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The National Convention of the S.P.

(May 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. 5 No. 22 (Whole No. 118), 28 May 1932, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Socialist party, at the time of this writing, is assembled at Milwaukee to nominate their presidential standard bearers, and to cogitate over the “revolutionary” profundities raised by the “militants” (the would-be Left wing). To the mind of many an S.P. “militant” this is to be a decisive convention – a turning point in the history of the Socialist party. That remains to be seen.

This much however is certain. The pressure of the economic crisis has smoked out a rankling protest against the reactionism of Hillquit, Oneal and Co. The convention was opened by Hillquit. True to type, and reflecting the conditions and moods in the country like a good weathercock, he made a bold keynote address. Capitalism has been shown as a miserably failure. It has collapsed and a new social order must be ushered in to save capitalism from consequent doom.

Brave words. But how is this to be done? Not a word about the vain endeavors of his European brother parties to save dying capitalism from the inevitable fate. Only an intimation that should the socialist party be called upon, they will valiantly perform their “patriotic” duties to help stem the tide of proletarian resentment, where the republican and democratic twins are unable to shine in the signal achievement of deception and perfidy. But this time has not yet arrived. Hillquit can still afford to be the “Marxist” and deliver a withering blast against the advocates of a third party, those who want to fritter away the important services the S.P. may in time render American capitalism, by flirting with the nondescript liberals. This is an underhanded attack at Norman Thomas who is known to have a warm place in his heart for Dewey, Holmes and Co.

But Thomas was not to be outdone as a “revolutionary.” The resolution of the “militants” counter-signed and amended by Thomas, on the Soviet Union, which the New York Times characterizes as “friendly neutrality” is the supposed retort to Hillquit. It tells us that while they don’t endorse all the policies of the Soviet Union, and the proletarian dictatorship peculiar to Russia, and while political prisoners should be released, and civil liberties restored – nevertheless they are emphatic for the defense of Soviet Russia against capitalist intervention. But this dishwasher radicalism had already shocked the convention, and when a resolution appeared on the floor for the forcible confiscation of property, the delegates threw up their hands in horror. Amidst the empty thunders of Norman Thomas – who threatened to decline the presidential nomination – about the applicability of this tactic in Moscow and Leningrad and the havoc and starvation it would wreak in New York and Chicago, the convention voted down this revolutionary pretension to the tune of 166 to 14.

In spite of the new “Left wingism” of the “militants”, they swallowed Thomas whole and nominated him for president midst a rising vote.

At the same time, to show that their “militancy” on organizational questions prevails over clarity of principles they aligned themselves with Thomas to oust Hillquit from the national chairmanship. The convention went into a furor. Accusations of anti-Semitism stirred the peaceful demeanor of the pacifist proponents. Amid all this froth and rage we hear the alternative of the “Left wingers”: Mayor Hoan of Milwaukee! From the frying pan into the fire. Here Hillquit again rises to the occasion and castigates Hoan and Co. for the “modern sewer” socialism which he himself has advocated for years.

It is said that the “deep seated” difference between Thomas and Hillquit is determined by their attitude toward Soviet Russia. After reading the Blanshard resolution on this question we can come to no other conclusion than that it is merely a difference of terminology – six of one and a half a dozen of the other. The real issue, as we see it, between these treacherous leaders of the American social democracy is another one that has been indicated above. Shall the socialist party remain the reformist traducer of the American working class (Hillquit) or shall it become an outright third liberal party of capitalism (Thomas). In this sense the pleadings of Maurer to avoid a split are beside the point at present: there is not yet a strong third party movement afoot. Hillquit is reelected and Thomas is biding his time.

Of course we need a humorous touch. This is provided by the mountebank, Broun, who insists on a wet plank in the party program.

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