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Albert Glotzer

Before the Socialist Party Convention

(May 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 19, 12 May 1934, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of four articles by Comrade Glotzer on the groupings and issues at the forthcoming convention of the Socialist Party.

* * * *

The Socialist Party of America will hold) its annual convention in Detroit on June 1, 2 and 3. The entire Party is now engaged in preparing for this meet. Discussions have already begun and groupings taken shape. The membership is in a state of agitation somewhat reminiscent of the time when the first left wing struggle broke out.

The present condition must naturally be contrasted to the almost decade-long period in which the Socialist Party was a small ineffectual organization. Since the crisis, however, it has grown steadily in influence and numbers, so that the Party approaches the convention with a membership of over 25,000.

In the National Headquarters’ Supplement of the Milwaukee Leader of March 3rd, are published numerous resolutions on the leading questions facing the Party: a – Declaration of Principles; b – National Recovery Administration; c – Labor Unions; d – Agriculture; e – the United Front; f – Socialist Press; g – Socialist Tactics; h – International Relations, Fascism, Democracy, etc.

With respect to the decisive fundamental questions, a series of different viewpoints are presented as the basis for the pre-convention discussion. These views vary from the crassest reactionary Right Wing position on the class struggle to the Left, including also a tendency favoring adherence to the movement for the Fourth International.

Groupings in the Party

The emergence of definite left wing groupings in the American Socialist Party may be received by many with surprise and doubt. An examination of the pre-convention material, however, is all that is necessary to convince one of this fact. Thus one sees the following groups and tendencies preparing to do battle for their respective points of view: The Revolutionary Policy Committee (patterned after the committee of the same name in the British Independent Labor Party), the Militants, the “Chicago Left Wing” (Senior and Krueger), the ultra-reactionaries of the Forward Association under the leadership of Abe (“Hear the Other Side”) Cahan, the Old Guard, the Wisconsin Organization (Hoan), and those who follow and support the position of the Polish Bund. In any case, there is variety.

What are the chief points of struggle? First and foremost is the principled question of: Reform versus Revolution. Allied with this and flowing out of it is the question of the proletarian dictatorship. Out of the disputes over these two fundamental questions of Marxism over which the workers movement has already split into well defined groupings (social democracy and communism), there has logically developed differences on all phases of work engaged in by the Socialist Party. The questions of Trade Union work, the United Front, The struggle against War, Labor Party Soviet Union, and a whole series of other questions are in dispute. Basis Causes of the Groupings The situation in the Socialist Party belies the Stalinist position on Social Democracy. They have and continue to regard the social democracy as on solid, immovable “social fascist mass” incapable of moving in the direction of communism. A Marxist approach to the question will demonstrate at once that conditions which made possible the emergence of an International left wing in Social Democracy during the war years, resulting in the creation of the Communist International on the basis of the old, recur once more in different form.

Outstanding victories of the proletariat (the Russian Revolution) are not the only motive forces of the international working class Major defeats likewise prove to be influences upon the workers’ movement, pushing it in one direction or another. Thus if the Russian Revolution had the effect of finally breaking off large sections of social democracy already dissatisfied with the banner of Kautsky, Bauer Scheideman, et al., and pushing them in the direction of Communism and the banner of Marxism, there is no reason why a catastrophic defeat, such as took place in Germany (and followed in Austria) should not bring about similar movements.

The defeats in Germany and Austria demonstrated the bankruptcy of Social Democracy and Stalinism. These two events are responsible for the movements within the Social Democratic parties the world over. The specific political and organizational conditions associated with the Social Democratic movement explain why it is going through another internal upheaval; and similar reasons, from another point of view, explain why Stalinism, momentarily, ids such tremendous internal disruptions on the basis of the series of defeats suffered by it. This we leave for a later discussion.

Roots in the International Situation

It is impossible to explain the situation in the American Socialist Party, the existence of such a variety of groups, with different views in. some respects and views that coincide in others, without seeking its roots. The background of the internal situation in the American Party is the European situation The defeat in Germany, carrying with it the destruction of the “dean” of social democratic parties, brought into existence an International Congress (August 1933). At this congress, in spite of the endorsement it gave to the policies and activities of the Germany Party, there emerged a definite left wing point of view under the leadership of the Polish Bund. This point of view disassociated itself from the policies pursued by the German S.D.P. and the Labor and Socialist International (2nd) which was dominated by the German Party.

While the left wing received but eighteen out of three hundred votes cast at the August, 1933 International Congress, since then it has grown everywhere. The Austrian situation also acted as an impelling force on the left wing in all countries. The left wing takes shape as an international grouping disassociating itself from the whole course of the L.S.I. pursued up to and through the German and Austrian events, demanding a complete revision in theory and practice, of social democratic policy. Just as the decisions of the international congress of last year did not and could not settle the international situation in the L.S.I., but has only raised them in a more acute form, so the coming convention of the American Socialist Party will riot settle the questions in dispute. The situation in the American Party is a reflection of the international situation. The left wing groupings here are a part of the international left wing groupings, all of them arising under the pressure of great European defeats. Irrespective of the outcome of the Detroit convention the main issues that agitate the Socialist organization today will continue until a definite solution, both politically and organizationally, of the questions in dispute takes place.

Probing the Disputes

A discussion of the coming convention cannot be held without consideration of:

  1. The international congress of August 1933, in which the conflict between the Right represented by the German leaders and the international “Old Guard” on the one hand and the left wing led by the Polish Bund (supported by a majority of the American delegation!) on the other, broke out in sharp form over the fundamental questions raised in connection with the most decisive event since the Russian Revolution – the victory of Fascism in Germany;
  2. The international groupings of a left character and the reflection of these tendencies in America; and
  3. The possible outcome of these internal struggles, or more precisely: what to do!

The forthcoming articles will deal first with the Congress of the L.S.I. held in August 1933, the present situation in the L.S.I., and, finally, the situation in America. Only on this basis is it possible to understand what is taking place in the American Socialist Party and orientate oneself to that situation – that is, in viewing the situation here, not as an isolated event, but as the logical sequence to the International Congress and the discussion that took place therein following the German events.

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