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N.Y. Anti-Eviction Conference

(June 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 30, 10 June 1933, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

New York, N.Y. – More than four hundred delegates attended the Anti-Eviction and Relief Conference called by the provisional Commit tee Against Evictions at Irving Plaza on June 3rd. These delegates came from organizations close to or under the direct influence of the Communist party and its unemployed councils. With the exception of the Left Opposition and the Musteites, it was a purely party gathering.

The failure to secure the participation of the socialist or the Lovestonite unemployed councils must be laid directly at the door of fear, sabotage and disruption on the part of the reformists and their close allies in this perfidious job, the Lovestonite Right wing. What no doubt helped the reformist misleaders in refusing to participate in a common conference and a common demonstration are the past errors of the Stalinists for which they have not yet paid in full.

All the efforts on the part of the Provisional United Front Committee to organize the struggle against evictions jointly with the socialist and Lovestonite unemployed movements were in vain. Their sabotage was consistent and to all intents and purposes, deliberate. They, together with all city-wide organizations were invited to a provisional conference last May where a program, a series of demands and a plan of action were to be elaborated. The socialists and their unemployed leagues were conspicuous by their absence. The Lovestonites came but withdrew after the provisional conference rejected their unacceptable demands to exclude all political or trade union bodies.

But this was hardly the worst of the actions of the reformists, whose whole policy has helped to divide the unemployed to the great satisfaction of Tammany Hall. The misleaders called a conference of their own. They objected to the participation of political organizations in the provisional united front but they sat side by side with the socialist party in the conference of their own calling. What the reformists really had objection to was the militant Left wing organizations.

Not content with this miserable record of sabotage the Right wingers, in mortal dread of the program of the Left wing militants and their effectiveness in action, excluded the complete delegation of the Provisional United Front body from their conference. The revolt simmered among the rank and file of the socialist gathering against this splitting tactic. They moved the reconsideration of this ruling to exclude the Left wing and passed a motion to that effect by majority vote. It was ruled out of order, in true bureaucratic style, by the cynical socialist impressarios who fished out an unheard of alibi – “a two thirds vote is necessary for reconsideration” (!). Let the reader keep in mind that the Lovestonites have been part and parcel of this conference and share the responsibility for’ its treacherous deeds.

Winter’s Report

The united front conference opened with an able presentation by Carl Winters, secretary of the provisional committee, of its past history and the persistent endeavors it made to consummate a united front with the socialists and Lovestonite unemployed groups. The latter remained obdurate and blocked the path of linked struggle. Despite constant appeal they refused to participate jointly in the demonstrations with the Unemployed Councils at the Home Relief Bureaus and went out of their way to avoid common action. The last straw in their stack of deliberate division of the movement was the setting of a separate date for the city-wide demonstration to be held at the City Hall against the eviction and relief-slashing orders of Tammany Hall. This anti-working class move was perpetrated with the socialist leaders in full knowledge of the sincere desire of the United Front Conference for one demonstration on June 6th. All the pleas, negotiations committees and reasons were to no avail. The reformists were determined to proceed with their own demonstration on June 6th. Towards this end they sent lying reports to the press accusing the Left wing conference of standing in the way of a united demonstration.

Winters exploded this nonsense, which flew in the face of all the previous facts and explained that when the Right wing unemployed groups were forced into a hole by the protests of their rank and file, they adopted the reactionary excuse offered by the Lovestonites that they were ready for joint action provided there were no political banners at the demonstration. He closed with the statement that the Left wing conference would be present at the demonstration on June 6th with the banners of all organizations carried above the demonstrators.

Then followed a pitiful sight. A delegation of three, the Lovestonite Rubenstein, of the Association of the Unemployed, and two others representing the socialist jobless movements, requested and received the floor to make an appeal for unity. This was granted to them. They only reiterated their abominable conditions for the demonstration: no political banners. The reception accorded to them was cordial but their proposal went against the grain of the militants present.

Characterizing the attitude of the conference towards the “concessions” offered, was a resolution introduced by Amter for the resolutions committee which properly castigated the socialists for their violation of the decisions accepted in the Chicago conference and for their subsequent sabotage. To prevent the Stalinists from retreating from the position of the united front, so painfully acquired, comrade William Kitt of the Alteration Painters’ Union, presented an amendment to the resolution calling for another “appeal for united action of all working class organizations and for one powerful demonstration on June 6th and a united delegation.” Both the resolution and the amendment were unanimously accepted by the conference. The proposal to demonstrate on June 6th was also carried.

The Delegate from the L.O. Speaks

The discussion that followed was of a purely agitational character. It was only when the delegate of the Left Opposition, George Clarke, took the floor that a silence of interest fell over the hall. The delegates were desirous of learning what the Left Opposition had to say and what policies it advocated for the unemployed movement.

He greeted the conference in the name of the Left Opposition stating that if the party continued on the new turn in the united front tactic and if they faithfully adhered to the decisions of the Chicago unemployed conference, new vistas of growth and a powerful impetus could be given not only to the jobless movement but to working class action in general. Comrade Clarke condemned the tactics of the socialists and the Lovestonites which, he declared, would divide the employed from the unemployed by excluding trade union bodies – the very thing that has prevented the unemployed movement from attaining any mass dimensions up till now. The exclusion of political organizations, he continued, was a reactionary move worthy of a died-in-the-wool A.F.L. labor skate; the struggle of the unemployed is a political struggle – it confronts the state at every turn and requires the participation of political organizations.

Comrade Clarke criticized Winters’ proposals for the formation of local councils – delegated bodies of all working class organizations in the neighborhood – as not being extensive enough. Without the participation of central bodies this would mean a revision to the old tactic. He concluded his speech with the remarks that after years of blundering by the Stalinists one could not hope to force the sabotaging reformists into the united front over night, that persistent and stubborn efforts were needed and the goal was assured. His speech was greeted with a good round of applause. Comrade Weisbord of the Communist League of Struggle, also spoke along the same lines elaborating on some of the points.

Minor Intervenes for the Official Party

Then followed the Stalinist barrage – a mountain of confusion. Its mouthpiece was Robert Minor, speaking for the C.E.C. of the Communist party. He roared that no turn had been made (in face of the C.I. manifesto, the Chicago events and the repeated appeal to the S.P. central bodies, this sounded extremely ludicrous), the party is still following the lines of the united front from below. He laid down the ultimatistic demand – if the socialists won’t come along with us then we’ll go it alone, for who represents the masses, we or they? In this case why all the desperate efforts for united front conferences and demonstrations with the socialists and affiliated organizations?

Israel Amter reported for the resolutions committee. He re-echoed Minor’s ultimatism and said that the Chicago conference of the unemployed did not represent the rank and file of the organizations assembled. Then whom did they speak for, themselves? And upon what authority did they arrive at the important decisions made at that gathering? These questions he quite naturally failed to answer. The whole tone of his report was that we have endeavored to form the united front with the socialists but they refuse to come along – so, he intimated, we are getting ready to return to the “united front from below.” Amter presented a document for the resolutions committee, known as the Workers’ Relief Ordinance, which contains various vital demands for the unemployed.

Comrade Kitt made a minority report on the resolutions on the Chicago congress and their application to New York. The resolution omitted mention of the city central bodies that were to be invited to the formation of the federation in New York and called for representation in such a federation on the basis of numerical strength. Comrade Kitt explained that such clauses would give the reformists a loophole to crawl out of the federation and proposed that the unification take place on the same basis as in the Chicago conference. The Stalinists defeated the amendments and consequently assume the responsibility for the restraint the reformist leaders will be able to exert on their followers when this question of unity comes up for consideration.

The six hour day and five day week was another bone of contention at the conference with the Stalinists. Defending the ambiguous slogan of the shorter work week they claimed that everything else was the stagger system, and in view of the fact that some workers were working as high as seventy hour’s a week, the slogan of the six hour day was out of the question. The delegates of the Left Opposition and the Spartacus Youth brought powerful arguments to bear in favor of the concrete slogan of the six hour day and pointed out that all the conditions were laid for the building of a huge movement around that basis and uniting the unemployed and employed. The Stalinists took fright and accused us of a maneuver to put the party on record against the six hour day slogan and then proceeded to switch the issue with the line that this was only a local and not a national conference, etc., etc., ad nauseam. The six hour day resolution lost – but not because the workers were against it.

Finally – the Stalinists for Soviet Credits!

A signal victory was won for the Left Opposition at this conference. After three years of persevering struggle the Stalinists accepted the internationalist resolution of the Left Opposition for recognition of and long term credits to the Soviet Union. Not very long ago it was called counter-revolutionary by the Stalinist bureaucrats – at this conference Amter said that “this resolution (on long term credits) needs little explanation. I am sure that everyone is in favor of it.” With a few minor changes which in reality make the Stalinist adoption of this resolution more contradictory than ever, the conference went on record unanimously in favor of long term credits to the Soviet Union. The world does move!

By the time it came to the nomination and election of the permanent committee, the hall had dwindled from more than 400 to about one-fourth as many and with the aid of the remaining Stalinist stalwarts, the committee was packed with apparatus trusties. The Musteites, to be sure, were awarded a place on the committee but the “counter-revolutionary” Left Opposition was debarred.

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