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Albert Goldman

Why We Supported the A.L.P.

An Answer to Critics on the Principles Involved in Backing Eugene Connolly

(March 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 11, 15 March 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Judging by remarks made by some of our sympathizers, the decision of the New York Local of our party to give critical support to Eugene P. Connolly, running for Congress on the American Labor Party ticket, is not very well understood. Subjected to any Marxist analysis the decision ot the New York Local is completely justified.

To support or not to support another workers’ party in an election is not at all a question of principle. There are no general rules which can be followed in determining when and whether a should give critical support to a party. The only general rule that can be followed is that a decision to give critical support to a Labor party or any party of workers should further the interests of the working class and consequently of the revolutionary party.

It can be seen that a rule so general cannot alone aid us in determining our derision in a, specific situation. There is no way to avoid an analysis of all the factors to determine whether supporting or not supporting another working-class party furthers the party at a particular time.

We Are For an Independent Labor Party

In the first place, it must be remembered that our party favors the building of a Labor party, that is, of a party organized and controlled by the trade unions or a substantial portion of them. Under conditions where the vast majority of the workers support capitalist parties, the creation of an independent Labor party would constitute a tremendous step forward. We must therefore do everything in our power to further the building of such a party.

It would be absurd for us to wait until a Labor party is created on a national scale before supporting a local Labor party. Whenever and wherever there is a local Labor party which has substantial support from organized labor we should support it against capitalist parties unless there are valid reasons for not doing so. To pile up as many votes as possible for a local Labor party helps build one on a national scale.

Are we in a position to get on the ballot and run our independent candidate? is the party that we are thinking of supporting a real Labor party or only one on paper? Even though it is a small party will our support help build a larger Labor party? Will running our own candidate help elect to office a reactionary candidate? All these and other questions must be analyzed before a decision is taken either way.

A reason that would justify support of another party at one time would not justify supporting it at a different time and under different circumstances.

And what has been said with reference to supporting a Labor party is also true with reference to the question of giving critical support to the candidates of a workers’ party that is not strictly a Labor party, such as the Socialist or Communist parties. If in any country or in any locality of this country there is no Labor party but there is a strong Socialist or Communist party we are not at all in principle committed to the idea of refusing to give critical support to the candidates of such a party. Our decision will always be determined by the particular factors that prevail.

The ALP Has Real Trade Union Support

It is enough to state that a substantial number of important trade unions constitute the backbone of the American Labor party to realize that it is not paper Labor party. It has not as many unions as we would like to see it have. The pro-Roosevelt and pro-war right wing withdrew its support and thus reduced the number of trade unions supporting the Labor party but enough important trade unions are left in the party to justify the statement that it is a real Labor party and that its growth will help build a Labor party on the American scene. From the point of view of our general program of helping build a Labor party, giving critical support to Connolly was the only justifiable tactic.

A factor of importance in our decision to support the ALP candidate was the anti-war program of that party. It is of course out of the question for us to support a Republican or Democratic candidate even though for one reason or another such a candidate happens to come out against war. All the reformists of the district where the election is taking place are supporting the pro-war Democratic candidate. We could not support a Labor party candidate who is in favor of entry into the imperialist war or of any measures, such as the lease-lend bill, which constitute steps towards entry.

I can hear sectarians shout that Connolly is not really against the imperialist war; his program is an isolationist and pacifist program. To that we answer that the workers supporting Connolly think that he actually will be a fighter against the imperialist war. We don’t like the program and we have not hesitated to say so. But the fact remains that the ALP is considered by the workers as an anti-war party. The program of a party to which we give critical support will never be completely to our liking. If it were we would immediately offer to merge with it and not simply give it critical support.

Yes, We’ll Fight Side by Side with Stalinists

Many well-meaning people are horrified at the idea that we are supporting a Stalinist-controlled party. But we must not forget that this Stalinist-controlled party is backed by Stalinist-controlled unions and we have at no time and we shall never at any time oppose workers’ organizations simply because they arc Stalinist-led. We want to remind our critics that we support the Soviet Union against any imperialist attack and the Soviet Union is led by Stalin himself.

We can even whisper to our critics that if we deemed it advisable and of benefit to our party give critical support to Browder running on the Communist party ticket. We are now defending Browder and Bridges against the repressive attacks of the government.

Our politics are not determined by hate or a desire for revenge but solely by what we think furthers the interests of the revolutionary movement, It is unfortunate, but it is a fact that we can not ignore, that there are many thousands of militant workers that are in the ranks of the Communist Party and many more thousands support it. It is also an unfortunate fact that these workers do not agree with our criticisms of the Stalinist leadership. They do not believe what is obvious to us, that the GPU, for instance, is a murder machine directed against the interests of the revolution.

The Effect of Our Support to the ALP

It is in reality these militant workers that we support and not the Stalinist bureaucrats. To the rank and file we say: You do not agree with our program and our criticism of your leadership; you think that your party is really a revolutionary party. We do not agree with you but nevertheless we shall fight with you against the capitalist class. We shall show you in real life that everything the Stalinist leaders tell you about us are lies and nothing but lies.

Our support of Connolly does not mean that we give up our program. Not for one minute. We continue fighting the Stalinist bureaucrats, criticising their program and trying to convince the rank and file that we are correct. In the last analysis the tactic of giving critical support to the American Labor party is a tactic which is best suited to destroy the influence of the Stalinist leaders on the militant rank and file and to convince them of the correctness of our program.

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