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Charles Curtiss

Los Angeles’ “Radical” S.P.

(April 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 7, 1 April 1931, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


“Permit or no permit, we are going to parade.”

“They can’t stop us from marching to the city hall.”

“The cop who wields the first club makes history.”

The above are characteristic statements made by William Busick, chairman of the executive board of the Socialist party of California, to 3,000 unemployed workers in the socialist-controlled unemployed conference. These words were greeted by the hungry workers with enthusiasm.

The city council, however, refused the permit and Busick, the bombastic, promptly changed his tune and urged the workers

“... to accept defeat ... and march to the polls, and use our organization as a power for law, order and the return of constitutional government.”

This, I think, is the premier attempt of the socialists to use the unemployed, and deserves careful attention and analysis by every worker. As the crisis drives deeper, the misery of the workers increases and similar socialist activity will appear elsewhere.

A number of questions spring to our mind. How come that the Socialist party is organizing 3,000 workers in three weeks, while the T.U.U.L. has not even one-tenth that number after 18 months of effort? Why were the socialists refused a permit to parade? Why were the rank and file so docile in the face of betrayal?

The reason the socialists succeeded in rallying the unemployed where the Left wing has failed is that the socialists had never attempted to do anything in the situation. They were a last hope.

The Communists had been tried by the workers and found wanting. The hungry workers looked to the Left wing to lead them to bread, they were led instead in unsuccessful demonstrations.

With each demonstration for the last ten months the futility of following the present leadership of the Left wing becomes more and more apparent and the disappointment of the masses in the leadership of the Left wing is shown in the constantly decreasing number attending the demonstrations. The Socialist party, an untried factor, entered the situation and a staunch and determined mass fell into line behind it. The workers discouraged in the would-be leaders of the T.U.U.L. fall easy prey to glib charlatans.

Why were the socialists refused a permit to parade? The answer is to be found with the Communists. The Communist-led councils have never been able to develop into a real force for the struggle against misery and the city council felt that the danger from this source was not great enough for the socialists to enter as lightning reds to detract the masses from militant action. They felt that the hungry, as led by the Communists, could as yet be met with gun, bomb and club.

Chief of Police Steckel, in a burst of candor stated: “If your parade is going ahead against the wishes of the city council some of your people will be killed. We have to take steps to protect constituted authority.” (“Constituted authority and government,” it may be remarked, has an unbroken line of defense reaching from Steckel to “Red” Hynes, to Busick.)

For his eagerness to serve the powers that be by disrupting the movement (the “socialist” demonstration was called for February 6, four days before the previously announcement T.U.U.L. demonstration), Busick received a sound drubbing.

Had there been sufficient pressure from the rank and file, pressure of a sort that only the Left wing could generate, possibly Mr. Busick would have carried out his threat in spite of his masters’ opinions. That Left wing was absent, had no contact with this mass of eager material and Busick was left to carry out his betrayal unhindered. This is the reason the masses took this betrayal so docilely.

The sheer helplessness of the official leadership of tine Communist party in this situation is obvious. It is due to two causes.

  1. The putsch-like ordering of demonstrations. Demonstration has followed demonstration but from each one, from each attempt to reach the city hall, the workers have returned without work and without wages. With the decline of the workers’ support, the brutality of the police has grown and recent demonstrations have become ultra-Leftism personified; the gathering of a few Left wing workers, the shouting of a few slogans, the raising of a few banners, the scattering of a few leaflets and a windup of bomb and billy. The situation demands a digging in, organizational work and flexibility of tactics that will make our demonstrations assemblages of strength and not of weakness.
  2. The second factor that prevents us from being effective is the absolute rejection of the united front tactic by the Stalinists. An appeal to the unemployed workers in the socialist council for joint action between them and us would have had and can still have telling effects. Busick would oppose the united front but with the cry of solidarity we could expose Busick as an agent of the bosses and establish contact with the rank and file.

Another tragi-comedy is that those who in the “second period” were quite willing to make a united front with any faker, in the “third period” can see no distinction between the misleaders and the misled, and hold that a united front with the socialist unemployed conference would be the same as a united front with the socialist misleaders. It goes without saying that Busick and his ilk should be severely criticized by the Left wing in any united front.

By the way, the “third and last period of post-war capitalism” that was repeated in every paragraph of the Daily Worker, and with which every unit literature agent opened his report has, of late, been making but shy appearances few and far between. Explain, Jorge!

The ultimate source of the poison that is making our movement impotent is to be found in the tactics of the revisionist Centrists. Only by a return of the movement to the Marxist-Leninist course pointed out by the Left Opposition can our movement be rendered healthy again.

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