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A Syndicalist Voyage to the Ranks of Stalinism

(October 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 26 (Whole No. 85), 10 October 1931, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

With a triumphant fanfare, the Daily Worker (10-2-31) makes much ado of the application of Sam Scarlett, an old-time I.W.W. militant for membership in the Communist Party of Canada. The Daily Worker in commenting upon Scarlett’s adherence to the Communists, declares:

“Again the victory of socialist construction in the Soviet Union has shown a capacity for winning over to Communism the really revolutionary elements among the anarcho-syndicalist workers of past years.”

It is a correct step for Scarlett to join the Communist Party. The Left Opposition has pointed out time and again the failure of the Communist movement in the United States and Canada and throughout the world, to attract the revolutionary syndicalist to the banner of Communism, and has explained why the Communist parties have failed. Foremost, there stood out the basic theoretical weakness of the syndicalist, the I.W.W., to grasp the cardinal necessity of a political party of the working class, and the dictatorship of the proletariat, as the instruments of the workers and all exploited peoples to achieve and to maintain the power of the masses against the class enemies.

But there was also the pedantic, smart-aleck and bureaucratic attitude of two-by-four functionaries of the Communist party toward the militant I.W.W. workers, participants and leaders of magnificent battles in the class struggle. Coupled with the mechanical measures utilized to win adherents of the I.W.W., these conditions served further to disgust or dismay I.W.W. militants still unclear on theoretical, principle and tactical issues avowed by the Communists. So the fundamental appeal of the Russian revolution and Communism brought only handfuls of the I.W.W. to the party where hundreds and thousands might have come.

Catching up with the Revolution

In the 14th year of the Russian revolution, Scarlett only now finds it possible to join the Communist party, to endorse the Communist International. This act is understandable for ordinary workers just coming to comprehend the class struggle and looking for methods to throw off the shackles of wage slavery. The path of a worker, blinded by capitalist prejudices and education toward class consciousness and the revolutionary movement is, at the outset, slow for the lone worker and, for the mass of workers, is speeded up only under the impetus and blows of stupendous class struggles and political developments, economic upheavals (Russian revolution, Spanish revolution, economic crisis, general strike, etc.) But this cannot explain Scarlett’s late entry, far Scarlett is a militant of many years standing. Why should he but at this day join the Communists?

Scarlett has finally caught up with the Russian revolution. He says, in his statement printed in the Daily Worker (10-2-31) that “we (the I.W.W.) underestimated the role of the proletarian dictatorship, and maintained our anarcho-syndicalist opposition to all forms of government, capitalist or proletarian.” The ex-syndicalist or I.W.W. Scarlett now arrives at and sees the role of a vanguard organization of the proletariat, of a political party of the working class; he now “recognizes” the ‘’State”; he draws the distinction between the aim and function of government in the hands of the capitalist class as an oppressor of the workers, and a Soviet Government, through the medium of the proletarian dictatorship, as the defender and guide of the workers and all the exploited peoples.

We may thus assume that Scarlett will struggle hereafter against the “epigones of syndicalism” who dominate the degenerated I.W.W. of today with false and outworn doctrines of the emancipation of the working class solely through the method of “industrial action” and the industrial union. By such “ideas”, the I.W.W. remains factually and historically in the swamp of reaction.

Scarlett is correct when he says that ‘’lack of self-criticism and inability to alter the opinions of yesterday on the basis of the facts of today led to fossilization and degeneracy” (of the I.W.W.). But will Scarlett, in thus stepping ahead, now apply this critique and approach to the problems that today face the Communist party and the Comintern? Let us see.

Scarlett on the Field of National Socialism

Scarlett unlike the liberal and treacherous “Friends” of the Soviet Union, takes his stand on the field of Communism itself. The Left Opposition has charged that the Communist parties and the Comintern itself are neglecting or ignoring the basic problems and issues of the struggle for political power within the respective capitalist countries and on an international scale. Under the orders and guidance of the Stalinist Comintern the respective Communist parties tend to become transformed largely into auxiliary agencies for the preservation of the Soviet Union, and to push the basic issue of the international proletarian revolution into the attic of history and pure speculation. The Stalinist Comintern draws its theoretical outlook into the closed shell of “socialism in one country” and, with its narrow horizon, fails even to see that the preservation of the Soviet Union itself is predicated upon the support of a proletarian revolution in Western countries.

Scarlett himself accepts this narrow Stalinist theory. Like the Daily Worker in its opening sentence, Scarlett says, “The political line of the Communist Party is correct. It is necessary to build socialism in a territory which is industrially and politically backward.” He is impressed with the “amazing progress of industrialization”; he watches the revolution change from the “haystack” to the “smoke-stack stage”.

With these lines we see how Scarlett comes to the Communist Party. From the theoretical swamp of the I.W.W. he progresses to the need of a political party of the working class, etc., only to fall into the anti-Marxian, Stalinist and reactionary swamp of the theory of socialism in one country. Neither the effusion of the Daily Worker nor of Scarlett carry the burning spirit of international revolution and socialism, for a genuine Comintern. Both begin and end with the glorification of Soviet industrial successes, even as liberals hail these successes. The Left Opposition forecast, planned and worked for these successes, despite Bucharin’s and Stalin’s hopelessness and pessimism.

From what considerations does Scarlett come to accept the theory that a complete Soviet industry and economy can be built independently in the Soviet Union without the assistance of the workers in other countries and through international proletarian revolution?

The Struggle Against Bureaucracy

Further, has Scarlett failed to note, in his 14 years of lonely progress to Communism, the specific problems and contradictions developing in the Soviet Union, arising both from objective factors and the Stalinist destroyers of revolutionary theory and revolutions themselves (China, Germany, etc.)? Is Scarlett blind to the changes in Soviet industry in respect to continuous loss of workers’ control in the shops, lack of Communist direction, etc.?

In the old I.W.W. emphasis was laid, and no doubt endorsed by Scarlett too, on the unskilled workers, the most exploited, the lowliest workers, whom the I.W.W. reached in the wheat fields, the lumber camps, the oil territories, the waterfront, etc. Potentially, these were the most revolutionary workers with nothing to lose and all to win. The old I.W.W. fought militantly for free speech, in and outside of the organization, for democratic methods, against fakers and bureaucrats. These were strong points on the I.W.W. side.

Will Scarlett react to these good qualities of a revolutionary syndicalist and a Communist, and will he now fight for workers’ democracy within the Communist party and Comintern? Will he oppose the bureaucracy in the Communist Party of Canada, the United States and the Comintern?

In Problems of the Development of the U.S.S.R., Trotsky has accurately forecast the present and impending difficulties in the Soviet Union, arising out of the successes of industrialization and agricultural collectivization, and the contradictions of the temporary existence side by side of a Soviet State and a remaining capitalist world. Despite Stalin and Litvinoff, the U.S.S.R. and capitalism cannot indefinitely coexist side by side peacefully. Will Scarlett and the thousands of new Communists continue to ignore the program of the Left Opposition on these growing problems?

The Comintern bureaucracy, with its false policies, continues to corrode and poison the vitals of the Comintern and its sections, the Soviet Government and the working class. In the Soviet Union, Stalinist methods create ever wider differentiations economically among the masses, particularly the city proletariat. Workers, poorly paid, shift from job to job in hope of economic betterment. Stalinism and its lackeys everywhere make no effort to close these gaps, but only to justify them in the name of “industrialization”. Stalinism makes a caricature of a correct policy of Soviet building, as set forth by the Left Opposition.

The Left Opposition has exposed the inadequacies of the theoretical position of Stalinism and its terrible results for the proletariat everywhere. For struggling for a change of the Comintern line, for the reformation of the Comintern, Oppositionists by the thousands have been imprisoned, exiled and even shot. What has Scarlett to say to all this?

Will he fight for the reinstatement of the thousands of Left Oppositionists to their righful places in the Communist movement?

Having taken one step forward to the Communist party, will he remain, as now, on the ground of Stalinist national-socialism or will he take another step forward to the Leninist position of international socialism?

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