From Fourth International, vol.4 No.8, August 1943, pp.253-255.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.
The following is from a letter of July 5 to us from a leader of the Workers International League of England, which supports the Fourth International.
We are in the process of drawing into the organisation 12 to 14 leading Clydeside Shop Stewards (nine have joined to date). They are all experienced militants, the cream of the working class, all former members of the Communist Party. That means we are ripping the guts out of the Stalinists in Glasgow. The tide is really flowing in our direction. Every one of these comrades is a workers’ leader with a genuine base and following in the area.
This event, one of the biggest things that has ever happened in the history of the British movement is the result of some really fine work on the part of our leading industrial comrades. On the basis of our program and activities these Shop Stewards have been won from Stalinism after years in the Communist Party.
They have been travelling away from Stalinism ever since the change of Party line after the entry of the Soviet Union into the war. The dissolution of the Comintern has clinched our arguments and these comrades, proletarian revolutionists to the core and long experienced in the class struggle, have drawn the correct conclusions.
The Clydeside events are taking up a great deal of our time. In addition we have our National Conference coming August holiday week-end. On top of all this we have the difficulties of our comrades getting called up. At the Centre, Andrew Scott and “Ben” our cartoonist are the latest to go. We have been able to draw one or two others into the Centre full time and are just about holding our own in that direction but it isn’t easy.
There are indications that the Stalinists are not in a happy position here and that the events outlined above are only a foretaste of what is to come. For one thing the purse strings appear to be tightening. The National Unemployed Workers Movement which they have kept going formally despite the fact that there has been nothing for it to do for four years, has been quietly dissolved. We also learn that Hutchinsons, bourgeois publishers, have bought out Lawrence and Wishart, the Stalinist publishing house (equivalent here to the International Publishers in the US).
The Communist Party held its Congress this week-end and adopted a “Socialist Britain” policy. (This is to operate presumably at the end of the Stalin-Churchill 20-years Pact.) Afterward they held a demonstration in Trafalgar Square. This was fairly well attended but was characterized by a clearly manifest lack of enthusiasm. In that sense it was about on a par with one recently held by the Labour Party – ;a striking contrast to the previous Stalinist demonstrations which have usually been the personification of enthusiasm.
In contrast, we are buoyed up with the developments in our favor. Each issue of Socialist Appeal sells out in a few days. And the general militancy in the industrial arena affords us plenty of scope and bodes well for the future.
The newly-formed “Clyde Workers Committee,” which will soon develop into a national movement, is an indication of the potentialities. It is the most important development of the war so far as British labor is concerned. We are gaining a very great influence in it thanks to the Glasgow ex-stalinists previously referred to. Thus did these militants demonstrate their determination and ability to carry a struggle against Stalinism in the field in which the Stalinists hitherto yielded the most influence. This is a healthy sign; for in the past few years most of the best elements who have broken with the Communist Party have become demoralized and dropped out of political life.
Further news about the “Clyde Workers Committee’ is in the latest issue of Socialist Appeal to arrive here – its mid-June issue. Like the movement of the same name during the last war, which became famous as the leader of the entire national left-wing movement, the present committee has risen to defend the interests of the workers because the top trade union leaders have become completely absorbed into the governmental apparatus of suppression. As a matter of fact the Clyde committee was revived – the great industrial Clydeside area in the Glasgow neighborhood was again the natural place for the movement to begin – at the beginning of this war. But after June 22, 1941 the Stalinists scuttled it
Launched on far firmer ground May 15, the Clyde committee immediately got in touch with shop stewards’ groups which have been similarly arising in other places, and as a result some 30 delegates met with the Glasgow militants on June 5-6 and took the preliminary steps for establishing a National Confederation of Workers’ Committees.
A provisional Central Committee was set up to convene the first National Conference. At the conclusion of the meeting in Glasgow the following resolution was adopted:
“Realizing the necessity of a National Organisation in defense of the workers interests, this conference of delegates representing organized workers from London, Newcastle-on Tyne, Barrow, the Midlands, Yorkshire and Glasgow, declare that we basically agree with the understated seven points of the ‘Clyde Workers Committee’:
“l. Coordination of all militant Trade-Union activity..
“2. Annulment of all anti-working class legislation.
“3. Every shop a closed shop.
“4. Workers’ control of transfers.
“5. (a) A higher standard of life for all workers;
(b) A better standard of wages and allowance for workers in the armed forces.
“6. Confederation (nationally) of all Workers’ Committees.
“7. Workers’ Control of Industry.”
Characteristic of the leftward developing political atmosphere in Britain are the number of letters from soldiers published in the Socialist Appeal. Included among them in the latest issue is one from Andrew Scott, a leader of the Workers International League, who, as the letter from A.H. above reported, was recently drafted. Scott’s letter deals with his participation in several political meetings in the army. Of one he says:
“I have been making the most of the dissolution of the Comintern down here. There was a lecture on ‘The Russian Revolution’ given by Sapper Goss, brother of John Goss [a leader] of the Communist Party. My own contribution was about as long as Goss’. There were about 21 to 30 people present, and most of them were more sympathetic to me than to the speaker. Several spoke before me, and the whole question of Stalinism and Trotskyism had been brought up before I had said a word! When the meeting ended the Chairman said it was the liveliest they had had, and invited me to give the lecture in three weeks time. He left me to choose my own subject, but suggested ‘The Fourth International and the War’, and the arrangement stands.”
“I have never realized so clearly before what an influence could be wielded by one revolutionary socialist among hundreds of soldiers. And 95 per cent of the audiences is proletarian. This only further confirms our opinions of the socialist conscientious objectors who succeed only in isolating themselves from the masses. It doesn’t matter if they disagree with what you say, or don’t understand it thoroughly; the fact that you are putting a class position wins their support.”
A group of German workers in England have submitted to the Fourth International press the following statement for publication:
The undersigned, ex-members of the Communist Party of Germany, following the dissolution of the Comintern make this statement:
(These cannot be published at present.)
Recent increase in strength of the Mexican Section of the Fourth International is indicated by the arrival in New York of the June 15th issue of its organ Lucha Obrera, no longer mimeographed but printed as a four-page paper.
Well-balanced between national and international subjects, the issue features the Mexican Section’s powerful manifesto on the dissolution of the Third International and a long and well-documented editorial full of new and previously unrevealed information on the extent to which the Mexican bourgeoisie is stripping its country at bargain prices for the benefit of Yankee imperialism.
We salute this strong new voice joining the crescendo of the Fourth Internationalist chorus.
There has just reached New York after long delay an extremely interesting pamphlet, La Voz Revolucionaria del Trotskismo en el III Congreso Nacional Obrero, published by Ediciones Cuba Obrera, reporting in detail the policies and activities in the National Labor congress of those delegatm who put forth the program of the Partido Obrero Revolucionario, Cuban section of the Fourth International.
The CTC (Confederacion de Trabajadores de Cuba), the island’s only labor federation has long been stifled in the grip of a cynical gang of Stalinist bureaucrats headed by the notorious Lazaro Pena. It is, outside the Mexican CTM, the main base of the Stalinist, Vicente Lombardo Toledano, and his CTAL (Confederacion de Trabajadores de America Latina), whose rule-or-ruin policy has not hesitated to split the powerful Argentine CGT in order to obtain a group unconditionally controlled by Stalinism.
Relations between the CTC and the dictatorship of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista have been mysterious and disquieting. Within a month after Stalinist leader Juan Marinello entered Batista’s cabinet as Minister without Portfolio, the CTC was given “official status” (by a presidential decree) and, on May Day, Batista promised a special government lottery to pay for the CTC’s elaborate new $200,000 headquarters. In return for these favors, the Stalinist CTC leaders bend every energy to heading off and if necessary smashing any strikes. The tendency is thus for the Stalinized CTC to become integrated into the Batista dictatorship.
Needless to say, this Stalinist attempt has met with stubborn resistance among Cuban workers – a resistance which the Stalinists met with their usual tactics of defamation and murder.
The wave of terror which they initiated with the assassination of Sandalio Junco, trade union leader of the Partido Autentico, reached a new pitch just before the Labor Congress in December, when they similarly assassinated three other “Autenticos” who had been elected delegates to the congress from the Central Lugareno.
Despite this systematic terrorization campaign, however, nearly five hundred delegates, democratically elected by their unions, formed a strong opposition to the delegates of the Stalinized “paper and-rubber-stamp” unions and their professional hatchet men.
Among this militant though confused opposition, outstanding both for their union militancy and for the fact that they had prepared a detailed and positive program of independent trade-union action around which the anti-Stalinist opposition could rally, were a group of Trotskyist delegates from the railwaymens, laundry-workers, retail clerks, and cattlemen unions.
Their first task was to overcame a defeatist current among the opposition which wished to abandon the Stalinist-run Congress as hopeless, without making a clear strong presentation of the position and program of independent class unionism against the Stalinist policy of class collaborationist betrayal. Successful in this struggle, they presented to the Congress a carefully thought-out program of immediate action in the form of five draft resolutions:
Terrified by the rapidly growing influence of our comrades, the Stalinist gang burst into interminable speeches repeating every stale Stalinist slander of the Trotskyist as “fifth columnists,” “enemy agents,” “splitters,” etc., which were crushingly answered in brief but brilliant speeches by Comrades Pablo Diaz Gonzalez and Juan Medinh.
The Stalinists followed up their mud-slinging by the usual bureaucratic maneuvers in the credentials committee they controlled, refusing to seat over 150 democratically elected delegates whose political independence they feared. More than four hundred delegates disgusted and angered by these steam-roller tactics, rose and – despite the locking of the doors and barring them by Stalinist goon squads – forced their way out, leaving the congress to continue as a mere assembly of Stalinist bureaucrats and stooges.
With the support of the Trotskyist delegates, the opposition constituted itself into the Frente Democratic Sindical, and listened to a formal statement by the POR delegates, which said, in part:
“... We cannot think ... of the formation of a new trade-union center so long as there has not been demonstrated in a clear and definitive way the impossibility of salvaging the CTC from the hands of the Stalinist reformist gang, through constant and effective work among the rank and file. We shall oppose any group or tendency which tries to drag the Cuban proletariat along the road of adventurism.
“... It is necessary to win the toiling masses for the struggle against Stalinism reformism. It is necessary, union by union, city by city, and province by province, by means of a tenacious revolutionary position, to draw over the deceived means who are now in the claws of the Stalinist pirates ...
“... We proclaim the necessity of forming a Trade-Union Labor Front of Revolutionary opposition, which, corresponding to the genuine interests of the working class, and with the participation of all honest militants of the union movement, fights with a Minimum Program for the liquidation of the totalitarian practices of degrading Stalino-reformism, and restores the labor movement to its revolutionary position in the struggle for definitive emancipation from the capitalist yoke.”
Five slogans complete the declaration:
The Frente Democratico Sindical adopted the essential points of the Trotskyist program and voted, not to set up a permanent organization parallel to the CTC, but to prepare a serious fight for the convocation of a new CTC Labor Congress, on the basis of full and genuine internal democracy.
Some Latin American revolutionary socialist movements have suffered from an isolation self-imposed by sectarian policies. In view of this widespread tendency, the Partido Obrero Revolucionario is particularly to be congratulated on having found the way to break out of that isolation and carry its transitional program to the broad Cuban masses.
A few days after the arrival of this pamphlet further indication of the mass activity of our Cuban comrades reached New York in the form of a manifesto issued by the Guantanamo branch of the PCR denouncing the betrayal of the railwaymen’s strike there by the Stalinists. More than 600 railway workers came out in the Guantanamo district on May 17th with demands for a 50 per cent salary increase (the cost of living in Cuba had risen 300 per cent) on which the Ministry of Labor had been stalling; and called on the railwaymen nationally to support them.
The Batista government rushed troops to man the trains, and the Stalinist trade-union bureaucrats rushed with equal speed to try to choke off a nationwide rail strike. For a while it was touch-and-go; but after 16 days of ruthless repressive measures the Batista-Stalinist efforts succeeded in first limiting and finally in stifling the strike; six workers’ leaders, among them the Trotskyists Juan Medina end Luciano Garcia, were singled out for punitive discharge. But the strike, though crushed, gained part of its ends: the Batista dictatorship had been so frightened by the railwaymen’s militancy that it hastened to “grant” increases ranging between 10 and 15 per cent.
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Last updated on 12.9.2008