From The New International, Vol.5 No.3, March 1939, pp.67-69.
Where Was the Communist Party in the Demonstration Against the Nazi Rally at Madison Square Garden? – The New Deal’s April Fool’s Joke Upon a Million Unemployed Workers – The Roosevelt-Hopkins Policy of “Appeasement” Towards Big Business in America – The Curtain Falls on the Last Act in Spain
THE NIGHT of February 20 the Nazis, supported by other fascist organizations, carried out their greatest concentration so far in the history of New York City. They filled Madison Square Garden, New York’s largest meeting hall; and for two and a half hours were roused into periodic frenzies by a continuous stream of anti-Semitic, anti-labor filth. The largest police force ever assembled in this country protected the meeting with a solid cordon shutting off the area surrounding the Garden for several blocks in every direction. Fifty to a hundred thousand anti-fascist workers, demanding their right to picket the meeting, and to show publicly their abhorrence of and resistance to the advance of fascism in this country, were assaulted, clubbed, ridden down and finally beaten back by the troopers of “labor’s mayor”, Fiorello LaGuardia.
One organization, and only one, had called for the anti-Nazi demonstration: the Socialist Workers Party. Every other organization, every other working-class political party and group, every one of the trade-union official bodies, every alleged anti-fascist association, had been completely, utterly silent. In spite of that silence, of course, the members of those organizations and unions were present by the thousands that night, acting with complete solidarity, often in the forefront of the demonstration.
Most conspicuous of all for its silence, most surprising in its silence, to the general public and to its own members, was the Communist Party. Not a single word about the demonstration found its way into the Stalinist press. On the day of the meeting, the only article published on it by the Daily Worker was a series of quotations from the speech in which Acting-Mayor Newbold Morris called on New York citizens to stay as far as possible distant from the Garden, and to have nothing whatever to do with the demonstration.
There are some who wonder whether this silence of the Communist Party was an “accident” or a mere isolated “tactical manoeuvre” adopted in the light of “concrete, special circumstances”. It is altogether essential for every worker, and especially every Communist Party member, to understand that there was nothing in the least accidental or special in this action (or, rather, lack of action) of the Communist Party; that, on the contrary, it followed as the direct consequence of their entire present set of policies.
This conclusion is, indeed, apparent enough from the mere observation that the Stalinist behavior in New York is identical with what they have been doing (again, rather, failing to do) throughout the country during recent months. Nowhere, no matter what the provocation, do they lead or call for action against the fascists. In Los Angeles, on February 22nd, the New York situation of the 20th was reproduced. As in New York, the Socialist Workers Party alone called for a counter-demonstration to a scheduled Bund meeting, and carried it through; from the Communist Party and press came no word of any kind. A week or two before that, in San Francisco, a similar incident occurred, with the same results.
How could it be otherwise? The entire Stalinist policy is oriented on support of Roosevelt’s coming war. To this everything else is adjusted and subordinated. “We view all our problems,” reports Browder, “in the light of the national interests of the United States.” As the lackey of American imperialism, the Communist Party must accept the premises of that imperialism. American imperialism wishes to reduce Latin America to a subject domain of exploitation? Stalinism must be in the vanguard of the imperialist thrust in Latin America. For American imperialism, the “fight against fascism” means no more and no less than imperialist war against Germany with meanwhile a free rein for reaction, including the beginnings of fascist reaction, at home. Then the same conclusion for Stalinism.
Stalinism must prove itself in action a “worthy ally” of Roosevelt imperialism. But the Roosevelt government, like every bourgeois government, believes in “free speech” for fascists; believes in tenderly protecting every right of the fascists; and believes in smashing the workers when they attempt to interfere with the fascists’ freedom to prepare unopposed their counterrevolution. So, therefore, the Stalinists. Their “resistance” to the fascists at home can take only legalistic forms. They can only beg and plead with the governmental authorities to cancel permits for fascist meetings, or “dissolve the fascist gangs”. They will not, cannot act, against the fascists. If, under mounting pressure from their ranks, they should on some occasion undertake an action, it would be only a momentary exception for the sake of quieting protests. They are committed by their policy, inescapably committed, to stand shamefully aside, to fold hands as did the German social democrats, while the fascists march ahead, grow strong and bold, make ready to carry their aggression direct into the hearts of the labor organizations.
How could they have supported the anti-Nazi demonstration in the streets of New York? Did not LaGuardia give the Nazi meeting his blessing? And is not LaGuardia their mayor? Were not LaGuardia’s police protecting the Nazi meeting? How could the Communist Party object to the action of LaGuardia’s police? Are they not their police?
The members of the Communist Party, most of them, want to fight the fascists. We know that; they have proved it a hundred times. But they have got to be made to understand that their party will not permit them to fight the fascists. We must make clear, irresistibly clear to them that they can fight the fascists, the fascists at home, the fascists who are the main and crucial enemy, the fascists who today plan for the tomorrow of concentration camps, only by breaking wholly and forever with their party and its criminal, infamous policy.
WHAT WITH THE ENDING of the Spanish civil war, the Navy games, the Hines conviction, business appeasement, Bund meetings and counter-meetings, and daily exposures of graft in high places, a little item of some importance to thirty or forty million people has somehow dropped out of public sight. Could it even be that there is a certain deliberation in this studied forgetfulness?
You will remember, a month or so back, a controversy over relief funds. That particular controversy came to an end with passage by Congress and approval by the President of a $750,000,000 WPA deficiency appropriation. Do you remember, also, the analysis made of that appropriation by Colonel Harrington, the WPA administrator?
Colonel Harrington explained that with that sum available, he would be compelled to cut WPA rolls substantially more than 1,000,000 before the end of the fiscal year on June 30th. He backed up his explanation with a careful statistical summary. Since Colonel Harrington gave his testimony, nothing has occurred to alter the laws of arithmetic. His conclusions follow just as certainly today as they did a month ago.
On April 1st – one of those April Fool’s jokes of the New Deal – the mass cuts of the WPA rolls begin. That is the schedule, and don’t kid yourself into dreaming that the engineer doesn’t intend to run on schedule. The cuts begin on April 1st, and, up to the present, no steps have been taken to stop them.
The plan of the administration and Congress is clear. They hope to catch the unemployed off guard. They are going to go ahead rapidly with the cuts before any resistance is organized. After the first weeks, they anticipate a rising wave of protests. They will have a chance to see and test how strong the mass opposition is. When it nears a point where militant direct action on a broad scale is threatened, Roosevelt will step in with a “demand” to Congress for a small additional appropriation. This appropriation will be insufficient for re-hiring any of the already dismissed workers and in fact will envisage still further, but slower, cuts from the rolls. But Roosevelt will figure that, through one of his usual sham fights with Congress, he will line up the labor bureaucrats and the Stalinists, and will be able to shunt aside the mass opposition. His ironic tactic is thus designed to utilize the labor bureaucrats and Stalinists in putting across a drastic lowering of the WPA rolls, and to emerge at the end as the champion of the unemployed.
The prospect is grim enough; and the unemployed will have to take their own business into their own hands if they are to alter it. To wait for preparations until the cuts begin would be disastrous. Everything must be made ready now to fight back every inch of the way, and to show the administration that the unemployed will not tolerate a single move against them. The reply to the administration drive to cut the rolls must be the demand to extend the WPA to include every unemployed worker at trade union wages.
WHEN IT WAS FIRST rumored that Harry Hopkins was soon to replace Daniel Roper as Secretary of Commerce in Roosevelt’s Cabinet, the press reports anticipated a first class fight against the nomination on the floor of the Senate, with quite possibly a refusal to endorse. Hopkins had for years been painted up as the bad boy of the New Deal. General Hugh Johnson always refers to Hopkins in his column as a sinister communistic-minded radical. Hopkins was the big spender, pouring out the WPA funds. He was the rabble-rousing champion of the under-privileged. He it was, according to Arthur Krock, who stated the famous principle of New Deal politics: “We will spend and spend and elect and elect.” He, with Tommy Corcoran, was the man behind the Purge. He was the one accused of the manipulation of WPA funds in the close State elections.
But, when the day came for Senatorial debate on the nomination, the roaring had turned to a whisper. A few scattered cracks from the die-hards, and Hopkins was overwhelmingly approved. What had gone on behind the scenes?
The answer is known. Congress and business had been tipped off by the administration to the fact that Hopkins was being put into the official Cabinet in order to take over leadership in the new program of “business appeasement,” the necessary complement of the war preparations, the two together making up the content of the “fourth New Deal”. The word passed around, and full reports were carried in the private Washington news letters. Raging editorials against Hopkins were revised, and the bad boy was pressed to Wall Street’s bosom.
Since taking office, Hopkins has held daily discussions with corporation and bank executives in his huge, air-conditioned office within the grandiose new building of the Department of Commerce. The discussions have been uniformly friendly. Their summarized result was given in Hopkins’ Des Moines speech, delivered on February 24th.
Let there be no mistake about “business appeasement”. This is no scarecrow “Republican-Tory plot.” It is the deliberate, determined policy of the government as a whole, transcending inter-party squabbles, and will be adhered to firmly. Its first fruits are already falling fast.
As recently as his January 4th message to Congress, Roosevelt announced that $400,000,000 to $500,000,000 new taxes would probably be necessary. Business objected. Six weeks later, in Florida, the President obligingly reversed his opinion and said that there would be no new taxes. Secretary Morgenthao followed up and went farther, promising to revise existing taxes which were felt by the business community to be deterrents to business. Hopkins, at Des Moines, put it this way:
“While I feel there should be no general rise in Federal taxes this year, I believe any Federal taxes which tend to freeze the necessary flow of capital should be amended.”
Early in February, the TVA announced that it had reached a settlement with the notorious Commonwealth & Southern Corporation. TVA is to pay approximately $80,000,000 for Commonwealth & Southern’s Tennessee utilities properties. Some years ago TVA engineers estimated that these properties we’re worth at the most $55,000,000. Commonwealth & Southern demanded $83,000,000. Commonwealth & Southern has been appeased to the tune of $25,000,000. The $80,000,000 figure means that TVA is paying not merely an outrageous price for the physical plant of the Tennessee utilities but also for all of the watered stock which the utilities magnates have pumped in for a generation and even for such capitalist intangibles as “good will” and “value as a going concern”. Not unexpectedly, on die day following the announcement of the deal, utility stocks on the New York Exchange bounded joyously forward.
A year ago, the projected monopoly enquiry was publicized as a new edition of the famous “trust-busting” investigation of pre-War years. From the day on which its public hearings started, its Chairman, Senator O’Mahoney of Wyoming, has kept repeating that his object is in no way to hinder or expose business, but to aid business in becoming more efficient and making more profits.
Hopkins went to elaborate lengths to vow allegiance to profits. “Business men,” he declared, “have to make money to hire workers.” “We have all dedicated ourselves to the maintenance – the successful maintenance – of our American system of free enterprise.” W.A. Harriman, Chairman of the board of the Union Pacific Railroad, understood perfectly what Hopkins meant by the last phrase. Commenting next day upon the Des Moines speech, Harriman said that Hopkins “indicated his understanding of the necessity of the profit system. The address should be encouraging to everyone responsible for the conduct of business.”
Becoming even plainer, Hopkins observed: “With the emphasis shifted from reform to recovery, this administration is now determined to promote that recovery with all the vigor and power at its command.” The United States News, weekly newspaper specializing in Washington politics, echoed a few days later in its head article: “Recovery henceforth is really to be the first order of White House business. Reform interest, definitely, is checked.” “Recovery,” it should be kept in mind, means in the language of these scoundrels, “profits”.
“Business appeasement” is just another way of saying, use all the devices of government to help capital make increased profits. This, looked at from the other side, however, is the same thing as carrying on a drive against the wages and living standards of the masses, since these are what the increased profits have got to come out of. Thus the smashing attack on the unemployed, already well started and due to get really going after April 1st, is an integral part of the program of business appeasement.
The new decisions of the Supreme Court, in their own way, likewise fit in. “Labor on its own side faces responsibilities and obligations,” said Hopkins. “Labor’s contribution to a rising national income must be tolerance and fairness in reaching just agreements with employers.” Three days later, the Supreme Court, through its decisions on the Fansteel, Columbian Enameling and Sands Manufacturing cases, showed what he meant. For labor to be tolerant and fair means to give legal sanction to employers, whatever they may wish to do – refuse to recognize unions, discharge workers without cause, make fink contracts, shoot strikers down in cold blood, flood workers with tear gas (every one of which acts the Fansteel Corporation was guilty of during the strike) – but to take police and court action against labor whenever it attempts to assert any of its rights.
Both sides of business appeasement, in their turn, are only the supplement for the main line of the Fourth New Deal: the preparations for the war. The government, its course set for the war, is harnessing all national forces to the war machine. The early New Deals of half-baked reforms and happy-go-lucky spending have miserably failed. American capitalism renews its intolerable crisis, and the way out is sought in the only remaining quarter – in external imperialist aggression. The war is to be fought for the salvation of the profit system; and through the program of business appeasement the government makes this clear to every laggard business man, so that no anti-Roosevelt sentiment will gum up the war wheels. Meanwhile, labor will be dragooned into line.
War and business appeasement: this is now the New Deal. It is on this that Lewis and Browder and Dubinsky and the New Leader ask us to pin our hopes! The central political task of the next period is to break the hold that this rotting war-and-profits New Deal has upon the American workers, a hold that, unbroken, will suffocate and doom the workers. The workers must break from its bonds into the clear air of independent class political action.
THE LAST SCENE OF the current, infinitely, tragic act of the Spanish Revolution is now being ended. Seldom in history have men displayed so wonderful a heroism as that of the Spanish workers and peasants; perhaps never in history has such heroism been so basely betrayed.
For two and a half years the Stalinists howled about Franco’s Fifth Column, covering thereby their slaughter of the militants and revolutionists of the Spanish working class. True, there was a Fifth Column within the camp of the Loyalists, a gang of traitors that handed Spain bound and gagged into the bloody clutches of Franco. That Fifth Column was composed of the socialist and Stalinist members of the bourgeois government and its counterrevolutionary institutions. It was they and they alone who swung the anti-fascist masses down the road into the pit prepared by British and French imperialism.
They were the agents and cringing lackeys of Paris and London. At the bidding of their scornful masters, they broke the back of the anti-fascist struggle. They drew tight again the halter of capitalism around the Spanish workers and peasants after that halter had been all but cast aside in the great days of the summer of 1936. They shattered the proletarian guards, disarmed the workers, smashed the collectives, brought the bosses back to the factories, re-built a bourgeois army, hounded and butchered every militant who even raised his voice in protest.
When the masses had been completely disoriented, demoralized and poisoned with disastrously delusive hopes, the fascist forces found it comparatively easy to deliver the final stroke. Yet, even they must have been astonished at the total lack of organized resistance to their conquest of Catalonia, just as they must have been inordinately pleased with the virtual capitulation of Central Spain, about whose readiness to fight to the end the Popular Front leaders continued to chatter bombastically to the end.
The main claim made for the People’s Front was that it united virtually everybody in the struggle against fascism – workers, peasants, middle class and “progressive capitalists”, to say nothing of the “democracies” abroad. It did unite the workers and peasants with the bourgeoisie, in much the same way that a bellwether “unites” a herd of sheep with a butcher. No partisan of Popular Frontism can ever escape his share of the responsibility.
Woe to those who do not learn the lessons of the Spanish tragedy!
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Last updated on 7.8.2006