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Socialist Appeal, April-May 1936, Volume 2 No. 4, Pages 1-3 & 8
Transcribed and Marked Up by Damon Maxwell in 2009 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line.

From Our Viewpoint

Before The Cleveland Convention

WHAT will the New York old guard do at the national convention of the Socialist party to be held in Cleveland during the latter part of May? This question is uppermost in the minds of many non-party as well as party members.

It is not a difficult question to answer. For the simple reason that the New York old guard is out of the party. It has flatly rejected the compromise offered by the National Executive Committee. It has refused to register as provided for in that compromise and no one who has refused to register can be considered a party member.

In addition, the New York old guard has actually placed candidates in an election in opposition to the candidates of the party recognized by the National Executive Committee. At the time of writing it is not known whether the old guard will win out in the primaries against the official Socialist party of New York, Let us assume that it will. This should not and will not make a particle of difference. The profound differences dividing the old guard from the loyal elements in the party cannot be resolved by a decision in a capitalist primary.

He who considers that the New York old guard is still in the party or who even considers the desirability of a compromise with the old guard elements is one who has no understanding of what the Socialist party should be.

*  *  *  *

It would be the height of folly, however, to consider the question of the activities of the old guard at the national convention from the formal point of view that the old guard is now outside of the ranks of the party. The disturbing fact remains that there are. outside of New York, many followers of the old guard. And these followers are being organized through the efforts of the old guard and there will be at the convention many delegates who will represent the viewpoint of the old guard. What will the supporters of the New York right wing do at the convention?

Whatever one may think of the old guard as Socialists one roust admit that its adherents are not of the type to give up without a struggle. They might do so in a fight with the capitalists but not as against left wing Socialists. They are not compromisers which is more than can be said of many of the so-called left wingers. No sooner was the meeting of the National Executive Committee over, where the New York charter was. suspended. than the extreme right wingers called a conference of the eastern states and there organized an Interstate Conference. At that eastern conference in January the arrogant old guard gave the N.E.C. thirty days in which to retract its suspension of the New York charter. The thirty days having passed by without any weakening by the N.E.C. another conference is to be held March 28-29. At the same time smaller conferences are to held in different sections of the country.

Now there is nothing wrong for members of the party who have a common viewpoint to hold conferences prior to a convention. But the fact remains that these conferences are held at the initiative of those who are no longer members of the party, judged by any sensible standard. These conferences can have no other purpose but to prepare for a split at the convention.

Assuming (as will undoubtedly be the case) that the anti-old guard delegates to the national convention will be in a majority, will the supporters of the old guard walk out of the convention and join their brothers-in-arms ? It would seem that such is their intention. What these people want is a bourgeois liberal party with the Social-Democratic label. As insignificant as they are they might organize such a party merely as a bridge to a possible Farmer-Labor party where they will lick the boots of the trade union bureaucrats.

For the future development of a revolutionary Socialist party nothing better could come of the Cleveland convention than the “taking of a walk” by the supporters of the old guard. The left wing must do all in it? power to help them make such a decision.

*  *  *  *

What will be left of the convention after the hoped – for departure of the old guard adherents? A revolutionary left wing convention? Not by any stretch of imagination. The right wingers who will remain in the party and that element which can be characterized as centrist will have the dominant majority at the convention. For revolutionary Socialists to fool themselves into thinking otherwise will be disastrous. We must recognize our own strength or rather weakness and base our tactics upon that recognition.

In view of the general situation in the party it will be somewhat difficult for the revolutionary left to act as an independent force at the next convention. To the fullest extent possible, however, the revolutionary delegates must make their position clear on all the issues confronting the party.

Under the circumstances it will be best for the delegates of the left wing to concentrate on a few resolutions. It would be a mistake to begin a discussion on the whole draft program of the left wing. Both the fact of the possible split and the necessity for preparing a platform for the 1936 presidential campaign make it inadvisable to initiate a thorough discussion of the whole program. The left wing should concentrate on some important resolutions and make its position clear on the most vital problems confronting the revolutionary movement.

Here it must be mentioned that our National Executive Committee does not seem to have any idea of the necessity of furnishing some lead to a pre-convention discussion. It is only two months before the convention and no resolutions have been prepared as a basis for such a discussion. The initiative has been taken at a Call conference held recently in New York but only the Labor party resolution has been published thus far.

For the members in the branches to participate intelligently in a pre-convention discussion it is essential that resolutions be drafted and a discussion carried on in our press. Only after such a procedure will our members be in a position to act intelligently on resolutions.

*  *  *  *

The questions of the Labor party, of war. and of the united front are the three important questions upon which the left-wing will have to make clear it? position. The questions of a platform for the 1936 campaign and of some important changes in the constitution so as to begin the process of transforming the Socialist party into a revolutionary instrument, from the point of view of its structure and membership activity, should, also receive some attention at the convention. The Appeal will do its best to include in its pages a discussion of all these questions. But we are not fooling ourselves. Its infrequent appearance and its smallness of size are terrific handicaps.

It is for the comrades of the Call to give us less pictures and dramatic criticism and a little more discussion on problems confronting the revolutionary movement. At least three or four supplements should be included in the regular issues, solely for the purpose of a pre-convention discussion. And if that costs too much then the pictures and dramatic criticism can be left out for a few weeks.

*  *  *  *

Released from the strangle hold of the old guard the Socialist party will be free to develop into a revolutionary party. But for that it is more than ever necessary for the left wingers to organize ; on a national basis and wage a systematic struggle for the ideas of revolutionary socialism.

May Day United Front In Chicago

A significant departure from precedent was made by the Chicago organization of the Socialist party when it offered a proposal to the Communist party for a united demonstration on May first. It is safe to say that hitherto the C.P. was always the one to initiate proposals for a united front. And in ninety nine cases out of a hundred those proposals were and still are based on an incorrect understanding of the united front tactic. The Executive Committee of the Socialist party of Cook County decided that the united front was too important a thing to permit the Communists to take the initiative and distort its whole meaning.

The comrades in Chicago realized that the united front has only one purpose: to unite working class organizations that differ on fundamental principles but agree to act together for a certain specific objective. All idea? about organizing some permanent united front committees or organizations which under the circumstances can do nothing but carry on propaganda are incorrect. It is clear that the Chicago S. P. members would reject any proposals for a united front pact against war or for a Labor party. Assuming the correctness of the report of the Daily Worker with reference to the united front pact entered into by the S.P. of Terre Haute – a pact for n united front for a Labor party and against war – it is difficult to understand the theory which motivated the Terre Haute comrades to enter into such an agreement. A united front merely for propaganda is incorrect. And a united front against war at the present time necessarily must limit itself to propaganda.

It is of course obvious that even a united front demonstration on May Day is not the highest type of united front. But at least^ there is the element of common action in the demonstration itself and, if the slogans are agreed upon. there is the element of the specific objective. And if from a theoretical point of view the united front on May Day is not one hundred percent correct it is certainly correct that on the day symbolizing the international solidarity of the working class a united front demonstration should he arranged.

The most serious objection that was raised by some right wing comrades was that we would lose the support of organized labor by joining with the Communists. If it were true that without the Communists organized labor would march with us on May first our preference should be altogether for organized labor. But a realistic analysis convinced the Chicago comrades that most of that element of organized labor that would go out on a demonstration with the S.P. without the Communists would also come along in a united demonstration and some unions that would not participate in any separate demonstration would join a united front demonstration. Our eyes must be mainly on organized labor but we must not forget that section of the militant working class under the influence of the Communists. Especially when our strength in the ranks of organized labor is nothing to boast about.

Care was taken with reference to the mechanics of organizing the united front. It was clear that we cannot simply call a conference to decide on all the questions involved in the united front. A committee was appointed to come to an agreement with the C.P. on all important problems PRIOR to the calling of any conference. In any general conference the C.P. through its innocent organizations is able to dominate. We are determined not to permit a specious majority to tell us what to do in any united front demonstration. The general objective of the demonstration. the slogans and the types of organizations to be invited must be agreed .upon before any conference is called. A conference should be called largely for the purpose of mobilizing all workers’ organizations for the support of the united front agreement.

While all the details have not as yet been worked out the Socialist party has proposed to center the demonstration around the slogans of unemployment insurance, the 30 hour week, against war and fascism and for socialism against capitalism. While great freedom should be allowed to different organizations in the wording of the slogans these fundamental ideas should be the heart of the demonstration. A joint committee will pass on all ] the slogans which any one wants to carry in the demonstration.

The only questionable thing which the S.P. thus far agreed to is the holding of a joint indoor meeting in the evening of May first. It would seem that wherever possible a separate indoor meeting should be held by the Socialist party. On May day we must do more than simply march in a united demonstration. We must also give our particular message to that section of the working class following our party. There are too many differences between us and the Communists to justify our surrendering the possibility of holding our meeting.

The Chicago S.P. has taken the road which in general should be followed by the left wing of the rest of the country: We should be the proponents and initiators of a correct united front a united front, of action for some specific purpose; we should oppose all sham united fronts the purpose of which would be simply propaganda.

Hoan Prefers La Follette To Communists.

In Milwaukee the Communists are showing signs of some knowledge of correct tactics. In deciding to support the Socialist and Farmer-Labor Progressive Federation candidates in spite of the fact that those candidates repudiated Communist support the Stalinists will undoubtedly gain considerably.

The Communists were exceedingly anxious to be permitted to join the Farmer-Labor Progressive Federation. And why not? Is it not the forerunner of the American type of People’s Front? It is not representative of the mixture of proletarian and middle class confusion which is the whole essence of the Stalinist united front tactic? But alas for the Stalinists, the Socialists and the farmers under La Follette would not permit them into the Federation. Public opinion, by which is meant the opinion of the capitalist press, is too hostile to the Communists to permit the municipal Socialists and the petty-bourgeois reformists to play around with them. And so the Stalinists were left begging and pleading to join the People’s Front a la Wisconsin.

What could have motivated Hoan and the other municipal Socialists in refusing to accept the offer of support made by the Communists? It certainly could not be because of the insignificance of the Communists in Milwaukee. For we can be sure that if some insignificant pacifist or church club would endorse the Socialist ticket in Milwaukee, that fact would have been blazoned upon the front pages of the Socialist press. Could it be fear of the possible disruptive tactics which the Stalinists might use? No one who has followed the change of line promulgated in Moscow can possibly fail to see that the Stalinists are ready to lick the boots of any Socialist or petty-bourgeois leader who would give them a chance to do so by accepting their support.

As a general rule if organized labor is willing to come into a united front with the Socialists upon the condition that the Communists be excluded we should go with organized labor. But in the case of the Milwaukee elections it was not a question of a united front but a case where the Communists offered their support after they had been excluded from the People’s Front. There was no reason at all for rejecting that offer. The only explanation for the rejection is the fear of Hoan that he would lose the support of the good citizens of Milwaukee.

If there is any one who doubts that statement let him read the speech of Hoan printed in the American Leader of Feb. 28. It is a classic example of what kind of a speech a Socialist candidate for any office should not deliver. Any honest municipal reformer could easily duplicate that kind of a speech.

Revolutionary Socialists have fundamental differences with the Communists and with their blood brothers of reformism, the Social Democrats. But revolutionary Socialists will gladly accept the support of Communists and Social Democrats because they represent sections of the working class. And under proper circumstances revolutionary Socialists will support Communists or other kinds of reformists.

Socialist Or Labor Party Campaign In Illinois

THE Socialist Party of Illinois at its convention to be held in Peoria, April 4-5. will be confronted with the exceedingly important decision whether to join a Labor party and conduct, a campaign under the banner of the Labor party or whether to steer clear of all Labor parties and conduct a campaign under its own banner.

In Chicago a Labor party has been organized which is probably different from any Labor party in any part of this country. It is composed exclusively of trade unions and thus far it permits only members of trade unions to join as individuals. Approximately fifty trade union locals have affiliated. Some of the locals are of substantial character representing important sections of Chicago industry and having a comparatively large membership.

With the obvious intention of exploring the possibilities of organizing a State Labor party and of asking the Socialist party to join it for the purpose of conducting a united campaign in the 1936 elections, the Labor party has called a convention to be held at the same place and time as the convention of the Socialist party. The situation is serious as far as the Socialist party is concerned. For to decline an invitation from the Labor party might mean the rupture of the present friendly relationship between us and the Labor party. On the other hand to accept such an invitation would certainly mean the surrender of a great opportunity to conduct an independent campaign and thus put the party on a solid foundation.

Taking all the factors into consideration it is clear that the party must do everything possible to prevent the Labor party from launching out upon an electoral campaign at the present time. The Labor party represents a small, if not an insignificant, minority of organized labor. Its character is pretty well indicated by the fact that the most conscious elements of the labor movement are at the head of the party. It will undoubtedly attract some locals from outside of Cook County and the organization of unemployed workers. Its ability to conduct an independent campaign, if the Socialists and Communists are not part of it, is highly problematical. In effect it is not yet a real Labor party and will not become so in the very near future. It is nothing but a true union committee for the formation of a Labor party and it should remain so for the time being. Socialist party members active in the Labor party must come out against, the launching of an independent campaign at this time.

But let us assume that in spite of all our efforts, the Labor party decides to run a campaign. What then? Should our party join the Labor party and help run the Labor party campaign? Since the Labor party is not a real Labor party from the point of view of numbers; since our party membership is not yet sufficiently educated to distinguish between a Socialist campaign and a Labor party campaign; since organized labor including sections of the Labor party will undoubtedly support Roosevelt; for the above reasons our party should not formally join the Labor party and conduct a campaign on behalf of the Labor party.

However, are we in a position to run candidates against the Labor party candidates? In view of the fact that in most of the localities we shall not have any candidates of our own and also in view of the fact that our party membership will be loathe to run candidates against the Labor party candidates the solution will lie in the following tactic: to conduct a campaign for socialism on a socialist platform independent of the Labor party platform and give critical support to the Labor party candidates.

Some comrades will see in this an illogical tactic. How can we conduct our own campaign and yet ask the workers to vote for Labor party candidates? To the ordinary worker who does not think in doctrinaire terms our position will be most natural and will commend itself to him. We shall be in an impregnable position. On the one hand we shall not be breaking the unity of the workers and on the other we shall not be giving up our own program. It will furnish an opportunity for our comrades to conduct a campaign for socialism and at the same time not be disturbed by the question as to why we are opposing the Labor party candidates.

Should the Socialist party of Illinois adopt such a tactic it would follow that all members of the party must participate in the party campaign and not in the Labor party campaign. And this would apply to those members of the party who, by virtue of their trade union connections, are active in the Labor party at the present time.

“Friends” (!??) of the Socialist Party

REVOLUTIONARY Socialists are not at all opposed to advice on tactics and policies coming from comrades interested in the Socialist party but not members of our party. But when the same advice and warnings come from different and antagonistic sources we have a right to question the motives of the advisors.

The old guard, the Stalinists, the Lovestoneites have all become very solicitous about the welfare of the Socialist party. They are greatly exercised over the possibility of the entry of the Trotskyites into our party. They are all united in warning the poor lambs of the Socialist party as to the dreadful fleecing which they will get from the horrible Trotskyists once they are in the party. Rather remarkable, to say the least, that the enemies of the Socialist party should be so disturbed about the possibility of that party going to ruin.

The correct explanation of the fear which all three groups have of the possibility of the entry of the Trotskyists into the Socialist party is the fact that they are all fearful of the effect of such an entry upon their own miserable organizations. The transformation of the Socialist party into a revolutionary instrument will inevitably mean the disappearance of the influence in the labor movement of the old guard, the Stalinists and their shadows, the Lovestoneites. That the Trotskyists with their insistence upon revolutionary internationalism and with their clear understanding of the principles of revolutionary Marxism will be a force in the revolutionary development tot the Socialist party should be evident to all observers.

The possibility of the entry of the Trotskyists into the Socialist party should be greeted with enthusiasm by all members of the party who are interested in a revolutionary Socialist party. Every member of any left wing group who breaks with that group or any group which decides to give up its independent existence will find room in the Socialist party. The only requirement we should demand is acceptance of all obligations of membership and we should not hesitate to grant all the rights of membership.

Will the Trotskyists disagree with us? What of it? If we have any confidence in the correctness of our ideas then we must be prepared to defend them against all other ideas? Or we must be prepared to admit that others are more correct than we are. Only petty bureaucrats who fear a disturbance of their bureaucratic peace will oppose the entry of individuals who have ideas of their own.

The right wins:; of social democracy, defending their last positions in the Socialist party, uses the possibility of the entry of the Trotskyists to scare the vacillating and weak-kneed centrists; the Stalinists understand and fear that the spread of revolutionary ideas in the Socialist party will make it impossible for them to deceive the Socialists and the workers in general with their pseudo-revolutionary camouflage; the Lovestoneites see another chance of sharing in the flesh pots of Stalinism by their hypocritical and dishonest attacks on the Trotskyists.

Revolutionary Socialists have nothing to lose and everything to gain from the entry into the party of a group that will help them in building a revolutionary Socialist party.

Stalinists and Sanctity of Treaties

“WE cannot preserve the League of Nation, founded on the sanctity of international treaties, including the covenant of the League itself, if we turn a blind eye to the breaches of those treaties or confine ourselves to verbal protests.... in defense of international undertakings.”

Thus thundered Litvinoff.

We have here a plain statement to the effect that the Stalin regime is prepared to send the red army into Germany. For what? Perhaps to help the German workers overthrow Hitler. Assuredly not. Because the German workers have not asked. for help. And how well we remember that when Hitler came into power the Stalinists and their supporters attacked the Trotskyists under the pretext that the latter wanted to have the red army march into Germany. They did not but since revolutionary Marxists consider the red army an instrument of the international proletariat, it is clear that under proper circumstance, the working class of Germany should expect the help of the red army.

But the Stalinists are willing to send the red army into Germany. For the purpose of preserving the sanctity of international capitalist treaties. For the purposes of defending French imperialism. For that, yes. For the working class revolution, no.

And they dare to use the name of Lenin!

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