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Ria Stone

Norman Thomas in Display of Political Impotence

(23 February 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 8, 23 February 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

CHICAGO – Norman Thomas and Maynard Krueger, addressing an audience of several hundred University of Chicago students recently, gave a spectacular demonstration of the impotence of the Socialist Party in the face of declared war. The topic of the discussion was Will the War Bring Socialism? The conclusion of these men, leaders of the Socialist Party, was completely hopeless. Dismayed by the fact of the declared war, they scurried for shelter into the imperialist war camp and renounced completely even their earlier feeble attempts to regard the war from a genuinely socialist point of view.

Maynard Krueger is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago. He spoke like one. What workers feel as the class struggle, he describes abstractly as the factor of “conflict” in society. But even he admits, as he must, that the factors of “conflict” in society are increasing while the “cooperative” factors, i.e., the ability of the bosses to make concessions, are decreasing. However, his remedy is an undue stress on the significance of the consumers cooperative movement.

Kreuger recognizes that the roots of the war are imperialist. But, hamstrung by the recent ambiguous statement of the Socialist Party, he is prohibited from asserting that the war remains imperialist in character. So Krueger remains tied to the apron strings of the weasel-spirited Socialist Party.

Krueger and Thomas

Maynard Krueger seems apathetic, without hope. Norman Thomas seems alive but has nothing to live for. The war? Well, Thomas is not ashamed that he fought “to keep America Out of War.” But now we are in the war, he says, and we must face the fact that a smashing Axis victory would ruin all chances for world democracy. Does that mean you are for the war, Mr Thomas? Well, I am not for a smashing victory over the Axis powers, either, answers Thomas, but I am for a just peace at the appropriate time. And who is to write this peace, Mr. Thomas? Well, I am not for another Versailles conference, he answers. You see, Thomas anticipates another conference table dominated by the present belligerent powers at which workers and so-called progressives can BEG for a peace more just than the last one. But the only really just peace, consummated by the workers themselves, is completely neglected by Thomas.

And what about the Third Camp – the workers and the colonial peoples, Mr. Thomas? He has nothing to say about the colonial peoples. He ignores the billion or more colonial workers and peasants who may determine the outcome of the war by their revolts against imperialist oppression.

And do the American workers have a stake in this imperialist war, Mr. Thomas? Should they strike for their rights in war time? Well, says Mr. Thomas, I think some strikes are justified but many should be avoided. “And besides there isn’t enough democracy in the trade unions.” Thus, Thomas puts his main stress on the weaknesses of trade unions and avoids discussing their essentially sound aspects.

Krueger’s hopelessness and Thomas’ superficiality are not accidental. Rather they are manifestations of a decadent party, professing socialist aims while abstaining from Marxism; vacillating between tender-hearted compassion for the working class and actual confidence in the ruling class.

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