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Albert Gates

Fourth Anniversary of the Workers Party

A Record True to the Interests of Labor and to the Cause of Socialism

(1 May 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 18, 1 May1944, p. 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The First of May, 1944, is not only labor’s holiday, it is also the fourth anniversary of the Workers Party of the United States and of Labor Action. At a time when the political movement of the workers of the world is in a disorganized and beaten state as-a result of betrayals arising from within the broad; labor movement and the victories of fascism and reaction, the Workers Party and Labor Action are truly beacon lights of hope for the American as well as the international working class and all exploited peoples. There is little argument about the miserable state of capitalist society the world over. The war portrays in the sharpest form the utter decay of this social order which is incapable of existing under conditions of peace, or of supplying the necessities of life for all the people;

Thus; international capitalism is a spectacle of riches piled up on one side in the; hands of the monopolistic capitalist classes of the powerful nations, and immense poverty for the overwhelming majority of the peoples in all countries of Europe, and America, an the many millions of colonial subjects of imperialism.

In the United States there is an apparent picture of prosperity for all the classes. But this is purely superficial. Actually, in the midst of the war economy and the absence of unemployment, the same picture of immense wealth, war profits and well-being is found on one side in the hands of the American capitalists, while the overwhelming majority of the workers and exploited await the post-war period with dread. One does not heed to wait for the post-war period, however, to assess the position of the working people. They barely make ends meet during the very course of the war.

The war itself, in addition to baring the incurable sickness of capitalism as a system of wars and poverty, forces the main burdens of production and prosecution of the conflict upon the shoulders of the workers and the millions of poor. Poor conditions of labor, speed-up; deterioration of living conditions, and the general decline of the living standards of the people are merely the concrete manifestations of the terrible exploitation of the masses.

The end of the war will demonstrate that while the capitalist classes of the world, especially in this country, have piled up enormous reserves for the leaner days, the workers of the world, and in this country too, will have little to turn to but the specter of unemployment, relief, gigantic WPA’s, and the like.

The Workers Party has endeavored to explain these things to American labor, to educate it to understand its lot under capitalism and to win .it to socialism as the only hope of freedom, and security for all of mankind. Real social security and plenty for all will come with the abolition of the capitalist system of exploitation, the operation of industry by a workers’ state and the production of the needs of life for use rather than profit.

The Workers Party is dedicated to this cause of transforming the social order of capitalism into a new order for the betterment of the whole human race, i.e., socialism.

The test of our kind of a party is different from that applied to the big capitalist parties. They are measured solely by their wealth, the lies they tell, and the promises they give. The Workers Party, as an organization representing the best interests of labor and all who toil and are poor, can be measured only by the manner in which it represents these interests.

Size alone is pretty unimportant in relation to principle. And the Workers Party prides itself because in the four years of its independent existence it has conducted itself in ah exemplary way, defending the interests of labor and carrying on the struggle against the capitalist system for a new and better society.

Background of the Workers Party

The Workers Party arose in the course of a sharp internal struggle in the Socialist Workers Party (Cannonites). That was four years ago. The issue which separate us from that organization was on the attitude to be taken on Russia’s invasion of Finland and Poland, and subsequently, what position should be taken on Russia’s role in the imperialist war.

We contended that the first Russian invasion of Finland was an act which violated the principles of socialist internationalism and therefore was calculated to do the workers of the world the greatest harm. The Stalinist invasion of Finland, and the subsequent division of Poland in alliance with Hitler Germany, did not advance the interests of the workers of Russia, nor of the workers in the invaded countries, but merely strengthened the bureaucratic Stalinist regime at home, and increased “the power, territories and revenue” of that regime!

We could not agree either with Trotsky or the majority of the leadership of the SWP in their condemnation of the invasions and the contradictory support they gave, in turn, to the invaders. To justify this untenable position, they asserted that Russia remained a workers’ state, although a degenerated one, and in these conflicts, the workers of the world must support this “degenerated” state. Although not all of us were yet clear on the characterization to give the Russian state, we were certain that the position taken by Trotsky and the Cannonites on the concrete questions, was wrong.

It was obvious, however, that the old party needed a thorough discussion and re-evaluation of its Russian position. It was also possible to avert a split, but this latter was contingent upon a free discussion of the disputes in the party. Such a free discussion and re-evaluation of the Russian question was manifestly impossible in a party bureaucratically governed under the leadership of Cannon and his faction.

Our demands for a guaranteed free and democratic discussion and defense of minority rights (as a matter of fact, the relationship of forces was extremely close; with the youth organization we had a majority) were not met. Even the suggestion of Trotsky that our demand for a paper be granted, thus insuring our democratic rights, was refused. The split was then inevitable, since the majority leadership regarded the discussion of vital political questions as a luxury. They still persist in this bureaucratic attitude.

Had a split been averted at that precise moment, February 1940, it undoubtedly would have occurred later. The entry of the United States into the war and the invasion of Russia by Hitler were turning points in the international situation and on both questions the Cannonites responded in characteristic fashion. The Socialist Workers Party was virtually the only party in the movement for a new, Fourth International, which remained officially silent on America’s participation in the war. On Russia’s new role in the war, it adhered to a worn-out formula: “Defense of the Soviet Union.”

With our departure, all discussion in their ranks ceased. They observed Russian developments with the ideas of a decade ago. With the most important bases of their position shattered by the impact of events, they continued to justify their position by declaring Stalin’s Russia to be a “degenerated workers’ state,” to falsely separate the Stalinist regime from the Red Army, and to read into the world situation facts which weren’t these.

Clarity Through Discussion

Our party continued to discuss the Russian question in the best traditions of a democratic workers’ movement – and not only the Russian question, but all other problems of intense interest to the labor movement. Thus, we fortified our views on Finland and Poland by our conclusions on the character of the Russian state, namely, that it was not a workers’ state, but a new type of state, never before seen in history. Though arising out of a workers’ revolution, it had become a bureaucratic collectivist state, in which the working class was actually enslaved, its organizations destroyed and one in which the bureaucracy held complete sway over the destinies of the people.

With this clarity on a most important question for the workers of the world, we have been able to understand the developments of the war and Russia’s role in it and have found it no different in any essential way from that of the other powers.

In the same fundamental way, our party discussed and analyzed the meaning of America’s entry into the war. We believed and we said that the character of the war did not change; it remained a capitalist-imperialist war over territory, markets, raw materials and profit. Every new stage in the war has merely confirmed what we stated publicly.

The WP in the War Crisis

The responsibilities of the Workers Party in this crucial period of world history was clear to us. First and foremost was to tell the workers the truth! And this We have done. At home our course was clear:

To defend the basic interests of the masses, to help them in their fight against the profiteers, to assert their economic and political rights and to fight for them, to oppose placing the main burdens of the war upon the shoulders of the people and placing them where they belong – on the shoulders of America’s bloated, profiteering monopolistic capitalist class.

In the four years of our existence we have carried on the battle for wage increases, for an improvement of the economic conditions of the workers and the people as a whole, for the democratic rights of. the masses. Moreover, we have pointed out to labor the grave dangers which confront it in the post-war period; the dangers, of unemployment, hunger and widespread poverty. We have defended all the struggles of the workers in their fights for their rights NOW.

The Workers Party and Labor Action have demonstrated the completely fraudulent character of price control, where the only thing really controlled has been the wages of all who labor.

We have demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that the President’s so-called seven-point program has in reality been a one-point program of wage-freezing.

Long before the official labor movement began its attack on the Little Steel formula and the WLB, we had already warned against these sinister things and called for the abolition of the formula and the need for labor’s representatives to get off a board stacked against labor.

We have advocated an improvement of the living standards of the masses against the concerted Administration-big business drive to destroy the hard-won gains of labor.

Together with large sections of the union movement, we have advocated the rescinding of the no-strike pledge as a means of freeing labor from the stranglehold of a one-sided promise which has given big business the signal to begin a nation-wide offensive against unionism and the economic position of labor.

The Workers Party and Labor Action carried on a magnificent campaign against all (NAM, union officials and the Communist Party) who sought to reintroduce the speed-up and piecework system through the none-too-attractive title of incentive pay.

Drawing the Political Conclusion

But most important of all, the Workers Party and Labor Action, while recognizing the absolute importance of this program, have shown how all of this leads to an unavoidable conclusion for American labor, i.e., a political conclusion. All of these economic demands and struggles have to be fortified against big business on the political field. Here is where the great power of the capitalists is to be found. They have their political parties in the form of the Republicans and Democrats. Only labor is without a big political party of its own which would represent it and fight for its interests.

What labor needs to supplement its economic struggles is independent labor political action. What labor needs now is an independent Labor Party. It has the manpower for it. It has the funds; it has the capacity for the job. It needs only the will, the understanding and the determination to go forward. Such a party would not only shatter the political monopoly of big business and the capitalists in general, but it would give the American workers a party of their own to fight for their demands and make a bid for political power.

This, then, is part of the history and program of the Workers Party and of the paper, Labor Action. We have not stood on the side calmly to observe the passage of events and the struggles of American labor with the cry: “Now is not the time to do anything; now is the time to preserve ourselves. When the workers get moving we will not stand in their way” (as some contemporaries have done).

The Workers Party stands side by side with the workers in the day-to-day fight for life itself. Ours is a party of, for and by labor. Just as sure as the sun will rise, we will, by virtue of our principles, our program and our activities, become the socialist party of the American masses, the party of the future!

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