Volume 6 Number 3-4 ………………………………… August 1936
CONTENTS: THE END OF THE SOVIETS
DESTROY THE BLACK LEGION!
ALL THESE PARTY CONVENTIONS:
1. Collectivism vs. Rugged Individualism 2. Third Party Movements
3. The Split in the Socialist Party 4. The Parliamentarian Communist Party
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION MOVES FORWARD
Also: International Notes on the League of Nations, Ethiopia, China, Spain.
The Workers Party Folds Up. The C.L.S. Moves to Chicago.
We have been denied second class mailing rights by the U.S. government for refusing to turn over the names and addresses of our subscribers to the U.S. Postal authorities.
THE END OF THE SOVIETS
From Moscow there comes the news that a new constitution has been promulgated which does away with the Soviets completely as effective government bodies. It is claimed that the Soviets cannot represent “pure” and “true” democracy and since Russia is now liquidating all classes and the regime has nothing further to fear from the class struggle, the soviets are no longer needed. The U.S.S.R. is proclaimed as a “Socialist State.” Now the new constitution is supposed to usher in a “real” democracy better than the Soviet system.
State organs superior to Soviets! We look with eagerness for this new form of government. But alas we are doomed to disappointment. What we see is a repetition of the bourgeois democracy that existed before the Soviets were formed. There are to be two Houses, one whose representatives are elected by the people according to territorial divisions, the other to have deputies selected by the leading executive bodies of the various republics. The representatives are to serve for four years and no new elections are to be held unless both bodies disagree, or the government gets a vote of lack of confidence, when the parliament will be dissolved and new elections held. There is to be a secret ballot, freedom of speech and of the press for all and no further restrictions barring anyone from the vote. In all this there is not one innovation in government structure different from what Western Europe has been accustomed to since the French Revolution, 150 years ago.
What has really happened is that step by step the counter-revolutionary Communist Party under Stalin is liquidating the Revolution, bringing it back to the days when the workers were deprived of power. These manoeuvres in the political field lay the base for taking the power away from the workers in the economic field and restoring the factories and means of production to the hands of capitalists.
The essence of the October Revolution when the Bolsheviks under Lenin took power was the substitution of Soviets for the parliamentary form of government. The Soviets ware the broadest democratic institutions known to history. They were not limited to workers only, but were open to all the people, workers, soldiers, peasants. At first the Soviets were united front bodies for the seizure of power, and for the maintenance of the gains of the revolution. In every possible way the bourgeoisie and their agents tried to dissolve them. But the masses held stubbornly on to these organs of insurrection and resistance, by which they took power and created the revolution. Now it is Stalin who dissolves the Soviets. It is his method of liquidating the revolution itself.
After winning power the Soviets grew from organs of insurrection to organs of State. They were far superior to ordinary bourgeois democracy. Bourgeois parliaments are the means of tricking the majority by the minority. They are instruments by which the wealthy are able to hide their dictatorship at the same time giving illusion to the people that all are equal. Bourgeois democracy is the hidden dictatorship of the capitalist class.
Take the question of two houses in parliament. Why TWO houses? Why not ONE? The two house system is the traditional method by which the class struggle has expressed itself. In England the House of Lords was controlled by the landlord aristocracy, i.e., the old order; the House of Commons became controlled by the bourgeoisie and the representatives of the new order. Between the two a bitter fight went on. If after the English Civil Wars the two houses remained, it was because both orders could compromise their interests without carrying on the struggle to the end. But it was the House of Commons and not the House of Lords that prevailed.
In the French Revolution no sooner did the people triumph than they did away with the two house system introduced by the bourgeoisie and formed a one house body, called the Convention, which reflected closely the situation among the masses during those days. That is, those who carried out the bourgeois revolution to the end, as far as they could go in those days 150 years ago, abolished the double house system as being undemocratic even from a capitalist standpoint.
In the American Revolution there was formed a Continental Congress of one chamber during the time of the revolution. After the revolution was over and the bourgeoisie was afraid of such outbreaks as the Shays rebellion and the claims the people might begin to make, there was introduced a two-chambered body and the principle of checks-and-balances. An end was made of all direct connection between the different arms of the government controlled by the people and instead the executive, legislative and judicial branches were separated and as much as possible removed from the people. The Constitution of the United States was a direct result of the counter-revolutionary activity of the wealthy propertied elements of the country. As much as possible the will of the people was thwarted in favor of the tiny capitalist minority.
All this is not new to conscious elements of the working class. The story has been told and retold a thousand times. That is the reason why even Liberals advocated the direct election of Senators, the abolition of the U.S. Senate as a body unnecessary and removed from the people, etc. In Europe even bourgeois radicals fought against long terms for representatives and for closer connection between the deputies and the people.
And now Stalin in the name of Bolshevism not only reintroduces the bourgeois parliamentary system, but eliminates even its radical improvements. No wonder the capitalist press hails the new Constitution with joy. It has less democratic features even than the United States Constitution. What is the reason for the two-house system in Russia? “Throughout the world the two-house system was created either as an expression of class struggle between two elements of the ruling class, or as a method of preventing control of the masses of workers and peasants. What possible function could the two-house system have in a country where the workers and peasants are supposed to rule? Is it intended to signify that the struggle between the masses and the property elements in Russia, the lower orders controlling the lower house and the property elements the upper house? But this is far from the theory of Stalinism. According to Stalinism the Soviets have been abolished because there is no longer any class struggle in Russia and the new system is a step further to a classless society. In that case again, we ask, why the two houses?
We emphasize also the fact that the upper house is NOT elected by the people. Here is a system supposedly superior to the Soviets, closer to the people and to a classless society, yet the people have nothing to do directly with the election of one of the houses, the Council of Nationalities or whatever high-sounding name is given it. Even in the U.S., the senators are now directly elected. Stalin however in Americanizing his politics has gone back to the days before Andrew Jackson. Russia falls a century behind the U.S.
We have to note further that in the Council of Nationalities, all the respective republics—a long list of them including some never heard of before—are given equal rights. Georgia, Armenia, Kirghiz, etc, all have equal votes with Great Russia and the Ukraine. Thus the most advanced country, Great Russia with its Moscow and its Leningrad, is swamped by the countries of most backward technique, but recently torn from the most barbarous traditions.
Although it is an appointed body, removed as far as possible from the people, this Council of Nationalities is still equal in power with the elected house. Both have equal rights and equal legislative initiative. This is positively worse even than in England, where the hereditary House of Lords representing the remains of the aristocracy, is at any rate not equal in power to the House of Commons.
Not merely is the Supreme Council elected for four years, but the Praesidium as well, and note the power of the Praesidium. If the Supreme Council has been dissolved before the expiration of its term, the Praesidium preserves its authority until the formation by the newly elected Supreme Council of a new Praesidium. Elections are to be set not more than two months after the dissolution of the old Council or the expiration of its term. Another month may elapse before convening the new body. Thus we see a possible interval of three months in which the Praesidium (the tight clique around Stalin, naturally), is the supreme ruling body of the land. Thus the way is all paved for a Stalinist directorate of a Robespierre variety leaving the way open for a Napoleon or perhaps we had better say a Hitler. The dangers of this situation cannot be overestimated.
In the lower administration, in the villages, a pretense is made of keeping the Soviets. But it is the mere shell of a name that is kept. The representatives are elected to these “Soviets” for two years. Not merely this, but decisions of the executives of these bodies may at any time be rescinded by the Council of People’s Commissars of the Union Republic. The whole idea of the Soviet State is destroyed from top to bottom. No longer is the state in the hands of the toilers, but in the hands of experts in statecraft—completely the bourgeois bureaucratic conception—who are granted by the constitution (article 52) immunity of arrest and prosecution without the consent of the Supreme Council.
Now looking at the judiciary set-up we see further reactionary provisions. The Supreme Court is elected not by popular vote but by the Supreme Council. Its members hold office for five years (and the public prosecutor for seven years) one year longer than the deputies of the Council, apparently to make sure that if more radical deputies are elected, the judges can hold the fort for a year longer. This provision holds good in the union and autonomous republics as well. Even the so-called “people’s courts”, though elected by popular vote, are for three years. Article 112 declares judges to be “independent and subject only to law.” Independent of what? Surely not of the Stalinist machine. What a mockery of the real people’s courts the revolution set up in its early days, where the toilers faced their own kind behind the bench and workers common sense was the guiding rule in settling cases. This Judiciary system does not need the wigs of the English nor the rigamarole of our courts to make part of a reactionary apparatus.
One more word about Stalin’s glorious constitution. How is it to be amended? Popular referendum is unthought of. Amendment of this “democratic” constitution is accomplished only by decision of the Supreme Council of the U.S.S.R., and by a majority vote of not less than two-thirds in each of its chambers including the non-elective one. Rigidity and conservatism are now complete.
It was the right wing of the Bolsheviks who never understood the great superiority of the Soviets as instruments of government and who even became strike breakers and traitors to the workers on the eve of the October Revolution. To this right wing, Stalin always belonged, although he has tried hard to hide these connections. Before Lenin arrived in Russia in April 1917, Stalin had been for a close unity with the opportunist Socialists and for support of the Provisional government. He actually praised the conduct of the government in the war. When Lenin arrived he began to conduct a sharp fight against Stalin, then editor of the Pravda, and put the party on the right track. Stalin was forced to keep quiet.
In October, 1917, Lenin advocated the seizure of power by the Soviets. At that time the right wing headed by Kamenev and Zinoviev, Rykov, Tomsky, and the whole leading crew now supporting Stalin fought against Lenin. They declared that what should be established was a parliamentary system supported by the Soviets but the Soviets should not take full power and abolish parliamentarism. It is interesting to recall the record of Stalin. All during the preliminary days to the insurrection Stalin kept away from the headquarters and buried himself as “editor". This was really a form of sabotage of the work. Then he violated the decision of the party by printing the counter-revolutionary statements of Kamenev and Zinoviev at the critical moment when they gave away the Bolshevik plans to the police and tried their best to break up the impending insurrection. When Kamenev was removed from the leading committee, Stalin voted against it. When it was decided that Kamenev should have no further space in the paper for his viewpoint, Stalin voted against it. Stalin himself resigned at the critical moment from his post as editor. This is how matters stood on the question of the Soviets taking power and wiping out bourgeois parliamentarism.
The fight of Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin against the Soviet power was not merely a question of what form of government Russia was to have, but above all whether the workers should take over power and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat or not. This was clearly understood by all. The right wing did not want the workers to take power, they thought it would be impossible to hold it and that the attempt was premature. They did not believe that another civil war was necessary and they thought that a combination of parliaments and soviets was good enough as reconciling all interests.
The fact of the matter however, was that the civil war was inevitable. It was impossible to solve the problems of the country without the workers taking the power. It was impossible for them to take the power and yet work through bourgeois machinery. They had to form their own governmental forms and the Soviets were those forms. In civil war it was impossible to have a checks-and-balances government. It would have been fatal to divide responsibility and power, to have legislation in one group and execution of decisions in another. It was impossible to have representatives elected for long terms. The delegates had to be elected for shorter terms and had to be closely tied to the people, capable of testing out the wisdom of their own decisions by carrying them out themselves.
The parliamentary system with its representatives elected for a given number of years was part of the system of the bourgeoisie where the state stood apart and above the people as an instrument of repression. It was necessary to form a new sort of state intimately related to the people, a state that would lay the basis for a social order with no state at all, a system where the state would wither away. This was precisely the character of the Soviet state. Even though it openly stood for the dictatorship of the proletariat, this Soviet government ensured much more democracy than any known bourgeois system. It brought broader masses into participation in the government, even the most backward. It forced responsibility on delegates who had to carry out their own decisions. Thus the mass of people received new political training. This went hand in hand with the extension of the suffrage and with a new democratic system in the army. Lenin’s ideal of the humblest scrub woman taking part in the government was on the way to being realized.
Against the idea of all power to the Soviets and the smashing of old bourgeois parliamentary forms, Zinoviev and Kamenev openly and Stalin more quietly were putting forth the program of a “free people’s state”, a parliamentary state that could be taken over by the workers and used to introduce Socialism peacefully and gradually. This is now the idea of Stalinism today.
Of course the official Stalinists will not say that they are retreating and giving up the revolution. Open criticism and open discussion is not their way. Counter-revolutionary dark elements cannot stand discussion. What they must do is to lie as hard as possible to make every retreat look like an immense advance. Thus, as they give up the Soviets, as they destroy the very instruments of the October revolution, they declare that this is no sign of retreat but a great step forward: It is a sign there are no more classes in Russia and all are now on an equal plane.
Here the Stalinists reveal themselves in their true colors as counter-revolutionary and anti-Marxist in every possible way. First of all, assuming that all should now be allowed the vote in Russia, is this incompatible with the Soviet system? Did not all have the vote in the Paris Commune? (although it is true the bourgeoisie fled to Versailles and did not exercise it much) Did not all have the vote in the early days of the Soviets after they took power in October? Here is what Lenin had to say about this:"As I have pointed out already, the disfranchisement of the bourgeoisie does not constitute a necessary element of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Nor did the Bolsheviks in Russia, when putting forward the demand for such a dictatorship long before the November revolution, say anything in advance about the disfranchisement of the exploiters. This particular element of the dictatorship was not born according to a plan conceived by some party but grew up spontaneously in the course of the fight.” (Lenin: Kautsky the Renegade.) We might add that the dictatorship of the proletariat, that is, the ousting of the capitalists in the means of production can take place even though all vote and even though there is a return to the parliamentary form. However, the dictatorship of the proletariat is pretty sick under such conditions.
It was no necessary part of the power of the Soviets that they should disfranchise anybody. That is precisely one of the great differences between a Soviet and, say, a shop committee or trade union body. If Stalin wanted to give the vote to the bourgeois or nepman, to the priest, kulak or other capitalist element, he could still have done that within the framework of the Soviets. He did not have to destroy the Soviet system. However, to keep the Soviets and yet give the vote to the former Counter-revolutionary elements would not have been easy. The very existence of the Soviet was a reminder of class terror, of revolution, of the destruction of bourgeois property and privilege. It would have been hard for the anti-proletarian element to have used the Soviets for counter-revolutionary purposes even though they might have slowly and gradually penetrated them to paralyze their revolutionary nature. No, it was necessary, if the bourgeois, the kulak and nepman were to have a chance to destroy the workers, to wipe out the instruments of civil war, to divide the power of the people and to block their will. For this it was necessary to wipe out the Soviet system itself.
In their liquidation of the Soviets, instruments of class struggle, the Stalinists have substituted for them the idea of a “free people’s state". They forget there can be no such thing as “free state". No state stands for freedom. It is the ABC of Marxism that the role and function of the state is to be an instrument of oppression in the hands of one class to put down another class. When class rule ceases to be, there will be no state. The state will then wither away. All democracy is class democracy. To imagine a classless democracy is to imagine a state without class struggles. This is precisely the utopian dream of the counter-revolutionary Stalinists. Franklin D. Roosevelt also says Soviets mean classes; the Congress of the U.S. is superior to Soviets because it means “pure” democracy and the classlessness of a “free” state. Stalin is at one with Roosevelt. (No wonder the C.P.U.S.A. is boosting Roosevelt’s re-election.) Stalin, too, affirms that a parliament goes with “classlessness".
The fact of the matter is that the class struggle burns fiercely within Russia although the Stalinists try to hide it. The very new constitution foisted on the workers shows that their class enemies are slowly taking the ground away from the proletariat and preparing them for Fascism. By means of the new constitution, the state, far from withering away, becomes an ever sharper instrument in the hands of the new agents of the capitalists against the workers. Stalinism is destroying the October Revolution and putting it back on the basis of the February Revolution. No longer can one say “Defend the Soviet Union” since Stalinism has now destroyed the Soviets within the union. It seems to be time now again to raise in Russia the revolutionary slogan, “All power to the Soviets". Whatever remains of the October Revolution in the property relations must be defended. The workers in the Soviet Union must be defended, and this can only be done by overthrowing Stalinism.
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As Stalinism wipes out the rule of the workers in Russia within the government, it lays the basis for the return of the factories to capitalism, as it destroys the Soviets, it also destroys the Communist parties throughout the world. In Russia all the old revolutionary leadership has been wiped out. The Internationalist wing has been eliminated, the old comrades of Lenin are in jail. Even the society of old Bolsheviks is liquidated and the G.P.U., the terrorist arm of the revolution is no more. Outside of Russia the C.P. is instructed to fuse itself with the Socialist parties, to enter into Labor Parties or Farmer-Labor Parties and in a hundred ways to support the capitalist governments just as the Soviet Union is doing on every possible front. Today the Stalinist parties have become one of the chief bulwarks of the capitalist regime and the greatest enemy within the ranks of the workers. The labor movement cannot advance one inch, as the events in France, in Cuba, in Spain and everywhere show, without the annihilation of all influence of these agents of the bosses. The fight against Fascism, the fight for revolution becomes inevitably a fight against Stalinism as well.
As Stalinism liquidates the Soviets it finds itself face to face with the contradiction that without a civil war it cannot as yet turn over the factories and means of production within Russia to capitalism. Stalinism can only fulminate and prepare and grind its teeth but it is too weak to hand over the power directly to the capitalists. Internationally it is faced with the same dilemma. It can help destroy the revolutions in France, in Spain, in Germany, in Cuba, in China and elsewhere, but in the course of its activity it comes headlong against the very forces raised up and inspired by the Russian Revolution. Just as Stalinism without civil war cannot restore capitalism within Russia, so can it not destroy the influence of Leninism and the Russian Revolution outside Russia. The very sympathizers of the Russian Revolution must now fight Stalinism; the very adherents of the Third International under Lenin must now form a Fourth International to carry on the work of Lenin.
By putting an end to the Soviets, Stalinism has given a blow of the worst sort to the world proletariat and has completely isolated the Soviet Union from the masses. This weakening of the Soviet Union in turn will only awaken the Russian masses still more sharply once war is on the order of the day and the Russian workers will be called upon to defend the gains of the revolution. As the Russian proletariat revives its power and influence it must bend all its might for the removal of Stalinism. Again the slogan will resound:"All power to the Soviets!” The efforts of Stalinism to bind the functionaries together with the peasantry will then be doomed to failure. Stalinism cannot make of the bankrupt peasant class a class that can defeat the workers. Only the bourgeoisie united with the peasants could do this and there is no bourgeoisie of importance within Russia but only the Fascists outside. Here, then, is the fatal weakness of the counter revolutionary efforts of Stalinism. It, has no powerful bourgeoisie within the country. It has only a class of backward peasants that cannot take power by itself and is used to being led by the workers. Outside is the bourgeois Fascist that can really wipe out the proletarian revolution. But in the meantime between them stands the Russian worker. Once war is declared, the worker must reconquer his place. He must unite with the peasant. He must make every effort to destroy Stalinism. In this with the help of those adhering to the Fourth International throughout the world, he will be successful.
DESTROY THE BLACK LEGION
A new Ku Klux Klan has come to light, as deadly and abominable as the old. A black force that commits secret murders and beats labor organizers to death. A monster dangerous to labor which labor must find how to destroy.
Very suddenly the Black Legion was exposed through the murder of the unfortunate Chas. Poole, young W.P.A. worker, father of a new-born baby. But the Legion had existed for years before. Nobody knows how many cowardly deeds can be traced to it. The finger had been pointed at it very definitely a few years ago in Detroit, where murders of radical labor organizers were committed. But no action was taken. Now a part of the body of the monster is uncovered and a show is made of attacking it by sending Trigger Man Dean up for life. But the Legion still lives, its black work will go on.
At first sight the nature of the crime which uncovered the order seems to brand it as an organization of degenerates. Word was spread around among the blood-brotherhood:"Poole is ill-treating his wife.” And a spirit of vengeance was whipped up that reminds one of witch burning days in Colonial Massachusetts. One might think the members of the band that set out to “get” Poole and who finally kill him were models of the pure life themselves. But investigation shows that Dean had lived with several women, and one of his deserted wives claims he ill treated her. From the point of view of strict morality he was loose enough himself.
We see here a picture of people who are positively rotting away. There is something disgusting in this sordid prying into the sex life of neighbors. It is brainless, like the blood and thunder rigamarole used to bind members to the organization. We have to ask, what sort of people are these who belong to such an order, a band whose members are sworn to die rather than reveal its secrets, and whose purpose is to persecute its own members as well as outsiders, to “get something on someone”, to “put someone on the spot”, to beat, terrorize and murder. It is not surprising that Dean turned State’s evidence, as the whole organization apparently was given over to spying one upon the other.
Even though a certain number of workers had been forced or cajoled by jobs into joining the outfit, still the influential members were all either civil service employees, or petty officials, police, prison guards and so on. These were the leadership. Such people in former years were busy getting ahead in life, were thinking about a new car or a new parlor suite to please the wife. Now the crisis has put an and to their good living. Hard times have settled down for good. These third rate Babitts now see nothing ahead of them and they stagnate, stewing in their own juice. One Arthur Lupp, a Detroit milk inspector who was a “chief recruiting officer” of the Legion and is now charged with fourteen others of one of its crimes, has declared: “You must remember that during this depression there was this condition: many men were depressed. They had no purpose in life. They were floundering around. This organization gave them an interest in life.” These elements do not, like the working class, engage in a struggle for the betterment of humanity, but instead they become a prey to all sorts of crack-brained viciousness. Secret night-riding, blood-curdling oaths, lascivious prying into how so-and-so treats his wife, these are the results.
But all this is the light side of the Black Legion. The murder of a Chas. Poole is just a tid-bit for this outfit. Its possibilities include something much more threatening. Let us recall some events which happened in Detroit a few years ago, after the unemployed had made their heroic march on the Ford plant and five workers were killed. This event was followed by a reign of terror where anti-labor spirit was whipped high by a Citizen’s Committee (a vigilante arm of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce). A policeman, one “Peg-Leg” White, was in the employ of this Citizen’s Committee. White and two other men at one time went to the office of a service man (labor spy) employed by the Hudson Motor Co., and told him a certain worker in the Hudson plant, John Bielak by name, and four other workers were agitating for a union, were sabotaging production, and were Communists. The three visitors said they belonged to a secret order which had as one of its objectives the suppression of Communists. This visit came to light later when the body of Bialak, then a member of the A.F.L. United Automobile Workers was found beaten to death by a roadside, a stack of union application cards under his head. There was also the murder of Geo. Marchuk, treasurer of the Communist Auto Workers Union, who was found murdered in a ditch near Lincoln Park (one-time K.K.K. stronghold) in 1933, and also the bombings of union headquarters and of several strikers’ homes in the recent Motor Products strike. The last-mentioned crime was charged by the United Auto Workers and the Farmer Labor Party to the Black Legion. Within more recent days we recall the horrible flogging and torture of Shoemaker and his friends in Tampa Florida the murder of Walter Ligett in Minneapolis. While these have not been linked up with the Black Legion, they are very similar in character to its acts. Now lately has come the terrible beating of Sherman H. Dalrymple, organizer for the United Rubber Workers in Gadsden, Ala. This last case has been definitely connected with the Legion by terror in Akron following Dalrymple’s return there, accompanied by the burning of fiery crosses.
Here we see clearly the dangerous anti-labor role that is played by the order. We see its connections with the police and with the secret spy and terror system of the trusts. Even though many of its members are driven into it and kept in it by one motive alone: fear, and may be quite blank as to the real scope of the organization. Even though its ritual is made up of hysteria and threats, mingled with lurid patriotism, yet the anti-labor, anti-Negro, anti-Communist trend is plain enough to anyone observing the acts of the group. And just as racketeering is so closely connected with “legitimate” business that they can hardly be told apart, and racketeering cannot be rooted out nor even exposed in full because its methods are too like that of the trusts, so this outlaw mob, the Black Legion, dovetails with the System of labor squads, agents provocateurs and thugs which the heavy industry employers have developed to crush the attempts of the unskilled workers to form mass organizations. In the present period, when company unionism is the policy of the trusts and when persecution by the authorities is fiercer than ever against militant workers, the Black Legion can be very useful to the bosses in fighting any union, including the A.F.L.
It was reported, and it is fitting enough, that a meeting held by the Legion in Detroit was addressed by a Russian White Guardist, some former prince, general or what-not. No doubt he told a mouthful of the methods of the Black Hundreds with which the Czar in the name of the autocracy took blood revenge for every strike, every demonstration, every uprising of the Russian masses.
The violence of the Black Legion is nothing new in America. There has been a thread of terrorism and brutal mob action here that runs straight down from the founding of the country. First the despoiling, robbing and killing off of the Indians, then the posses to lynch cattle thieves and other marauders on the frontier before there were sheriffs or any other state officers to represent the law; then the K.K.K. in the South after the Civil War to crush the rising power of the Negroes; since then continual lynching’s of Negroes and labor organizers, Vigilante Committees and Citizen’s Committees set up either to take the law into their own hands where the State was weak, or, where there is a strong state, with police and courts at its disposal, to work undercover to repress labor whenever it attempts to fight for itself. At the same time labor has its own traditions of direct action in resisting the violence the employers and their agents have used against it.
The Black Legion is a modernized successor of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan flourished chiefly in the countryside. It originated in the South as a terror band in the interests of the Southern Bourbon landowners. The Black Legion is strong in the centers of heavy industry, automobile towns, steel towns, rubber towns. The worker membership of the B.L. has been obtained by using the organization’s influence to obtain jobs for its members and by discriminating against those not members. Naturally it has not such a clear-cut ideology that its anti-labor purpose can be distinguished by those workers at once. And furthermore, they are the type newly come from the country, Southern hillbillies who have no experience in industry nor in labor organization, who are not class conscious and who have themselves traditions that fit in with the Legion ritual. It is quite possible, too, that the money and power of the automobile and rubber bosses are behind the group and that the recruiting of worker members is definitely a policy to split the ranks of labor.
One can easily imagine the role of a Black Legion or similar group if Fascism comes to power here. Not that it is itself a Fascist organization, but it is made to order for the purpose of Fascism to use the middle class, especially its lower sections that are vegetating and degenerating under the crisis, to crush workers organizations in the interests of the big trusts. The lurid mumbo-jumbo of the Legion fits in wonderfully well, too, with Fascist ideology which everywhere stresses ritual, emotion rather than thought, blind devotion to country and leader, blind hatred against whoever is designated to be hated. Its members are being groomed in such little try-outs as the Poole murder to suppress every remnant of decency in themselves and to be ready to beat, torture, kill, at the bidding of a Fascist power.
The organized workers can see that the Black Legion threatens them more than it does any one else. The big question is, how to fight this monster? Can the law fight it? The law will sentence one man, Dean, and possibly a few others. The chances are that is the last we shall hear of any prosecution. It is hardly reasonable to expect the law to handle it, when the public prosecutor himself is suspected of being an official in the Legion. There are no legalistic methods that can deal with a thing like this. This is a case where force has to be met with force. The necessary steps are first to form secret defense bodies of class conscious workers, second to send reliable people into the legion to learn its plans and its leaders, and third to give these officials a taste of their own medicine. This case is very similar to that of the lynching of the Negroes. We have always said “Lynch a few of the lynchers and their will be a little hesitation next time when the mob gathers for its victim.” That is why we support the slogan “Lynch the lynchers of the Negroes and poor toilers.”
Only fools imagine that we can get rid of violence in American life by praying, or by educating people, or by passing bills in Congress. Violence has been going on for 300 years, in spite of all the laws passed, all the prayers offered up and all the petitions circulated. What the workers have to do is to change the direction of the violence. Instead of the workers always being the victims, let some of the police, the spies, the Black Legionaires, the factory foremen the plantation overseers and other friends of the boss class feel the heavy hand of labor. Turn the violence against the enemies of labor.
Now the question arises, who will organize labor to destroy the Black Legion and similar terroristic anti-labor groups? The unions are the biggest working class group and it should be their duty to do the job. But the unions cannot do it. The reason is that the bureaucracy in control of the unions is itself too much mixed up, with racketeering and gangsterism to be able or willing to tackle a job of this nature. The proverb: “Set a thief, to catch a thief” falls down here. Neither can those political twins, the Socialist Party and the Communist Party, do it. The Communist Party has gone so respectable that the workers can no longer look to it for the sort of fight that is needed. Now the C.P. supports Roosevelt, it supports the People’s Front governments to defeat Fascism. Pacifism, legalism, the ballot, these are its methods now, just as in the S.P. Let us take up some of the arguments the C P. members and others give against the sort of action we propose.
First, that there are workers in the Black Legion and in the lynching mobs in the South. How can workers fight against workers? (These comrades conveniently forget that they themselves were using fists a few years ago and even black jacks against the members of the C.L.S. and other opposition Communist groups). The answer to this argument is that in dealing with the B.L. and in making an example of its leaders, it is naturally the police elements and similar types that would be selected, not the occasional worker who is probably being held there against his will. Now as to the lynching mobs in the South. Most lynching’s take place either in the countryside or in very small towns. It is plain that workers cannot form the base of lynch mobs there. It is the property owners who are behind the lynch mobs, who instigate them, and around them gather the plantation overseers and drivers, the storekeepers, the hangers-on of the village, the doubtful elements. The ones to make an example of, are again, the propertied people, the boss elements. For the workers or poor farmers who in their ignorance are drawn into these things, we have to rely on the experience of the class struggle to teach them.
Then there is the argument: “The slogan ‘Lynch the lynchers of the Negroes and poor toilers’ and the reliance on terror to fight the Black Legion is anarchistic. The workers do not want individual acts of terror, but organized action.” Exactly, that is just what we want also. We have never demanded individual acts of vengeance. The defense groups we call for are organized bodies of the working class, acting out of class-conscious motives, subject to the strictest working class discipline, and preferably organized with the help of such a body as the Negro Chamber of Labor or some militant union.
Finally, the argument comes out: “Violence is a fascist method. If we tell the workers to use violence, are we not also becoming fascist?” Now the cat is out of the bag. The answer to this argument is the question? “Do you want to fight or don’t you?” There is the dividing line in the labor movement today, and this question must be plainly answered. This argument does not represent the spirit of the American workers today, as the many militant strikes being waged against brutal repression, testify. The answer of the rubber workers to the Gadsden, Ala. atrocity was a crusade of 5000 armed men, union men from Akron, ready to march down to Alabama to avenge Dalrymple. Only the pleading of the scared A.F.L. leaders held them back.
Of course, violence used by the workers to defeat the bosses is not fascism. Fascism is a system definitely in support of the bosses, crushing the workers. The methods to defeat fascism are the methods to defeat capitalism. Capitalism cannot be defeated by peaceful means, only by struggle. And struggle does not mean simply struggle on the barricades in some dim far-off day. It means struggle here and now, wherever the workers are attacked. Only this way will labor ever become strong enough for the final defeat of capitalism.
It is plain that the so-called “labor” political parties are shackles on the workers’ militant spirit, and that the workers will have to cast aside those barriers and organize themselves anew for a real fight against terror and fascism. The Communist League of Struggle and the Negro Chamber of Labor stand ready to do their part.
ALL THESE PARTY CONVENTIONS
1. Collectivism vs. Rugged Individualism
There should be a record vote in November, even greater than the last presidential vote. Furthermore, the issues have been politicalized, through the experiences of the masses in the past four years. The Roosevelt vote in 1932 was anti-Hoover and anti-depression. It was a mass protest against the privations and horrors of the crisis. It could scarcely express confidence in Roosevelt since the New Deal was then unborn and nobody knew what the new President’s policies would be. Now there has been not only experience but a mass of discussion pro and con. The cards are on the table.
The Roosevelt administration is concentrating its propaganda on its welfare and relief work. Red white and blue signs have been placed prominently on all the W.P.A. projects. Movies are being shown illustrating the “great” achievements in relief and public works. The Democratic Party platform fairly sings in praise of the wonderful benefits the New Deal has brought the country. We have to pinch ourselves to make sure we are still here in America. The picture of reality was so different. It is plain Roosevelt is running on promises to continue the New Deal in all its essential features. The program is noncommittal on the question of the N.R.A. The brief paragraph on Business promises to keep the American business man on the road to “freedom and prosperity” on which it has supposedly led him. We can assume that some modified form of the N.R.A. may be reintroduced. If not, the promise of prosperity relies solely upon continuance of government expenditures to replace the normal jobs which it is plain industry cannot provide for the still vast armies of the unemployed.
Humanitarianism is the keynote of this program. Aid for the blind, the crippled the unfortunate, the orphaned, the old. Government aid for the unemployed, for the youth, for the business man, for the farmer. The government is pictured as a kind father taking the whole country under his benevolent protection, chasing the kidnaper away from the wealthy, snatching the workingman’s wife and children out of the sweat-shops, saving the farmers from ruin, all with a broad liberal impartiality. Monopolies and concentration of economic power, those creations of the Republican Party, are to be stamped out by love. Government expenses are to be determinedly reduced.
The Republican Party pictures the country in dire peril, dishonored and betrayed by the government itself. Its campaign has concentrated against two main aspects of the Roosevelt administration, the vast expenditures and secondly the great increase in Presidential powers. The Republican platform accuses the New Deal of allowing power of Congress to be usurped by the President, of violating the rights and liberties of American citizens, of passing laws contrary to the constitution, of frightful waste and extravagance, of flaunting the authority and integrity of the Supreme Court etc.
The Republican Party pledges itself to maintain the American system of national and local self-government, to support the Supreme Court and the American system of free enterprise and private competition. It promises to remove all restrictions on production in order to permit reabsorption of the unemployed, to abandon all New Deal policies that raise production costs and increase the cost of living, to withdraw the government from competition with private payrolls.
It promises to return the responsibility for relief administration to non-political local agencies, and to undertake public works only apart from the relief administration. It promises to eliminate monopoly, and to balance the budget, and to collect the outstanding war debt. As a final note it harks back to its first platform of 1856 with an appeal to good old American individualism.
Now let us get down to brass tacks.
First, the most important problem confronting any administration is the crisis. How to restore prosperity. In this both parties are equally bankrupt. The Republicans have no more to offer than Hoover, under whose rule the country fell into very dire straits. Two very different solutions are offered, neither of which can restore the economy of the country to “normal". The Roosevelt scheme is through government subsidies and public works, artificially to attempt to restore the market, the buying power of the masses. Experience has proved that this scheme does not work, that it simply creates a vast mass of people, probably as high as fifty millions, who live directly or indirectly off the government. Is this a solution? The public debt piles up higher than ever before in history. It has now reached $33,913,000,000. The government money is thrown into a bottomless pit from which it can never be drawn out and into which ever more and more must be dumped.
The Republicans propose to return flatly to the methods of Hoover. According to them, it is the restrictions which the New Deal placed upon business that have hampered it, preventing recovery. They will restore business to the old individualist basis of private enterprise. But it was plain as daylight under Hoover that private enterprise had fallen down completely, that it was impossible for factories to run without sufficient market to absorb their goods. It is madness to propose to solve the crisis by these methods.
As for the unemployed, the Republicans would return them to private charity. What this means can be readily understood by recalling the latter part of 1932 and 1933—homeless men sleeping in doorways, bread lines blocks long, beggars with out-stretched hands on the city streets ("Buddy, can you spare a dime?")down-and-out colonies living in houses made of tin cans on the outskirts of every town; whole families, vagabonding up and down the country in search of a living; starvation rampant throughout the country.
The election of Landon, with the policies of rugged individualism put into effect, would greatly intensify the class struggle. There would be a ruthless slashing of wages("removal of restrictions on business” “abandonment of the New Deal polices that raise production costs"). There would be a drive to smash the A.F.L. accompanied by an outbreak of strikes from one end of the country to the other, such as we have not yet seen. The unemployed, cut off from relief, would again come out in demonstrations and riots in the proportions of 1931 and 32. There would very soon be such a political crisis that the administration would find no way out but to return to the despised Rooseveltian collectivism—to national control and regulation, to government relief.
The fact is that capitalism is in the same crisis all over the world, and the experience of the class internationally is that the only way out for them is to institute fascism,—that is, national collectivism in the interests of big capital, ruthlessly crushing the working class and the lower middle classes; strict government regulation of the economic, the political and social life of the nation. An open dictatorship of capital.
Roosevelt’s New Deal in America paved the way for such a regime. It introduced the collectivist elements; the concentration of power in the hands of one man; the growing insignificance of Congress; the regulation and control of business, wages and labor conditions by the Federal government. But, Roosevelt did all this peacefully, and according to himself and many others constitutionally. There was no powerful threatening labor movement that had to be suppressed. Therefore his plans were blended with paternalism and with a liberal attitude that included protection to the A.F.L. (at the same time that company unions were allowed to grow and flourish) and gestures of fighting such evils as child labor and sweat shops. These gestures were accompanied by tremendous brutality in repressing all the strikes which the workers were forced to launch in order to protect their living standard.
A great development took place along the lines of regimenting labor through the relief system with its investigations and its waiting in line at the relief office as well as through the work projects and the CCC camps for the youth with their semi- military discipline. At the same time there has been a decline in morale of the unemployed due to the very same causes. The whole relief and public works system is calculated to break down the spirit of the workers. The boondoggling may become responsible for a real deterioration in some sections of the working class, especially the youth.
The class struggle is bound to become sharpened no matter which way the elections result. The New Deal had created antagonistic groups among the bourgeoisie itself, culminating in the declaring unconstitutional of the N.R.A. and the A.A.A. by the Supreme Court. It is this hostile movement, based on the failure of the N.R.A. to work in any sense of the word, that has brought about the revival of the Republican Party. Even though the New Deal meant a great increase in profits for certain sections of the capitalists, the big trusts and the banks, yet even for them the New Deal has terrors. Federal regulation begins to look very much like nationalization of industry. The big Bourgeoisie is not yet ready for fascism here. And when they are ready it will be neither the benevolent Roosevelt nor the rugged individualist Landon that will fill the bill for them. Several stages must be gone through yet before fascism immediately threatens in the U.S.
2. Third Party Movements
The Labor Party, or the Farmer Labor Party, have not made much progress beyond the localized activity of the last presidential election, There has been no mass support behind the movement in the unions. And now the committee of the A.F.L. bureaucrats, labor’s Non-Partisan League, is throwing its support behind Roosevelt. This was to be expected. Roosevelt means jobs. He means the Labor Relations Boards, with posts in the government and protection for the A.F.L. officialdom. That every strike since the New Deal has brought forth the state’s armed forces, that the steel industry is even now preparing to resist to the hilt the A.F.L. attempt to organize the steel workers within their fold, apparently makes no impression on such gentlemen as Dubinsky, Geo. Berry, John L. Lewis and others. It is the rank and file workers in their organizations who have to face the tear-gas bombs and the machine guns, not they. Their jobs go on.
Meanwhile a third party of quite a different character has appeared. Under the protection of Father Coughlin the Union Party has been launched, with the probable support of the Share-the-Wealth movement and the Townsendites. Coughlin is generally considered to be a sort of Fascist forerunner, yet we would hesitate to call the Union party fascist. There is in fact something very phoney about this Union Party. For example, every point but one of the fifteen points in its program begins with the word “Congress". Congress is to enact all the measures by which the Union Party would reform the country. This is certainly not a fascist tendency. Fascism wipes out legislatures entirely. It is significant that of the two major parties, neither stresses congress or talks about restoring its powers. The Republican Party boosts the Constitution and the Supreme Court, Roosevelt the centralized Federal government, which mean himself and his clique.
The Union Party platform contains vague demands for Congress to legislate a living wage and production at a profit for the farmer. Congress is also to see that the youth can earn a decent living and that income and inheritances are to be limited. It calls for protection of small industry and private enterprise and for control and decentralization of monopolies. Control of monopolies was a strong point in each of the other two platforms, which proves nothing except that the middle class is still the principal voting one, and must get promises if nothing else.
On the whole, so empty is the platform of the Union Party that we are inclined to believe there is truth in the current report that it is being financed by anti- New Deal forces in order to draw some of the vote away from Roosevelt and give Landon a break. Of course this does not mean that Coughlin with his usual propaganda is not a force preparing for fascism and a rank enemy of labor.
3. The Split in the Socialist Party.
The split in the ranks of the Socialists will put the S.P. out of the running in so far as obtaining any considerable number of votes is concerned. Furthermore it means the beginning of the end of the Socialist movement. The split is not a progressive one as is claimed by the Stalinists and others, but rather part of a process of disintegration. It is not such a split as took place in 1919, which clarified revolutionary principles and separated those standing for the dictatorship of the proletariat from the elements standing for peaceful, gradual evolution. Of course there is some difference in tendency between the corrupt Old Guard and the more progressive elements now in control of the S.P. The Old Guard may be classed as conservative social-democratic and the present S.P. as very mild centrist. The Old Guard, chiefly based on the New York State organization and centering around the Rand School and the Jewish Daily Forwartz, formed itself into a Social-Democratic Federation, which then proceeded to hatch a People’s Party. There we leave it to rot in peace, the only future possible for it.
The S.P. is still far from unified, even though it has got rid of the Waldmans and the Algernon Lees. This is evident from the declaration that for some states the “Socialist Call” is the official party organ while others merely give it support. The Maryland “Leader” immediately after the convention came out with a statement that the Social-Democratic Federation was the basis for a new, sound social-democratic labor party in America, and that the S.P. was headed for the scrap-heap. The next issue declared the Maryland Party adhered to the S.P. while declaring its right to criticize. This revised editorial statement declares the Maryland Leader believes the suspension of the N.Y. State charter was illegal and unjust. It declares itself in principle for the industrial union form of organization, but is for working for this by education within the A.F.L.(in other words is against the Industrial Union Committee which the S.P. is supporting.) Non-commitally they state they are for independent political action by the workers, but are not for any outside pressure to obtain the same. Whether this is meant to be against the Farmer-Labor Party idea which the S.P. supports is not clear. Finally they declare that internationally, they adhere to the “principles of the Labor and Socialist International and not to the self-styled “left’s” or “militant” fraction, who represent a very small minority in the Socialist and labor movement in most of the countries where the labor movement is powerful.”
There are Lovestoneites and Trotskyists in the present S.P. There are conservative elements like the Milwaukee crowd and liberal intellectuals like Norman Thomas. Such a mix-up can easily be a source of further splits. Already Maurer has left the party, declaring he cannot remain with Communists. Other right wing elements must follow. In attempting to conciliate all, Thomas will lose most of what he has.
The program and platform of the S.P. now are less revolutionary than previous platforms put out by the Militants and the Revolutionary Policy Committee. Concessions have evidently been made to the more conservative elements in order to keep them and if the left’s have any influence it is not to be seen in the platform. There is a very decided declaration against armed insurrection and not a word in the whole document for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Coupled with this is a demand for Congress to pass legislation enabling the government to nationalize the industries. This at any rate is what we conclude from the rather vague statement supporting a “Farmers and Workers” Rights Amendment ending the usurped power of the Supreme Court to declare legislation unconstitutional and granting the power to acquire and operate industries. To whom such power is to be granted is not stated. Since the first part or the statement plainly supports Roosevelt (and the platform also calls for continuance of public works and for a six billion dollar grant by Congress to continue relief) we can suppose the power to acquire and operate industries is to be granted to him.
Now comes a paragraph clearly indicating a complete lack of Marxist understanding and of revolutionary principle. “Social Ownership. We propose the social ownership and democratic control of the mines, the railroads, the power industry and other key industries, and the recognition in all public industries of the right of collective bargaining.” What is this “social ownership"? Not workers ownership, mind you. What can social ownership be while the capitalist system still prevails, if not government ownership by the capitalist class, in other words, state Capitalism ? What other possible social or political agency is there whereby ownership could be expressed? There is not a word here of class relationships, not a word of the necessity to change the property relationships.
The only “social ownership” Marxists can talk about in their platforms is that accomplished after the bourgeois state machine has been destroyed from top to bottom and the workers have seized the factories and other means of production and driven out the employers. But there is not a word in this platform about destroying the bourgeois state machine. Traditional demands towards the revolution are of course permissible and necessary, such as “Workers’ Control over Production". But this is a demand which gives no illusions about the capitalist state, and furthermore it is such a demand that if carried out, would lead the workers to push the revolution on to its fullest conclusions. These paragraphs betray Marxism and brand the S.P. as no more than just a social-democratic party, with the same old illusions in the state and in the possibilities of obtaining socialism by voting the party into power. The whole declaration reeks of pacifist, legalistic methods.
Illusions in the state are further strengthened by a whole list of Utopian demands calling for labor legislation that will do away with company unions, with company spying and private guards and gunmen, use of police and other armed forces in labor disputes, for abolition of all laws interfering with civil liberties; for constitutional guarantee to the Negro of full social, political and economic equality(!). There is not one word however to indicate that to obtain such demands is impossible under capitalism, just as there is not a word of how to struggle concretely to abolish capitalism.
The S.P. “left” has hollered a lot about being for discipline, yet we notice a provision has been enacted that state groups have full jurisdiction over membership and expulsions (accountable to the NEC). This looks like a rather decentralized organization to us. No doubt this provision was necessary to keep wobbling state groups as have only one foot in the Thomas S.P. and are ready to pull out at a moments notice. The national chairmanship has also been abolished.
The position on the war question is thoroughly pacifist. Norman Thomas the liberal has had full swing here. The whole resolution reeks with illusions as to the possibility of abolishing war through peaceful, gradual means. “We will unitedly seek to develop trustworthy working class instruments for the peaceable settlement of international disputes and conflicts.” This gives a damnable illusion that workers have anything whatsoever to say about international disputes so long as they live under the capitalist state—that they are anything but pawns on the chess-board of diplomacy and fodder for the cannons of Big Business. It was only after the workers made the October Revolution in Russia that they were able to obtain peace for their country. A general strike is proposed in case of war so that war will become a practical impossibility.” This illusion is even more fatal than the others since it has a militant appearance, yet fails completely to take into account the circumstances under which war is declared and the population mobilized. The bourgeoisie has means to make a general strike impossible at the beginning of a war when jingoism with all the authority of government behind it stampedes the population into the war. It has an infinite resource of power and propaganda as well as force. It is only later when the sufferings have eaten into the people that we can expect mass outbreaks against the war. Even then the general strike, unless turned into an armed insurrection, cannot turn back the Juggernaut wheels of militarism.
There is no international position taken in the program, no analysis of either the second or third international, and the question of international affiliation is not mentioned. Neither is the Soviet Union discussed, except to call for friendly relations with it. Here too we have to say, there are too many opinions for all to be satisfied.
One final word. The composition of the new NEC is enlightening for those who think, the S.P. is a party for labor. Of eleven members, only four are connected with unions(one of them with the Teachers Federation). There are no less than four attorneys and two college professors. The eleventh member is Norman Thomas. Of four alternates, one is an attorney and the others are S.P. organizers.
4. The Parliamentarian Communist Party
The fond hopes of the Stalinists for a united ticket with the S.P. in the coming elections have been crushed. With uproarious denials—if we can believe the reports—the S.P. convention turned down the proposal (as well as for any permanent united front with the C P.) And yet the C.P. is more like the S.P. in its analysis and tactics and even organizationally than ever before.
The analysis the C.P. makes of the present situation is such as to give tacit support to Roosevelt. Even though they vigorously deny this support, yet their attack against Landon is so much more venomous that by inference Roosevelt appears as the lesser evil. And indeed it would be hard to avoid such a position, after propagating demands for “making the projects permanent, for continuing work relief and the dole. How else could such demands be realized, if not through Roosevelt? Their analysis is, if Landon gets in, the country will move rapidly to Fascism. Too rapidly, alas! The workers will see themselves faced with the prospect of immediate revolution…or at any rate the C.P. sees this now, and thrown up its hands exclaiming “Get thee behind me, Satan". It is the old story of the centrists turning renegade. It is like Kautsky who was all for the revolution until it happened in Russia, then he just couldn’t stand it. The revolution is always good to such people when it is far away. But whenever it draws nearer, its hot breath scorches these cowards, and then they become very fertile in excuses as to why the revolution is good in general, but not NOW, not HERE….this is not the time, the place…we must be careful, comrades. Earl Browder distinctly declared at the convention that the full socialist program must be set aside, for a time.
We are not surprised at such a declaration. The evolution of the C.P., tail end to the Russian C.P., is interesting. We don’t want to hark back to the days when the revolutionary upsurge was all around us and the masses were told to take to the street. That was five years ago, and who has a right to remember that far back? The big and fatal degeneration of the Third International has been on the question of building socialism in one country. Around that has clustered a whole series of questions, tactical and organizational. The zig-zag policy swung from left to right. Left, when Stalin yielded to the pressure of the Russian workers. Finally a long right wing period was ushered in, leading to the complete degeneration of the parties. This period internationally culminated in the Franco-Soviet pact and within Russia in the abolition of the Soviets. Pacifism has now corrupted the communist parties through and through. With the idea of the People’s Governments to fight Fascism, patriotism has been on the order of the day. Fourth of July speeches are made hailing the glories of the American revolution. Washington (slave-owner and big landlord, aristocrat of the aristocrats,) is held up as a hero of the masses and friend of the Negroes.
All idea of independent organization of the unorganized is given up. The red unions are liquidated into the A.F.L. Now that John L. Lewis, to make his government job secure, comes out for the Industrial Union Committee, the C.P. hails Lewis as a great leader. The A.F.L. fakers boosted the idea of a labor party and the C.P. is all for that, or rather for the Farmer-Labor Party, their second version of the idea. With one and the same breath they are telling the workers to build a powerful Farmer Labor Party and to build the Communist Party as the only party of the workers.
Opportunism in tactics cannot long continue without affecting the party more deeply. And so it is no wonder that we hear about the socialist program being set aside. We need not worry that it will be brought back again when it is more convenient—no, it is gone for good. And now the degeneration has affected the party structure as well. The C.P. was never really organized on the shop nucleus basis. They are still hollering for shop nuclei, and to prove how sincerely they want them, they have reorganized the party on the basis of state, country and assembly units. These charlatans are oggling in two directions: first, though they have been denied now, yet perhaps some day the Socialist Party will unite with them. Like some gold-digging female whom no repulse offends, they are ready to come time and again and fawn over the S.P.—the same S.P. they were bitterly attacking yesterday. For their purpose, it is more convenient to be organized on the same basis as the S.P. namely on the territorial Assembly branch system, Not merely that, but they are working for a Farmer Labor Party. And to get votes for such a party, it is more convenient to be on the Assembly District plan.
These reasons crop out very plainly in Israel Amter’s stories in the “Communist” of how the party is being reorganized. For many years now we have watched Israel Amter frothing at the mouth with enthusiasm over every new party line that is official. It would make a splittingly funny book if someone would get together all Amter’s articles side by side. Party lines may come and they may go, but jobs go on forever!
Meanwhile, discipline is broken down within the party. Browder upon returning from the Soviet Union last winter declared in a speech that the workers need not be afraid to join the party now, their home-life will not be interfered with! The party sympathized with such things, and would adjust itself to the requirements of their home and family. On such a basis, no doubt members can be drawn in, but of less and less proletarian character. And for a party setting aside revolution and concentrating on votes, numbers count. Not merely are there assembly district branches, but the proletarian elements have been segregated into what are called industrial branches (this was the Lovestone idea carried out in his group) This isolated them and leaves the petty bourgeois membership constituting the party proper.
The C.P. and the S.P. both stand for the Farmer-Labor Party. They both stand for the A.F.L. yet they support Lewis industrial unionism. Towards the Soviet Union their loyalty differs only in degree. They have united their unemployed organizations and there is no difference in their unemployment policy. Both covertly and underhandedly support Roosevelt, by calling for the measures he has put into effect as well as by the negative character of their criticism against him. What then is the difference between the two today?
There is still some difference in language. Something of the old ring still clings to the speeches of the C.P. And around the C.P. still clings something of the prestige and glory of the days of Lenin and the October Revolution. It is for this reason that the membership of the C.P. and their following has still a much more proletarian character than those of the S P., notwithstanding all the letting down of the barriers to the petty bourgeois elements. The C.P. started in this country as a throw back of the Russian revolution, and its language federations, while foreign born, were still to a great extent proletarian. The mass work which the party did from 1926 down to 1929 or thereabouts has still left a tradition that the party fights for the worker. Outside of this, it seems that now the C.P. and the S.P. might just as well unite, for they are political twins and there is no fundamental difference between them.
There was never a reason for the W.P. to exist, except the desire of Muste and Cannon to get members for a party. This bait never tempted the American workers. The S.P. and the C.P. between them are quite capable of taking into their ranks such workers as first move in a revolutionary direction. There was not enough revolution in the W.P. to win workers away from these parties, even such workers as were disgusted with them and were looking for a program of struggle, not of compromise with capitalism. Whatever mass action the W.P. outfit ever undertook such as the food strike in New York, or the Minneapolis affair, were fiascos. So the folding up of the W.P. leaves no gap behind.
The joint political suicide of Cannon, Schachtman, Muste and Co. is hailed with the same wedding bells that sounded for their marriage. These people are giving up every shred of independence, liquidating their paper as well as their organization and tumbling into the S.P. as individuals, proclaiming their perfect loyalty and devotion and their intention to build up the S.P. But of course it is a great step forward, comrades.
When the French Bolshevik-Leninists liquidated into the S.F.I.O., much ado was made about the fact that they kept their paper and were considered as a group among the many other little dissident groups in the French S.P. No such shred of comfort exists in America. But the celebration is just as loud. The French turn was proclaimed as a “tactic” and being just a tactic it could not be a capitulation. The C.L.S. however sensed immediately that this tactic was of such a scope and significance as would demoralize the whole Trotsky movement and remove it from the scene internationally. We characterized it therefore as a strategy, not a tactic, and as a capitulation in the sense that the revolutionary position was bound to be hopelessly lost and the S.P would have to be held up to the workers as the party to follow. In France the excuse was given: “We are weak…We have failed as a separate group. We must join the S.P. in order to get strong.” At that time the American Trotsky group was cracked up as the strong group, as the model for all the little weak wrangling groups elsewhere. Now it seems that “strength” is also a reason for joining the S.P. A confidential letter of Trotsky to Cannon and Schachtman adds another word to the tricky reasoning by which Trotsky has blackened his former record. The W.P. is now one of the weakest of several contending factions within the S.P. So complete has been the capitulation of the W.P. members that there is no hope of their exercising a strengthening influence on the S.P. even of winning it over to such correct theoretical views as the permanent revolution. For the same reason the Cannons and Schachtmans were useless when alone, they will be useless within the S.P. There is not even an attempt made to criticize the S.P. in their swan song in the New Militant. Not a word about the parliamentary illusions, not a word about the nationalization of industries as a means to arrive at socialism, not a word about the complete evasion of international questions. They have nothing but praise for the pacifist war resolution. They join with complete confidence as a party destined to develop into the revolutionary party of America, an S.P. which makes no mention of the dictatorship of the proletariat and violently denounces armed insurrection and declares a belief in it, is incompatible with membership in the S.P.
How boldly the New Militant thumbs its nose at the Old Guard now that the Old Guard is safely out of the party. And how completely silent it is as to the actual compromising leadership they are accepting, the Thomases, the Hoans, the Maynard Kruegers. But after all why should Cannon and Muste criticize the Socialist Party? Is Muste anything but a less energetic and capable Norman Thomas? And as for Cannon, now that he has at last found a resting place to lay his weary bones, why should he stir up trouble? When we think of the program of the S.P. which these people are joining so enthusiastically, there is only one word we can apply to them: RENEGADE.
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LETTER OF TROTSKY TO CANNON
Confidential. Not to be copied.
To comrades Cannon and Schachtman:
Today I decided to cable-you as follows; “Personally in favor of entry, Lee.” Previously I also dealt with this question not as a principled one. When two say or do the same thing, it is nevertheless not the same. When a tested and stable organization enters a centrist party, it may be correct or an incorrect tactical step, i.e. it can bring great gains or it can bring none (the latter is in any case and under the given circumstances unlikely.) But it is not a capitulation. The split in the Socialist Party is of greatest importance as an objective symptom for the tendencies of its development. I am also in agreement with you that one should not give the centrist leadership any time to allow for the possibility of consolidation: this means act quickly.
Of course, certain European groups will seek to interpret the eventual entry as a departure from the Fourth International. But to these we should not attach the least importance, The problem is not to appear a little stronger, but to become much stronger.
I hope you will do everything possible to complete this step in common with Muste-Weber group. Then your activities within the Socialist Party will be of greater significance for the successful outcome of the contemplated step.
I want to emphasize that my cable as well as this letter represents my personal opinion. You are now discussing the question. Time presses. With the cable and with this latter I wish to take part in this discussion before the IS is in a position to formulate its collective opinion.
With friendly greetings.
THE COMMUNIST LEAGUE OF STRUGGLE MOVES TO CHICAGO
After deliberation and long preparation, the C.L.S. has at last been able to carry out the moving of its national center from New York to Chicago. We consider this a very important step.
It is natural that the most advanced thought of the working class should first arise and be articulated in such an intellectual center as New York. There are more radicals gathered there per square inch than in any other city. There takes place an intellectual ferment among the various radical groups which is to a great extent futile and yet has a certain role in maturing the thought of the movement through discussion and debate. In New York also are located the best bourgeois sources of statistics, which are of use to working class groups in analyzing the forces and tendencies of present day society, those class forces which will burst forth glaringly in revolution, and whose slow development must be understood at every stage. We feel that the five years of activity of our group in New York and surrounding territory have enabled us to get a necessary theoretical foundation.
But on the other hand, we know that it is in cities of a very different sort that the most critical developments of the revolution will take place. The workers in the heavy industry have a strategic role to play. It is these industries which bring the workers together in great masses and discipline them—today in the interests of capital, but at the same time creating a working class army which tomorrow will fight for its own interests. The heavy basic industries will also be the first to be wrested from the control of capital and to be socialized. The workers in these industries are apparently backward. They work in centers remote from bourgeois culture, leading a barrack-like existence either in small towns or cities which like Chicago are really a collection of industrial villages.
For obvious reasons, political movements develop with difficulty in such places, where in addition to the isolation and backwardness of life, the terror of the bosses ruthlessly stamps out the developments of working class organization and thought. However, in outbreaks that take place every now and then such as the long drawn out strikes of the Illinois coal miners, the battles in Toledo, in Detroit, the recent struggles in the rubber industry, etc, we see expressed the deep ferment which is going on among these workers in the crisis years. It is more than the century old struggle on the mere economic plane. Today, the full armed and political might of the ruling class as well as a clever set-up of labor fakers is let loose against every merest day to day struggle of the workers. Thus the class struggles are forced to take on a political character, the workers must become more and more conscious of their interests as a class as they face the united class forces of the employers. The general strikes on a local scale which have taken place during the first few years (textile, San Francisco, Terre Haute, Pekin) are proofs of the growth in the workers class consciousness. It is true that in New York also are strikes, but in that city, center of finance, commerce and light industry, the movements have not such significance as the struggle in the steel, coal mines, rubber, and other heavy industries in the Middle West.
One of the tasks of the present moment is to bring about the fusion of the revolutionary working class thought with the struggles of the workers in these important sections of the country. This is why the C.L.S. is moving to Chicago. At a later stage, when such theories as ours will be more widespread than now, a bodily transplantation of part of our group will not be necessary. But at the present time, the really revolutionary elements turned up by the working class are few and far between. The energy of the individuals in such movements must be used to the best possible advantage. This is why we have sent a number of our leading comrades to live in Chicago and have moved our central office there. From that center we shall eventually be able to carry on work in such cities as Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, etc. We have a group of members and sympathizers in New York to continue the work there.
RESOLUTION ON THE RECENT EXPULSIONS FROM THE C.L.S.
From the very inception of the organization, the Communist League of Struggle has been attempting to develop an organization composed of factory workers adhering to a revolutionary policy.
In spite of our best efforts we were unable to accomplish this task in New York City. We were also to accumulate a set of phrase-mongerers who talked adherence to our line but were at opposite poles from being the type of membership that was desirable as a foundation of our movement.
In order to test out our membership and to really root ourselves in American working class life the C.L.S. moved to Chicago. At once we found that our phrase-mongering membership winced from participation in this important struggle. They refused to go out to Chicago; they sabotaged the Class Struggle; they refused to aid the organization; instead carrying on an unprincipled struggle against its leadership with a view to seizing control of the organization and moving it again in a rut where petty-bourgeois phrase-mongerers could find a refuge.
Thus the Communist League of Struggle has been forced to expel Gershon, Davis, Cooper in New York and to reject the application of the petty-bourgeois Baker. In Chicago we have expelled Strong.
These expulsions are by no means unanticipated. On the contrary, the Communist membership of the C.L.S. was thoroughly aware from the start when the organization was to be moved to Chicago that these elements would soon fall by the wayside. We reject these petty-property elements and Liberal Mensheviks, as one would throw off an incubus that was weighing down the organization, preventing it from actually fighting the way it could. As has happened in the past, we know that these expulsions will only immensely strengthen the organizations morale and allow us to build much better in the future.
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION MOVES FORWARD
The stay-in strikes in France, which swept the whole country, coming as they do on the heals of the recent upsurge in Spain, infuse the world proletariat with new hope and enthusiasm. The Peoples Front government will be a tremendous object lesson in revolution, not only for the French working class but for the proletariat internationally. The situation is fraught with the highest opportunities and the gravest perils.
The Socialist Party with its colleagues the Radicals and with the support of the Communists, is now steering its way cautiously between the working class on the one hand, which is aroused and determined to go to great lengths to defend its interests and on the other hand, the pressure of the big French bourgeoisie. Coalition governments of a bourgeois minority and a “labor” majority must always present a picture like this. The real interests of the proletariat are represented through quite other channels than the government—through the organs of struggle which the workers create in the course of their strikes, their demonstrations, their fights against the fascists. The labor party in the government can only represent a compromise.
For two years illusions have been sown that the People’s Front would defeat fascism. In the vast meetings and parades so often held, always the leaders stressed the great size of the gatherings which far outnumbered the fascists. The very existence of the People’s Front was considered enough to check the advance of fascism. Now at last the People’s Front wins governmental power. The enthusiasm of the masses has risen to great heights. Now they are looking for the many promises made to be put into effect. In all this, the fact that the bourgeoisie is still in power fundamentally, that it still owns and controls the banks and means of production, has been overlooked. Only tiny opposition groups cling to a Marxist position and tell the workers that without an actual revolution they can never be in power. But experience speaks much louder than words. Now the workers will be able to see and feel in their very life whose interests the People’s Front represents. These lessons have already begun.
Leon Blum is attempting an impossible task. He is trying first of all to preserve the internal peace of the country, to avoid civil war. To do this he would have to restore conditions of prosperity, so that both the bourgeoisie and the workers might be satisfied. There is no possible way to do this under capitalism. But Leon Blum will not touch capitalism.
The People’s Front for a year has been throwing out threats to “make the rich pay”, to throw the burden of taxation and levies on the rich. At the same time promises have been made to the unemployed, to the workers, and the lower middle class elements to relieve their burdens. When the election returns showed the People’s Front had won, a flight of capital from France expressed the fears of the bankers that the People’s Front might live up to its word. When the administration actually stepped into office, there was a situation almost of financial panic. But very soon were all fears of the bankers calmed. Already on May 10th Leon Blum made a confidence restoring speech assuring that he had no desire to touch the source of wealth nor to increase the budget. And Daladier, his right-hand man, bolsters up Blum’s statement by declaring “The program of the People’s Front does not contain any article likely to trouble the legitimate interests of any citizen". In his speech before the National Council of his own party Blum proclaimed that his first care would be for Republican traditions, and in finances, for the stability of the franc, for confidence, for the public credit. He made it quite plain there was no danger of the rich having to pay.
But the workers also had taken the promises of the People’s Front seriously. They had sweated under the crisis long enough. Prices have for several years been the highest in Europe, wages have been slashed not merely for state employees under the Laval decrees but in private industry as well. Now at last the People’s Government was in power which had promised them bread, peace and liberty. The workers with a sound proletarian instinct put the promises into effect by occupying the factories. Their mighty stay-in strike forced the government to legislate social measures such as the forty-hour week, a two-weeks paid annual vacation, and the right of collective bargaining. The stoppage of production forced gains from the bosses in the shape of wage increases that were in some instances quite substantial. Even the home-workers of the needle industry in Paris, most downtrodden and severely exploited of all, have won a minimum wage and paid vacation. In addition to the labor legislation, the Blum government has also undertaken a certain amount of nationalization of war industry, certain slight reforms of the Bank of France, a public works scheme and the revision of some of the most drastic Laval decrees which pressed heavily on public employees, civil service workers and ex-soldiers.
The question is now: What next? Can Blum solve the economic difficulties of the nation by the class-conciliation method used so far? The new social laws mean a 35% increase in production costs. Already there has been a rise in prices. Blum’s theory in that with prices higher, production will be stimulated so that the increased production costs will be absorbed by the increased amount of business. What all other capitalist regimes have been unable to do, Blum is blind enough to attempt. The deluge will burst on his head. The French production index is still more than 30% below 1929. Foreign trade has steadily fallen off. The Treasury is constantly unable to meet the public debt. The Laval deflation policy of loading the government debt on the people by ruthless slashing of state wages and pensions and increase in taxation was the only capitalist way out. That capitalists cannot today afford concessions to workers has been proven by universal experience from Japan to Germany. The French bourgeoisie are biding their time, giving Leon Blum rope enough to hang himself with.
Devaluation of the franc is another pressing problem. The Radicals are for devaluation, the Communists oppose it. Blum is hanging between the two. The financial report made to the Chamber of Deputies complains of the lack of French capital. So much has been exported, so much is being hoarded. The first years of the crisis, with France not yet involved in the general economic crash showed a big gain for the gold reserve of the Bank of France at the expense of the financial and economic panic in London and New York. From the fall of 1933 to the spring of 1934, however, France lost 16 billions of francs in gold, gaining again in few months following. But after January 1935, exports of capital again drained the gold reserve from 82 billions to 55 billions in June 1936. 26 billions have been exported to the United States, England and Belgium. The report estimates 6 billions in gold being hoarded within France, and 30 billions in notes. Thus they got an estimate of about 60 billions of capital which French national economy should have at its disposal and which it does not have.
All this flight and hoarding of capital represents lack of confidence. And part of Blum’s policy is to restore confidence. This he is attempting to do by prostituting himself as a Socialist before the French bankers. This means a guarantee that he will not attempt to do anything drastic, nothing that would threaten the control of the 200 leading families over the finances and economy of the country. Only a very complete reorganization, nothing, in fact, short of nationalization of the Bank, can touch this control. Through their ownership of a majority of the stock of the bank, these families are able to appoint the regents which dominate its policy. Furthermore they have their personal agents in the 12 non-governmental representatives on the Bank’s General Council. Five of these speak for industry, seven for private banking. Between them, these 12 men control nearly 60% of the production of the country and have interests reaching into every branch of economy such as insurance, railroads, mines, etc. Against such a set-up, the only real remedy would be for the people to take over the bank, but this would be inconceivable without a revolution.
These 200 leading families have been unable to provide jobs for millions of French workers or to prevent the semi-starvation of their families. But their investments must be safeguarded at all costs. It is in their interests that the stomach-pinching Laval decrees were put forth. The French government has been completely dependent upon the Bank due to the fact that there is constantly a government deficit. Often the government cannot meet even its ordinary obligations such as paying salary and must resort to the Bank for short-term loans. It cannot even borrow from foreign banks, as there is not enough confidence in the franc and in the government’s stability, and so the Bank of France must guarantee all foreign loans. Blum has no sources of revenue that previous governments did not have with which to meet the government obligations and in fact he will have less due to the rescinding of some of the Laval decrees. And so Blum must also find himself dependent upon the Bank of France. Either that, or it will be-out with Blum!
In foreign policy Blum finds himself up against the same contradictions. La Populaire (French Socialist Party organ) is coming out with big headlines: “We Want Peace for All Peoples, with All Peoples.” This indeed expresses the will of the masses of French people. The vote for the People’s Front expressed among other things a revolt against the Sarraut foreign policy of conciliation towards Italy. The memory of the last war lives vividly in France and the dread of a new war weighs heavily. And Blum, more the humanitarian liberal than the Marxist socialist, reflects the general longing for peace. But he is helpless to propose a solution. A revolutionary proletarian conception of turning the imperialist war into civil war against the exploiters has probably never even germinated in his head.(It is interesting to recollect that Blum during the last war worked in an assistant’s post in the Ministry of Public Works)No wonder the New York Times could report of Blum’s maiden appearance in the League of Nations assembly: “Premier Leon Blum spoke for France and his address was replete with happy sentiments and beautiful idealism. But it was as though an inhabitant of some other planet, with scant acquaintance with this one, were trying to depict the ideal state of things that should control here. Practical steps whereby this ideal state were to be obtained were out of his picture.” On this question also Blum can satisfy neither his masters, the bankers, nor his dupes, the workers.
What of the Communist Party in the present situation? It has refused to accept posts in the Blum ministry. At first sight this may appear to be a policy of independence. But let no one be deceived. The C.P. is giving full and loyal support to its obligations as part of the People’s Front. This means not merely moral support, it means voting for the Socialist measures in the Chamber of Deputies. The C.P. makes no attacks, it advances no independent policy of any importance. Its pact with the S.P. forbids criticism, but indeed the C.P. would be incapable of criticizing anyway, since it has no program to the left of the S.P. Its non-participation is evidently simply a policy of passing the buck, of being able to say when the government goes to smash: “Blum did it, we didn’t.” But among the rank and file, doubts are circulating, and questions are asked in the party meetings, “Since we were willing to unite and tried to fuse with the Socialists, why do we not share the government?” This the party officials cannot answer.
The C.P. is not merely loyal to the People’s Front, it is outdoing Blum in its loyalty to the bourgeoisie. In order to reassure the bankers and industrialist, the leading party officials called a press conference on May 7th, just after the election. Here through the representatives of the bourgeois press M.Thoreu and J.Duclos hastened to calm all fears. “The hand of Moscow… reassure yourselves gentlemen, there is nothing of the sort. We have an independent policy in the interests of the French people". The French people! This is the note they have sounded for the last six months, not the international working class, not even the French working class, but the French people!
The Paris “times” of May 8th reports: “M.Duclos finally promised that his party would respect property.” According to the Humanite (French C.P. official paper) of May 11th, Duclos declared: “As for respect of property, I pointed out that not only under the present regime, but under the regime they want to institute, the Communists will respect the property of the people, of the storekeeper, the peasant, the people living on incomes and on pensions.” And in reply to a question on capital levies, Duclos reassured the journalists: “It is not a question of a communist or socialist program, it is only a question of taking a little surplus from the most wealthy to relieve the misery of the poorest and most unfortunate.” In other words, for the full communist program of seizure of bourgeois property they have substituted one which would be acceptable to the Radicals—just a little reform of capitalism, take just a little from the wealthy.
The present system of levies on capital are supposed to be applied to fortunes above 500,000 francs. But discovering that many storekeepers and peasants had fortunes over a half million, Duclos promises that the party will ask for the minimum to be set at one million francs. It must be a wonderful consolation to the poor unemployed struggling to live on a few francs a day, or to the worker slaving for four francs an hour, to learn that the party is so considerate of incomes of half a million. But if Stalin in Russia can make alliances with the Kulaks and bring them into the government, what also can be expected of communist parties elsewhere, appendages of the Russian communist party.
Finally came the shameful, compromising declaration on the question of the vote for military appropriations. Duclos declared: “So far, the vote for military appropriations indisputably meant the support of militarist ends. We do not know if tomorrow the situation will not be such that the vote for military credits can have a different meaning. In any case, anxious as we are to assure the freedom and independence of our country, while we are fighting the domestic Hitlerites, we could not be indifferent to the threats which the foreign Hitlerites are bringing to bear on our country.” And Thorez clarifies this with the following: “The vote for the budget under the conditions of a collaboration with other parties, even though we are not taking part in the ministry, is a political question which can only be solved within the frame of a general domestic and foreign policy of France; if the changes we pointed out take place, the communist could be brought to vote for the budget.”
What is all this, if not the complete abandonment of all proletarian struggle against war and collaboration with the People’s Front in order to support imperialist war preparations? Here we see the full deadly fruits of the Franco-Soviet Pact. No wonder the C.P. hastened to crush the revolts in the government arsenals at Brest and Toulon last fall by telling the workers to go back to work and no wonder they became frightened when the recent stay-in strikes spread to munitions works! The Franco-Soviet Pact binds the party to support the French bourgeoisie in a national front against Germany. And if the workers fail to see this, and insist upon holding up the government’s armament program by striking, then the C.P. must come out as strikebreakers to drive the workers back to work. The interests of the Communist Party as well as the interests of the bourgeoisie are touched when workers strike in war industries. To this shameful contradiction has Stalinism brought the French C.P.
The C.P. if we can believe its reports, has made big gains within recent years. It claims the active membership to have risen from 28,000 in 1933 to 43,000 in 1934, 92,000 in March 1936 and 115,000 in May 1936. But it is plain the gains in numbers have been accomplished at the expense of sacrificing the proletarian composition of the party. In October 1934 were 586 shop nuclei out of a total of 2,725 (21%) A year later there were 775 shop nuclei out of 4,221 (11%) Thus the proletarian membership has become a small minority.
The party admits that most of its new membership are elements new in the struggle. In Humanite’ of May 12th a revealing description is given of a number of new recruits: There is a medical student of 21 who has just left a fascist organization. There is a “good-hearted old follow” who wants to see a pacifist France, a civil employee, an unemployed youth of 20 who wants above all to “preserve the franc". And finally, many women have joined, housewives, mothers of families, civil employee, etc.. So it is to gain such a motley array of forces that the party has been hollering for the “Unity of the French People—for our France”, for the protection of the interests of small property (of half a million francs). It is plain that members have been gained at the expense of sacrificing revolutionary principles. The Communist program has become swamped in the Radical program. In its rush for membership, the old proletarian fighters have been forced to drop out in disgust and in their place come hundreds of raw weak elements, without roots in industry and without experience in the class struggle. The membership and the program are suited one to the other. But it is not such a party that can criticize Blum’s regime or that can lead the workers onward. The change in composition of the party no doubt explains the rather puzzling question, how the French workers can stand the party’s line. Evidently they are not standing it—they are no longer in the party!
The People’s Front was formed to fight fascism. How it would fight it was indicated last December by the treacherous promise of the Socialist and Communist deputies in the Chamber to disarm the workers defense organizations if the fascists would also promise to disarm. Now the Blum government, true to type, is trying to legislate the fascist groups out of existence. A decree of June 18th declared all the fascist bands to be dissolved (including the Croix de Feu, Volontaires Nationaux Solidarite francaise, Jeunesses Patriotes and Francistes) and the display of their emblems to be illegal. The answer of the Croix de Feu, the largest fascist grouping, has been to reorganize itself into a political party, the French Social Party. Thus the efforts of the Blum government have only moved the fascists to a higher plane of existence. At the same time, the Croix de Feu is attempting to organized its own fascist unions, going around among the more backward of the striking workers, visiting them in their homes, bringing their back pay and trying to induce them to sign up in the fascist union. Demonstrations of the Croix de Feu are being held by the Croix de Feu under the slogans of the Peoples Front “Peace, Bread and Freedom". The government is making no move to seize the stores of arms the fascists possess, nor to occupy their headquarters. And the decree remains a dead letter so far as the display of emblems is concerned. It is the sight of these emblems in the streets carried by fascist demonstrators that has provoked attacks by workers leading to the “riots” which the press reports. The fascists are neither dissolved nor weakened. They remain as a constant menace until such time as Blum has been proven worthless to the bourgeoisie or until the workers are ready to get rid of both Blum and fascists.
All the glorious traditions of the French working class, their struggles in the great revolution of 1793, their Paris Commune, as well as their fervent temperament are now standing them in good stead. It is plain they will not be defeated without a struggle, and the chances for their victory are good. Revolution is a process with many complicated phases in which economic and political struggle intermingle. Many set-backs may be experienced without fatal result, as the Spanish revolution proves, but this is true only if the masses continue to fight. The surprising lack of struggle of the German masses led to their terrific defeat. In France, last fall, a move was made by the munitions workers which might well have spread and developed into a revolutionary situation, had not the labor parties crushed it. The communist movement is even now giving the impression that there is no revolutionary situation in France, that the workers are struggling for the merest economic demands (see Daily Worker of June 23rd). This is a case where the wish is father to the thought, where the C.P. is making every effort to hold back the revolutionary will of the masses. The defeat last fall was but temporary and local, and the going back to work now is but one step out of many.
While the workers were occupying the factories, the situation was ripe to continue their occupation, to seize them from the bourgeoisie. To do this, they should have issued the slogan of workers control over production. They should have formed broad committees of toilers to act with their strike committees. They would then have had to proceed to overthrow the Blum government and destroy the bourgeois state machine completely. This they were not ready to do. Had the police attacked the workers, fired on them, they might have been driven towards these measures. But Blum has not fired upon the workers…NOT YET.
Incidentally it is worth noting that while the People’s Front has “taken power” this is only in a very partial sense. There remains, a vast solid conservative body of higher state functionaries which constitute the backbone of the state machine. While large numbers of the petty functionaries are in the radical party or even with the S.P. and C.P., the higher functionaries on the contrary are bound with the closest ties with the bourgeoisie. Where a ruling class has been in power for 150 years as in France, government posts gradually come to belong in families, and these families are close to the 200. All this constitutes another link in the chain of power of the ruling class.
The stay-in strikes afford other interesting reflections. The movement of such strikes is now a general one. They have occurred in the U.S. among the rubber workers, among the miners in Wales and in Belgium. It reminds one of the De Leonist policy of the lock-out of the bosses. For the time being it was a form of workers control over production. But the limitations of the folded arms strike were apparent. It could win temporary concessions, not possession of the factories. In one sense, the gains the workers won were excellent. They will get a little taste of a bit easier living, and will be all the more ready to resist when these gains are taken away from them.
We have made it plain we hope, that the People’s Front collectively and the labor parties individually are bankrupt and can only betray the workers. These parties will have to be swept aside. Disillusionment with them will grow apace as the months go on. The People’s Front to keep its control over the workers will have to make still more concessions to them, and this the ruling class cannot allow it to do. Their dilemma must react to drive the workers further from the control of the old parties and more and more to take action into their own hands.
In the course of the struggle the workers will develop their own organs of struggle. Shop committees are very necessary now to ensure the leading role to the workers in the coming mass actions. Broader committees or councils taking in all the toilers will become necessary. The term Soviets may perhaps have become discredited by the fact that the C.P. for a year has been throwing around loosely the slogan “Soviets everywhere” simply to give itself a red color, and without the slightest attempt to organize them. The end of the soviet system in Russia and in China must also give a blow to the idea of Soviets. Even should the C.P. now attempt to form Soviets in France, its membership and following now being chiefly non-proletarian, such soviets could not be very effective bodies. It seems the C.P. has been trying to organize “rank and file committees of the People’s Front” but without success. The idea no doubt comes from the days of February 1934 and the months following. After the workers went out on the streets and fought the fascists on Feb. 6, 1934, the workers of the C.P. and S.P. spontaneously got together in defense groups to continue the fight against the fascists. Their action was correct, but the C.P. and S.P. leaders seized upon the tendency of united action and shunted it off into the united parades, mass meetings and talk-fests of the People’s Front. It does not matter what name is given, but some organs of struggle must be formed.
The task of building a new communist party to replace the old can obviously only be accomplished in the course of the struggle. There are many elements scattered among the workers, disgusted with the old parties, who can form the basis for the new one. It is interesting to note that in many places the workers hoisted red flags over the factories and ships occupied. We note too, a report in the press that at one time a telegram from the striking metal workers was withheld from the strike meeting of the workers in Paris, because it contained appeals for further action. Germs of a new party exist in the shape of small opposition groups who have given a good account of themselves by distributing their papers among the workers. They have met with the persecution of the Blum government, and it is likely that the leaders of these groups are now in jail.
The Trotskyists after their ridiculous adventure in the S.F.I.O. now find themselves again outside, weakened by splits in their own ranks due to that policy, and discredited by their political somersaults. Yet the movement has learned nothing, as the Trotskyists in America have just liquidated into the S.P. here.
The immediate tasks before the workers is to push the People’s Front government to carry out the promises it has made. This can best be done by action,—as the economic gains were won through the strikes. The workers must not only fight the fascists in the streets but must drive them out of their headquarters and occupy these themselves. They must insist the government form people’s militia and in the meantime make every effort to arm themselves. They must resist every effort to take back the gains won by the strikes.
So inspiring has been the ferment in France that it has spread to Belgium which has also had a series of stay-in strikes. It is even reported that in Germany a deputation of workers went to the government to complain of low wages, high prices and shortage of food products. If the French workers continue their struggle, and no doubt they will, a revival of the movement internationally may take place. And even if they should be defeated, the struggle made heartens the working class and becoming part of its tradition, enables it to start off from a higher plane the next time.
1. The End of the League of Nations
The League of Nations has now reached the vaudeville stage. It was never any thing but that to some of us, yet there was a time when it made quite a showing at least in pacifist circles. But now the defeat of Ethiopia with the League of Nations looking on has dealt the final blow to whatever pretensions the League could make as a war-preventing body.
The Negus’ indictment of the great powers appeared to come from someone unaccustomed to the ways of this planet. The big nations had promised him help, he charged, yet the help had not been forthcoming. They had allowed his people to be defeated. We know the complicated set of interests which moved the big nations in their attitude towards the Italian-Ethiopian war. Britain was afraid of revolt being stirred up in her colonies, afraid of the closer proximity of a war-like Italy in the Mediterranean. But could she risk going to war for this? The method of sanctions gave her a high moral tone, combined with the hope of grabbing some of the trade Italy would lose.
The Negus complained he had no use of the Djibouti-Addis Ababa railway which the French control. He could get no war materials over it, though now the Italians are using it for transport. Does he not know, that the French government of that time was oggling for support against Germany, and could not afford to antagonize Italy? Could he not imagine a bargain being struck whereby France would not urge the lifting of sanctions and Britain would not urge the imposition of further sanctions until after the French elections? Last representative of a by-gone age, it is possible that Haile Selassie is actually as innocent as his speech at the League of Nations Assembly pictured him.
It is difficult to see what could revive the League of Nations now. The frankly imperialist fascist countries have no use for it. They are more forthright in their methods. When they want a colony they go out and seize it. Britain, France and Russia remain now the sole defenders of the League. And what defenders! Blum also appeared as a being from another planet, with his vague humanitarian pacifist dreams. Russia, who sacrificed the principles of the world revolution to take her place in that League of Nations, finds herself with a very weak ally and a crumbling League. The League has served its purpose to help the victors in the last war maintain the spoils among themselves, and to deceive their populations with an apparent apparatus for peace. New times, new alliances. The workers also must look for more direct methods of struggle.
2. Italian Ethiopia
Although the Ethiopian population rose up to the man, woman and child to drive out the white foreigner, yet Mussolini has planted his foot upon the country. The last oasis of African soil has fallen to the conqueror (We do not speak of Liberia, never having had any illusions as to the freedom or independence of that country). Italian mustard gas, sprayed from the air in a way that burned all human flesh within miles, more than anything also helped to defeat the Ethiopians.
But this was not all. The conduct of the war was internally rotten. The tribesmen came out en masse with a primitive fighting spirit. But there was no organization. The moon-struck Negus to the last relied on help from the big nations to save him. All Africa’s fate apparently had not taught him. Perhaps it is impossible to learn when one represents the forces of the past. Nevertheless we were not among those who said “Ethiopia is a slave society. It has no proletariat, therefore let it be conquered.” We supported its defense in order to block the way of fascism. We defended so much as the whole of Africa, conquered and ground down under the white imperialist heel.
But the conquest of Ethiopia may prove to be a Pyrrhic victory for Mussolini. The country is officially defeated, but in a thousand mountain fastnesses the tribesmen can still fight against the conqueror. Mussolini must keep almost half a million soldiers there to maintain his victory. The Italian official papers give an estimate of $800,000,000 spent in the conduct of the war, an estimate probably much minimized. League of Nations figures show a reduction in Italian imports from $14,650,000 in Feb.1935 to $8,230,000 in Feb.1936, due to the application of sanctions, and a 50%, decrease in exports in the same period.
But these figures tell nothing of the dead, the wounded, the sick, nor the trials of the Italians left in a fever-stricken country to colonize. They tell nothing of the unbearable pressure on the Italian Masses, of the wages of ten cents an hour, the starvation standards, the privations demanded. They tell nothing of the increased threat to world peace due to Mussolini’s victory, to the increased unrest especially among countries around the Mediterranean. With the defeat of Ethiopia and the collapse of the League of Nations, the small countries see themselves defenseless.
The Turkish demand to fortify the Dardanelles is one of the immediate results. Balkan armaments are expanding on the principle of every man for himself. Czechoslovakia is introducing conscription. The Hungarian press has proclaimed the nation’s right to arm if and when it wishes. Greece has demanded the right to fortify the islands in the Mediterranean in return for supporting Turkish fortifications. Bulgaria, seeing her outlet from the Black Sea to the Aegean through the Dardanelles threatened, is preparing to arm to insure her rights. Europe is more than ever a restless armed camp.
3. The End of the Soviets in China
The decay of the Russian Revolution, brings ever new setbacks to the revolution elsewhere. Now China has gone over to a people’s front against Japan. No more is it the Red Army that is to fight to maintain Soviet China. (We shall not here go into the weakness of Soviet China which was based on the defeat of the Chinese working class in the Chiang-Kai-Shek adventures.) At any rate now the Soviet system is abolished for a policy of bringing together the Chinese revolutionary forces with any landlord who will fight the Japanese. The property of such landlords becomes inviolate—in other words, the class struggle within the nation is abandoned. But no imperialist aggressor can be defeated this way. This is another Chiang-Kai-Shek experiment under a new form. Meanwhile the dissolution of China goes on apace. The whole northern region up to Outer Mongolia is in the hands of Japan. The internal weakness of the country is its great stumbling block.
4. New Victories in Spain
Since the left victories in February, the Spanish revolution continues to move forward. Continued pressure is exerted by the Marxist elements upon Premier Azana and he is following the left. The fascist grouping, Fallanga Espagnola had been disbanded and conservative army officers dismissed. The principal demand which the left raised in the elections—the freeing of political prisoners to the numbers of 30,000, including some principal leaders of the workers—has been accomplished. Workers discharged for revolutionary activities are reinstated. A bill to redistribute land holdings is enacted, thus legalizing the seizures which the peasants had already made of the land.
It is less than a year and a half since the Spanish revolution was severely defeated in its October uprising. It prevented a final defeat by the policy of guerilla warfare which has been carried on from the beginning both by the syndicalist and communist workers in the cities and the peasants on numerous countryside’s. The forces of reaction were strengthened in the October defeat, but the workers force eventually became strengthened also. At last the Spanish workers have learned the lesson of unity. The February elections for the first time brought about a united front of Socialists and Communists. Not merely this, but anarcho-syndicalist and even anarchist elements voted, realizing that an election victory was necessary to defeat Gil Robles. However, this was no mere parliamentarian victory. The victory at the poles was backed up by the pressure of mass direct action both before and after the election. Permanent united front groups have been formed not only of Communists and Socialists, but of syndicalist’s as well, in the defense united fronts.
Big land-owning capital, industrial and finance capital are still masters in Spain. But fascism has been held at bay once more by the strong arms of the workers and peasants. Now is the opportunity to push forward, to raise more and more demands, to continue the unification of the struggle, not merely among the hitherto contending working class forces, but among different sections of the country, which previously acted at cross-purposes. Fascism is never in every case inevitable, and the Spanish revolution has proved this to the hilt.
WHY WE ARE LATE THIS TIME
The Class Struggle has been obliged to miss four issues, due to the expense and difficulty of removing our national center from New York to Chicago. This is the biggest gap we have had since we started publication in 1931, and we trust it will never be repeated. We ask our friends and subscribers to continue helping us to enable the paper to come out regularly, and to maintain its usual high standards.
Other literature published by the Communist League of Struggle.
The Struggle of the Unemployed---10 cents.
The Struggle for Negro Emancipation---10 cents.
The struggle for Communism---15 cents.
Communism and the Social Order---5 cents.
For a New Communist International---10 cents.