From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 17, 28 April 1941, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
Vigorously Pressing Its Revolutionary Line Before Widening Groups of Workers, The Party a Completes Year of Activity
Formed in April 1940, following the split with the Cannonites (SWP), the Workers Party has completed one year of well-rounded activity. The Workers Party has carried on in the principles and program of revolutionary Marxism – translated into the modern epoch, on the fundamental program of Bolshevism. Any efforts by this or that individual to derail the movement off the revolutionary course have met with complete failure. Born in the difficult period of a split in the ranks of the Fourth International and the beginning of the Second World War, the Workers Party has consistently put forward the revolutionary anti-war position before the working masses. It is as an active revolutionary, anti-war party that our organization, from top to bottom, has made its mark and will continue to do so in the future.
The Workers Party has demonstrated actively that it can carry on against the stream of growing patriotism and social-patriotism and class-collaboration policies in the labor movement. The organization is politically and organizationally sound and stable. Its political line and activity gradually make their way, Below are sketched briefly, for the information of the sympathizers of the party and readers of our press, some of the highlights of the Workers Party life and activity in the past year.
A few days after the Workers Party was formed, a special May Day issue of Labor Action, official organ of the Workers Party was gotten out for distribution on May Day. This was the first number of Labor Action. The Workers Party held an open air May Day demonstration in New York City at Columbus Circle.
The early weeks of the party were given over to the establishment of the necessary departments of work and institutions. Less than four weeks after the party’s inception, Labor Action emerged as a weekly newspaper. Despite all hardships, the membership and sympathizers of the party have maintained our excellent weekly paper.
Likewise, the theoretical organ of the party, The New International, continued to appear, but, with our limited resources, only as a 16 page publication. The Challenge of Youth, monthly organ of the YPSL, continued regularly.
Realizing that it would be the revolutionary anti-war activity of our movement which would be the determining factor in the future life and development of the Workers Party, the political committee decided on a national tour by Max Shachtman. national secretary. This was the first of the party’s important anti-war activities. This lengthy tour by Shachtman, in which he put forward the position of revolutionary internationalism on the central issue – the imperialist war – proved a big success.
The party, during the past year, has consistently endeavored to engage in the widest possible variety of work – public activity, trade union work, organization and field work, etc. – and at the same time to develop the necessary measures to ensure the ideological and political consolidation of our party on firm Bolshevik foundations. With the aid of objective factors, the social composition of our organization has significantly changed so that the membership is now becoming increasingly proletarian in its composition. The recruits who have come into the party in the past year have been almost entirely proletarian.
The party has organized and functioning units or potential units in: Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Cleveland, Akron, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Pedro, Houston, Kansas City, St, Louis, Streator, Louisville, Columbus, Youngstown, Pittsburgh, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Mt. Carmel, Newark, Boston, Lynn, Worcester, and Fitchburg, as well as members at large in other cities. In the past year, thriving branches have been organized in Buffalo, Kansas City, Mo., and Baltimore.
Trade union and industrial work has developed in important sectors of industry, particularly in Massachusetts, California, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Illinois. Measures were taken by the recently-held March plenum of our party to implement concretely certain phases of our trade union work. The change in the social composition of the organization has reflected itself in the trade union work of the organization, and, conversely, the trade union and industrial work of the organization puts its stamp on positive changes in the social composition.
Our major instrument, Labor Action, is regarded as an outstanding labor and revolutionary publication and persistently makes its way among more and more of the industrial proletariat, sharecroppers, Negroes and other exploited elements. The sale and distribution of Labor Action before factory gates in various cities is proving enormously successful, and brings Labor Action and our party more and more steadily to the attention of wide masses of workers. The circulation steadily increases as a result of the fact that more and more members are being drawn into the systematic sale and distribution of the paper. A task of the future is to maintain our weekly organ and to double its circulation. The membership feels confident of being able to accomplish this in the next few months. Special editions of Labor Action (e.g., the Negro and CIO numbers) have been issued on occasion.
The local organizations have displayed a commendable initiative in several instances and are showing themselves entirely capable of the development of local work (the issuance of local literature, agitational and propaganda leaflets, etc.). Local New York conducted one energetic congressional election campaign during which thousands of pieces of literature were distributed, scores of public (street corner and indoor) meetings were held – a campaign in which the membership engaged with its full force.
In order to develop and guide the work of the local organisations more directly, the national office has engaged regularly in field work and has had its few functionaries in the field for considerable periods of time.
Work among the Negroes was conducted, particularly in Chicago, and latterly in New York, as well as in several other cities (Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, etc.). One pamphlet (10,000 copies) on the Negroes was issued and was quickly disposed of among Negroes who were more than eager to read what our Party has to offer as a solution toward the Negro’s problem. The national Negro department of the party is today in a position to function more systematically and one can easily expect a sharp increase in the scope of the Negro work. For several months a national Negro organizer has been utilized by the party in the eastern area.
Our organization, despite its smallness and limited resources, has nevertheless regarded national public tours on the burning issues of the day as a paramount activity and necessity, In the space of one year our party has conducted two extensive national tours by Max Shachtman, national secretary, and David Coolidge, labor secretary; at this moment a third national tour is being carried through by Max Shachtman. It is a considerable effort and achievement for a small revolutionary organization in this period – an effort which has not been challenged or equalled by another political organization, in the working class movement.
Our party, as a tendency of the Fourth International movement, has endeavored to demonstrate actively its international solidarity with the exploited workers and peasants and colonial peoples throughout the world. Within a month after the Workers Party was formed it took steps to establish contact with Fourth International movements in other countries.
A few penny pamphlets have been issued to date by the party: My Friends – A Fireside Chat on the War (addressed to the Negroes); This Is Not Our War, a manifesto of the Workers Party on the imperialist war; Conscription – What For?, The recent plenum decided to. issue a series of popular and fundamental pamphlets on various issues before the working class, and these will appear in rapid succession.
The issuance of popular leaflets has also been planned: one on the lease-lend bill having recently been issued, and another (on May Day, 1941) came off the press a few days ago and has been widely distributed in all parts of the country.
The youth organization (YPSL) has also, during this period, conducted systematic activity among the working class youth and students. It has regularly issued The Challenge of Youth, one of the finest of revolutionary youth publications of any period, and has also published a number of popular penny pamphlets to the working class youth and Negro youth. The sale and circulation of these pamphlets has met with very considerable success.
In the field of refugee and defense work, the organization has worked with various committees engaged in raising money to aid the stricken revolutionary refugees abroad and in obtaining visas.
While the organization has endeavored to conduct activity in all the fields of working class endeavor, the party has not neglected its internal life and development, though much more still needs to be accomplished. In order the better to review and to plan the work of the organization, two plenums were held since the formation of the party, and the second national convention is now being planned for the earliest possible date.
In the field of internal education, bulletins and reports have been issued by the national education department. Greater cohesion and national planning are now being undertaken. New York, Chicago and Los Angeles were especially successful in carrying through classes and workers schools. In order to assist still further in the ideological and theoretical development of the membership, as well as to serve the advanced workers and sympathizers of our movement, The New International, monthly theoretical organ of the party, was recently increased in size from 16 to 32 pages and every effort will be made to continue the publication, on the new basis.
A brochure, The ABC of Marxism, dealing with the fundamentals of Marxism in all their important aspects, is now off the press.
The party has endeavored to carry out the principles of democratic discussion and during the past year has issued eight internal bulletins on various questions. Internal discussion, membership meetings, on a local or branch scale, have been carried on without in any way interfering with the external life of the party. Indeed, the internal discussions and the issuance of internal bulletins have contributed much to the clarification of the membership on important issues, and thus have also made it easier to conduct the external activities of the organization. Both the internal and external organs of the party (The New International, Internal Bulletin) have carried articles on the issues being discussed by the membership, such as the Russian discussion (still being conducted); on Germany; the nature of Bolshevism; war and military policy; etc.
The foregoing is but the briefest summation of the efforts of our party in the one year of its life to date. The party has had to carry on against tremendous obstacles and not everything has been milk and honey by any means. There have been losses of this or that individual who dropped by the wayside; but these have more than been matched by new recruits who have shown their calibre and ability to function as revolutionists.
The Workers Party is not a large organization – yet. But its membership has its roots solidly in the groundwork of Bolshevik theory and practice; its political line is clear, its membership persistent and determined to execute, the party’s program despite all obstacles. The members (and those of the YPSL too) are therefore confident of the future of the Workers Party and the Fourth International, and intend to carry on toward the goal of the socialist reorganization of society.
Last updated: 16.12.2012