class. As the soldiers are urged to shoot down their own brothers, the workers will come forward with their complaints and grievances against bureaucratic Stalinism and place Stalinism on trial before the soldiers. Eventually Stalinism will lose out in that trial and fall.
It will make no difference that Stalin himself may be willing to yield to the workers. The Right Wing upon whom he has relied so long will demand that he stiffen his backbone; it will attempt a coup d’etat from that side of the social order. If he does yield and try to reorganize the Communist Party along the lines of the proletarian revolution, new contradictions will arise since the workers will flock into the party and throw out the bureaucrats. Stalin will have to go with his henchmen. There can be no removal of Stalinism without first there being generated spontaneously among the ranks of the advanced workers the secret Communist nuclei in the factories and army regiments that will demand the removal of the old and tired officialdom and the reinstallation of revolutionary cadres. Whether from blows of the Right or from blows of the Left, Stalinism will have to fall as part of the struggle that the new war will bring on.
This is another way of saying that the serious invasion of the Soviet Union will have to cause a great upsurge of revolutionary spirit within the ranks of the proletariat and toiling masses of Russia. Once they feel they are fighting for themselves the masses will undoubtedly spring to the defense of their factories and country with the greatest enthusiasm and spirit. But this means that they must know they are fighting for themselves and not for capitalism, French, Czecho-slovak, or other. If Stalinism, with its pacts with world capitalism, will try to stand in the way of spreading the gospel of world revolution, the Russian proletariat will be bound to push the entire leadership aside and carry on the tasks with new forces.
This last, of course, will not be an easy thing to do. The Russian workers will think a long time before they will try to remove the Stalinist weight around their necks in time of war. When the war first breaks out they will even believe that everything rests in Stalin’s hands and will try hard not to create dissension in the ranks; but as the evil effects of the bureaucracy make themselves felt in the hard cold facts of the war, the workers will be bound to act, even though the removal of Stalinism and the reinstitution of the direct rule of the proletariat will entail the springing up of civil war within the country at the same time as the Fascists must be fought without.
Thus we can say that, given a large-scale war throwing the Soviet Union into a crisis and into dangers, Stalinism must fall. The fact that such a war is now on the order of the day shows clearly the imminence of Stalin’s downfall.
The situation is basically the same should the proletarian revolution break out in France and Western Europe. We leave aside the question of world war that would inevitably follow the victory of the French or Spanish workers over their capitalist enemies, a world war which would be bound to entail the invasion of the Soviet Union and create the situation just mentioned. We confine ourselves strictly to the effects that the growth of the world revolution would have upon Stalinism.
It is clear that no section of the proletariat in Western Europe can fight for power under the slogan of Socialism in one country. Not only because their superior general culture as compared with the backward Russians would never permit them to make this stupid mistake of Stalinism, but because they have understood for a long time that they could not form a self-sufficient economy or even maintain their dictatorship for one moment without international aid and cooperation. The crying need of any dictatorship of the working class in Western Europe is extension of the revolution internationally.
Certainly the Western workers will not declare their objective in a revolution is to maintain Socialism in Russia; their objective will have to be to win power in their own countries. But then it will no longer be victory in one country alone, for the victory of the workers in Western Europe will already mean victory in more than one country. To have socialism in two countries will be fatal for Stalinism.
Can it be at all imagined that when once the Western workers of Industrial Europe get into action that they will be willing to follow the lead of the backward semi-Asiatic shepherds of Georgia or peasants of Russia? Lenin, in his day, pointed out clearly that when once the Western workers got into action and took power in their countries, the Russians would be as backward in a socialistic sense as they were backward in a capitalist sense prior to the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship. Naturally the Western workers will begin to form their own international center in Western Europe. No longer will Europe be attached to Moscow, but Moscow will have to decide to become part of Europe once again and the revolutionary movement will take on a more normal development along Marxist lines.
Furthermore, the development of the revolutionary movement in the West will have to be in the course of stern struggle against Stalinism. Not only will Russian nationalism refuse to lose its throttling hold on the world proletariat, but with its alliances with Western capitalism, Stalinism stands in the way of the victory of the workers. Therefore, every victory of the masses in Western Europe will have to be at the expense of Stalinism.
Indeed, the Spanish situation shows clearly what the trend actually will have to be. The heart of the revolutionary forces lies in Barcelona, Catalonia. Precisely in this region is the Stalinist Party no force whatever. It has joined the Socialist Party and liquidated itself, but even with the Socialist Party has little influence whatever. On the contrary, it is those who have favored the Fourth International, with its internationalist line, with its refusal to play a subservient role to Russian nationalism, with its contempt for the whole ideology of Socialism in One Country and the bureaucratic distortions of Stalinism who are taking the lead in the events. There can be no doubt that should the Spanish workers be victorious, it will not be the Stalinists but the adherents of a new international, a Fourth International, that will win the day.
A similar situation is developing in France. There the masses are breaking the discipline of both Socialists and Stalinists. In their strikes and demonstrations they are clearing the way for moving up in the direction of international revolution and in such a case must fight Stalinism which is making deals with their enemies. It is inconceivable that the French workers will yield precedence to the Russian so as to permit any further the type of Tammany boss leadership that Stalin has foisted upon the international working class.
In short, the rise of the revolutionary forces in Western Europe is bound to put an end to the farce of the world leadership of Stalinism, is bound to cause a recrudescence of revolutionary ardor in Russia itself and the inevitable fall of Stalinism within that country as well.
From all of the above, we can conclude without any pretensions of clairvoyance that the days of Stalinism are soon over, that any event that throws out of gear the present unstable equilibrium, either war or proletarian revolution, is bound to cause the end of Stalin’s power. Destroy the Left Wing as he will, drag the partners of Lenin through the filth of the toilets as he has, yet the sharpening of the world revolution will in the end destroy Stalin and bury the corpse of the Third International forever. Out of the fires of the new civil wars will come a new organization capable of making the proletarian revolution permanent and bringing Socialist victory not in one country alone but throughout the world.
CHICAGO FORUM OF THE COMMUNIST LEAGUE OF STRUGGLE
Every Friday Evening at Forum Hall, 322 East 43 Street.
Admission Free. Questions. Discussion.
Interesting and Timely Subjects.
I. THE FIASCO OF NON-INTERVENTION IN SPAIN
The present critical situation in the Spanish revolution may be traced both to internal and to external causes, but primarily to the latter. We can say of the conduct of the campaign by the Spanish government, that the utmost heroism has been displayed by the people, and that the urgency of the fight has united in struggle the various working class factions. When the rumble of the cannons approaching Madrid first became audible within the city, the Spanish working class women, transformed into tigers, rushed into the factories and offices and dragging out their men folk, sent them outside the city gates to meet the advancing Fascists. In this situation, Anarchist, Communist and Socialist fought side by side.
Yet looking at the civil war more broadly, we have to see that the fight has been handicapped from the start for the working class forces by the parliamentary frame in which the state power has remained. Though the present socialist government is a step forward from the previous coalition government, still in a period of acute civil war, parliaments cannot defeat Fascism; in such a situation, only Soviets which put the power very directly in the hands of the toilers can meet the crucial need.
Still, the most decisive factor has been the failure of the international non-intervention agreement. It was plain from the start that this agreement was nothing but a whitewash for the active material support of the Fascist by at least four powers: Germany, Italy, Portugal and finally, England. The assumed neutrality of England has served effectively to cover up the activities of Portugal as the go-between for the Fascists outside and inside Spain. Portugal is in complete dependence on England which owns most of its banks and industries. There even exists an agreement for English defense of Portugal’s borders in case of attack. With such protection, Portugal is now the base through which arms, munitions and supplies reach the Spanish “rebels.” The brother of General Franco has his headquarters with his Fascist staff in one of the most prominent hotels of Lisbon.
More than this, British airplanes have been shipped to the Spanish Fascist forces via France. This is not that the victory of Fascism in Spain will be so comforting in its results to British imperialism. It will mean the granting of a naval base to Italy in the Balearic Isles and something similar to Germany. Thus the threat to Britain in the Mediterranean which took form during the Italian war on Ethiopia, will again become pressing. King Edward’s recent visit to the Near East had other objects than a holiday with Mrs. Simpson. Its purpose was to renew friendship with Greece, Jugo-Slavia and Turkey, to get the use of ports on the Mediterranean and to sway Turkey from its Soviet orientation. The threat of Italy, however, becomes secondary in the light of the possibility of a working class victory in Spain, before the menace of Communism, inter-capitalist conflicts become minor, or seek some means of adjustment.
On all sides the non-intervention understanding has been flaunted. The Spanish masses have been particularly betrayed in this situation by means of the Franco-Soviet pact. There have been insistent demands of the French workers for sending arms into Spain, going so far as demonstrations and even strikes with this demand. Why then has France held aloof? We have to see more the treachery of the Blum government, which from the beginning has tried to steer its way between the workers on the one hand in the Socialist and Communist parties and the C.G.T.U., and on the other hand, the capitalists of the Radical Socialist Party. To have shipped arms to Spain would have meant the withdrawal of these capitalists from the People’s Front and the immediate collapse of the Blum government. There are further complications. It is reported on good authority that England refused to back France in any international complications that might arise, were France to send arms to Spain. So the pacifist Blum does not dare to yield to the pressure within.
If we ask now why the French workers have not by this time broken the discipline of the People’s Front and seen to it that the necessary arms were sent, we have to recognize the pernicious influence of the Franco-Soviet Pact. This Pact has presented before the French workers a friendly alliance of their own government and Soviet Russia. Russia appearing as a Workers’ State and mighty power, an ally of theirs, it seems likely the French workers may expect large shipments of arms from Russia to save the day in Spain. No doubt there is still much popular illusion, too, that the People’s Front government will ultimately act. Of course, the only way in which arms can really be sent from France to Spain for the Spanish workers is for the workers to take matters into their own hands, take over the munitions plants and defy the government. This would mean civil war. In the meantime the tacit refusal of Blum to help has not precluded his allowing the British to help the Fascists, via France.
The shipments of arms which have been recently made from Russia have come belatedly—perhaps too late. Russia in this situation has been playing its own crazy game of temporizing with a view to maintaining its equilibrium with the capitalist powers. Should it ship arms, it risks the opening up of the international conflict which must without long delay be turned against itself. But the non-intervention too has its dangers. There has been great pressure from the working class in Europe, and particularly of France, to aid the Spanish workers. The disillusionment of the French workers in Russia endangers the Franco-Soviet Pact in which Russia has staked much hope. No doubt there must have been great pressure also from the Russian working class.
There has been one outstanding exception to the international boycott of the Spanish socialist government. Mexico of all the power has dared to help the Spanish workers and has sent considerable numbers of rifles and ammunitions to Spain. That Mexico is somewhat remote from the danger zone of international war, while it helps to account for this step, does not diminish the value of the help.
With the removal of the present government to Valencia and the imminent fall of Madrid, the next likely step is the recognition of the Fascists in control of Madrid as the government of Spain. Italy, Germany, Portugal and perhaps England will be ready to make this recognition. This will mean a tremendous reinforcement of Fascism in Europe. Now indeed, the French, Belgian and English workers must act before it is too late.
II. THE SHARPENING OF THE CLASS STRUGGLE IN ENGLAND
The recent elections show a great strengthening of conservatism in England at the same time that the working class is moving to the Left. The relation of forces was dramatized recently in the terrific defeat of the Fascist in their London West End march. British labor was stirred as it has not been for years. It turned out in full force, erected barricades, and for the time being defeated Mosley and his cohorts.
Official British labor, that is the Labor Party and not the T.U.C., are swinging more and more to the right, following their bosses. The stand of these groups for “neutrality” towards Spain is in defiance of the will of the workers, and the Labor Party must lose support thereby. Strikes among the coal miners, the cotton textile workers and others show a re-awakening of the will to struggle in the British proletariat. The I.L.P., closely in touch with the P.O.U.M. in Spain, and actively aiding money and medical supplies, is taking on a more aggressive and distinctly class-struggle tone. We are glad to note that it is advocating a one day general stoppage in protest against the new regulations and the means test which will make the situation of the unemployed much more difficult.
III. NATIONALS IN PALESTINE
To British imperialism, the chief value of Palestine is as an air and naval base for the eastern Mediterranean. The general ferment in this region which was stirred up by Mussolini’s attack on Ethiopia, including riots in Egypt and revolt in French Morocco, reached Palestine also. Not however in the form of rebellion against British imperialism. The result of Zionist colonization in Palestine has been to turn the struggle along nationalist lines. The big influx of Jewish capitalists, now possessing more capital and more factories than the Arabs, has added another enemy to those the Arab fellahs and workers had to fight. The Jewish worker immigrants might have united with the poor Arab elements for joint struggle against native and Jewish capital and against Great Britain. But the inherent nationalism of Zionism, infecting the workers’ organizations as well as the capitalists, prevented this development.
It is now a question of Arab against Jew, a struggle which is all to the good for Great Britain, since it prevents not only the struggle of the natives against imperialism within Palestine, but also hinders the union which might be achieved of Palestine with the neighboring countries of Arabia, Persia, Iraq and Yemen which are looking towards independence from imperialist domination. Indeed, nationalism could be the only outcome of the reactionary utopia of Zionism, and the present situation, where practically martial law exists, and many have been killed on both sides, without the slightest good either to the Jewish worker or the Arab fellah, should be a lesson to any worker who had staked any hopes in Zion.
IV. THE STRUGGLES OF THE BELGIUM WORKERS
The general strike of June last in Belgium reached the greatest proportions of any working class movement in that country. Although the Belgians had the example of their own coal mine strike of May 1935, they did not occupy the factories to any great extent. This is traceable to the efforts made by the trade union and Labor Party bureaucracy to prevent such a development. In fact one can saw that the general strike as a whole, starting as it did with the dockers of Anvers against their union agreement and the desire of their leaders, took place against the will of the organization. The Belgian workers fought with the greatest militancy. They had against them the civil guards and reserves, which were called out without protest or resistance from the Belgian Labor Party or its ministers Vandervelde and Spaak.
As in France, it was with the collaboration of the reformists and the employers that the strike was settled with small gains. Now the inflation is nullifying the gain in wages, the forty hour week waits upon investigation, and only half the workers have been granted the paid vacation. One fruit of doubtful flavor of the general strike has been a People’s Front arrangement between the Labor Party and the Communists. This however, will not cause much change, since the Socialists have already for nearly two years been in the government.
Hardly had the general strike subsided, when the newspapers began an anti-Red campaign, raids took place on all communist and Left groups, and the Rexist became more flagrant. This wave culminated in the recent defeat in the streets of Brussels of the Fascist forces by the fine mobilization of the workers. Here, with the similar event in London and the splendid fighting of the Spanish workers, is another working class victory.
Yet it would be dangerous indeed to believe that there is anything decisive about these temporary, local victories of the working class. Such struggles are absolutely essential to the workers, they are vital in strengthening and unifying the workers ranks, but it would be the greatest folly to believe Fascism can be defeated by these means alone. It is only in the throes of wide spread civil war that Fascism, with capitalism as a whole, can be finally defeated. All signs point to the imminence of another world blood bath before this can be achieved. Nevertheless, the recent gains of the working class has had a hopefully stimulating effect upon the movement everywhere.