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Socialist Appeal, Novemeber–December 1935, Volume 2 No. 2,
Transcribed, Edited and Formatted by Marty Goodman and David Walters in 2012 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line and the Left-Opposition Digitization Project, a joint venture of the ETOL, Holt Labor Library and the Riazinov Library.

From FRAGMENTS of pages reprinted in the 1968 Greenwood Reprints edition. Greenwood in 1968 apologized for this incomplete copy, noting they searched ‘every major collection in the United States’ for an intact copy, without success.

Eight pages were reprinted. Each was missing about 10 to 25% of the page at the bottom or corners or edges. The first page seems to be missing. MOST of these articles, thus, are missing portions of the text.

x’s are used to indicate missing portions of text. There is NOT an exact 1 to 1 correspondence between number of x’s and number of missing letters. But there is a rough and vague (tho not really proportionate) one. Brackets [] are used where there was compelling reason to guess at what a partly wiped out word was. The letters IN the brackets are those guessed at. NOTE that only relatively compelling (from context) guesses resulted in letters being filled in, and in all cases when this was done, it is indicated. Eventually PDF files of all this material will be made available, so others can make their own guesses based on the fragmentary and damaged pages presented by Greenwood Reprints of this issue. —M. Riazanov

Socialists in the Teachers Union

At times it seems possible to keep the factional struggle within the party from interfering with the work of the party members in trade unions and other mass organizations. It would appear that within the party we can assail one another on some questions involving the principles of socialism and work harmoniously in organizations outside of the party. The situation in the Teachers’ union and in several other unions shows conclusively that when a deep gulf in the principle separates one group of socialists from another it is utopian to expect to be able to keep the conflict between the two groups away from the non-party organizations.

A controversy involving fundamental principles must sooner or later be transferred to tactics involving every day activities. The conception of socialism which the right wing has, necessarily involves a close working agreement with the bureaucrats of labor movement. The right wing wants to and dos adapt itself to the conservative wishes of a conservative labor bureaucracy. It ha no desire to organize the working masses for any militant struggles for better conditions regardless of the wishes of the top leadership of the American Federation of Labor. In any struggle of any militant group against the labor bureaucrats the right wing of the party will inevitably be found on the side of the bureaucrats.

Needless to say the left wing of the Socialist party must use different tactics within the trade unions. Upholding the principles of revolutionary socialism, left wingers within the unions cannot and must not be servants of the labor bureaucracy. Their task is to organize the militant and progressive forces of the unions and wage a struggle for militant unionism which must inevitably bring them into conflict with the top leaders. To act in any other manner would be to cease being revolutionary socialists.

James Oneal and those who agree with his theories of socialism contend that the Socialist party must not interfere in the internal affairs of the trade unions. But their theory of no[n]-interference is an utter sham. What they mean is that no socialists should conduct a struggle against the labor bureaucra[cy]. The right wing always interferes but on the side of the conservative leaders.

It is the duty of members of the Socialist party working in the same union to organize themselves and, together with al[l] progressive and militant forces, strive to make of the union [a] progressive, democratic organization. Of course the bureaucra[cy] will howl that the Socialists are interfering in the internal aff[airs] of the union but let them howl. We are not and should no[t be] interested in what they say but in what the militant rank [and] file thinks and in the welfare of the union.

Only revolutionary Socialists will fight for the interests [of] workers and their organizations. Consequently they m[ust be] prepared to have right wing Socialists make an alliance [with the] labor bureaucrats against them. So be it! We mus[t not] for a moment hesitate to struggle in the unions bureau[cracy] xxxx wing members of the Socialist party sympathize wxxxx xxxx of the conservative union buraucracy.

xxxx [work]ers of the Socialist part fighting xxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx in New York wxxxx xxxx xxxing xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx in its opposition to dual union policies. Within the last few months, several incidents have occurred that have lined it up against certain A.F. of L. locals. Not only has it change a policy (that is no crime) but it has done so in order to back up members of the party who have either deliberately split a union, (Teachers Union) or have been accused of racketeering and forced out of the A.F.of L. (Nemser).

We have no desire to indict Nemser in these pages. Whether or not he is guilty of the charges preferred against him is no longer the main issue. What is important is the position adopted by the Old Guard and the New Leader as events unravelled.

Briefly, the history of the affair is as follows: Nemser, who was once before in difficulty because of dual union tactics in the Amalgamated, was counsel for, and manager of, local 107 and 717 of the Retail Clothing Salesmen’ s Union. Early in the summer the public press printed a series of articles exposing a suspicious relationship between Nemser and one Silverman of a bosses’ association. Both were accused of racketeering in collusion on the workers in the industry, and on the owners of the retail stores. The situation became so bad that William Collins, local representative of the A.F. of L. asked for the union books so that he might investigate the matter. When officials of the union refused to turn over the books to him unless they were first guaranteed immunity, the charters of the locals were revoked. In the meanwhile the international Association disclosed that it had not received dues in accordance with the alleged membership of the union.

The locals were then reorganized and a new charter issued. Through all this the Old Guard supported Nemser wholeheartedly. Instead of using its influence with the important leaders of the trade unions in N.Y., members of the S.P., to the end that a labor committee should be appointed to investigate the accusation, it preferred chargers against Eddie Levenson, a militant, who had exposed the set-up.

Then came one of the most amazing chapters in the S.P. trade union history. In the course of its organization work, the newly chartered local, 1006, struck one of the largest stores in the city. Nemser’ s remnant of the outlawed” union” supplied the scabs. While the legitimate pickets paraded in front of the premises they were rivalled by members of the Young Socialist Alliance (Local New York’ s official “ youth movement” ) who carried signs alleging that there was no strike in the store. Both groups then resorted to street meetings.

In pursuance of Local N.Y.’ s professed policy of neutrality (sic) in the situation August Claessens, N.Y. Labor Secretary, spoke from the platform of the outlawed “ union.” Word of this spread like wildfire. A wave of disgust spread over the city. Murray Baron, a member of the National Labor Committee was called upon by the A.F. of L. union, and spoke in the capacity of a trade unionist, in the hope that the S.P. would not be com[pletely dis]credited.

Subsequently the strike was settled and an amalgam[ated] xxxx xxxfeeted on condition that Nemser step out of the picture. xxxx pressure from the legitimate elements Nemser was forced o[ut].

Why did the right wing in New York back a legitimate A.F. of L. union and support a shady dual union? For factional [re]asons? Nemser, a member of the New York Central Commit[tee] votes with the right wing on every issue. Possibly for oth[er] reasons?

Factionalism once more precipitated the Old Guard into an impossible position in the Teachers’ Union. Again we need not concern ourselves with the merits of the contending sides within the union. If, as the Linville-Lefkowitz group asserts the Communists in the N.Y. local of the American Federation of Teachers were obstructive and undisciplined, then they should have been dealt with in accordance with the usual democratic processes provided for in the constitution and by-laws of the union. It was entirely indefensible to demand that a substantial part of the local, well over one-third of the membership, be ousted because it disagreed with the leadership. Defeated in its attempt at the convention to split the local by official action, and d[eaf] to pleas advanced by the left socialists and other progress[ive] groups within the union, to remain and fight its battle, [the] Linville-Lefkowitz group, with the backing of the Old Gua[rd] leadership, resigned. They then organized a dual union.

Their hope, of course, was to receive the support of the Central Trades of New York and of the A.F. of L. convention. This hope proved abortive, when Mulholland, vice-president of the N.Y. Central Trades, sharply criticized the right wing position of support for splitting tactics. The union today is as strong as it was before the defections. The attitude of the splitters was such as to galvanize the sentiment of the people who had hitherto been only passive supporters of the union, resulting in a large number of new applications for admission. Although not in agreement with the Communists in the Teacher’ Union, left wing Socialists fought well against disruption and split.

The objectives of the Old Guard stand out clearly. It determined to discredit the left wing socialists in the union led by Maynard Krueger. It hoped to curry favor with the top leadership of the A.F.of L. on the spurious “ communist” issue. Recent articles in the Jewish Daily Forward and the New Leader confirmed the suspicion that the Old Guard in New York [did] not intend to support the progressive forces in the labor movement, but instead, will play its cards with the Green-Woll group. It is impossible to find any guiding principle for the Old Guard labor position, unless it be that it will oppose anyone whom members of the left wing can work with; or else that it will support the present leadership in the unions regardless of what it may stand for.


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