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Socialist Appeal, June-July 1935, Volume 1 No. 4, Page 11-14
Transcribed and Marked Up by Damon Maxwell in 2009 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line.

Convention Of Socialist Party Of Illinois Clarifies Issues

By Rudolph C. Olson.

Neither the number of delegates nor the number of branches represented by the delegates at the convention of the S. P. of the State of Illinois, held in Decatur, would justify any feeling of great exultation as to the strength and activity of the party in this state. The party of Illinois, in the same way as the party all over the country, and the revolutionary movement in general is not making the progress that it should and that we would like to have it make. The delegates present did not fool themselves into thinking that satisfactory progress had been made in the last year but were anxious to lay plans to stimulate the growth and influence of the party in the coming year.

Meeting at a time when several hundred members of the International Ladies Garment Workers were waging a bitter struggle for the recognition of their union against a wealthy and obstinate employer of Decatur who had the full support of the city and state government, the necessity of strengthening our party by making it a party of revolutionary workers participating in and guiding the struggles of the working class was clearly evident to a majority of the delegates. When one delegate whose presence in the Socialist party is one of the mysteries of existence insisted that the party pay special attention to work in the churches, comrade John Fisher, a miner of Gillespie, effectively ridiculed the whole idea and the delegates passed a resolution to concentrate on the trade unions.

That a majority of the delegates had their eyes turned to the left and ware anxious to make of the Socialist party a revolutionary instrument to lead the working masses in victorious struggle against the capitalist system was evident from the fight that was waged on the floor involving the resolution on party press and the resolution dealing with unity and discipline.

The latter resolution mentioned no names but it was clearly understood by everybody that it referred to the situation in New York State where the old Guard feels that it can defy the N.E.C and the whole party. Those who spoke for or against the resolution correctly assumed that it was aimed at the New York Old Guard. The resolution stated that the constitution and Declaration of Principles, having been adopted by a referendum of the party membership after a thorough discussion, are not documents that can be scorned at Will. The resolution went on to say that it was the duty of the National Executive Committee to enforce discipline and deplored the hesitation and indecision of the N.E.C. in its duty to compel obedience to the constitution and Declaration of Principles. It was clear from the temper of the majority of the delegates that they insisted that the N.E.C. take more definite and drastic action to clear up the New York situation. The delegates were very well aware of the fact that the actions of the New York Old Guard were hampering the activities of the party throughout the country and that either discipline would be enforced or the party would be paralyzed.

When the press committee brought in a resolution making the Wisconsin Leader the official organ of Illinois a substitute resolution making both the Leader and the Socialist Call official organs was introduced and passed. Because the now Socialist Call was the only left wing weekly in the country, the majority of the delegates would not permit it to be ignored.

Another resolution which indicated the leftward tendency of the convention and which indirectly hit the reactionary attitude of the New York Old Guard was the one approving the action of the N.E.C. in welcoming unattached radicals and members of small revolutionary groups into the Socialist party. The Illinois party is open to all who sincerely want to build the party and especially welcomes those who because of their independent revolutionary attitude find no place in the Communist party.

One of the most important resolutions that was passed and one which will undoubtedly anger that staunch “Marxist”, Oneal, is the one dealing with inner party democracy. The N.E.C. of the party at its last session in Buffalo passed a resolution dealing with members of the Revolutionary Policy Publishing Association, which intentionally or not was so worded as to subject any member who believed in the necessity of the violent overthrow of the capitalist class to expulsion from the party. On the strength of the wording of that unfortunate resolution the Old Guard of New York felt that they could expel every member of the party who did not believe that socialism could be introduced by worshiping at the shrine of bourgeois democracy. The delegates at the convention, while declaring their opposition to those who would endanger the legal existence of the party by inserting advocacy of violence in an official program or document forcefully insisted upon the right of every party member to propagate his views within the party. The resolution clearly stated:

“In order to keep the membership of the party and the workers in general acquainted with all sides of the controversy and in order to guard the right of every member of the Socialist party to freedom of expression on such a vital problem we declare that there should be no limitation on the right of a party member to discuss in the socialist press and at party meetings the question of the road to power which includes the question of the violent overthrow of the capitalist system.”

The N.E.C. was urged to clarify the resolution passed at its meeting held at Buffalo so that there could be no misinterpretation.

No question was more realistically dealt with than the question of a Labor party. In a short and clear-cut resolution the fundamental propositions were laid down that a Labor party must be based upon organized labor and that it is the duty of the Socialist party to carry on a systematic campaign in favor of the formation of such a party because a Labor party would be a step in the direction of mobilizing the workers for the abolition of capitalism. The resolution was adopted unanimously.

The inevitable united front question was disposed of in short order. A representative of the Communist party was given the floor for ten minutes and naturally made so many misstatements that it became difficult for those who were in favor of considering the Communist party proposals for a united front to insist upon such consideration. The whole matter was tabled but it can be correctly stated that the majority of the delegates voted to table not because they were opposed to the united front with the communists on principle but because they felt that at the present time a united front on vague general issues would do the revolutionary movement no great good. The delegates who read the Daily Worker must have had an astounded look on their faces when they read that the Communist party representative was given a “tremendous ovation” after he completed his speech. Communism and truth are not exactly bedfellows.

As good as were the resolutions that were passed the delegates realized that a revolutionary party cannot be built on resolutions only but that on the basis of those resolutions the party must be stirred into activity so that it will become a vital factor in the labor movement.

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