Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Expulsions Fail To End CP Crisis

First Published: The Militant, Vol. 10, No. 52, December 28, 1946
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The crisis gripping the American Communist Party. (Stalinist), reflected in wholesale expulsions for “leftism,” has for the first time in 16 years produced an organized internal opposition to the official Stalinist leaders and policies.

It is clear from the many documents of dissenting groups that have come into our possession that the opposition of the CP rises chiefly from the working-class layers of the party.

How wide-spread and persistent is the opposition, struggle within the CP is shown by the fact that whole leading branches, both on the east and west coasts, have been ruthlessly “liquidated” or “reorganized” and most of their members expelled.

Two outstanding examples are the cases of the CP machinists club in San Francisco and the P.R. Communist Party Club, Section 1, Bronx, called not long ago by the New York State party secretary “the best club in the Bronx.”

Some hint as to the scope of the opposition is given in the December issue of Political Affairs, “theoretical” organ of the CP. Months after the expulsion of the San Francisco machinists, it runs an extensive article on “The Struggles Against Deviations and Factionalism in San Francisco” which admits that the San Francisco group “have connections outside of San Francisco, and even outside of the state.”

What is of even greater concern to the Stalinist leaders, as Political Affairs points out, is that the “group of expelled have organized themselves and meet regularly . . . They are engaged to the circulation of documents, some prepared locally, others written by persons who have been expelled elsewhere . . . They hope, through the use of their documents and through personal contacts, to re-establish their faction within the Party.”

The utter decay and demoralization of the Stalinist party and its leaders is demonstrated especially by the issues over which most of the expulsions for “leftism” take place. These are not controversies about revolutionary strategy or basic program. They involve literally the most elementary principles upheld by even the most backward unionists.

Thus, the CP machinists club in San Francisco was broken up and its members expelled because they refused to organize a “rank-and-file back-to-work movement” to break the joint strike of AFL Machinists Lodge 38 in San Francisco and CIO Steelworkers Local 1304 in Alameda County.

According to the article in Political Affairs against these “left deviationists,” they insisted on supporting a strike led by union leaders who had “a Trotsky 1st line.” They did not agree with the party leaders who “stressed the need for an independent program that would free the machinists from the disastrous consequences” of the militant strike policies of the union leaders.

Among other things the “majority of machinist comrades” opposed were the Stalinist leaders’ instructions that “it was essential to prevent the tie-up of the waterfront and troopships” and “the necessity for an organized retreat.” The article complains about the “passivity on the part of some comrades” and “their inability to give leadership to the rank-and-file strikers along the lines indicated by the party’s policies.” That is, the CP machinists refused to be strikebreakers and the striking workers were very hostile to any “rank-and-file back-to-work” movement.

Not only were CP workers expelled for refusing to be strikebreakers on the economic front, they were expelled for objecting to strikebreaking on the political front.

The key issue which led to the expulsions in the Bronx P.R. Club was the club members’ criticism of the manner in which the Stalinist leaders backed capitalist party candidates. They didn’t even object to the false principle of backing Wall Street’s candidates. As they state in “An S.O.S. To All Communists,” they objected ’merely because “the CP declared a ’moratorium’ on pressure and issued ’blank checks’” to the Democratic Party candidates Mead and Lehman, who were calling for support of a “tough policy” against the Soviet Union and conducting a vicious anti-red, anti-Communist election campaign. “Unless the CP counsels pressure and only qualified support for these men, it will encourage and even hurry their reactionary plans,” says the P.R. Club’s statement.

It was because of such views as these, a protest against the CP giving “unqualified support” to red-baiting, anti-Soviet, war-mongering Wall Street politicians, that first one member, “Comrade E.”, who wrote a critical letter to the CP leaders was expelled and then the whole P.R. Club was “reorganized.” The club was finally pressured into accepting the expulsion of “E.” by the State Committee, but 19 members signed an appeal to the National Committee. Then, “the National, State, County and Section Committees have grilled and intimidated our club, attempting to change our decisions by fake transfers in. and mass expulsions out. Our whole Executive Committee was removed, but this removal was not recognized by the club.”

Thus, it is the elementary issue of CP strikebreaking on the economic and political fronts, rather than any basic disagreements with the Stalinist program, that unites the growing opposition tendencies in the CP.

How are the dissenters met? At the first voice of criticism, they are ruthlessly expelled. But in this case, such expulsions fail to silence the critics. Expulsions are aggravating the internal crisis, provoking more doubts, stimulating more opposition.

Now the Stalinist leaders are forced to carry on against the dissenters a campaign of so-called “polemic”–that is, in Stalinist practice, a smear campaign. Naturally, the charge if “Trotskyism” is the first to be hurled. And the dissenters are immediately branded “factionalists.” Every such characterization, as usual, is false to the core.

The new opposition in the CP are as yet merely left-Stalinists, who defend Stalinism internationally, while objecting to its vilest expression in the American Communist Party. They are “factionalists” only in the sense that any CP member who raises a critical voice against any policy of the CP leaders is called a “factionalist.”

(This is the second in a series of articles on the crisis in the Communist Party.)