Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Neither Head Nor Tail

First Published: The New Masses, Vol. 56, No. 11, September 11, 1945.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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To New Masses:

To date I have received NM up to and including July 10. My chief interest at present is the dispute over NM’s new line. May I take this opportunity to submit the reactions of one who is far away and has no one to discuss it with?

As yet, I can make neither head nor tail of NM’s new line. This does not mean I disagree; I simply cannot understand the position on several crucial points. I wish NM would be more explicit on this score. For instance, is it held that the Teheran-Yalta perspective can or cannot possibly be achieved without the cooperation of a considerable section of the American bourgeoisie? Also, is it contended that such cooperation may be possibly induced by a show of popular strength, or that the majority of the capitalists will under no circumstances cooperate? Until NM makes its position on those points clear, it seems to me the debate must inevitably continue at cross purposes, getting nowhere fast. From the direction the Browderite arguments take, they apparently assume the new line is either (a) that Yalta is impossible without bourgeois collaboration, but that the bourgeoisie can be badgered and bullied into playing ball–in this case the margin of difference between the two factions is not very great, or (b) that the capitalists will not cooperate, but that 60,000,000 jobs, etc., is still possible without this cooperation, etc.– in this case the burden of the proof logically should fall upon the Fosterites, as it is in no wise self-evident.

Personally, I suspect the new line really concedes that Teheran-Yalta is possible only with bourgeois collaboration, while denying the possibility of such collaboration. If this be so, Teheran, Yalta and ’Frisco are only a demagogic Utopia under whose rallying cry the inherent inability of the bourgeoisie to act in accordance with the interests of mankind will stand exposed in all its nakedness.

Nor can I completely rule out from the back of my mind that all this is a carefully staged demonstration wherewith to convince errant postwar capitalists that they cannot lead us by the nose wherever they will, that if they choose to renege on their promises, we are quite prepared to slug it out with them. One reason for this hunch is that NM’s new line stands out like a sore thumb. It is as though the magazine was written up in the spirit of the old line and then amended artificially (like pouring new wine into old bottles) to jibe with the new line.

How about an article on what should be the attitude of our occupation troops to the German people? It should be almost as interesting to folks back home as to us guys here –especially if focused to the quandary of this individual GI. Is there not a third alternative to the Scylla-Charybdis of fraternization-non-fraternization? How can GI’s distinguish among Nazis, non-Nazis and anti-Nazis?

With best wishes for your continued prosperity.

PFC. A.B.,
Somewhere in Europe.

[We are happy to have Pfc. A.B.’s letter. We have long felt that the discussion which has appeared in these pages around NM’s new line lacked the opinions of the many servicemen who read the magazine in every part of the globe. We hope that Pfc. A.B.’s letter will be followed by others from the armed forces.

In our belief the perspectives of Teheran and Yalta remain. It was our mistaken belief that these objectives could be attained, in effect, by the working class following the leadership of the bourgeoisie. That in essence was the Browder position no matter what qualifications and escape clauses embroidered it. However, we still believe that there are elements in the ruling class who for reasons of their own can be counted as allies on specific issues in the struggle for a peaceful, more abundant and more democratic world. We cannot count on them for guidance nor can we depend on them as stable forces. Historically, the evidence is against a political policy which would place the welfare of the millions within the hands of even the most enlightened capitalists. But on day to day issues such unity is possible and necessary. It would be absurd, for example, for the trade union movement to fail to use the support which a Beardsley Ruml or James P. Warburg–again for their own reasons–have given the Full Employment Bill, or to deny its value. On the other hand, these figures do not typify their class and we must never draw the conclusion that because they do endorse the job measure the ruling class as a whole is progressive. That class is reactionary– always has been and always will be.

In brief, we shall continue unrelentingly to struggle for Yalta and Teheran–for a policy of lasting friendship and cooperation among the great Allies, depending basically on the workers and their long-term allies, the middle classes and the Negro people, to attain these goals. If sections of the bourgeoisie go along, well and good. Differences among the capitalists, however, should be utilized for the advantage of labor and the people, and not in order to convert labor into the tail of the capitalist kite.

The article A.B. asks for on the attitude of occupation troops towards the German people has been assigned. We hope to publish it as soon as we receive it. –The Editors.]