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Albert Glotzer

Stalinist Zig-zags on the Chicago Conference

(December 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 49, 3 December 1932, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(Concluded from last issue)

The Party changed its position on the united front in the Chicago affair. But it changed it in usual fashion. It remained silent about this reversal of policy. It continued to preach “united front from below”. It failed to educate its membership about this change with the result that there is naturally confusion in the party ranks. That is why it necessary for Gebert to discuss the lessons of the conference.

Party Confusion

In his appeal for funds, Goldman, the I.L.D. lawyer, characterized the united front quite correctly. He stated that it was a unity of workers of various political parties and other organizations, united in common struggle on an issue that effected all workers. Goldman went so far as to restate Trotsky’s declaration on the united front: we will even make a united front with the devil. Between Goldman’s speech and that of Williamson lay a great abyss. In the. District Committee of the party an intense discussion revolved around the united front, it found itself face to face with a reality that contradicted the position of the party. That is why comrade M., whom Gebert takes to task, could not understand why the leaders of the Socialist party and other Right wing organizations were seated at the conference. Comrade M., we must declare, correctly interpreted the party policy. And while Gebert is essentially in the right in his criticism of M.’s position, he should declare that the policy of the party is wrong and that the united front in Chicago marked a departure from the official Stalinist position on the united front.

Under the training of the theory of social Fascism, and having been taught that the party would not and could not sit around one table with social Fascists, nor for that matter in one conference, comrade M. drew his logical conclusions that it was wrong to have seated Borders and Schneid, of the Socialist party, McVeigh of the Farmer-Labor Party, and others.

What is more amusing is the close of Gebert’s article. After correctly criticizing the conference for its failure to attempt to draw employed workers into the movement, for having failed to appeal to the A.F. of L. for support (does this not sound strange coming from Gebert or is there a new line in the offing), for its failure to draw into the executive committee other delegates besides those from the Workers League, the Unemployed Councils and the Socialist groups, he makes a final plea for the extension of the united policy as practised in Chicago.

Our View

In the leaflet distributed to the demonstration (See Militant, No. 144) the Opposition, declared its approval of the united front and pointed out that this united front was precisely what the Opposition had been calling for at all times. We welcomed the change in the line of the party, because the change was a correct one, permitting the Communists to gain contact with wider masses of workers, to demonstrate before them the superiority of the position of the Communists over other political movements, and thereby winning support of non-Communist masses. It enabled further an exposure of the Socialists as splitters and betrayers, who kept the threat of withdrawal from the conference over the head of its participants, if too militant a policy was adopted. But we raised the slogan of: ‘Maintain the United Front’ because the struggle of the unemployed did not end with the demonstrations. It remains just as acute today as ever and the party must continue the correct beginning. But from all appearances the united front has disbanded not only because the Socialists welcomed the end of the demonstration and thereby their participation, but also, because the party likewise was prepared to end the united front with the close of the demonstration. This is a great error and a crime against the unemployed workers who need leadership and united action.

But Gebert’s humor is too tragic. He calls for an extension of the united front policy applied in Chicago, but does not raise the cry of maintaining the present united front and extending the struggle it began. He does not declare that the official policy of the party must be discarded because it is false and contradicts the entire event in Chicago. Which, shall it be? “United front from below”, which means no united front at all – or, a united front of all workers and their organizations, as took place in Chicago. The party must declare itself. It cannot face two ways on this question.

We have no doubt the pressure of the situation brought about this “new line”. But this change is only a beginning and because it is not a complete and thorough change, it is incorrect. The party gained in Chicago. The policy of the united front as advocated by the Opposition was vindicated there as it is vindicated everywhere. In Germany, the Berlin organization carried out a similar policy and locked horns with the Central Committee. In the United States, the Central Committee remained silent. Why?

The party has as its task to bring about clarity. It must not hedge, and make half changes while maintaining the theoretical base for a false position. Away with the theory of social Fascism and the “united front from below!” Then the party will be in a position to make greater progress.

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