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Charles Curtiss

Stalinists Launch New Phoney
Labor Party in San Francisco

Opportunist Platform Is to Right of Epic;
Devised to Catch All Voters

(September 1935)

From New Militant, Vol. I No. 38, 14 September 1935, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

SAN FRANCISCO. – “Labor Unites with Liberal Democratic and Radical Forces for the Municipal Elections” is the heading of a leaflet stating the program of the San Francisco Municipal Labor Party, which was ratified on August 31.

The Labor party being formed under Stalinist aegis in San Francisco, key labor city in California, is an indication of the nature of the Labor parties the Communist party is going to form throughout the state. For this reason it deserves the attention of workers nationally.

The program for the proposed Labor party calls for everything from 100 percent unionization of the city to abolition of one-man street cars; from a demand for referendum, to free school books; from a unified publicly owned transbay transportation system, to a statement of opposition to vigilantism; from the improvement and extension of vocational training, to a demand for the freedom of Tom Mooney.

The program lists 21 demands and slogans. The mass-class Labor party so loudly touted by the Stalinists, reveals itself to be a catch-all to attract votes on any basis. But the burning question to literally hundreds of thousands it leaves untouched. To these hundreds of thousands enrolled in the Epics and Utopians, besides thousands of un-affiliated workers, the present capitalist crisis has driven one fact home: capitalism is an outworn system that must be replaced with a new social order.

Upton Sinclair, on the platform of “End Poverty in California” and “Production for Use,” polled nearly a million votes in the gubernatorial elections of last year. The overwhelming majority of these votes were protests against the present system, and for socialism, although a confused type of socialism as popularized by Upton Sinclair in his “production for use and not for profit” platform.

That the methods proposed by Sinclair to attain socialism, would and could not lead to the desired goal, but somewhere far off from it, is very true, but right now we shall not deal with this aspect of the question.

Although nearly a million California voters cast their mandates for a new social order, the fact of the matter is that the proposed program for the Stalinist-inspired Labor party does not even contain a word about the necessity of the abolition of the capitalist system, and the establishment of socialism.

The program of the Stalinist conceived and executed Labor party limits itself to the struggle for immediate demands. The program does not base itself upon the idea of the overthrow of capitalism, but merely to the patching up of this system. It is silent concerning the burning question of the era: capitalism or socialism. The elementary teachings of Marxism-Leninism concerning the use of parliamentary elections to propagandize the revolutionary solution by the workers oi their problems, is thrown overboard by the Communist party. The highest aim of the parliamentary struggle seems to be for the Stalinists to give the workers the idea that capitalism can be reformed. The mistake is two-fold: first, not to utilize the interest aroused in politics around election periods for the advocacy of the revolutionary solution, and second, in giving the workers the illusion that any gains of a substantial nature can be won through parliamentary struggle.

As a matter of tragic fact, the Epic movement, having as its central slogan, Production for Use (in addition to a series of immediate demands), is far to the Left of the Stalinist-created Labor party, which bases itself solely upon the struggle for immediate demands, and does not even place before the workers the need of a new social order. The program of the Labor party cannot even be called reformist; the best description that can be given for it is Left-liberal.

The self-proclaimed vanguard of the working class, instead of leading the workers to the broad highway of revolution, is dragging them to the abyss of the most craven type of reformism. The masses have seen the necessity of a new social order (confused though they are as to the means of attaining this social order), but the Labor party does not even pay lip service to this ideal.

The Workers Party of California, however, places before Itself an altogether different task. It does not drag behind the masses; it does not strengthen their illusions in parliamentarism. To those workers convinced of the necessity of replacing capitalism by socialism it points out the only real way of attaining this goal; through the scientific method of Marxism-Leninism, the workers’ dictatorship over the capitalist class, as a temporary stage to the free communist society. To the workers still imbued with faith in capitalism, it shows the need for a new social order.

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Last updated: 22 February 2016