From Socialist Appeal, Vol.2 No.3, January-February 1936 , pp.7-8.
Transcribed and Marked up by Damon Maxwell for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
YIPSELS IN THE AMERICAN STUDENT UNION IMPORTANT problems are involved in the formation of the American Student Union and the role which Yipsels should play in that Union. George Mann raises some of those problems in his article on the Student Union convention held at Columbus. They should be discussed thoroughly until both the problems and the possible solutions are clear. It seems to me that several serious mistakes were made at Columbus and they should not be repeated.
1) Accepting the advisability of creating a united organization on the student held, it was wrong for the Yipsels to make the acceptance of any kind of a war program as a condition precedent for amalgamation. There was a strong tendency in that direction although in the end the SLID correctly joined the Student Union in spit" of the incomplete program. If unity is justified at all it is to be accomplished primarily on the basis of immediate demands for students and not on the basis of a theoretical program on war.
2) It was wrong for the Yipsels, through the SLID, to advocate a program on war which was incomplete and incorrect. The Yipsels must at all times propose a theoretical program on war which shows the connection of war with the capitalist system and clearly states the necessity of the overthrow of that system in order to abolish war. The Student Union might not accept such a program but then it would be clear that the YPSL does not accept the pacifist program of the Student Union. This does not mean that the SLID should refuse to join but should remain as a minority in the Student Union agitating for its program. There can be no class A and class B theoretical program on war. There can be unity in action against war but not in theoretical program on war.
3) No discussion was carried on amongst the Yipsels as to the character of the program which they should stand for at the unity convention. Such a discussion should have been carried on for at least six weeks before the actual convention. Because of this lack of discussion the Yipsel delegates came unprepared to grasp the fundamental issues involved.
4) The approach of the N.E.C. of the Yipsels to the Yipsel caucus at the convention was a purely bureaucratic one. The National Organization Committee appointed a steering committee the duty of which was. to all intents and purposes, to tell the caucus what to do. Had there been a discussion conducted before the convention and a decision arrived at as to main policies the caucus, would have known what those policies were and should have been empowered to carry out those policies without a steering committee appointed by the national organization coming down to dictate to the caucus. Discipline does not mean commanding and blind obedience. This Communist conception of discipline must be fought. Because of the lack of discussion and because of the bureaucratic approach some comrades made the mistake of openly breaking Yipsel discipline. But the blame must be traced to the wrong method of treating the whole problem.
* * * *
IF ONE is interested in peace, without seeing that only the destruction of the capitalist system by the revolutionary action of the working: class is the only effective way of assuring peace, he is liable to accept all kinds of Utopian ideas that have as their object the prevention of war under the present system. A League of Nations, a Kellogg peace pact, sanctions, neutrality and what not will be advocated as a means to bring peace to a troubled world. A revolutionary Marxist who accepts the position that war is inevitable under the capitalist system and wants to use the desire for peace that exists amongst the masses simply as an aid in the struggle to overthrow the capitalist system rejects all schemes to bring peace to a capitalist world. A revolutionary Socialist does not argue whether this or that particular policy of the capitalist class will ensure peace. And from that follows the necessary policy of a revolutionary party to retain the independence of the working class in any question involving war under the capitalist system.
Comrade Norman Thomas in his anxiety to bring some measure of peace into a warlike world suggests that the Ethiopian war be settled “not at the expense of Ethiopia but on terms of giving Italy better access to trade, especially to raw materials.” And he adds “that it is not likely that capitalist nations will make such an adjustment except under pressure” of the working class. This idea he presents in his column in the Socialist Call of Nov. 30, 1935.
A militant pacifist, with logic on his side, can object to such an idea on the ground that at the present time to suggest giving Mussolini access to raw materials would mean to reward a wrongdoer and to set an example to all other imperialist nations that are not satisfied with what they have. He can readily argue that an aggressor should be punished and not rewarded.
But that would be far from the position of a revolutionary-Socialist. Such a Socialist would simply say that the working class has nothing to do with the division of the world amongst the imperialist powers, that it is interested in destroying imperialism and not in seeing that the different imperialisms have their “just” share of the spoils.
But are we not interested in peace and should we not do something to prevent a horrible war? That is the argument of all those who do not accept the Marxist position on war. It is the argument of those who favor the League of Nations and those who favor sanctions. It is the argument of those who will not see that to destroy the possibility of war capitalism must be destroyed. All other proposals are Utopian and create illusions.
Let us attempt to follow out the logic of the doctrine that the working class must exert pressure on the capitalist governments to give Italy access to raw materials. If it means anything at all it means that Italy must be given colonies that now belong to some other powers. It could not mean that Italy be simply permitted to purchase raw materials from other nations. She has that privilege now. And if it moans that colonies at present under the domination of an imperialist country be turned over to .Mussolini, then how in the wide world can a Socialist party deal with colonies in the same way as imperialist powers deal with them, that is, treat them as the property of the capitalist countries? A revolutionary Socialist party can do only one thing with reference to colonies. It must demand the right of .self determination for them; it must fight for their independence of all imperialisms.
Access to raw materials for all nations without enslaving any backward people is possible only after the destruction of capitalist imperialism.
* * * *
(From the report of Tom De Fazio at the November Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, U.S.A.) I THINK Comrade Weinstone should tell the Socialists of Detroit to join the Second International and then they will probably find out something about sanctions because the Second International is in perfect agreement with sanctions.
I take it that Tom wants to be sarcastic. Aside from that the attempt of communists to teach the left wing of the Socialist party to be loyal to the Second International is perfectly in order. I mean loyal to the ideas of the reformist leaders of the International. As a matter of fact there is no reason why the Stalinists should not join the Second International and teach loyalty inside of that International. Between them and the reformist leaders there is so little difference that they would find little difficulty in making a bloc against the revolutionary anti-sanctionists.
But if the Stalinists move in will the revolutionary Marxists have to move out? At present, at least, we have freedom to express our opinions, an idea which the Stalinists arc no longer capable of tolerating.
* * * *
“Ministers, rabbis, a member of the Canadian Parliament, two war-bitten generals – one American, the other Chinese – musicians, actors, and World War Veterans, all are taking part in the Third U .S. Congress Against War and Fascism, which opens on Friday etc. etc....” (Special to the Daily Worker Jan. 2, 1936) And the fascists are undoubtedly shivering in their boots when they read about such a conglomeration of “valiant fighters.” But the Communists are great at creating noise, sound and fury.
The only justification for the Socialist party to enter the League would be the desire to put our program before people who know nothing about it. But the question remains: Are there any people in the League which would justify the least bit of lime and energy necessary to expend in working in the League?
* * * *
NOW that the old guard is about to make its exist from the Socialist party there is no room in this country for revolutionary individuals or groups outside of the S. P. The only excuse such individuals or groups can possibly have for remaining isolated from the main stream of revolutionary activity is that the old guard would refuse to permit them to join the party. Soon there will no longer be that excuse. The realistic revolutionists, not in any way influenced by any desire to join the Stalinists, must come into the party. This applies especially to the Workers’ party.
The N.E.C. of our party should extend an invitation to all revolutionists and revolutionary groups, who are anxious to build a revolutionary party and who will abide by discipline, to join the Socialist party.
Last updated: 14.June.2009