Socialist Appeal Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive


Socialist Appeal, June-July 1935, Volume 1 No. 4, Page 6-11
Transcribed and Marked Up by Damon Maxwell in 2009 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line.

The New York Old Guard Answers The National Executive Committee

By Max Delson

At the Buffalo meeting of the National Executive Committee the left wing of the New York party presented a bill of grievances against the Now York State organization and against Local New York. The charges were made and evidence was submitted to prove these charges to the effect that the State and Local organizations violated the national constitution^ made moves towards secession from the national party and suppressed democratic procedure in Local New York.

The New York State organization refused to rebut the proof submitted.

In spite of the defiant attitude of the New York State Organization, the N.E.C adopted a compromise resolution embodying nine points. These nine points were ably analyzed in the May issue of the Socialist Appeal. The N.E.C. required substantial compliance within a six week period, not merely a verbal reply. During the six weeks period, the N.Y. State committee did nothing to carry out, the directions of the N.E.C. At the end of the six week period the State Committee submitted a written reply to the N.E.C.

Does this answer indicate a change of heart on the part of the State Committee? Is there any recognition in this reply that the Socialist Party in New York State and its most important local have violated basic Socialist ethics? Clearly not. It is written in the spirit of one who has been seriously aggrieved and is still defiant. In its reply the NY State Committee first administers a spanking to the N.E.C. It attempts to give the N.E.C. a lesson in constitutional law. It accuses the N.E.C. of having perpetrated the following crimes:

1. Creating distrust and disrespect in the party.
2. Violating the National and State Constitution.
3. Characterizing the State Committee as a group.
4. Encouraging guerilla warfare in the party and building of a dual organization.
5. Unfair treatment to New York State.
6. Discourtesy to N. Y. State.
7. Encouraging disunity in the party.

After having outlined its seven points against the N.E.C. the state committee then proceeds to answer the nine points.

The State committee promises to comply with point “1” calling for “the adherence to resolutions of the N.E.C. providing for the ineligibility of advocates of communism and violence in the party.”

The N.E.C. has failed to define communism. The State committee has its own views on what communism means. It has characterized the Declaration of Principles as a communist document. Those who support the Declaration of Principles are therefore communists. It follows that members of the S,P, who favor the Declaration are subject to expulsion, Those who seek to enter the party because they believe in the Declaration of Principles are ineligible. Is there any reason why the State Committee should not hasten to assure the N.E.C. that point one will be rigorously adhered to by the N.Y. State organization?

The grievance committee and membership committee will be kept working overtime, while this heresy-hunting proceeds at an accelerated rate.

The State committee sustained the Buffalo Revolutionary Policy Committee expulsions after the N.E.C. ruled that it was opposed to retroactive disciplinary measures merely for activities connected with the R.P.C.

Anything to rid the party of members who are in disagreement with the Old Guard!

On point “2”, retraction of its repudiation of the Declaration of Principles, the state committee generously concedes that the Declaration of Principles was legally adopted but insists on its right to point out that it constitutes a repudiation of Socialist principles.

On point “3” that the local, State and National constitutions be rigidly enforced”, here the State committee registers righteous and outraged indignation. The State Committee definitely denies that it is violating the party constitution. At the some time it demands that the NEC comply with the party constitution. Not a word about its violations of the National constitution in respect to the position the State committee took on the Detroit Declaration or on its refusal to adroit members of the YPSL; no attempt to justify its flagrant disregard of the State Constitution with respect to a referendum which it initiated to change the state constitution; no explanation of the amendments which were submitted, which virtually takes control of the party out of the hands of the membership of the party and places it in the control of the enrolled socialist voters; no explanation of why local New York was not disciplined for failing to call a member ship meeting duly requested in accordance with the by-laws of local New York! All these flagrant violations the State committee conveniently covers with its righteous indignation!

On point “4” the State committee makes a tremendous concession by offering to negotiate with the N.E.C. It clearly does not comply with this point which expressly requires the State committee to rescind the resolution which forbids locals from accepting to membership members of the YPSL who are qualified within the National constitution and the resolution of the N.E.C. The State committee in a legalistic argument seeks to pervert the clear direction of the constitution relating to the admission of members of the YPSL into the party. And meanwhile the State committee pretends to register indignation at the suggestion that it has willfully and deliberately violated tile party constitution.

In reply to point “5” the State committee contends “the state of New York has always insisted that proper party ethics be maintained in discussion of party members, or on the criticism of party officials, its committees” etc. The answer continues, “We hope that in the future the N.E.C. will not permit statements attacking the integrity of the party to be made part of your official record.” It concludes this point by stating that point “5” is too vague to be adopted. The State committee has completely ignored or forgotten the attacks made by its State Chairman in the capitalist press on the party and leading members of the party. The New York Times and other capitalist papers are replete with interviews and releases by Louis Waldman and other adherents of the Old Guard. The committee also makes no mention of James Oneal’s scurrilous pamphlet “Pages from Party History” or of Oneal’s bitter and unfounded slander about party comrades in Indiana. It should be noted that one of the main reasons why the capitalist press is resorted to is because it is part of the bitter campaign to mobilize public sentiment against the party. The State committee goes merrily on its way, continuing to violate not only its own decisions, but the decisions of the NEC whenever it suits its requirements.

The State committee slides over point “6” which requires that the Local and State committee of New York shall promptly dispose of all questions of membership and organization, etc., in dispute, in a democratic and constitutional manner. In its reply it does not mention the fact that a bill of particulars was submitted to New York State Executive Committee and the N Y State committee covering the whole question of Local New York. The N.Y. State committee does not function in a vacuum. Most of the loading members of this committee have actually participated in the acts of which we complain. The State committee knows that this was a request of the NEC that the illegal and undemocratic acts perpetrated in Local N Y be rectified.

As to point “7”: One of the most outrageous acts ever committed in the socialist movement was the forcible ejection without notice of the YPSL in Local NY from its headquarters in the Rand School. The YPSL refused to be tools in the hands of the Old Guard, and insisted, upon acting as comrades loyal to the Socialist party of the USA. Local NY in its blind resentment drove them out of their headquarters. Even today local NY is seeking to starve the YPSL into submission by depriving them of funds. A dual organization, called the Young Socialist Alliance, has been set up by local N Y and is receiving funds which rightfully belong to the YPSL. Here again in answering this point the hypocrisy of the State committee answer is obvious, Everybody knows that the YPSL organization in New York has been the mainstay of the party organization. It was in the forefront of every struggle and clearly was the most disciplined section of the Socialist movement, yet for purely factional purposes, the YPSL was thrown out. The State committee in its reply is condoning the outrageous action of local New York.

As to point “8”: The N.E.C directed the New Leader to restore its former constitution and cease to be a factional organ. It is commonplace knowledge that the New Leader is a creature of the State committee and of Local NY and it is of course the official organ of N Y State. In reply to this point the state committee denies that it has jurisdiction over the New Leader Association. This is of course absolutely false even legalistically, since the committee could withdraw the official standing of the paper if it refused to abide by the committee’s decisions. The real reason for the committee’s attitude is made clear by its open approval of the actions of the New Leader Association and the antiparty position taken by the New Leader on matters now troubling the party. It has the effrontery to deny that the New Leader is a factional organ. It insists that the policies of the Leader are those of the Socialist party, accepting social democracy as its foundation. Here again, by implication, it attacks the Declaration of Principles.

Point “9”, re questing that both local NY and the State committee shall report such progress as has been made in accomplishing the purposes thereof, etc., is answered as follows: The State committee indicates that it has complied by serving its reply within the six week period, but denies that the NEC has any authority to request local NY to reply to the NEC committee and insists that all communications be made through the State secretary. The State committee goes on to state that the left wing in New York was responsible for the failure of the “harmony committee” which was elected by the executive committee of Local NY. I was a member of this so-called “harmony” committee whose function was to work out a plan for reorganization and action for local N Y. It was clearly understood that theoretical questions were not to be considered by this committee. However the majority of this harmony committee, consisting of old guard members, insisted on raising theoretical questions. Practically all of the time of this committee, contrary to the expressed desire of Jack Altman and myself, was consumed in the discussion of theoretical questions. The left wing members of this committee did not seek to impose any of their views on this committee or on local N Y. This committee failed because the old guard deliberately injected issues not within its purview, upon which they know agreement was impossible in order to prevent the likelihood of harmony.

Not only is the reply of the State committee inadequate but in addition thereto it does not give to slightest inkling that in the future it will act differently than it has in the past. Once again the whole controversy is thrown into the lap of the NEC. The issues herein involved transcend state lines, in spite of Louis Waldman’s desire to resurrect the pre-civil war shibboleth of the theory of states’ rights. If the SP is to survive it must be considered as an entity and not as 48 separate parties.

Are the issues involved in this controversy local in character? Certainly not! While the New York State committee urges the theory of states’ rights, it is busily at work making alliances with other local and state organizations. By those very actions they have taken this controversy outside of New York State.

What is involved here is not merely a factional struggle between two opposing groups in New York. The problem is more fundamental.

At the Detroit convention the Old Guard lost the ideological and organizational control of the party. I am convinced that they are more concerned with the loss of the organization than their theoretical leadership. Before Detroit this group dominated the party; since Detroit its prestige, influence and power have waned. The leaders of the Old Guard have important economic stakes, directly or indirectly, in the socialist movement. Most of them are on the payroll of party institutions or have positions in affiliated fraternal organizations and the trade union movement. After Detroit they are left with only one stronghold, New York. Loss of the New York state organization and of local NY would have been the crushing blow to them. Only with this in mind can we understand the brazenly dictatorial and antisocialist methods and tactics which they have employed in order to maintain power in New York Charters of left wing branches have been revoked, members of the YPSL have not been admitted into the party, factional branches have been set up, and many applicants have been denied admission into the SP – all in the name of fighting “communism” – but all with the real aim of retaining power.

The theoretical problems raised by the Old. Guard in relation to the Declaration of Principles and the cry of communism, are false issues injected into this controversy for the prime purpose of obscuring the real purpose of the Old Guard to recapture organizational control of the S P and to maintain their present strangle hold on party institutions.

Julius Gerber is one of the Old Guard leaders. He is considered one of their most important strategists. Some time ago, he characterized the struggle now going on in the S.P. as war and stated that any tactics are fair in war. They are using just such tactics.

Is there any possibility of reconciling the differences that now exist in the party? Is it possible to isolate some extremists such as Louis Waldman from the rest of the leadership of the Old Guard? The Old Guard is itself answering these questions in the negative. Louis Waldman is their accepted leader. Not a single one of his actions or words has ever been repudiated by the Old Guard, and all his other utterances are featured in the New Leader.

James Oneal in a recent issue of the Leader definitely stated that a split in the party is inevitable and that if it does not take place now, it will occur at the 1956 convention.

A split in 1936 will be disastrous. The Old Guard are preparing for just such an eventuality. Either they will regain control of the organization or they will smasher split the party. If they regain control of the organization they will proceed to wholesale expulsion of those who are opposed to their policies. A continuation of the present policy of Inaction on the part of the NEC between now and the next convention will spell disaster and disintegration of the S.P. A split can be averted but only if the NEC exercises its authority. The acts of commission of the Old Guard; its flagrant disregard of party relations and party principles and its resort to unsocialist conduct must be remedied by the NEC. This can be accomplished in only one way – the revocation of the New York State charter.

Although some members may leave, they will be in a very small minority and will afford us an opportunity of building a real socialist party in this country. It will also clear the party of deadening influence of people who refuse to do socialist work, but at the same time prevent others from building a party. There are tremendous opportunities before us. We must utilize them in the fight for socialism. The NEC is charged with a grave responsibility. If the NEC fails to act now, the Old Guard may destroy itself but in so doing they will also destroy the Socialist party.

 
Top of page


Socialist Appeal Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 05 March 2009