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Socialist Appeal, March 1937, Volume 3 No. 3, Page 42-3
Transcribed and Marked Up by Damon Maxwell in 2009 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line.

Resolution on the Labor Party

(NOTE: This resolution, with some minor amendments, was referred to the incoming Action Committee for discussion and re-formulation.)

1. The workers’ revolution and socialism can be achieved only through the leadership of an independent revolutionary Socialist party.

2. A mass Labor or Farmer-Labor party cannot lead to the victory of the workers and to socialism. Such a party would be necessarily reformist in character, operating within the basic framework of capitalist property relations and the capitalist state. In addition to theory, experience, especially the crucial experiences of 1914, the post-War revolutions, and the rise of Hitler to power in Germany have proved that a reformist party is unable to lead to the victory of the workers; and likewise unable to stop fascism or prevent war, since both fascism and war in the present epoch follow inevitably from the continuance of the capitalist order and can therefore be prevented only by the abolition of capitalism. Indeed, these experiences have shown us even more: that reformist parties, in the crisis, support imperialist war, suppress the proletarian revolution, and, by blocking the revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of capitalism, prepare the road for fascism.

3. The real relationship of forces in this country, the reformist character of the Roosevelt program, the nature of the labor leadership, as well as the explicit statements of the Farmer-Labor party of Minnesota, the American Labor party, and Labor’s Non-Partisan League (these three constituting the major potential sources for a mass labor party) lead to the conclusion that there is little likelihood, during the coming period, of the formation of a genuine national Labor or Farmer-Labor party. Moreover, these same factors, taken together with the long populist tradition in this country, the character and symptomatic importance of the LaFollette movement, the nature of the “progressive block” in Congress and in various States, the present People’s Front policy of the Stalinists and the influence of the People’s Front ideology in many sections of the population, all those considerations show that even if a Labor party were to be formed in the near or distant future, it would be not merely generally reformist in the manner of the British Labor party, but an outright, non-class, Popular Front alignment.

4. A Labor party, since it would be a political party with a political organization and above all a political program, would appear on the political field as a rival of the revolutionary Socialist party, with its program – which is, like any reformist program, incompatible with the Marxist program – competing with the program of the revolutionary Socialist party for the allegiance of the workers and the masses generally.

5. Though the formation of a Labor party would in a sense indicate (just as, in fact, the solid labor support of Roosevelt against Landon in a sense indicated) a progressive advance in the class-consciousness of the masses; nevertheless, the actual organization of the Labor party and the formulation of its program would represent not at all a progressive measure, but rather the effort to channelize the progressive development of the class-consciousness of the masses into safe and harmless reformist directions. That is, the formation of the Labor party, as was so strikingly demonstrated by the history of the formation of the American Labor party, would be undertaken, and undertaken only, in an effort to prevent the development of class-consciousness into the revolutionary perspective of the abolition of capitalism. Only the existence, extension, and strengthening of a revolutionary Socialist party, rooted in the mass organizations of the workers, can assure the progressive advance of the mass labor movement.

6. In the light of these considerations, it is clearly improper for Socialists to agitate for the initiation or formation of a Labor or Farmer-Labor party. Socialists must tell the truth. It is therefore their business to explain the nature of reformism, the true character of a Labor party in the present epoch, and to agitate directly for a revolutionary Socialist party as the only party capable of fulfilling the interests of the working class and of the masses generally.

7. Where a Labor or Farmer-Labor party is in existence on a local scale, or where one is formed either locally or nationally, the position of the Socialists toward it will be determined by the concrete conditions: by the attitude of the workers toward it, the nature of its class support, the state of the Socialist party itself at the given time and place, etc. Permissible tactics include: outright affiliation, where this does not involve liquidation of the revolutionary Socialist party organization; critical electoral support; direct rivalry both in parliamentary and all forms of activity. The first two tactics are in certain cases permissible, unlike the relation to any other type of party, where the Labor party, loosely organized, comprising the bulk of organized labor, and marking a state in the development of the political experience of the masses, offers a broader forum that would otherwise be available for the propagation of the revolutionary program. In all cases, however, it is the duty of revolutionary Socialists to advance the full Marxist program as the only program answering the needs of the workers.

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Last updated on 16 January 2009