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The New International, February 1944

Notes of the Month

The ALP Fight


From The New International, Vol. X No. 2, February 1944, pp. 35–40.<<br /> Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The fight now raging for control of the American Labor Party in the State of New York is of more than passing or local importance. Its outcome will not only decide the fate of the ALP but will significantly affect the development of independent political action by the American working class.

Origins of the ALP

The ALP was formed originally by the reformist labor leadership of New York, not in order to promote independent labor politics, but to short-circuit the movement for it. Many workers were becoming increasingly conscious of the reactionary class character of the two traditional parties. In the State of New York alone, these numbered in the tens and even hundreds of thousands. For all the attraction held for the workers by Roosevelt in the days when he thundered against the money-changers in the temple and proclaimed the cause of the common man and the underprivileged third of the nation, tens of thousands of workers were reluctant to vote for him under the banner of Tammany and its up-state associates. With New York State the main key to the national victory, and with every vote in New York urgently needed, the more-or-less radical labor vote in the state, especially in the city, became a rich prize.

The Socialist Party of the time, traditionally the party of labor, and reinvigorated by its separation from the fossilizing influence of the old right wing, threatened to win from Roosevelt sufficient numbers of the “labor vote” and the “protest vote” to imperil his chances in the state. The right-wing labor leaders, particularly in the needle trades unions, precipitately formed the ALP and helped win the day for Roosevelt. In the process, the Socialist Party, hesitating between an advance to a revolutionary position and a retreat to the reformist quagmire from which it had recently lifted itself, had its substitute for a backbone broken. The paralytic has yet to recover from the blow.

Roosevelt’s New York labor lieutenants executed a most successful maneuver. But they did not count upon the development of forces they involuntarily set in motion but which were not so easily controlled, and of other forces which they could not control at all. They calculated on keeping the ALP as an electoral adjunct of a New-Dealized Democratic Party and – not too boldly or hastily – on advancing thereby their own political fortunes as favorites of The Boss. As for keeping control of the machinery of the ALP, their confident calculations were based upon the exclusion of the trade unions from membership and its limitation to individuals sharing their own political views, and upon the widespread discreditment of their only possible serious rival, the Stalinists. If worst came to worst, they could be disposed of by administrative methods plus the authority of the party’s patron in the White House.

Upset Calculation!

These calculations are being rudely upset.

In the first place, the reactionary Democrats did not reconcile themselves to the New Deal. In New York, as the last gubernatorial campaign showed, they took firm hold of the party machinery and used it to suit their own book, cavalierly ignoring not only the ALP, but also the President, who had employed it as an ineffectual tool against his own party colleagues. Roosevelt of course reconciled himself to the reactionary Democrats, following his national pattern, and supported their candidate for Governor.

The President’s pirouette could not be performed so easily by the ALP leaders. Having maneuvered themselves, or been maneuvered, into open and “intransigent” hostility to the candidate of the reactionaries, Bennett, they found it far more difficult to back their followers into Bennett’s wagon-shafts than Roosevelt would ever find in switching harnesses on his New Deal wheelhorses. With evident reluctance and pessimism, relieved only by a little encouragement from the White House kitchen door, they put into the field their first important independent nominee for office. To their own astonishment – considering Roosevelt’s official endorsement of Bennett, a similar endorsement from the AFL State Federation, a similar endorsement by Hillman, a similar endorsement from the Stalinists, the handicap of obscurity of their own candidate and the additional handicap of a platform which was nothing but a collection of whining noises – the ALP polled the imposing total of 410,000 votes for Alfange.

As the campaign served to heal the rift between the New Deal and anti-New Deal factions of the Democratic Party, so it served to widen the crevice between the Democrats, Roosevelt included, and the ALP. Not surprising: it was at bottom a reflection of the widening rift in the “economic” field between the organized labor movement and the President.

In the second place, the Stalinists have not proved to be such a pushover as the ALP leaders first thought. They restored themselves to some degree of respectibality in the public eye and in the official labor movement following the German attack upon Russia by their switch to perfervid patriotism and allegiance to the Commander-in-Chief. Then they set to work in earnest to capture the machinery of the ALP. Given their superior forces, their totalitarian apparatus, their command of virtually limitless funds, and their “win-the-war” program, to which the Dubinsky-Rose-Counts faction has nothing radically different to counterpose (except perhaps that while the Stalinists are primarily for Russian imperialism, they are for American imperialism!), the Stalinists were able to capture control of the majority of the organizations of the ALP in the only locality where it is well organized, the city of New York.

The approach of the presidential election of 1944 has not improved the prospects of the right wing. Their situation was bad enough yesterday; today it is worse. Now they are faced with a united bloc between Sidney Hillman, who is rightly known as Roosevelt’s political agent in the labor movement, and the Stalinists. The bloc simply proposes to take from the right wing the remnants of its control of the ALP, now confined pretty much to Bronx County and the State Committee. The arguments on both sides are significant.

The Hillman Plan

Hillman has put forward the idea of union affiliation to the ALP and proportional representation in the ruling bodies of the party on the basis of such affiliation. Ostensibly, this means a radical reorganization of the structure of the ALP, basing it, mainly, much like the British Labour Party, upon bloc trade union affiliation and representation in its leadership in accordance with membership figures and dues payments. Granted such a reorganization, Hillman further proposes minority representation for the “left wing” (this is the preposterous misnomer still applied to the reactionary Stalinists) union leaders in the ALP State Committee, which would make possible agreement on a united slate in the coming primaries instead of a repetition of the past contests between the CP and Dubinsky factions.

The Stalinists are enthusiastic supporters of the plan. In the hope of facilitating its acceptance, they have even gone so far as to agree not to press the candidacies of the more notorious Stalinist union leaders, like Quill, Curran and their ilk, for membership on the State Committee. Their readiness to make this compromise is not hard to understand. If unions are permitted to affiliate to the ALP, they expect to flood the party with every union under their control or influence. Whether the delegates from such unions bear the name Quill or Curran or Smith or Jones is infinitely less important than the fact that both Quill and Smith, Curran and Jones follow Stalinist Party instructions and help establish party control (Pardon: Not “party” but “political education association”). In a bloc with Hillman and the unions he controls – the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, the Texile Workers Union and a few others – they count confidently on dominating the ALP machinery and its policies.

Which is precisely why the Dubinsky-Rose-Counts faction is flatly opposed to the “Hillman plan” and is fighting it with that special kind of bitterness that comes from the feeling of impending defeat. The arguments put forward by its spokesman are, except for the understandable assertion that they do not want to yield control of the party to the Stalinists, absurd and even reactionary. Let us note a few of them, although they are all only variations on a single theme.

1) “It [the Hillman plan for trade union control] would deny a voice in party affairs to those numerous middle class liberals who have voted the party ticket and who have worked with devoted enthusiasm for our candidates and our program.” (George S. Counts, New Leader, February 5.)

Genuine trade union bloc affiliation – which we shall distinguish below from the Hillman plan which seems to provide for just that – would do nothing of the kind. It would deny neither voice nor vote to “those numerous middle class liberals,” provided such liberals were regular members of the party, participating freely in the determination of its policy and subject to proper party discipline once policy has been democratically determined. What it would deny these “middle class liberals” (Dr. Counts is, presumably, referring to himself, Dean Alfange, Sidney Hook and the like) is their present special privilege by means of which they, a tiny minority of the people the ALP claims to represent, decide policies for the big majority. If the ALP is to be a labor party in fact and not merely in name, and if democratic representation and procedure are to prevail, then an affiliated trade union with three thousand members should have three thousand times as much “voice in party affairs,” and votes as well, as one person has, even if this one person is as important in. world history as a “middle class liberal.” This is a simple and normal democratic principle, as Dr. Counts can find out from any textbook on the subject. The same textbook will show the doctor that it is anything but democratic for a small group to legislate for a far larger group which has not elected it and which is not consulted by it or allowed to vote on the decisions adopted in its name by the small group.

Rose’s “Political Closed Shop”

2) “We are opposed to a political closed shop.”

With this statement, Alex Rose refers venomously to the idea that affiliation of a trade union to the ALP, decided by a majority of less than one hundred per cent, force the minority to support the “political closed shop” against its will. Mr. Rose is not the coiner of this winged phrase, but a shameless plagiarist. The word “shameless” is used quite scientifically here, because a labor leader must be devoid of any sense of shame to employ against the idea of a Labor Party the very same argument used against it by reaction in this country and in Great Britain.

It was used in Great Britain by the Tories – by the most reactionary Tories – to push the adoption of the bill prohibiting trade unions from making financial contributions to the Labour Party with which they are affiliated on the grounds that such contributions constitute a “political closed shop.” It seems that there are a few Tory workers in the British trade unions, and to permit the latter to give financial aid to the Labour Party would be to deprive these poor devils of their most sacred democratic rights (to say nothing of depriving a few absentee mine-owning Tory cut-throats of these same Tory workers of their still more sacred seats in Parliament).

The law to strangle British working class political action, put over by Mr. Rose’s British predecessors, makes everything fair and square and equal all around. Neither the Federation of British Industries nor the Miners’ Federation of South Wales may contribute funds, as organizations, to any British political party. The lowliest, most poverty-stricken Welsh miner now stands, thank God, on exactly the same legal footing as the Duke of Northumberland. As individuals, and mind you, only as individuals, each can contribute freely from his savings to the party of his choice. And what is most important, democracy is preserved without a fleck. The Duke of Northumberland has helped free the British worker from the outrageous tyranny of the “political closed shop,” Mr. Rose will be happy to note. The only detail that remains to be taken care of is freedom from the political and economic tyranny of the Duke of Northumberland.

In making his desperate and stupid argument, Mr. Rose must have forgotten that at the same moment the notorious Congressman Smith of Virginia had just obliged the Department of Justice to get after Philip Murray, Sidney Hillman and the CIO for alleged violation of the law recently adopted by our own Tory Congress on the grounds of Rose’s argument – “no political closed shop” – namely, the law which forbids both corporations and labor unions from making political contributions, a law identical with the majestic one Anatole France reminded us of: it prohibits both rich and poor from sleeping under a bridge.

Who Is to Be Whose Ally?

3) Let us hold our noses tightly while reading Mr. Rose’s remaining argument: “In these days, more than ever before, labor needs allies, and we must unite with all liberal-thinking people, no matter to what economic group they belong.” For this statesmanlike observation, Mr. Rose should be appointed promptly to the third clerkship in the American Embassy to the newly-created Most Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic of Tadjikistan, whose natives are reputed to be good-naturedly tolerant of muddleheads. Let us see if we can cut a vein of meat or two out of this piece of sowbelly.

“Labor needs allies.” Granted. But does saying this imply that labor is the primary factor in the ALP, and that in its own interests as well as in the interests of all other little people in society, it must seek supporters, allies, even from among the middle class? If this is the case, then labor must first constitute itself politically, in order that it may be in a position to seek and gain allies. To constitute itself politically means to have a party of its own, a party where its voice is decisive, if only for the good democratic reason that it is, and only it can be, the most numerous contingent in such a party. To have a party of its own, one in which its voice is decisive, means, concretely, today, in the United States, a party organized by and based upon the only democratic, representative, mass organizations of labor existing in the land, the unions. Then and only then would labor be in a position to acquire political allies. But they would have to be allies – and not masters! Concretely, this means that any “liberal-thinking people,” by which Rose and Counts mean middle class elements, who might be admitted to individual-membership branches of a labor party, or with whom a labor party might make a political bloc, would cooperate with labor on an equal and democratic basis: not one liberal having one vote and one trade union of three thousand members having one vote, but one vote for the one man and three thousand votes for the three thousand mem It is precisely this democratic principle, which reflects in practice the different social weight of the proletariat and the middle class in modern society, that Rose does not want to see applied.

Or does Rose mean not that labor needs allies from among the middle classes, but rather that the middle class elements he represents need followers from among the working class? Exactly. And that is also exactly why Rose balks at the idea of the trade unions entering and controlling, as is only fitting, the ALP. Rose is obdurate not on an “organizational” question but on a political question. His objection to labor composing and controlling a labor party is motivated by the very notion he claims to be horrified at: class considerations. He does not want labor to pursue labor politics, but middle class politics.

As all experience, in all countries, has shown, where labor does not lead the middle classes, but follows them, it inevitably follows the leadership of the “upper” class, the monopoly capitalists. Labor and the middle classes are not peas in a pod. They are distinct and separate classes. They do not occupy the same position in the economic life of society or in society as a whole. One is a propertyless class; the others are small-propertied classes, or related to them, or dependent upon them. One is exploited by another class; the other either exploits or is “self-employed,” which usually means living off a small share of the exploitation of labor. They have one important thing in common, which creates the basis for an alliance, but not a fusion, between them: they are both the victims, but in different degrees and forms, of the economic and political rule of monopoly capital. The middle class simply cannot lead other classes by itself, except in the sense that if labor follows it, it inescapably ends up a vassal in the camp of big capital.

The middle classes can only follow. If they resist the leadership of labor (or if labor fails to provide that leadership), they end up cut to ribbons by monopoly. The history of German fascism is the most extreme, and therefore the clearest, example of this profoundly important truth; the experience of New Dealism is a less extreme and less clear but nevertheless equally valid example. If, however, they follow labor, and labor puts forward and fights for a radical social program, the middle classes are freed from the oppressive rule of capitalist monopolism and from the terrible uncertainty and convulsions of its present social existence. The fact is that Rose is a true spokesman neither for the interests of the working class nor the interests of the little people of the middle classes. For the primary requisite for such a rôle is to tell both groups the significant truth: the middle classes must ally themselves with the working class, but under working class leadership.

Middle Class Party or Labor Party?

Or, finally, perhaps Rose means that the ALP should not be a class party? He does, for that is what he has said on another occasion. Yet, that is not really what he means, as has already been indicated. He wants the ALP to be a middle class party. When he opposes a “class party,” he means he opposes a working-class party. But in that case, the original sin was committed by Rose and Dubinsky. Why did they call their organization a Labor Party, however American, in the first place? The Republicans and Democrats at least can make Rose’s argument with a better face; they do not call their organizations the American Capitalist Democratic and the American Capitalist Republican parties. Rose calls his the Labor Party. If that name was not intended to give a clear class character to the party and a clear dass appeal, why was it used at all? Why wasn’t it called the All-Class Party? Or the Liberal-Thinkers’ Party? Or the United Former and Ambitious Officeholders’ Party? Or the Scared Rabbits’ Party? Was the name used solely for the purpose of catching a labor vote or two? One of two things, and perhaps both: it was either a fraudulent name to begin with, or Rose’s argument today is fraudulent.

* * *

Is the struggle for control of the ALP of interest and concern to the revolutionary socialist and the militant trade unionist?

The ALP is not our party, certainly not in the sense that the American trade unions, for all their policies and their leadership, are our unions, our class organizations. As it is constituted today, and has been since its formation, it cannot be given political support by a socialist or the working class. Except for its name, it is not a labor party; it is not the political expression of the organized working class. It is far more removed from being that than it is from being a mere “third party.” It is much closer in type to the LaFollette-Wheeler “party” of the 1924 elections than it is to, say, the British Labour Party. Like the LaFollette-Wheeler machine of 1924, it is a middle class party with labor pretensions. The 1924 organization at least had many organized trade unions represented at the convention which nominated the two presidential candidates. The ALP’s connections with the trade unions is confined to keeping them at arm’s length in the capacity of an “advisory committee” composed of union officials without direct power, accompanied by a flat refusal to allow the trade unions to affiliate with the party and to exercise their legitimate rôle within it.

Revolutionary socialist or communist parties, when they could not yet properly speak of themselves as the representatives of the working class, have rightly given political support to big reformist labor parties before, and will probably give such support again in the future. The circumstances under which Lenin and Lenin’s International advised the small Communist Party of England to support the candidates of the British Labour Party, and to summon the whole working class to support them, are fairly well known. Similar circumstances and similar considerations would dictate a similar course in this country. But Lenin favored support of the British Labour Party not because of the reformist program which it has more or less in common with the ALP, but in spite of that program. Not because of the leadership at the head of it, which was pretty nearly as miserable as the leadership of the ALP, but despite it. Not because it was patriotic and social-imperialistic, as the ALP is, but despite that fact. He urged his policy because the British Labour Party was the organized political expression of the organized labor movement, it was the organized working class, the trade unions, acting as a class in the political field, even if with a middle class program. This feature, the ALP does not have in common with the British Labour Party, not even when it put up its “independent” candidate for Governor of New York. Lacking this feature, the revolutionary socialist lacks any ground for supporting it in the elections, any more than he had ground for supporting LaFollette in 1924. The SWP, which supported the ALP in the last elections, would do well to ponder this point.

Why the ALP Fight Concerns Labor

The Democratic and Republican Parties are not our parties, either. Their internal struggles are of no concern to us or to the labor movement as a whole; we do not participate in them; we do not support one side or the other. Once this is said, it becomes evident that we cannot merely say of the ALP that it is not our party, and stop there. The struggle for control in its ranks is of concern to the labor movement. It is posed in the unions. They are called upon to take a position. It is the conservative-minded workers in the unions that take no interest in the matter and want their unions to take no interest in it; similarly, with the politically backward and the politically inert workers. The more politically-advanced and conscious workers think and want to act otherwise. They are right. The fight in the ALP is of direct concern to the labor movement and the working class.

Should the organized workers support one faction or the other? The Socialist Workers Party, with its characteristic helplessness and inability to orient itself in any new political situation that was not analyzed for it before Trotsky died, has dismissed the whole situation with a superficial phrase: Two unprincipled cliques, with no real programmatic differences – they both support Roosevelt and the war – are fighting for bureaucratic power and control of the machine. A plague on both their houses.

If this were the sum and substance of the situation, we would have here one of those rare but not impossible cases of pure political gangsterism – a fight for power in which no political differences are involved. But it would then be necessary to extend this “analysis” and conclusion further. The fight in the ALP is only one version of the first going on throughout the labor movement between the Stalinists, on one side, and the old-line labor officialdom on the other. Muffled or out in the open, it has been seen in the United Auto Workers Union, in the United Radio and Electrical Workers Union, in the Newspaper Guild, in a score of other unions, and right up to the very highest councils of the CIO. The whole labor movement, according to this interpretation, is therefore being torn now by an unprincipled fight between two sets of political gangsters, and we, whom this fight does not concern, must say: A plague on both your houses. The analysis is superficial, the conclusion absurd. That was adequately demonstrated in the fight inside the UAW. It is being shown again, in different form, on a different field, in the fight inside the ALP.

The fight can be judged by a clearer statement of the aims of the contending forces.

Hillman is Roosevelt’s direct political wardheeler in the labor movement. Roosevelt wants neither a “third party” nor an independent labor party, it goes without saying. He wants the Democratic Party to control the Administration, and himself to control the Democratic Party. Without that, even victory in a bid for a fourth term as President would leave him with the unpleasantness and annoyance of a recalcitrant Congress. To win the presidency again, as well as to hold control of the Democratic Party, Roosevelt needs labor. He needs it as a tool, a whip, a bludgeon with which to keep his party in line, and to sweep it into office. The reactionaries in his party are on the rampage. Their self-confidence is restored, and so is their arrogance and imperiousness. No more concessions to labor! they say. To Roosevelt, this means that his labor tool must be a docile tool, one willing to go along with him even if it is told and knows that the era of small concessions that marked the early days of the New Deal is decidedly gone. Time was when Roosevelt would come from a meeting with the labor leaders and tell his own party reactionaries: I must give them something, or God knows what they will do. Now Roosevelt comes from a meeting with his own party reactionaries and tells the labor leaders: I must dig a knife into you, or God knows what they will do. Hillman is still dreaming of the day when he may become Secretary of Labor, as what big shot labor leader has not dreamed in his time – Lewis, Hutchinson, Tobin, Green. He has been assigned the job of getting labor to go to the polls for Roosevelt with Roosevelt’s knife still sticking into its body.

The Aim of the Stalinists

The Stalinists are therefore indicated as Hillman’s first allies. Their fundamental, and long-term, interests are not the same. But that no more prevents them from working together smoothly at the given political juncture than the opposite movement of two gears prevents them from meshing. The “opposite movement” is represented by the fact that one serves Stalinist imperialism and the other American imperialism. They mesh at the point where it is necessary to grind the labor movement of this country into helpless fragments.

The policy of the Stalinists in the labor movement may be summed up as follows: In the interests of the Kremlin, support Roosevelt and the war one hundred per cent – but under our control. The Stalinists are fiercely opposed to any development toward independence by the ALP; they are opposed even to the ALP acting as a consistent “third party”; they are opposed to the ALP or any third party or labor party movement being extended to other states. Especially now, since the open adoption of their new course, they are the most resolute and conscious opponents of independent political action by labor. They are determined to repress the growth of any such tendency, to drive it back into capitalist politics wherever it emerges from it. Where such a tendency has already taken shape, if only to the extent of the ALP, they want to capture it not out of some unprincipled struggle for gang-power, but for the distinctly principled purpose (it is a reactionary principle, to be sure, but a principle nevertheless) of turning the movement back into the field of outright capitalist politics.

The two-party system is the American tradition, said Browder, and he means to keep labor within that tradition. Why? The best defense of Stalin’s imperialist expansion requires the greatest possible support that can be gained for it in the ranks of the ruling parties or the big parties among his Allies. In England the indicated party is the Labour Party. In the United States it is the democratic Party nationally, and in some localities the Republican Party. The Stalinists want to strengthen or build a “pro-Russian” section of the Democratic Party. For that they need voting troops. These are to be constituted out of the organized labor movement. Under the control of the Stalinists they are to throw their support, inside the old parties, in the primaries of the old parties, and in the elections, behind those candidates who measure up best to the simple but essential criterion of the CP. Right now their candidates are Roosevelt and Roosevelt’s choices.

If the CP wants to control the ALP, it is in order to insure itself in advance against any slip-up in New York, against any possible deviation from this course by ALP leaders who are not committed to it blindly and unwaveringly. For the ALP, “this course” means concretely that the party shall confine itself, at the very most, to acting as a tool, a lever, for Roosevelt in the Democratic Party, as when he sought to use it for the purpose of advancing his nominee, Senator Mead, as the Democratic gubernatorial candidate instead of Bennett. When Bennett won, Roosevelt fell in line; the Stalinists fell in line; the ALP leaders did not, and nominated their own candidate. Hillman-Browder control is aimed to guarantee against such presumptuousness – and worse. They want no trifling with anything that even remotely resembles independent labor political action.

The “Right Wing”

Now as to the Dubinsky-Rose-Counts group. We hesitate to call it the right wing, not because it represents any kind of left wing, but because in the concrete circumstances the name may be misleading. It is indeed a right wing, but the extreme right wing of the American labor movement today is constituted by the Stalinists, and whoever ignores this important distinction is doomed to disorientation.

Formally, it has much the same program as the Stalinists on the main political questions of the day: for the war, for Roosevelt, for the New Deal, for amity with our Great Russian Ally. This failure to develop an independent working class program has played right into the hands of the Stalinists, who seem to have the same position on all questions but have the added virtue of being more aggressive about it.

This is, however, only the formal side of the relationship. Actually, there is a profound clash of interests between the two. The Stalinist bureaucracy is content with having the labor movement, and the ALP, operate merely as a political instrument of Roosevelt, provided the instrument is held in its hands, provided it is operated for Roosevelt by the Stalinists. The labor bureaucracy is content with no such rôle for their organizations.

In the first place, their strength, their very existence, derives not from the Russian state and its fortunes, as is the case with Browder, Foster, Minor & Co., but from the trade unions they control and, in New York, from the ALP. In the second place, they cannot reconcile themselves to reducing the ALP to a mere instrument for advancing Roosevelt’s fortunes in the Democratic Party; they therefore seek to play capitalist politics inside a “labor party” of their own. They are wedded to Roosevelt and protest their fealty to him; but they are reluctant to be mere servants of Roosevelt under conditions which would nullify or even destroy the very organizations whose existence made their services useful to Roosevelt. Roosevelt has power behind him when he deals with them; the Stalinists have a power behind them in any of their dealings; the right-wing bureaucrats do not want to come into any bargaining room without a single trump. They want some organized power behind them; they want to keep what they have and even to extend it.

To be sure, they are not very audacious. They whimper more than they fight. They are more fearful of doing anything that might launch a genuinely independent labor political party against the parties of capitalism than they are of having their ersatz labor party taken from them or liquidated altogether. They are even timid and mealymouthed in their attacks on the Stalinists, for fear of offending the tender feelings of the Great Ally of their own imperialist government. Yet, due to the basic difference between their interests and those of the Stalinists, they have even been impelled to make halting, tentative, but unmistakable moves in the direction of extending the ALP to other states, notably Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey, thereby coming into still sharper collision with the Stalinists. It is precious little, in face of the urgent requirements of the time. But it helps to show that they are subject to the pressures of working class interests, whereas the Stalinists are subject only to the interests of the Russian autocracy.

Does it follow from this that labor militants should support the right wing against the Stalinists, particularly when the question of the fight in the ALP rises in the New York unions, as it has arisen? It may well be that under conditions where the only alternatives are support of one of the factions or the other for organizational control of the ALP machine, the militants may find it necessary to give independent and purely organizational support to the right wing in order to prevent the Stalinists from establishing their totalitarian rule over the ALP and speeding its complete dissolution. But that is not the problem now, and certainly not the most important problem. By the only worthwhile criterion – independent labor political action – the right wing deserves no support, and must not be given any.

The Position of the Workers Party

The position of the Workers Party recommends itself to all militants. Those unions that stand for an independent labor party, or that can be committed to such a stand, must become the basis of the ALP and the democratically controlling force in it. This position cuts right across the dispute between the two factions. Hillman’s “plan” seems to be similar to it; in reality, it negates it completely. Hillman proposes that the ALP be taken over by unions which are committed against any independent labor politics, against an independent party. The Stalinists want to take control through their unions which have repeatedly taken a stand against the formation of a labor party or any kind of third party. A more impudent, not to say fantastic, proposal is hard to imagine than that of putting the ALP in the hands of people sworn to fight a labor party! How long before we hear from the Stalinists a proposal that the trade unions be run by people who favor company unionism?

Our position is: the ALP, or any labor party to be formed elsewhere, must be based upon and controlled by the trade unions that stand for a labor party. That is the simple test for admission. Voting rights in the party should be democratically apportioned. Such a procedure would automatically assure the labor party of a healthy growth, and assure it also against domination by the anti-labor party Stalinists.

This clearly-indicated course strikes the right wing with dread. They do not want to embark upon a policy of labor independence because it means a clean break with the capitalist parties and the capitalist politicians, including the politician in the White House who treats them like political plantation coolies. They are afraid to incorporate the mass organizations of the rank and file workers into the ALP and to be directly subject to their decisions and control. They are anything but sure that they would be able to keep these organizations under thumb. “The Communists support the Hillman plan because it would enable them, with Hillman’s support, to capture the party.” Dr. Counts has revealed more than he meant to, namely, his bankruptcy. He is saying, in effect, that while the Stalinists have influence in unions which, together with Hillman’s, would give them control of the ALP, Dubinsky-Counts-Rose do not have enough following in the unions to outweigh the Stalino-Hillman combination. How, in face of this involuntary admission, Counts and his associates can continue to speak in the name of organized labor remains a first-class mystery.

The right wing fears the Stalinists, fears the Hillman proposal. But it fears even more to mobilize the labor unions openly and honestly against them. It is afraid of what it would have to tell them and of what it would have to do in order to mobilize them. A straightforward campaign for a genuinely independent labor party, with a militant program, would win enough support in the New York unions almost overnight to put the Stalino-Hillman bloc to rout. But the right wing is about as capable and willing to conduct such a campaign as middle class liberals have ever been in similar circumstances. Rather than arouse the giant of labor they prefer to rely on as sorry and motley a collection of “liberal thinkers” as ever was seen. The last election fight was a veritable spectacle. The serious and determined Stalinists mobilized a real, fighting, organized mass movement of everyone they could reach. The right wing mobilized only some of the union officials – not the unions – and some free-lance liberals, including warriors like Dorothy Backer, John Chamberlain and Sidney Hook. These Horatios standing almost single-handed at the bridge, warding off the Stalinist hordes, were a sight for the gods, who have seen a lot in their time. The wonder is that the Stalinists carried only most of the New York counties, instead of all of them. It is no wonder at all that a pall of gloom settled over the right wing after the elections; it has not yet lifted.

The Time to Act Is Now

The job of organizing the American working class for independent political action has yet to be done. It has to be done in struggle against the Stalinist reactionaries and liquidators, and against the old conservative labor officialdom. It has to be done by the militants in the labor movement, and there is no time to lose.

The Stalinists are out to crush or liquidate every movement for a labor party in the country. To expect people like Rose and Counts to do the job of forming and building a labor party is to expect a reed to stand up like a pillar. It is noteworthy that what was left of the Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota voted the other day to dissolve and to join the Democratic Party. It is the fate that awaits the ALP – as a result of deliberate policy by the Stalinists, as an objective result of the policy of the right wing. Unless – unless the militants in the labor movement organize their own forces to act now, instead of “waiting till 1945,” to draw up the declaration of political independence of the American working class.

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Last updated on 12 August 2015