NOTE: The following document is presented by a group of comrades active in the left wing of the party throughout the country. The document is not a theoretical program and does not presume to deal with all the questions confronting the party in an exhaustive manner. In a general way it analyzes the weaknesses of the party, especially as shown during the recent election campaign and indicates the path which the party should take in the immediate future. All party members and members of the Y.P.S.L. are invited to comment and criticize. From now until the party convention in March the APPEAL will publish resolutions and articles on all questions of interest to the party membership, especially on those questions which will be taken up at the convention. The APPEAL as is well known takes a definite left wing position on all questions but its pages are open to comrades who do not agree with the position of the APPEAL.
ALL WHO seriously consider the problems of the party will realise that a new stage of its development now lies ahead. This new stage is one step further along the path which the party first entered at Detroit, in 1934. The adoption of the Declaration of Principles at Detroit, and the subsequent victory of the Declaration in the party referendum, symbolizes the first great stage of the advance toward revolutionary Marxism. The bulk of the party membership showed thereby its determination to learn from the tragic lessons of European history, above all from the events in Germany, and to break away from the whole tradition of social-democratic reformism which had played so disastrous and fatal a part in making possible the triumph of Hitler.
Since, in this country, that tradition of social-democratic reformism was embodied in its most bitter and reactionary form in the Right Wing of the Socialist party, above all in the New York Old Guard, the advance of the party membership necessarily involved a mortal organizational conflict between the leftward moving membership and the Right Wing. This conflict gathered cumulative force during the succeeding two years, and reached a second climax at the Cleveland convention in May of this year. At Cleveland, a new decisive step was taken; the party cast from its back the dragging weight of the New York Old Guard, and marked thereby its continuing resolve to go forward.
The process was by no means completed, however, by the actions at Cleveland. The months since May enable us to estimate more accurately, in the light of concrete experience, the exact meanings and implications of those actions, and to draw adequate conclusions for the stages which lie still ahead. In politics as in chemistry, it is impossible to mix oil and water. In rapid succession, the political bedfellows of the New York Old Guard, in the Jewish and Finnish Federations, in Washington, Massachusetts, Maryland, California, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, were compelled to break away and join their proper companions – join them with full consequences of their political direction so glaringly revealed in the present year by open support of a capitalistic presidential Candidate.
Meanwhile the party itself hesitated, not yet ready to draw the positive conclusions of which the split with the Right Wing was the negative counterpart. Time was wasted and forces lost in the vain attempt to conciliate what remained of the Right Wing instead of conducting a sharp and envigorating struggle against it. While courageously facing the central issue of the campaign by posing the alternative of socialism vs. capitalism, and fighting against shattering odds for the maintenance of the political independence of the labor movement, the party nevertheless failed to place its campaign on a clear revolutionary basis. It retained far too gross an amount of that “parliamentarism” which disclosed the remnants of Old Guardism still exercising their influence, thus contradicting the abstract statement of the central issue of the campaign by a continuance of reformist demands and propaganda in practice. It fell conspicuously short in utilizing politically the world-shaking events of the summer months – in particular the Spanish events and the Soviet Trial. Its press was too often silent where it should have given uncompromising lead to the party membership and the advanced workers generally. It still attempted to woo favor from the trade union bureaucrats, until one after another, from Dubinsky to Hochman to Rieve these deserted to the bandwagon of the class enemy. It was unwilling to combat sternly the deadly influence of its opponent parties in the working class, especially the Communist party, allowing its vicious attacks and treacherous ideas to go virtually unanswered and even, to make certain inroads into its own ranks. In spite, of and in the face of the War Resolution, adopted at Cleveland, influential members of the party continued support of pacifist organizations and ideas in. this country and abroad, thus lending Socialist prestige to these agencies which, at best, only confuse the workers and paralyze the revolutionary struggle against the coming war.
The election campaign is now over. The time has come to make up the balance sheet, to draw conclusions, and again to go resolutely forward.
The alternative which faces the party is of crystal clarity. No rationalization, no wishful thinking, no high sounding phrases, can dodge it. The party must become, in the full sense, in word and act, the conscious, fighting, revolutionary party of the American working class; it must become this, or it must perish. This alternative is posed by all the circumstances of American historical development in their concrete actuality at the present time. It is no longer possible – to paraphrase Lincoln’s epigram – for the party to continue half-revolutionary and half-reformist. Any attempt still to hesitate, to delay decision, means continuing and increasing disintegration.
There is, to put the matter in its simplest terms, no room in this country for any socialist party other than a revolutionary party. The other roads are already monopolized. The two great varieties of revisionism – social-democratic reformism and Stalinism – have already their authentic representatives, and there is no field for competition. If the Socialist party fails during the approaching months to give an uncompromising revolutionary lead, it will follow that its membership will drop day by day, now into the camp of the Social-Democratic Federation, now into the Stalinist arms; with the revolutionary workers among its membership gradually losing heart and in growing numbers abandoning the movement altogether.
If, on the other hand, the Socialist party moves with determination along the revolutionary path, its future is as assured as it is magnificent. All the problems of our age, all the demands of history itself, all the promises of the future call to this supreme task – the forging of the revolutionary vanguard – and guarantee its triumphant fulfilment. And it is to this task that the minds and energies of every left wing Socialist must be dedicated.
This task, however, cannot be completed overnight nor by any organizational sleight-of-hand. It must be achieved step by step. Its accomplishment will be symbolized above all in the adoption by the party as a whole of a full revolutionary program, answering in the mighty accents of Marxism every great problem, national and international, of our age. This program will complete the utter break from every trace of reformism, will abandon each vestige of legalism and parliamentarianism, will separate the ideology of the party from any dependence upon the illusions of the classless nature of the state. It will proclaim! the historical necessity of the workers’ dictatorship as the only means for the conquest of power, as the only guarantor for genuine workers’ democracy and the only weapon for the attainment of socialism. It will cut loose from any holdover of pacifism or social-patriotism. It will focus its position around the axis of unyielding class struggle for workers’ power. It will burn in every line with the fire of Marxist internationalism, and will lead the party out to union with its true allies in every country, with the revolutionary internationalists of the world proletariat. To educate and struggle for such a program is the imperative and constant duty of every revolutionary Socialist.
To achieve such a program, however, and a party truly embodying such a program, is not by any means a merely “educational” enterprise. It must be the culmination of the real development of the active life of the party, built in militant action, and born naturally from the clash and resolution of conflicting ideas and forces.
No illusion could be more dangerous than to imagine that the goal can be won by the simple device of “centralization” or “tightening up the apparatus.” The slogan of “centralization,” put forward as a cure-all for party difficulties by a number of comrades has become increasingly talked of in recent weeks. This slogan constitutes a half-truth all the more dangerous for the element of actual truth it does in fact contain.
By all means our party must be centralized and disciplined. The firmest discipline in action combined with the fullest democratic freedom in internal discussion is the sole organizational form which can provide an adequate structure for an effective revolutionary party. But centralization cannot be arbitrarily imposed by a vote or a wish. Centralization is the outgrowth from, not the presupposition of, political clarification and agreement. We must always examine first the political content of centralization, not its abstract mechanics. We must ask ourselves, centralization for what? in what direction? in the interests of what ideas or what currents ? And these questions are prior to the bare fact of centralization itself. A premature decision for centralization could only be an attempt to delay revolutionary growth, and far from invigorating the party even “practically,” could only condemn it to sterility. We must have an active party, a party of militant, cohesive disciplined action; but, paradoxically as this may seem we cannot have an active party merely by “being active.” Activity becomes dissipated and cancels out unless we understand the activity, its goal and purpose and direction. Such understanding is reached by the freest possible discussion of all views and tendencies within the party. In the development of the revolutionary party, disciplined activity and free discussion are not opposed to each other but in every way supplement each other. Discussion enables us to understand, draw conclusions from, and direct our activities; actions test, apply and extend the influence of the ideas formulated in discussion. The extremes of “SLPism” – “debating club politics” – on the one side and of mere gross pragmatic “activism” on the other are equally opposed to the genuine revolutionary party, in which theory and deed, unified vigorous action and free critical discussion are indissolubly fused.
While conflicting ideas and tendencies still remain on a large scale within the party, an attempt at rigid centralization could lead to only two possible results. It would most probably be merely meaningless, unable to be put in effect against the pressure of the internal conflicts. Or it would be an effort on the part of those undertaking “centralization” to enforce in a purely bureaucratic manner their ideas and tendency against other forces in the party. Such an effort could not, however, succeed. It could by the more normal processes of ideological clarification and the test of action. Centralization must, then, be achieved in the process of and as the concomitant of the revolutionizing of the party in action.
During the next months, the party faces crucial tests and decisive problems. The problems lie within every field of party activity. Not all of these can be covered by a single document. In order to indicate the direction the party must take to move toward the goal of becoming in full actuality the revolutionary vanguard of the American workers, what is needed is to outline the necessary perspective as applied to the key issues now facing us.
1. Trade Union and Unemployment Work. The party can become the revolutionary leader of the workers, can go beyond mere propaganda and parliamentary and educational existence, can avoid the sterility of SLPism and legalism and sectarianism, only by rooting itself in the masses. The party must rid itself altogether of the conception that “political action” means simply carrying on a parliamentary campaign every four years, and going to sleep in between with sporadic “educational” work occasionally interrupting. Revolutionary political action means above all, in the concrete, active work in the trade unions and the other economic organizations of the working class, and extending socialist influence within them. The party can neither stand aside from nor merely follow the trade unions. It is the job of the party to lead, not to avoid or trail the working class. And the trade unions constitute the disciplined infantry of the main army of the revolution, just as the revolutionary party Constitutes its vanguard.
A beginning has been made. In the field of the organization of the unemployed, in the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, in the California Agricultural and Maritime Unions, in various unions and farmers’ organizations in the Northwest, the rubber workers, the teachers and garment and leather workers the party has moved in the necessary direction. These activities have been the brightest developments of the past year. But it should be realized that they constitute no more than a beginning. The entire party must be oriented toward trade union work as the most decisive and extensive form of party activity.
Every single eligible party member must belong to his proper trade union or unemployed alliance. Within the unions, party members must work within disciplined socialist leagues, in accord with an independent socialist policy, for militant, fighting, class-struggle trade-union principles.
We must root out of the Socialist trade union policy the remnants of dependence on the reactionary trade union bureaucracy. We must understand that this bureaucracy is in actuality an agency of the bourgeoisie within the working class dedicated above all to the maintenance of capitalism and the suppression of the revolutionary development of the labor movement. The last ^ix months have provided adequate lessons in this sphere. The trade union officials on whom the party leaned, and behind whose policy the party often trailed – Dubinsky, Hochman, Rieve, all of them, threw over and betrayed the party in the moment of crisis: all of them ended in the camp of Roosevelt.
Socialists in C.I.O.
The next months especially dictate the necessity for the rapid increase of determined socialist activity in the unions. A great wave of strikes, already presaged by the maritime strike, is highly probable, and these strikes will provide the opportunity and the great need for Socialist participation; and will likewise enable us to test and develop our own forces.
In the split in the labor movement which is being forced by the craft union bureaucracy the CIO undoubtedly represents the more progressive force and must be supported in its struggle for the organization of the mass production industries on an industrial union basis. But a further development of the progressive implications of the CIO movement can be brought about only through the conscious intervention of the Socialists and the independent functioning of a genuinely progressive formation within the unions under socialist influence. Progressive movements can arise spontaneously in the trade unions, or under inadequate and unreliable leadership at the start, as in the present situation, but a consistent development of such movements is possible only if Socialists and militants assert themselves as an independent force and exert a steadily increasing influence.
In any case it must be remembered that the officials of the C.I.O cannot at all be relied upon to provide correct leadership for the progressive forces in the trade unions. An accident of history brought it about that Lewis and his associates have appeared temporarily as nominal representatives of these progressive forces by advocating what are under present circumstances progressive policies. But this accident is not at all permanent. Socialists naturally support industrial unionism and organization of the mass production industries, but Lewis cannot be relied on even to carry through his own avowed plans, much less to continue in a progressive direction. His whole past career, the way in which he runs his own union, his social philosophy and his political role, the character of current negotiations and the handling of the steel drive, all prove this clearly enough. The real progressive wing of the trade unions will have to be built under independent revolutionary Socialist leadership, or it will not be built at all. The fact that the Communist party in the unions has altogether abandoned any fight against class-collaborationism – which, as always, is the key question in trade union policy – is an additional demonstration of the necessity for Socialist leadership of the progressive forces; and, furthermore, leaves the road free and open for the assumption of that leadership. The Communist party in the unions, neglecting the fight for economic demands and the resultant sharpening of the class struggle, more and more uses its influence in the unions merely to serve its People’s Front perspective, to slide into favor in reformist political movements, and to supply delegates to its swarm of “Leagues” and “Congresses.”
Socialist Discipline in Unions
The work in the unions is also one of the first and immediate ways in which discipline and centralization of Socialist activity can be introduced. Conflicts of ideas and tendencies within the party must not be allowed to interfere with firm discipline and unity of action on the part of the trade union leagues. Without iron-clad discipline, effective work in the unions is unthinkable. Such discipline, toward which only first steps have been made, must and can be introduced at once; and must apply equally to every Socialist in the unions, from the rank-and-file member to the highest union official. Disciplined union activity in its turn offers both a testing ground for conflicting ideas and a preparation for the more complete centralization of party activity as a whole.
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2. The Press. While keeping in mind the need for a centralized party-owned and party-controlled press, the immediate concern of the party must be – a revolutionary press. It is with respect to the press above all that the past months have revealed the most glaring weaknesses. Our press in no sense meets the needs either of the party membership itself or of the advanced workers generally. The desertion of the established party papers – the NEW LEADER and the FORWARD – from the party and to the camp of the New Deal created a gap in the regular party press not quickly filled. We find a semi-Stalinist paper associated with the name of the party in Oklahoma, a semi-New Deal paper in Wisconsin. The failure of the press as a whole, including conspicuously the official campaign organ, the SOCIALIST CALL, is especially to be discovered in: (a) the lack of sharp analyses from a revolutionary point of view of great political events national and international, as they occur; (b) the lack of adequate treatment of trade union developments and activities; (c) the absence of clear directives to the party membership; (d) the lack of replies to the attacks of our enemies.
In short, our press must have a position, a line, and a revolutionary position. There must be no ambiguity or indecision about how it stands. It is the shocking but nevertheless true fact that not yet has the party press – with the exception of the organ of the YPSL – made clear its attitude toward the events in Spain, the revolutionary crises in France, the Soviet Trial, the People’s Front moves of the Communist party in this country, and any of a dozen other of the great issues that have arisen during the past six months. Our press has avoided questions instead of answering them, to “play safe” instead of leading, to do its best “not to antagonize” its enemies instead of meeting and conquering them. It has contented itself with vague and general “propaganda for socialism,” which by aiming to please everyone ends by satisfying no one.
Our press, furthermore, has failed conspicuously to concern itself intimately with the concrete struggles of the labor movement, though these are the life blood of the revolutionary party. Casual notes and inaccurate headlines “sum up” the battles of the trade unions. We must, on the contrary, make our press felt by the trade union members as their own most conscious and able representative.
No question is more important than that of the press. The press is at once spokesman, voice, leader, and organizer. It is the party made objective and articulate. The advance of the party will be shown most obviously of all by the transformation of the press into the clear, uncompromising, authoritative instrument of revolutionary Marxism.
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3. Relation to Opponent Parties. For the Socialist party to aim at becoming in the full sense the revolutionary party of the American working class means that it bids for the leadership of the working class as against every other party, not merely every capitalist party but in particular against every other working class party. Every other party is its enemy. It must aim to weaken and destroy the influence of every other party over the working class and to establish the hegemony of its own influence. Unless this is accomplished the workers’ revolution is impossible.
The question of the attitude and relation to opponent parties within the working class is an acute and immediate one. for the party. The failure to solve it adequately is a significant mark of the hesitation in the party policy as a whole during the months since Cleveland.
There are two widespread errors on this question. There is first the opinion that the opponent working class parties should be simply “ignored,” and that all energies should “be directed against the main enemy – capitalism.” This opinion is entirely abstract and Utopian, suited perhaps to a dream: world, but not to the historical world we live in. Our opponents will defeat us if we do not defeat them: that is the simple truth of the matter. We cannot go peacefully along our own path, and allow them theirs, because the paths cross. Indeed, there must be the conflict and the contest because we are trying to do the same thing that they are – to win the leadership of the working class – and only one party can succeed in doing it. We do not have a private sphere of our own – each working class party operates in the same sphere. One must win, and the other must lose. They will not avoid us, no matter how earnestly we try to avoid them, no matter how deep we bury our heads in political sand! And this should be obvious enough. Every day since Cleveland –and before – has seen attacks of every description coming from the Social Democratic Federation and the Communist party. Every day these two reactionary organizations strive now to batter down, now to undermine, our organization and our ideas. And, tragically, under the pressure of those Socialists who mistakenly believe we should “ignore” our opponents, these attacks have gone largely unanswered. We have allowed ourselves to be called “stooges of Landon,” “supporters of assassins,” “trade union splitters,” have allowed our own ranks in many cases to be disoriented, and have for the most part only tried to shut our own eyes and ears. This policy must be sharply reversed. We must decisively answer the attacks and slanders; and must, in correct military fashion adopt the best of all defenses – attack.
But, second and even more clearly indefensible, there are also those within the party who meet the attacks of opponent parties by giving way to them and trying to conciliate them. This is to be observed in part in the conciliatory tendencies toward the Social Democratic Federation, but above all in conciliation toward the Communist party. The greatest obstacle to the revolutionary development of our party is Stalinism – both the ideas and the organization of Stalinism. This is the literal truth. The whole policy of the Communist party in this and every other “democratic” country is directed toward preparation for the support of the coming war on the side of the home government in alliance with the Soviet Union, that is toward the turning of the masses over to imperialism. But this policy can succeed only by wiping out any effective revolutionary force. Thus the Communist party here must, by any and every means, by attack and “friendship,” by blandishment and slander, by bribery and lies and compliments and blackmail and flattery and deceit, strive to prevent the Socialist party from becoming a revolutionary party with mass influence. Understanding this, we can realize how crucial it is to purge our own ranks of every trace of conciliation toward the ideas of Stalinism. We must take seriously our Resolution on War, and carry out the policy which follows from it of combating the American League Against War and Fascism, instead of supporting the parades and meetings of the League. We must attack openly the Communist party fake pacifist organizations. We must carry on a constant polemic in our press and meetings against the treachery of the People’s Front, through which there is now being sacrificed the Spanish proletariat, through which the French proletariat is being led to disaster, and which threatens the same fate for the workers of this country.
In general, the party must become and maintain itself as the independent and autonomous representative of revolutionary socialism against all contenders. For this reason alone may be seen the necessity for rejecting any form of the Popular Front, since the Popular Front involves the acceptance of a program, other than and opposed to that of revolutionary socialism: the program agreed to by the bourgeois-democratic members of the Popular Front, and therefore a program defending capitalism.
Independence Within Labor Party
Likewise, in the case of the Labor party, whatever the future may hold, the Socialist party must continue, without or within the Labor party, as an independent force proclaiming its own program and submitting to criticism and attack every other program. For in this sense the program of the Labor party is also a rival and contender for the leadership of the working class. And our possible or even probable affiliation to a Labor party that may arise after the recent experiences of the campaign have been digested and absorbed by the labor movement, must not be allowed to weaken our firm propagation of our own ideas and the vigorous building of our own organization. This will be the only possible guarantee that if a mass Labor party appears, it will be utilized to the advantage of the revolutionary struggle, and not serve as a force to strangle it.
Favor United Front
At the same time, however, our complete independence from and contest with every opponent party in the working class must go along with, not the rejection of, but a more determined prosecution of the united front tactic of action on specific issues. The party must neither avoid the united front nor take a merely passive attitude toward it. On the contrary, to an increasing extent, especially as it consolidates and developes its own independent strength, the party must push the united front tactic aggressively. The united front must not be understood as in any way a “peace pact” or merely a “defense alliance.” While aiding the working class in winning immediate demands and gaining the strength of unity of action, the united front from the point of view of the revolutionary party is a major device for extending the sphere of its own influence, reaching ever broader strata of workers, and carrying on the struggle against the influence of the other parties of the working class. The united front, correctly conceived, involving no sacrifice of program or of the right of criticism, provides the opportunity for the revolutionary party to demonstrate in action to the followers of the opponent parties the superiority of its own policies and leadership, and at the same time to expose the falsities of the policies and leadership of the opponent parties. On a variety of fields, in strike and other labor struggles, in defense cases and on the unemployed field, the next months will undoubtedly provide the occasion for most fruitful applications of the united front tactic.
Along with united front tactics the party must devote increasing attention to the possibilities of systematically influencing the membership of opponent parties. The best chance for such work in the next months is to be found in the Young Communist League, growing numbers of whose membership have been shaken by the full impact of the opportunist line of the Communist International, by the events in Spain, by the indirect support of Roosevelt, and by the Soviet Trial. In addition, the partial loosening of the previously monolithic organization structure of the Young Communist League enables revolutionary Socialists to permeate it with their ideas, in a more conscious and directed manner than before.
As the party grows and develops as a revolutionary force, we may confidently expect recruitment in considerable and increasing numbers of revolutionary workers, both those at present unaffiliated and those now members of opponent organizations. We must be prepared to welcome these recruits – many of them tried and experienced in the labor movement – and to aid them in becoming speedily integrated into the party, in assuming the functions, places and in many cases leadership to which their abilities may fit them. The party, after casting off the refuse of Old Guardism, is absorbing new blood. The bureaucratic barriers erected by the ancient regime, and in many cases congealed in constitutional and statutory provisions, against the influx of new forces and the utilization of fresh and vigorous leadership, must be swept aside.
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4. Struggle Against War. The fundamental basis of the Cleveland War Resolution is the unchallengeable Marxist principle that the struggle against imperialist war is nothing- else than the class struggle for workers’ power and for socialism. This principle necessarily implies both the positive assertion of the position of revolutionary defeatism and the rejection of all forms of pacifism, the central conception of which is the idea of a “fight for peace” divorced from the class struggle for workers’ power. The party has, however, entirely failed to translate the principles of the Cleveland Convention into the active life of the party. The elimination of the remnants of Old Guardism and social-patriotism, as well as the resistance to the inroads of the Communist International’s war position, cannot be accomplished without a determined struggle against the illusions of pacifism. Essential to this task is a realistic analysis of existing “peace” organizations. Both the reactionary organizations which work for “peace” by making peace with capitalist imperialism and adopting the policy of “national defense,” and Communist party controlled American League Against War and Fascism which in the name of peace prepares to support “peace-loving democratic,” capitalist nations in the next world war are vicious and hypocritical. The principle of the People’s Front has also invaded the pacifist field through the Emergency Peace Campaign and similar organizations which for the sake of numbers hide from the masses the true character of the war danger and the sole means by which in actuality it can be fought. There are also such pacifist organizations as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the War Resistors which recognize the capitalist basis for imperialist war yet cherish and foster the fatal illusion that the class struggle for workers’ power is unnecessary and avoidable. The war question is the crucial question of the present epoch. In answer to it we must put forward with no compromise or equivocation the ideas and practises of Marxist Internationalism.
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5. The International Question. During the months ahead the party must devote increasing attention to the developments in the international labor movement. As Socialists, we hold to the conception that the class struggle of the workers is international in character; and, consequently, our own development toward a complete revolutionary position cannot be divorced from the developments in the world movement. We must evaluate the regroupments and realignments taking place with startling rapidity under the pressure of the great events in Europe, and seek thereby to determine our genuine international allies and to forge strong bonds which will unite us with them. We must, for example, take note of what the “neutrality policy” of the Socialist party of France and the British Labor party in the face of the Spanish civil war has revealed as to the nature of these two parties. The party membership must know the facts; the fact, for example, that the Bureau of the Labor and Socialist International declined to support us in the Presidential election in spite of a specific request from the NEC that it do so. The party must take into account the enthusiastic congratulations of Blum and the leaders of the British Labor party, as well as of the Soviet officialdom, on the victory of Roosevelt. The facts must be made known, they must be analyzed, and appropriate conclusions must be drawn. The approach of the new war, the open outbreak of renewed revolutionary struggles, demand imperatively the firm union on a world scale into one movement of all the forces standing unequivocally for revolutionary internationalism. Only this will guarantee victory.
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6. The Youth. In the party struggles of the past few years, the YPSL has played an altogether honorable role. It has had a great part in the leftward development of the party, and its pressure has been consistently in a revolutionary direction. Serious problems and difficulties still face the YPSL of course: among them, to weed out what remains there are of Stalinist influence within the YPSL ranks, and to turn outward, by more vigorous work in mass organizations, from a too inward life. But what is above all essential with respect to the YPSL is to prevent any attempt to stifle its continuing revolutionary development, to guard against bureaucratic maneuvers which would tend to degrade the League into a mere enlarged Youth Committee of the party. The future of the party as a whole, and consequently of the revolutionary movement in this country, depends in no small measure on the YPSL.
The indispensable condition for the realization of such a perspective as has been herein outlined is the creation and consolidation of a genuine, determined, and conscious left wing. This left wing must be built around a clear revolutionary perspective, and must assume its full responsibility in advancing this perspective, in winning the party as a whole to it, and must carry on party activities in accordance with it. The task of the left wing must be plainly understood: it is precisely to take the lead in making the party develop into the revolutionary party of the American working class in the full meaning, both in theory and in practice, of the term. This, in turn, means that the left wing must be organized for a definite goal; and it must be likewise understood what it is organized against.
The chief obstacles in the way of the revolutionary development of the party are two: the influence of social-democratic reformism and of Stalinism. Both of these obstacles are from the right. There is no important obstacle from the left. The revolutionary left wing, therefore, must center its attack exclusively on the double danger from the right.
Enemy is to the Right
This point is of utmost significance. A left wing cannot actually be built unless it knows for what and against what it is building. There are some members of the party who contend that the new left wing must be built against reformists and “centrists” on the right, and against “sectarians” and “ultra-leftists” on the left. Such a statement of the problem is completely false. Though there may be and doubtless are individual “sectarians” within the party these are without influence: there is no sectarian force or tendency within the party at the present time. The obvious proof of this is twofold: in the first place, every political failure of the party since Cleveland, the manner of the splits in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, the course of the Wisconsin party in the Farmer Labor Progressive Federation, the insufficient attention to trade union work, the lack of policy on Spain and the Soviet Trial, the absence of effective answers to opponent parties, the embarrassing maneuvers with the trade union bureaucrats, the, over-retention of parliamentary habits ...– every single important failure represented a concession to the right: and, in the second place, virtually every important success of the party in mass work, especially in trade union activity, has occurred in localities, where the influence of determined left wingers predominates.
The call for a “left wing” to function both against left and right in actuality means the call for the consolidation not of a revolutionary but of a centrist “left wing,” the function of which would be not to assure the revolutionary developments of the party but to prevent genuine revolutionary development of the party but to prevent genuine revolutionary development. This is the only possible political interpretation that can be put on it. It represents a concession to the vicious Communist party campaign which is trying to label every revolutionary advance of the Socialist party, every act of resistance on the part of the Socialist party to the treachery of Stalinism, as “one further fall toward the sterile march of sectarian isolation.” Genuine left wingers will not be deceived by Communist party sophistries. They will reject the conception of a “left wing” against both left and right, and unite to build a revolutionary left wing able to meet and conquer the common reactionary threats of reformism and Stalinism, able to lead the party forward along the triumphant road of revolutionary Marxism.
The development of the Socialist party into a revolutionary party in the full sense cannot be left to chance, drift, or individual effort. The organization of the genuine left wing is the most efficient, most economical, most expedient and most rapid way in which to reach this goal, And economy, indeed haste are needed. The events of the past year, national and international, show plainly the imperative need for the speedy forging of the revolutionary ranks. Upon this, in all literalness, the fate of the world depends. We cannot, alas, be content to wait for success, to attain the revolutionary party in the concentration camps of the triumphant American Hitler. It is for us to go forward now and immediately, with the resolve that fascism will not conquer, to the defeat and annihilation of American imperialism, and thus with the revolutionary workers of the world to the overthrow of world reaction and triumph of international socialism.
James Burnham, New York City
James P. Cannon, S. Francisco
Harold Draper, New York City
Vincent Dunne, Minneapolis
John F. Dwyer, Rochester, N.Y
Ernest Erber, Chicago
Albert Goldman, Chicago
Walter Huhn, Bethlehem, Pa.
Paul S. McCormick, Denver
Melost Most, Chicago
Rudolph Olson, Chicago
John Parshall, Chicago
Carl Pemble, St. Paul
Jean Rudd, Denver R.
S. Saunders, St. Louis
Ted Selander, Toledo
Max Shachtman, New York
Glen Trimble, San Francisco
George M. Whiteside, Kansas
Richard B. Whitten, Elmira N. Y.
Last updated on 12 October 2008