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Al Glotzer

Impressions of a National Tour

(April 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 14 (Whole No. 110), 2 April 1932, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The tour just completed, which carried the writer through the most important industrial cities in the United States and the two most important centers in Canada allowed for some first hand observations regarding the effects of the deep crisis in Canadian as well as American capitalism. It enables one to draw beyond the confines of New York City, and to see the movement, in those industrial centers where the American proletariat dominates – in those sections where the existence of the revolutionary movement is imperative, for the future.

That which strikes one immediately is the extent of the economic crisis, its terrific sweep over the nerve-centers of the country, carrying in its wake misery for the masses. Miles of sidings are occupied by huge numbers of idle freight cars; small industrial towns with factories are silent. Smokeless chimneys! The largest cities have few factories at work. Thousands upon thousands of unemployed workers make up a weary trek. There is hunger while warehouses are filled with food. The vast, numbers of jobless proletarians are not confined to any one town, or state. They are everywhere. Discussions with many workers from various sections of the country exhibit their state of bewilderedness. They do no yet comprehend the causes of the vicious crisis. But they are aware that there is something seriously wrong with the character of the system.

There are few movements of the workers. Aside from the attempts of the Communists no movements of struggle exist. Those struggles taking place are under the leadership of the Communist Party. The movements of the unemployed workers are organized by them. But they are still very weak and in many cases ineffectual. Through the policies of the Party these movements have become narrow. They are sectarian and thereby isolated. The tactic of the United Front, the best weapon through which to rally scores of workers is cast aside by the Party and is one of the main reasons for their failure to make greater headway. The Unemployed Councils organized by the Party are choked by the heavy arms of bureaucracy and impede their growth. Yet it is significant that the Communists alone have the courage and will to organize the workers in defense of their interests and in a struggle against capitalism. This is apparent everywhere.

Certainly there are attempts of the reformists to counter the activity of the Party. This is to be expected. Whenever and wherever the Communists are active the reformists rise as a wall to prevent, their growth and to canalize these movements. Father Cox arose to check the activity of the Communist Party among the unemployed workers. Similar movements exist in other towns. The Socialist Party is conspicuous in the west by its inactivity, more so, by its reformist preachings and aims.

In the face of impending struggles the bourgeoisie is preparing itself. The revolutionary workers must note keenly the developments in Canada. There, the answer of the government to the growing moods of struggle among the workers, as a result of the deep crisis, is shown in the resurrection of the infamous Article 98 of the Criminal Code. It was through this law that six members of the Central Committee of the Canadian Communist Party were arrested and sentenced to long jail terms. We arrived in Canada immediately after the sentence was confirmed and the comrades sent to Kingston. In the Province of Ontario the revolutionary movement is already underground. The aim of the Canadian government is to nationalize the drive against the Communists. Repressions are taking place in the other provinces. A virtual reign of terror exists. Our own meetings were organized illegally. The clause under which the Party leaders were sentenced was written with the aim of preventing the slightest kind of activity. It prevents public meetings, hall owners from renting their property for meetings under the threat of arrest and revocation of license. The publication of revolutionary literature barring literature from the mails (The Freiheit, Party literature, Opposition literature is barred from entry). Those receiving literature are liable to arrest. Anyone arrested on a single one of the charges in this article is guilty until proven innocent. Civil employees are instructed to assume the role of spies and to open any suspicious packages and to forthwith inform the authorities. The American Party which has thus far remained more or less silent about the developments in the Canadian movement must take cognizance of them immediately and understand their significance. It is necessary for our Canadian movement to organize itself with the aim of circumventing the drive against it.

The massacre at Detroit and the planned drive against the Communists there; the attack against the Party in Chicago accompanied by frame-up charges of shooting policemen are beginnings of a definite attempt by the government to bring repressions to bear upon the Communists and the workers generally. Already these events have had deep repercussions among the other workers who are repelled by the brutality of Ford’s gunmen.

* * * *

The Left Opposition is gaining greater support. Our meetings had a larger attendance than previously. There is a definite increase of sympathy and support for our movement. In spite of the efforts of the Party bureaucrats to prevent successful meetings they proved more or less ineffectual. (The meetings will be discussed concretely in a forthcoming article.) The workers felt keenly our viewpoint on the German situation, and the discussions at our meetings were of a particularly high level. In many cities, the presence of Party members, and of sympathizers with its line, helped to enliven the meetings through their participation in the discussions. Each meeting brought forth new viewpoints and questions. They helped all the more in clarifying our viewpoint on all questions confronting the International Communist Movement.

There was an obvious increase of interest in our press. This must be said particularly of Unser Kamf. It has created a deep impression on wide sections of the Jewish workers. References were made to recent articles in the Freiheit articles of so low a character that they could be written, only by people who have received their political training on the staff of the Jewish Daily Forward. The Jewish workers are particularly incensed with the degenerated babble about the “counter-revolutionary Trotsky”.

On the whole we can record a wider influence of the Left Opposition. We must strive in the coming year to increase our organizational strength to correspond to our political influence. There is still too wide a discrepancy between the two.

What is outstanding in the whole situation? The lack of organization of the American workers. The Communist Party is still very small. The great mass of workers are unorganized. But the effects of this crisis are resulting in deep changes in the whole character of the American proletariat. Changes are taking place in their whole ideology. These changes, to be sure, are slow. But they are genuine. The great mass of unemployed workers are still in a dazed state. The workers with jobs are in fear of losing them. The absolute faith in unending prosperity is shattered by the crisis. United States capitalism reveals itself to be no more immune to crises than other capitalist countries. This will create possibilities for great work by the Communist forces. It is necessary to understand this development so that our movement can be prepared for the future.

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