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Socialist Appeal, February 1935, Volume 1 No. 1, Page 4-7
Transcribed and Marked Up by Damon Maxwell in 2009 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line.

Editorial Notes


Those American workers (and they are in the vast majority) who have a pathetic faith in President Roosevelt’s intentions to improve their conditions, must be somewhat at a loss to explain his failure to initiate legislation really favorable to both employed and unemployed workers. Socialist workers have not at all been surprised, by that failure. They have taken it for granted that Roosevelt, despite all his shrewd and meaningless verbal concessions to the masses, is essentially interested in keeping the wheels of industry going by satisfying the employers.

Undoubtedly he has stepped on the toes of a great many reactionary industrialists who are not even willing to make the small concessions granted by Roosevelt. He could not possibly fail to throw some crumbs to the millions of workers and middle class, people who enthusiastically cast their votes for him. But these millions of Roosevelt’s supporters are expecting more than crumbs and their disillusionment cannot be so very far off.

On the basis of having and retaining faith in Roosevelt, a worker could expect him to support the thirty hour week bill sponsored by the American Federation of Labor. A bill of that nature was actually passed by the Senate in April, 1933. To head it off, Roosevelt at that time promised great concessions through the N.R.A. The gains made by labor through the N.R.A. have beer quite insignificant and it is because of that that the A..F. of L is demanding a thirty hour week. Big Business has raised a terrific howl against such an idea and Roosevelt clearly has indicated that he sides with Big Business on that issue. He would pay far more attention to such a bill if the leadership of the A..F. of L. would mobilize the working class for a real struggle, both on the economic and political field, in behalf of the thirty hour week; but that is hardly conceivable as far as the present A.F. of L.. leadership is concerned.

Another measure which those workers who voted for Roosevelt have a right to expect is an adequate unemployment insurance bill. The one proposed by the administration is so woefully inadequate that it can hardly satisfy anyone except the bankers and industrialists. After all his actions and hypocritical speeches about social security a measure was introduced which at the very most – in about three years or so – will give an unemployed worker fifteen dollars a week for sixteen weeks, beginning with the fifth week of unemployment. Hardly anything to be joyous over.

Meanwhile, emergency public projects are to take the place of direct relief. But our great president was careful to assure the employers that wages on such projects would be lower than the prevailing rate, so as not to take away the incentive on the part of the workers to look for private employment. In order to do that, it will be necessary of course to pay wages considerably lower than the prevailing rate, which means in most parts of the country a miserably low standard of living.

It was not at all necessary for our president to assure everyone that he believes in the profit motive. That is painfully obvious. No wonder that the employing class is beginning to look upon Roosevelt as a veritable savior. The employers clearly recognize that Roosevelt has turned to the right and those of us who have known all along that the president’s lofty phrases were only phrases, have a real chance to convince the American workers on the basis of Roosevelt’s actions that there is nothing they can hope for from the New Deal.


German fascism has registered another victory. The population of the Saar by an overwhelming majority decided to cast its lot with Germany – Hitler or no Hitler. The proletarian revolution has thereby received a blow. It would be folly to minimized it.

The workers of the Saar will experience the “benefits” of the domination of “der Fuehrer”. Destruction of their organizations, a lower standard of living, concentration camps for those who in some way show their dissatisfaction will be Hitler’s gift to them.

What explains the overwhelming vote in favor of Germany? First of all, the spirit of German nationalism pervading all sections of the population. Too many ties bound the people of the Saar with Germany and even the prospect of being lorded over by Hitler and his lieutenants could not sever those ties. But it must be recognized that a great many – if not a majority – voted not only for union with Germany, but also for union with Hitler. The middle class and part of the working class have not as yet been disillusioned by the rule of the nazis. No one can deny that the fascist terror and the tremendous advantages possessed by the nazis in the way of funds and organization influenced the vote; biased but it would be absurd to claim that the terror and advantages are solely responsible for the huge majority rolled up against the proponents of the status quo. The truth is bitter, but it must be accepted,. As yet the spell of Hitlerism has not been broken.

Folly indeed would it be to draw the conclusion from the above that Hitler’s position is impregnable and that he cannot be dislodged. The contradictions which he faces cannot be solved by fascism. By means of the army, police and concentration camps he can cling to power for a considerable length of time but once he loses his mass base completely his position becomes extremely precarious.

It is useless to attempt to predict exactly when Hitler’s downfall will occur. One thing is certain: it cannot occur without struggle on the part of the working class and a class that has been demoralized by a defeat without a struggle requires time to regain the necessary confidence and morale to wage a victorious battle.

(But the Soviet Union is not Germany)

If there is any one thing that can be said to indicate that a socialist has revolutionary judgment and discrimination it is his attitude toward the Soviet Union. To some it appears as though to criticize the Stalinist regime is equivalent to being against the Soviet Union. Others take the attitude that to uphold the Soviet Union is to condone all the crimes of the Stalinist bureaucracy.

A revolutionary socialist in a trade union has a duty to uphold the union against the employers, no matter who the leaders of the union happen to be. It is also his duty to struggle against a conservative leadership of the trade union, because the policies of such a leadership weaken the union in the struggle against the employers. The trade union belongs to the workers and not to the leaders and criticism of the leaders does not at all mean struggle against the union itself.

Our attitude toward the Soviet Union and toward the Stalin bureaucracy should be similar. As against the capitalist class, to support the Stalin regime to the last. In so far as the policies of the bureaucracy weaken the Soviet Union and consequently movement in other countries, we must criticize it openly and severely.

The execution of over a hundred people, without an open trial, as a result of the assassination of one of Stalin’s leading lieutenants, has shocked the revolutionary conscience of thousands of socialists. Coming as it did so soon after Hitler’s purging of his storm troops, it has even provoked some socialist, to declare that the Soviet Union is as bad as Germany.

Under no circumstances can we compare the Soviet Union to Germany, no matter how similar the methods used by Stalin and Hitler. Even though Stalin might put real working-class revolutionists in jail or even execute them, the Soviet Union is a worker’s state and as such the distinction between it and Germany, a capitalist state, must be brought out at all times.

Two months after the event the real motive for the assassination is not yet clear. Immediately after Kirov was killed, the Stalinists let the whole world know that it was the plot of white guards. About a hundred people were executed and the inference was created that they were all participants in a white guard conspiracy. The stories seemed a little too grotesque to be accepted without question. All of the hundred executed were supposed to have been caught crossing the border illegally with arms in their possession. Later on, it was revealed that some of those executed had actually beer in prison at the time of the assassination. Fascists in Berlin, Belgrade, Latvia and even New England were given out by the Daily Worker as originators of the plot.

Then came the information that the assassin was a member of the Communist Party and connected with the former Zinoviev opposition. Comrade Trotsky was of course immediately dragged in as the arch conspirator. To informed and intelligent people the whole thing seemed a monstrous hoax. That Stalin could sink so low as to accuse Zinoviev, Kamenev and Trotsky of being responsible for a terroristic act could hardly be conceived.

And the most incredible part of the whole story is that Zinoviev and Kamenev at their trial “confessed”. Of course their “confession” was simply to the effect that they felt themselves morally responsible because they had formed a secret opposition, thus presumably creating bitterness in the heart of the one who committed the crime. For this Zinoviev was sentenced to ten years and Kamenev to five years in prison.

In this respect the Workers Age (Lovestoneite paper) takes a somewhat similar attitude to Trotsky. In an editorial the profound suggestion is made that since Trotsky believes in a new party in the Soviet Union and since this will lead to a “civil war”, some follower of Trotsky took the bull by the horn and started a little “civil war” of his own. Let us suppose that the Lovestoneites believe in the violent overthrow of the capitalist state. Should we then conclude that some innocent Lovestoneite might come to the conclusion that he might as well begin with terror?

Kirov’s assassination appears to be the act of someone who became embittered and enraged for some personal reason, or because he saw an insolent bureaucracy lording it over the working class. Democracy and freedom of discussion having been suppressed, and no normal method of a change in the regime being possible, it can be expected that a high-strung and unbalanced individual might resort to an act of individual terror. It is a hopeless method of struggle and no sane revolutionist would ever advocate or condone it.

Stalin took advantage of the act of an unbalanced individual and executed and exiled those who were dissatisfied with his policies. Under the circumstances this seems the most plausible hypothesis.

Meanwhile, not only is the Soviet Union weakened by such a monstrous act, but the revolutionary movement everywhere. The prosecutors in the United States are certain to remark to juries trying communists, that “in this country we at least give some kind of a trial, while in Russia there is no trial at all for those who oppose the regime.” And counsel for defense is compelled to answer weakly: “The United States is a capitalist country while the Soviet Union is a worker’s country.”

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