From Fourth International, Vol.9 No.5, July 1948, pp.134-142.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
American capitalism came out of World War II victorious not only over its rivals, Germany and Japan, but also over all its “democratic” allies. No power has ever enjoyed such overwhelming preponderance. The monopoly of the atom bomb underscores its supremacy in industry, finance, diplomacy and military affairs.
But in the third postwar year, American capitalism is still far from having attained the imperialist objectives it seeks.
The Far Eastern markets, richest potential area of exploitation, offer now less favorable opportunities for industrial and financial investment than was the case three years ago. Civil war continues in China; Chiang Kai-shek’s regime staggers from one military and economic calamity to another, China has become a bottomless drain on Washington instead of the expected reservoir of superprofits. Indo-China and Indonesia are striving to free themselves from French and Dutch imperialism. Elsewhere In the Far East similar conditions of instability prevent American capitalism from fully exploiting these colonial markets and natural resources.
Moreover, American imperialism collides here, as in the Near East and Europe itself, not only with the insurgent masses but also with the power of the Kremlin and its agencies.
Although capitalist rule has been reinforced in Western Europe, thanks to Washington’s large-scale intervention and the Kremlin’s counter-revolutionary policies, most of the countries there are either bankrupt or approaching insolvency. Despite the modest successes of capitalist reconstruction, despite almost $20 billion in American grants and loans since V-E Day, inflation continues to rage in Western Europe, slashing deeply into the people’s living standards. The partition of Europe into Anglo-American and Soviet spheres of influence blocks the capitalist rehabilitation of Western Europe and generates the sharpest conflicts between Washington and Moscow.
The existing relation of world economic and political forces is more and more intolerable for US imperialism. Toward the close of the third postwar year it is unable to maintain even previous levels of exploiting the world market and world resources. Clear proof of this is the steady decline in US foreign exports and investments since 1947.
Since last November, US export trade has dropped twenty percent and more. In the export of capital the situation is more critical. Foreign investments, which had been flowing out at the annual rate of $8 billion, by the first quarter of 1948 dropped one-half, that is, to an annual rate of $4 billion.
Coupled with this deterioration in foreign trade and foreign investments are the political paroxysms which further upset the highly unstable world economy and postpone, prospects of stability. As the Bogota events indicate, these upheavals break out not alone in Europe or Asia but within the closed preserve of Latin America itself.
The economic provisions of the Marshall Plan, rebap-tized as the European Co-operation Act (ECA), are specifically designed to:
- Avert the bankruptcy of Western European capitalism;
- Sustain sagging US exports;
- Stimulate export of capital by the government’s underwriting an increasing share of foreign investments.
To what extent can these three aims be achieved by dumping new billions of dollars through the ECA into Europe? The ECA can undoubtedly postpone for a limited time the total collapse of European capitalism and provide it with an additional breathing spell, But the ECA cannot restore to capitalist Europe either health or any prolonged equilibrium.
The ECA can artificially stimulate US foreign trade. But even Washington spokesmen have acknowledged thai the highest postwar levels will not be regained.
The ECA can step up foreign investments. But there are far narrower limits to dumping agricultural surpluses abroad than to placing foreign loans and investments. Even with the ECA, Wall Street has little hope of returning to the $8 billion annual rate of foreign investments.
The Marshall Plan billions can no more overcome the basic economic difficulties of American and European capitalism than have the billions already poured out.
The efforts of American monopolists to maintain and stabilize capitalist economy on a “peacetime” basis have proved unavailing not only in Western Europe but also at home. Since V-J Day the postwar boom has had to be propped up by one major inflationary, measure after another.
Most important among these have been the scores of billions of dollars spent for direct military purposes and lor foreign loans and grants. The “peacetime” military establishment has been the largest single business in the country, diverting vast quantities of raw materials and necessities into arms production and aggravating all shortages resulting from the war. Prior to the ECA; billions of dollars in grants and loans supplied the greatest single foreign outlet for industry, agriculture and finance.
Despite these and other inflationary measures, within less than three years the output of civilian production in many lines sufficed to saturate foreign and domestic markets. Industry has kept operating at boom levels primarily through speculation. Consequently, inventories are past the $50 million mark, an all-time record; credit and installment buying have doubled and trebled, while private debts, commercial and agricultural loans, home and farm mortgages, etc., have likewise multiplied manifold. These; are preconditions for a colossal crash.
The sudden speeding up of Wall Street’s preparations for World War III primarily arises from its inability to find other means to improve its position on the world arena and at home.
The deepening crisis of European capitalism, the international economic difficulties of Wall Street, the fears of oncoming depression – these are the main factors which more and more exclude continued operation of US economy on its previous “peacetime” basis. These are the compelling international and internal economic forces behind the launching of the Marshall Plan and the new arms program.
The drive of American capitalism toward war, issuing from the foregoing conditions, becomes more and more dominant not only in world political relations but also in the economic situation at home.
At present American economy is at the beginning of a transition from the postwar “peacetime” boom to a war economy.
This new development makes necessary a correction in our estimate of the position and prospects of US capitalism set forth in our resolution, From a Propaganda Group to a Party of Mass Action, adopted by the November 1946 SWP Convention.
Two years ago, we predicted a collapse of American economy and foresaw “growing unemployment and declining production” as the “real prospects directly ahead.”
These predictions have failed to materialize. In place of the anticipated economic crash, American imperialism is plunging into a new arms boom. Instead of deflation and unemployment, the masses at home and abroad are confronted by a war crisis, with all its dire consequences.
Two years ago, we did envisage that the world and domestic contradictions of American imperialism could pass over into a war crisis. This variant was discussed in a special section. Preparations for World War III, which remains valid today. What we then failed to foresee was the speed with which the drive to war would tend to coalesce with the maturing of the international and internal economic crisis. We underestimated how greatly the contradictions of American and world capitalism have become aggravated, how quickly they acquire extremely virulent forms, and how explosively they erupt.
Preconditions for the crash toward which the postwar “peacetime” economy has been heading are imbedded in the present situation of American capitalism. Under certain circumstances, they can erupt with volcanic violence. However, the beginnings of the shift to a war economy now cut across “peacetime” economy.
To the degree that this shift to war economy is speeded up, the threat of immediate depression becomes more remote, since economic factors of a different order then come to the fore. A capitalist war economy operates in a different manner from “peacetime” economy. The government war machine becomes not only the largest, but the sole, customer for goods and services in one field after another, and thereby temporarily takes care “for the duration” of the problems of foreign and domestic outlets for industry, agriculture and finance.
On the other hand, to the degree that the changeover to a full-fledged war economy is halted or delayed for any considerable interval, the American monopolists would face an even worse economic depression than the one they are now seeking so desperately to escape.
Even in its initial stages the new armament program has become a major economic factor, and tends to alter existing economic conditions, along with the plans and prospects of the capitalist class.
For example, it has already alleviated the economic threat of huge inventories; the prospect of new war shortages induces industry to operare at full “peacetime” capacity, before its war reconversion; it has already spurred Stock Exchange speculation.
While it is too early to estimate how quickly the shift to war economy will proceed, a series of economic, political, military and diplomatic factors will serve to accelerate the push of American capitalism toward a full-scale war economy.
There is the Marshall Military Program lor rearming Western Europe, which must presently supplement the Marshall “Aid” Program.
There are the additional billions of dollars in appropriations for the expanded war machine and the conscript armed forces which will far surpass the sums already allocated for the 70-group Air Force.
Moreover, the limitations of the ECA leave open the possibility of an abrupt worsening of the economic situation both in Western Europe and in the Western Hemisphere. Such a turn in world economy could speed up total war reconversion. Meanwhile the flow of goods in the debilitated world market must more and more tend to be diverted from “normal” channels into feeding the military machines of Wall Street as well as of the Kremlin. Increasing billions of foreign capital will likewise flow into war speculation.
Inflation has grown in every country since the termination of hostilities. World inflation is bound to be aggravated in the extreme as Wall Street’s rearmament program gathers momentum.
The new arms boom will enormously speed up the inflationary spiral which began with the preparations for World War II, climbed throughout the war years, and soared to record peaks during the postwar boom.
Sooner or later, as the wat boom intensifies, the government will be obliged to institute economic controls for the benefit of the capitalist regime which will deal harder and harder blows to the workers’ living standards. Laws and decrees will freeze wages while inflation rages beneath a blanket of fictitious price regulations.
* * *
No major capitalist country has attempted to pass from peacetime industrial operation back to a war-footing so soon after a major war.
No major country has ever launched a huge rearmament program without first introducing controls (controlling credit and currency, “regulating” prices, rationing raw materials and basic necessities, freezing wages, and so on).
In place of prewar surpluses we now find shortages of labor and goods. The, new arms program coupled with the ECA will aggravate existing shortages and create new ones.
On the eve of rearmament for World War II, US economy had ample room for expansion in industry and agriculture; prices were low; an army of 10 million unemployed provided ample labor reserves. Today, with industry and agriculture operating at their peaks, expansion of armaments can occur primarily only at the expense of one civilian sector after another. Prices are at all-time highs and moving still higher. Labor shortages, despite signs of lagging employment, must become acute as the armament program gathers headway.
The country’s fiscal and credit structure was deflated on the eve of World War II. Moreover, the initial strains were relieved by huge armament orders which England, France, and other countries were able to pay for. Today the domestic fiscal and credit structure is highly inflated. New deficit government spending looms directly ahead, providing a most powerful stimulus for further fiscal and credit inflation.
On the eve of World War II, American agriculture could expand to the maximum. Today American agricultural surpluses are no longer being absorbed by foreign outlets. Washington is confronted with the choice of permitting the agricultural price structure to collapse, or of. sustaining it by huge subsidies. The former course would destroy the existing balance between agriculture and industry; the latter course would increase deficit government spending.
Domestic civilian consumption must contract in proportion to the diversion of industry into war production.
These and other new conditions surrounding the launching of the new arms boom, will introduce grave complications into the process of war reconversion. The war reconversion of 1939-41, when the arms, boom took up the slack in the domestic market and propelled industry to new heights, was effected under far more favorable conditions than loom ahead. American monopolists will hardly be able to duplicate in the next period what happened on the eve of U.S. entry into World War II
Our warning two years ago about US imperialist preparations for World War III is the terrible reality today.
The continued existence of the Soviet Union and its role as the second world power presents an insurmountable obstacle to Wall Street’s unrestricted exploitation of the world market and world resources, despite any assistance the Kremlin may offer to Washington in return for another agreement.
American imperialists have taken the conquest of the Soviet Union as their strategic aim. Like the German imperialists, they believe that by crushing the USSR they can entrench their power and infuse decaying capitalism with new vigor. The date for the attack, its precise form, as well as possible temporary pacts with the Kremlin, are questions of a tactical order. Such agreements may delay but cannot avert war, any more than did Hitler’s pact with Stalin.
Should conditions appear unfavorable, Washington will delay the full-scale assault. But, given propitious circumstances, it can launch an early attack.
With the institution of a big standing “peacetime” army and the mushrooming of the brass hat bureaucracy, militarism, as Trotsky warned years ago, has become a permanent feature of American life. In the past militarism and dictatorial regimes appeared peculiar to Europe. Today it is evident that the US is not immune to these evils. Indeed, US militarism may surpass its European precursors.
The military caste, is already installed as a key faction in Washington’s bi-partisan coalition. The brass hats honeycomb the Washington bureaucracy, infiltrating Congress, surrounding the White House, dominating the State Department. Foreign policy is directed by the former Army Chief of Staff. The military men, mobilizing enormous pressure, intervene in the passage of legislation vitally affecting labor’s welfare. In occupied territories American Generals rule in the style of Roman proconsuls or Hitler’s Gauleiters. The promotion of MacArthur and Eisenhower for the presidency discloses the sweep of this trend to saddle the country with a militarist regime.
In the hands of these labor-hating militarists, a big standing army constitutes a deadly menace to the trade unions. For the first time in its history, American labor sees looming the peril of military dictatorship.
These developments place the struggle against capitalist militarism in the forefront of labor’s tasks.
The analysis made and the slogans raised in Sections 2, 3 and 4 of our 1946 resolution [see Fourth International, January 1947] are applicable today in the fight against the warmakers.
The anti-war sentiments pervading the populace have not yet broken through the surface only for the lack of proper political leadership apd organization. Our program of anti-war struggle will receive in the coming days a readier hearing among the masses of workers and farmers, the Negroes and other minorities, the youth and the women who hatd and fear the, prospect of a new war.
The Democratic and Republican parties are conscious war parties, preparing and mobilizing the country for the coming conflict. The top official union leaders act as their assistants and willing tools.
Exploiting the widespread anti-war feelings of the masses. Wallace and his “peace” party are seeking to divert them from a genuine struggle against the warmakers. Wallace confines his “peace movement” within capitalist channels and limits it to demands for another deal between Washington and Moscow. Wallace has already served notice in the press that he will drop even his present pretense of opposition once war is declared. Thus Wallace duplicates the role of similar petty-bourgeois “peace” movements of the past which at the most critical moment betrayed the anti-war struggle and joined the war-mongers.
When the Stalinists promote the Wallace movement as the answer to the need for an effective anti-war party, they are deliberately deceiving the workers. In line with the policy of the Kremlin, the Communist Party is using the Wallace party as a means of pressuring Washington into another pact with Stalin. Workers can place no confidence in a “peace party” headed by the millionaire Wallace.
Nor can they trust the caricature Socialist Party of Norman Thomas who, after a brief show of verbal opposition, endorsed Wall Street’s entry into World War II. Thomas is equally ready to support the isext war.
The struggle against war is inseparable from a political struggle against all these parties and the war-breeding capitalist system they support. The anti-war struggle is inseparable from the struggle to replace capitalism by the planned economy of socialism. It is possible to prevent the outbreak of World War III only through the victory of the workers’ fight for socialism.
With the drive toward war and military dictatorship, our program and slogans against capitalist militarism acquire exceptional timeliness. Events themselves will help teach the workers that they must set as their goal the acquisition of independent skill and power in the military as well as in the political fields.
The capitalists have imposed a conscript army on the American people. The workers should oppose this and demand its abolition. To Wall Street’s military, conscription of the youth, labor should reply with the demand for control over military training by the trade unions. This will prevent fascist-minded officers from indoctrinating the minds of Americans in uniform with hatred for organized labor.
Within the armed forces themselves, labor must insist upon the right of the rank and file to participate in politics and public life, to elect their own officers, to organize along union lines and engage in collective bargaining. Labor must demand an end to segregation in the armed forces and oppose the imposition of a Prussian military system upon the United States.
The American monopolists are attempting to push through Congress new savage measures like the Mundt-Nixon Bill ostensibly directed against the Communist Party but actually aimed against the unions and fundamental democratic rights of the people. The unions must take the lead in fighting all such fascist-minded legislation.
Washington’s war preparations and plans cover the entire globe. The ECA is simply a part of US imperialist economic, diplomatic, and military intervention abroad. Blood-soaked Greece furnishes a preview of what is in store for other countries through such strengthening of capitalist reaction by US imperialism.
The Marshall Plan is the extension to the foreign field of the same policy that the monopolists are applying against labor at home in the shape of the Mundt Bill and Taft-Hartley Slave Labor Law. The Marshall Plan is designed to prop up the most reactionary capitalist regimes and to suppress the revolutionary masses abroad, just as Taft-Hartleyism aims to crush labor at home.
American workers must oppose the Marshall Plan no less vigorously than the Taft-Hartley Law. Support of the Marshall Plan would only strengthen the monopolists in their onslaught on American labor and their march to war.
On the other hand, every victory of the masses elsewhere against the native agents of American imperialism weakens the latter and strengthens labor’s positions in this country. Thus both class solidarity and self-interest call for unreserved support by American workers of every mass struggle against native tyranny and Wall Street’s intervention.
Many workers are revoked by the crimes of Stalinism. The capitalists are eager to exploit these sentiments in their red-baiting, their union-busting campaigns and their prospective war against the Soviet Union. War against the USSR is not the way to fight and eliminate Stalinism. The fight against Stalinism cannot be waged in alliance with the imperialist war-makers, but only in merciless political struggle against them. The struggle for the Workers and Farmers Government is aimed not at the imperialists alone. The abolition of capitalist rule, especially of its main stronghold in this country, will deal a mortal blow to Stalinism here as well as in the USSR.
The main enemy of the American people and the principal imperialist threat to the peoples of the entire globe is right here in the United States. The name of that enemy is Wall Street imperialism. To guarantee enduring peace, the masses must mobilize to supplant the capitalist government with a Workers and Farmers Government.
Our 1946 Convention adopted three resolutions on the fight against inflation and the struggle to defend workers’ living standards: Section 7 of the main political and economic resolution, entitled From a Propaganda Group to a Party of Mass Action; a special resolution on Wages, Prices, Profits and the Struggle Against Inflation; and a Supplementary Resolution.
The program and slogans set forth in these documents remain applicable for the next period.
Our central slogan – THE SLIDING SCALE OF WAGES – must he put forward even more vigorously today as labor’s most effective weapon against the consequences of inflation. Tomorrow it will provide the answer to the false claims of the agencies of the capitalist government and of the top union bureaucrats that government controls will hold down prices.
If, in their strike actions from 1946 to 1948, the unions had included and won the demand for a cost-of-living bonus adjusted automatically to the rising costs of living, the workers could have protected their living standards and even improved them.
The union officials, however, opposed or misrepresented this demand for a sliding scale of wages wherever it was raised. They permitted the unions to be pushed into fiercely fought and long-drawn out strikes for straight hourly wage increases which were insufficient to compensate for increased living costs and were rapidly wiped out by further price boosts. This false wage policy demoralized and exhausted the workers, permitted the steady decline in their living standards, encouraged the employers in attacks, and weakened the positions of the unions.
Regardless of when government controls are imposed – as they must be sooner or later as the war boom unfolds – the masses now directly confront a fearsome worsening of their living and working conditions. Patriotic shouting and red-baiting demagogy will not hide the harsh realities of Wall Street’s war program on its economic side or cover up the bankruptcy of the official union leadership.
To defend its living and working conditions, labor will be more and more compelled to assume the offensive on the economic field. Uncoordinated and purely defensive struggles like those of early 1948 would doom the workers to one defeat after another.
No less imperative will be the need for labor to take the lead in organizing mass consumer committees to regulate prices effectively, institute methods of equitable rationing, and fight the price-gougcrs. Such committees will be the best means of combatting profiteering speculators and black marketeers. Government controls through another swindling OPA setup cannot be depended upon to hold down prices. The main aim of new controls will be to freeze wages even more rigidly than during the last war.
With the shift to a full-fledged arms program, new construction and remodeling of old houses will drag to a halt. The housing shortage will become even more serious and acute. To protect the tenants from the rent-hogs, tenants committees must be organized around a program of militant action.
Congress together with the state and local legislatures, will place the burden of the enormous military budgets and inflation upon the people through new and higher taxes. The struggle against growing taxation will become more urgent as the war program unfolds.
The experiences of the last few years drive home the lesson that every vital economic problem of the workers – wages, working conditions, housing, prices, taxes – becomes a. political problem, requiring political means and agencies for its solution. The economic prospects of American workers therefore depend in large measure upon their political prospects, and even more upon their political actions.
Symptomatic of the maturing social crisis of US capitalism is the undermining of its two-party system. This was predicted in our 1946 resolution, which pointed out:
The breakup of the camp of “national unity” following V-J Day has unloosed political tendencies cut short and repressed by the war. The Democratic Party, which has governed the country since 1933, is rapidly disintegrating.
With the decline of the Democratic Party, there has come, on the one hand, the Wallace third party movement and, on the other, the growing sentiment for a Labor Party.
These political developments have deep roots in the maladies and difficulties of US economy, the sharpening of social tensions, and the mounting discontent of many sections of the population. The present political situation has its roots in the prolonged depression during the Thirties which profoundly shook the confidence of the American people in the capitalist system. Its most important outcome has been the rise of the CIO industrial unions.
The CIO originated and is still formally constituted as an economic movement of industrial workers. But from birth, it has necessarily been more than a trade-union organization on the old, craft-bound, conservative AFL model.
The CIO is a social movement of the working class which from its origin was obliged to contend for power with the industrial and financial overlords of America. By its reinvigoration and reorganization of unionism, by its very existence and activity, its nation-wide strike actions and sit-downs, its restrictions upon capitalist power and its tremendous uplifting of the self-confidence of the proletariat, the CIO effected a decisive change in the balance of class forces in the United States. The consequences of this shift in the relations between capital and labor have yet to unfold in their full magnitude and revolutionary implications.
The deepening disproportion between the social power and economic organization of labor, on the one hand, and its political atomization and feebleness, on the other, expresses the most glaring contradiction in American life. Sixteen million union members and their families, the majority of the people and the producers of wealth, have no representatives of their own in Congress!
The trade union bureaucracy is responsible for the failure of organized labor to take the lead in liberating the people from the capitalist monopoly of politics. The union officialdom, including the Stalinists and the Social Democrats, have deliberately blocked the unions from independent political action in order to maintain their collaboration with the capitalist party machines. The result of their policy of subservience to the Democratic and Republican agents of Big Business is the present helplessness of labor in the face of savage assaults by the bipartisan Congress and administration on the rights of the unions and living standards of the masses.
But the union bureaucracy is now encountering great obstacles in keeping the workers shackled to the Democratic machine and capitalist politicians. The imperative need for capitalist unity dictated by the war plans of US imperialism has welded Democrats and Republicans into a solid front against the unions and Negroes at home as well as the peoples abroad. The joint policies of the bipartisan administration and Congress on all major foreign and domestic issues leave little room for the subsidiary sham battles of former years. More and more workers find it impossible to distinguish between a Truman or a Taft, or a Dewey.
The emergence of the Wallace third party has further embarrassed the union leaders by exploding their pretext that it is impossible now to launch a new national political movement opposed to the Democratic-Republican monopoly of politics.
Finally, the growing resentment of the workers against, the Democratic-Republican anti-labor measures has hampered the bureaucrats’ ability to solicit votes for the old-line capitalist parties.
Despite these difficulties, the labor bureaucracy is still striving with all its might and cunning to divert the workers from the path of independent politics. Most of the bureaucrats, subservient to the State Department, have been seeking new formulas for clinging to the old-line parties and a less discredited presidential candidate than Truman to palm off on the workers.
The Stalinists, on the other hand, as agents of the Kremlin’s foreign policy, tout Wallace and his rump capitalist outfit as the answer to labor’s political needs.
Despite these differences in candidates, both the official and Stalinist brands of bureaucrats stand united in opposition to any genuinely independent forms of political action by the unions.
The demand for a Labor Party is more deep-seated among the workers than superficial appearances indicate.
The support given Wallace is a perverted sign of the widespread desire for a new political path. The urge toward independent working class politics has not yet found the opportunity or the leadership for adequate expression. The sporadic local experiments along this line, valuable and significant as they are, have been seriously hampered by opposition and sabotage from the officialdom.
This pent-up disgust with the Democrats and Republicans cannot be dammed up indefinitely. It is bound to break through the artificial barriers set up by the officialdom. The union movement cannot protect itself or survive unless the workers consciously enter the political arena and openly contest for power with the capitalist parties.
No Labor Party can.be built over the heads or behind the backs of the established unions. There can be no new political movement worthy of support which is not based upon the unions and subject to control and. influence by the membership.
The movement for the Labor Party will receive strong reinforcement from the Negroes and other doubly oppressed minorities who are disillusioned with the policies of the bi-partisan government.
This perspective of the divorce of organized labor from the two-party system and the growing demand for the Labor Party must animate our work in the unions and mass organizations. We must persevere in propaganda and agitation for independent political action by the unions and lor the formation of the Labor Party. We must continue to participate in the PAC-CIO and the AFL Labor’s League for Political Education for the purpose of developing new iorces for genuine class political activity. Wherever conditions permit, we must help promote local and state movements to run independent labor candidates for office.
At the present level of the Labor Party movement, our efforts in the mass organizations are largely concentrated upon convincing workers to form their own party, and force the leadership to break with the capitalist parties. But as soon as an independent campaign or organization becomes a reality, the questions of program, methods of action and the goal of the new class political movement advance to the fore. The militants must bear in mind that the Labor Party is essentially a stage, in the political march of the American workers on the road to power. It is a major step that will advance the political education and heighten the independent political development of the labor movement. It is not and cannot be an end in itself, as the reformists imagine. For us it is a means of hastening the politicalization o’f the working class as a whole and of speeding the growth of our mass revolutionary party.
In our Labor Party work our principal aim is to spread the ideas of revolutionary socialism, politically educate and recruit workers, and build the revolutionary party. That is the primary meaning and purpose of our 1948 Presidential campaign. In the last analysis, the maturing political crisis of American labor can be solved only through the growth of the Socialist Workers Party, the strengthening of our ties with the toilers, and our ability to lead the fight against capitalism.
The entire conduct of the Communist Party since Browder’s expulsion two years ago confirms the characterization of its “left turn” and role in trie labor movement presented in Section 9 of our 1946 resolution.
We then wrote:
”The pseudo-’left’ turn adn the expulsion of Browder as an agent of monopoly capitalism, however, produced no fundamental change in the treacherous policies of the CP and only deepened the crisis (in the CP).”
”The Stalinists,” we pointed out, “remain the greatest single obstacle in the labor movement to the development of the revolutionary party. Through their national apparatus and their control over a number of CIO international unions, local and central labor bodies, they act as a disorienting force, restraining the workers from independent class action, contaminating the class consciousness of the workers, and continuing under more radical phrases the same class-collaborationist policies they practised during the war.”
The all-out support of the Wallace movement by the Stalinists is nothing more than the American application of the reactionary People’s Front policy decreed last year by the Belgrade Bureau. It is a continuation under a new form of the previous collaboration of the Stalinists with the “liberal and democratic” elements of the American ruling class. Put forward as its main achievement by the present CP leadership, it will actually lead at the next stage to the aggravation of the crisis inside the CP.
The red-baiting drive, inspired and directed by the State Department, has had a twofold effect: upon the Stalinist movement. On the one hand, it has weakened Stalinist positions inside the unions and many periphery organizations. Many prominent union officials and public figures, both party members and fellow-travelers, have already deserted the CP and moved over to the camp of the American monopolists. As the war pressure increases, more such defections can be expected.
On the other hand, the witch-hunt serves to refurbish the CP in the eyes of its own members and many militants. It helps the Stalinist leaders to suppress more easily internal opposition to their dictatorial regime and People’s Front policies. It helps Foster and his associates to divert attention from their wartime and current crimes against the workers. It helps create sympathy for the Stalinists – as targets of capitalist reaction – among radical workers, the Negroes and other oppressed minorities. The Stalinists parade before the masses as the foremost anti-imperialist and anti-war party. We must expose this fraud. We must patiently explain how, under cover of radical phrases, the Stalinists really aim not to combat the imperialists or their war drive, but to reach another bargain with them for the benefit of the Kremlin.
As our 1946 resolution made clear:
“Our struggle to rid the labor movement of this treacherous agency of the Kremlin has nothing in common with the campaign of the red-baiters. Our struggle against Stalinism is a component part of our revolutionary program, which is the most effective weapon against the red-baiters. In advancing this program and mobilizing the militants to oppose the red-baiters, we at the same time deal the most decisive blows to the Stalinists.”
Al the 1946 Convention we based our party orientation on (1) a rising curve of strike struggles and (2) the rapid radicalization and politicalization of American labor under the impact of the anticipated economic crisis.
Contrary to these expectations, the labor movement has been subjected to a number of setbacks on both the economic and political fields. The misleadership of the top union bureaucracy, aided enormously by the Stalinists: the anti-labor offensive of the monopolies, greatly reinforced by the red-baiting campaign and the war hysteria – it was these factors amid the conditions of continued industrial boom which dampened the workers’ militancy, disoriented them, and plunged them into passivity. This was evidenced, on the one hand, by a sharp decline in strike struggles during 1947; and, on the other, by widespread refusal to vote which facilitated the victory of the Republican Party. The recession in mass militancy strengthened the hands of the most conservative sections of the unions, enabled the most reactionary forces to take the offensive, and restricted the influence of our party as well as its growth.
The temporary shift in the class relation of forces in favor of the capitalists has also tended to postpone and protract the radicalization and politicalization of the American workers. But it has not altered in the slightest the revolutionary potential of labor, or the tasks of the SWP in transforming itself from a propaganda group into a party of mass action.
The introduction and expansion of war economy, the growing inflation, and even more, the plunge into war itself will goad the workers into new struggles which will have profound revolutionary consequences.
The starting point for our estimate of the impending mass movements against Wall Street’s war regime is provided by the struggles which broke out during and after World War II. These past events foreshadow what will come. They are:
- – The successful wartime strikes of the miners and the struggle against the no-strike pledge which culminated in the unparalleled strike wave of 1945-46.
- – The mass struggle of the Negroes against Jim Crow which began with the March-on-Washington movement of 1941 and led to subsequent explosions in Harlem, Detroit and other cities.
- – The world-wide demonstrations of the GIs in 1946 which swept with such force through the army that the brass hats were compelled to yield to the “back-home” demands and revise their immediate military plans.
These sections of the American people will again find themselves pitted against the imperialist war machine.
Millions of women were first drawn into industry by World War II only to be thrown out after V-J Day. They will be herded into the plants while their husbands and sons are conscripted. They will turn upon the warmakers with bitterness and hatred.
Generations of youth, now being groomed for war, are destined to become increasingly disillusioned with capitalism and most receptive to revolutionary socialist ideas.
Illusions of security generated by the postwar boom will give way to feelings of insecurity and resentment as the youth receive, in place of jobs, “careers” as recruits in a permanent conscript army and then as fodder for atomic warfare.
The decisive force in these coming struggles is the industrial workers. The monopolists have already worked out the pattern for placing American labor in a military strait-jacket. The red-baiting campaign, the terrorization of the militants, abetted by the union bureaucracy, and the war hysteria have served to disorient and paralyze sizable layers of the working class. But these successes of the war-mongers will be only temporary. The workers will not submit like serfs to the repressive measures of the capitalist war regime.
The most advanced sections of labor showed in 1047 iheir desire and readiness to engage in a general strike to protest against the passage of the Taft-Hartley Bill. The treachery and cowardice of the top leadership derailed this struggle.
In the period ahead, the American workers will be called upon to play a world historic role. Every major struggle on their part, every victory they score over the monopolists will electrify the entire world and galvanize the masses in other countries into action.
The central task of the American workers is to create a new leadership capable of guiding them in the coming struggles. The blind alley in which the labor movement finds itself today and the grave dangers confronting it are direct consequences of the incapacity, cowardice and treachery of the union bureaucracy.
Their futile attempts to hall Taft-Hartleyism and the course of their wage negotiations are the latest evidences of the incompetence of the incumbent leadership to protect the most elementary interests of organized labor. On top of this they are again openly selling out the workers to the warmakers.
The increasing popularity of our slogans for the sliding scale of wages, for the organization of a left-wing movement in the unions, for the creation of the Labor Party, plus the slow but steady growth of our fractions and influence in key industrial unions, show how fertile the soil really is for the dissemination of revolutionary Marxism and the growth of our party.
The effects of the current red-baiting drive and the war lever hamper the activity of our members in the unions and may in some cases isolate them for a time. However, the first major upsurge of the labor movement will sweep aside these temporary obstacles. One of the principal tasks of the party in the present period is to help prepare the conditions for this coming upsurge. This can best be done by expanding the political activities of the party.
From this viewpoint the 1948 presidential campaign of the Socialist Workers Party acquires exceptional importance. The first appearance of the Trotskyists on the national political arena is both a major achievement for our small party and a victory for the American working class as a whole.
The presidential campaign enables us to demarcate ourselves not only from the capitalist parties, including the Wallace movement, but also from the Stalinists and Thomas Socialists who falsely speak in the name of communism and socialism. It provides a singular opportunity for putting forward our program of socialist revolution and pointing out to millions of workers that the only road to power is through a Workers and Farmers Government.
Our party has gained valuable experiences in the course of the last war and its aftermath. These experiences have verified the validity and attractive power of the slogans in our Transitional Program. They have demonstrated that the indispensable and still missing condition for the advancement of the labor movement is a trade union and political leadership guided by a correct program and class struggle methods. They have shown how decisive the intervention of even a small number of class-conscious militants can be in influencing the course and outcome of great class battles.
These experiences and lessons will aid our party in withstanding the blows of the enemy and tempering our revolutionary will to struggle. Our ranks enter the new prewar period fortified by their indomitable stand during World War II. They are imbued with the same conviction in the correctness of our program and the same confidence in the capacity of the American workers to rally from all temporary setbacks and move forward to new struggles and new conquests.
As the war program of American capitalism unfolds, the workers, who will increasingly resist militarism, will lespond in greater numbers to our ideas. This will open up new opportunities and perspectives for our party.
The Theses on the American Revolution adopted at the 1946 Convention set forth the basic conceptions of American Trotskyism on the incurable crisis of American capitalism and the historic mission of the workers to replace it with their own power. The telescoping of the. economic crisis, foreseen and predicted at that time, with a war crisis does not alter the revolutionary perspectives outlined in the Theses. Indeed, the possibility of such a variant was taken into account in the following section:
In their mad drive to conquer and enslave the entire world the American monopolists are today preparing war against the Soviet Union. This war program, which may be brought to a head by a crisis or the fear of a crisis at home, will meet with incalculable obstacles and difficulties. A war will not solve the internal difficulties of American imperialism but will rather sharpen and complicate them.
Such a war will meet with fierce resistance not only by the peoples of the USSR, but also by the European and colonial masses who do not want to be the slaves of Wall Street. At home the fiercest resistance will be generated.
Wall Street’s war drive, aggravating the social crisis, may under certain conditions actually precipitate it. In any case, another war will not cancel out the socialist alternative to capitalism but only pose it more shanply. The workers’ struggle for power in the US is not a perspective of a distant and hazy future but the realistic program of our epoch.
We live in an era of sharp and sudden turns. Periods of mass upsurge and retreat by the capitalists as in 1945-46 are followed by a violent offensive of capitalist reaction and setbacks to labor as in 1947-48. War is followed by a short interlude of “peace” only to give way to preparations for a new war.
But throughout these fluctuations the main line of development is toward the sharpening of the class struggle – the widening and deepening of the conflicts between monopoly capital and organized labor. Within these ebbs ajid flows, passivity and even demoralization may seize’the labor movement. Nevertheless, under the conditions of our time these periods of recession cannot be long-lasting.
Every member of the revolutionary party must keep clearly in view this dialectical course of the class struggle. We orient our activity upon the knowledge that even the strongest sector of world capitalism is torn by insecurity and instability and permanently confronts the titanic power lodged in the legions of American labor.
The American imperialists dream of an “American Century” in which they will rule the world. But they reckon without the working class and its party of the socialist revolution to whom the future really belongs.
Last updated on 25.2.2009