From New International, Vol. I No. 3, September–October 1934, pp. 87–88.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
UNDER this title, the September number of Neue Front, the Paris organ of the Socialist Workers Party of Germany, prints an article of more than casual significance. It marks the beginning of the end of a whole policy. Unsigned, the article is announced as sent in by a member of the Norwegian Labor Party; the editorial board signifies its intention to “return to the question of our attitude towards the entire national and international policy of the NAP” in a coming issue. With or without comment by the editors, the appearance of the article is already a revealing symptom which can be understood with half a political eye.
After the German debacle of the two old Internationals, the leaders of the Socialist Workers Party, like their co-thinkers of the Dutch Independent Socialist Party, came to a fork in the road. To the Left was the path of the Fourth International in alliance with the Communist Internationalists. To the Right was the path of Fenner Brockway and Martin Tranmael. For a brief period of time, they took some mincing steps to the Left. The Bloc of Four was established at last year’s Paris Conference and the first stone laid at the foundation of the new International in the form of a joint declaration. But one foot was even then pointed to the Right, and without any political explanation for disrupting the Bloc of Four, the other foot was soon withdrawn and a resolute march undertaken to the camp of Tranmael.
The policy of the SWP was explained on the grounds that it was necessary “to stay with the masses” of the NAP and foster their evolution to the Left. The Communist Internationalists warned that the SWP was adopting a course which could only reproduce, on a smaller scale, the sorry experiences of the Stalinists in the Anglo-Russian Committee of 1926. Tranmael needed the revolutionary reputation of the SWP (as did Purcell the Russians’ in his time) to cover himself from attacks by the confused Left wing of his own party, to stunt its growth. Behind the screen of the cordial alliance with the SWP, Tranmael could lay his plans: emasculate the Left wing and pull the whole party back into a reformist swamp. When his position was sufficiently consolidated, he would appear in the open, unscathed because of lack of previous criticism, and fling to the scrap-heap the shield which had served him so well in his hour of need.
These warnings were irritatedly dismissed with a reproachful reference to “Trotskyist sectarianism”. The article below, appearing as it did in the press of the SWP, only facilitates a summary and a judgment of the latter’s policy. Its pathetically belated last words – “A Tragic Evolution. Now the Opposition Must Be Organized” – could, by themselves, be called Sufficient self-condemnation not to require additional comment. It has finally been discovered that Tranmael has been preparing his step “for some time now”, that it was “launched a few months ago”. Here, as so often in the past, the “error of Trotskyism” apparently consisted in having pointed out “for some time now” that which should and could have been foreseen.
An error uncorrected leads to new errors. An error ignored leads to its repetition. The grave errors of the Anglo-Russian Committee policy were either ignored by the SWP or dismissed as a “Russian question”. They would not imbibe the rich lessons, of international significance. Now Tranmael is able to speed away to the Right with “the masses” about whom the SWP expressed such deep concern, while the latter is left standing on the spot, taken by surprise, stupefied and mouth agape. From this experience, too, a valuable political lesson can be learned.
We print below an unabridged translation of the Neue Front article. – Ed.
On August 17–18, the so-called “Northern Workers Conference” took place in Stockholm. It was convened by the Northern Collaboration Committee, composed of the social democratic parties and trade unions in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. According to the Swedish social democratic press, however, the convention occurred at the express wish of the Norwegian trade union center. The Norwegians appeared at the conference with the strongest delegation – consisting of representatives from the Norwegian Labor Party [Norske Arbejder-parti: NAP] and the trade unions – headed by Torp, Tranmael, Nygaardsvold, Madsen and Halvard Olsen.
The result of the Stockholm conference is summarized in a joint resolution, from which we take the following excerpts:
“... It was clear from the reports, in the unanimous opinion of the conference, that the labor parties and the trade union organizations in all the countries concerned, are pursuing a completely parallel line: in so far as the most important internal political questions are concerned, such as the methods for the struggle against unemployment, the measures for assisting agriculture in the crisis, the endeavors to regulate social conditions so as to afford the working masses and their standard of living a greater security – and that the labor organizations are conducting a policy which is uniform in all its principal aspects. It was further made clear that all the parties stand on the same fighting lines for the safeguarding and preservation of democracy, popular sovereignty and popular freedom ...” (Arbejderbladet, August 28, 1934)
It is further emphasized in the resolution that the positive agreement which found expression in the political resolution, indicates that there exists a foundation for afar-reaching collaboration. A joint Northern Committee cannot, however, be formed as yet because the NAP and the Norwegian trade unions do not belong to the same international organizations as the other Scandinavian parties and trade unions. Nevertheless, “conferences for dealing with social, economic and political questions of common interest for the northern countries” are to be held in the future.
Stauning and Per Albin Hansson, the prime ministers and chairmen, respectively of the Danish and Swedish social democracy, very clearly expressed their satisfaction after the Stockholm conference. Stauning in particular gave voice to the joy he felt because the wicked Norwegian children, after fifteen years of disobedient behavior, have nevertheless found their way back to the hearth of their ancestors.
More significant, however, is an interview granted by the chairman of the NAP, Torp, printed by the Oslo Arbejderbladet under the heading: “Oscar Torp Looks Hopefully for a Development of the Collaboration and Believes in a Rapproachment with the Second International.” (Since then, Torp – under pressure of the already discernible resistance of the members, to be sure – has denied having spoken of a “rapproachment with the Second International”.)
Tranmael has very speedily grasped the fact that the line set down at the Stockholm conference is not the line of the members of the party. He is therefore seeking to pass off the significance of the affair as harmless. But the facts are plain enough. By the joint resolution, the heads of the Norwegian party and trade unions voted their complete agreement with the policy of the Danish and Swedish social democrats. That is the real essence of the Stockholm conference and the organizational consequences resulting from it are, in the last analysis, only a matter of form.
It may be thought that what is involved in the inaugurated collaboration is a sort of Scandinavian united front. We revolutionary socialists would be the very ones to greet vigorously such a united front of all the Scandinavian labor organizations, the establishment of a genuine Scandinavian front against Fascism. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The resolution cited above shows plainly that it is a question of an agreement on the political basis of the Danish and Swedish social democrats and not of a united class front.
Were it a question of a united front for definite joint actions, it would also be incomprehensible why the other tendencies in the Scandinavian labor movement – especially the Socialist Party of Sweden – remained excluded. The Stockholm conference is much rather an alliance against the Socialist Party of Sweden [formerly the Communist Party, led by Kilbom] and the other revolutionary factors in the Scandinavian labor movement. This course was, after all, launched a few months ago, when Tranmael took an open position against Strom’s socialist opposition in Göteborg and a position in favor of the Swedish party leadership. At the congress of the Norwegian Youth League in May, the party leadership also bent all its efforts against a collaboration with the Socialist Youth League.
Light is thrown on the fundamental attitude of the party leadership to the united front, however, in an article by Ole Colbjörnsen (the “theoretician” of the party leadership and the author of the Norwegian Three-Year Plan) in Arbejderbladet of August 20. There Colbjornsen baits the revolutionary labor movement in such a shameless manner, as would be a credit to the extremest Right winger in the Second International. The article bears the following characteristic heading: A Sharper Front Against the Siamese Twins, Communism and Fascism.
How can this attitude be made to tally with the long-standing previous agitation for the unification of the Second and Third Internationals? The agitation in favor of it was heretofore the standing answer to all the demands for international activity. Indeed, it is with this slogan that the party also came forward in the Working Community of Independent Left Socialist Parties.
In November, the next congress of the trade unions is to take place. It is the intention not to have the question of affiliation with the International Federation of Trade Unions [Amsterdam International] be decided there, but to propose it first for a vote by the membership.
The NAP, at its convention in 1919, broke with the Second International and affiliated with the Comintern. In 1923, the break with the CI was consummated by a majority decision. The party then participated in the formation of the so-called Paris Bureau. When it once more united with the social democrats in 1927, it withdrew from the Paris Bureau and the Socialist Party withdrew from the Second International.
The guiding line for the international policy of the party, underscored by several conventions, was: “assemble all forces on an international scale on the foundation of the class struggle.” Proceeding from this view, it inaugurated the collaboration with the ILP, the then German and Dutch Left wings, etc., which led to the founding of the International Working Community in Berlin in 1932.
However, for quite some time now the party leadership has been preparing the rapproachment with the international social democracy. A trial balloon was launched at the Youth congress in May. The overwhelming majority, however, rejected the collaboration with the Danish and Swedish social democrats.
Now the party leadership it obviously and consistently travelling the road to Canossa. Regardless of how fast is the pace towards the Labor and Socialist International, regardless as to whether new incidents will slow it down on this road – the party leadership, by its conduct at the Stockholm conference, has challenged the revolutionary section of the membership and showed the necessity of rallying the Left wing forces in the party. The Stockholm agreement signifies the solidarization of the Norwegian party leadership with the Danish and Swedish social democracy, the Right wing in the Second International. It signifies at the same time a rejection of further collaboration with the international revolutionary forces who are working for the formation of a new labor movement.
A substantial part of the NAP membership – probably the largest – and primarily the Youth, are rejecting the course of the Stockholm conference revealed so plainly.
Rjukan Arbejderblad of August 20 gives voice to this attitude in a lengthy article under the heading: A Tragic Evolution. Now the Opposition Must Be Organized.
Last updated on 25 February 2016