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Albert Goldman

Where We Stand

(22 March 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 12, 22 March 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

James Maxton, leader of the Independent Labor Party of Great Britain, is satisfied with himself. He and his party have made the proper move and now, he says, it is up to the German workers to make their move.

It is incredible that he should say it, but the facts are before us. In a speech which Maxton made at a meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, he said (the quotation is from the Feb. 15 Glasgow Forward, a paper close to Maxton):

“I think that the move lies now with the German people rather than the people of Great Britain. I think that it is up to the German people now to make some indication that the world can see or hear that they are not all the mere tools of the fascist regime... we have made our sign in this country ... And I am asking the German people now to give some response.

“If they can give us an indication that they are ready to make their protest against German imperialism, we can go on to give further signs of our antagonism to British imperialism.”

Maxton evidently considers the whole anti-war effort some kind of a game. We first give some sign of opposition; then we must wait until the German workers respond. And if they don’t respond what shall we do then, keep quiet and blame it on the German workers?

“The main enemy is at home” – not in the sense that we want our capitalist class beaten by the capitalist class of another country, but that we must concentrate all our efforts all of the time to organize the working masses to take power away from the capitalist class of their own country. If the English workers succeed in establishing their own government the German workers will really be incited to revolt against Hitler.

* * *

Shachtman’s Latest Critique

The value of a stupid criticism lies in the fact that, at times, it offers one an opportunity to clarify an idea. Thus Shachtman’s article on the Cannonites and the United Front presents me with a chance to. explain the difference between the united front tactic and the tactic of supporting a candidate of another political party. Shachtman’s article has absolutely no other value.

The difference between a revolutionary Marxist and a reformist party is tremendous, but since both parties have a working class base is possible, and from the point of view of the interests of the working class it is highly desirable, for the two parties to get together in the day-to-day struggle on particular issues against the capitalist class. The united front as a tactic has real value if the parties making a united front have large mass following. Nevertheless the tactic is possible of application on a smaller scale, particularly for defense purposes and in the struggle against reactionaries in trade unions.

Before the united front tactic is actually applied there must be negotiations between the parties or groups involved in the united front and there must be agreement as to the program of the united front and the methods of fighting for the program.

Generally speaking, to achieve a united front between a revolutionary and a reformist organization for election purposes is the most difficult and therefore not very many united fronts of such a nature can be expected. For the simple reason that a revolutionary party in an election campaign is under an obligation to educate the workers in the program of the party and it is therefore necessary for such a party to conduct its own campaign.

But the necessity for a revolutionary party to present its basic program in an election campaign does not at all interfere with the tactic of giving critical support .to another working-class party. Whereas in the united front there is the necessity of arriving at an agreement for immediate objectives, there is no such necessity in case of the tactic of offering critical support.

For instance, if we should want to organize a united demonstration with the Stalinists, to demand the release of Browder, it would be necessary to negotiate and come to some agreement on time, place, speakers, leaflets, etc. But if an offer on our part to the Stalinists for such a united front would be refused, as it certainly would, then we might decide to support critically any demonstration organized by the Stalinists. In the latter case there would be no united front and our action would not at all depend upon the willingness or unwillingness of the Stalinists to permit us to support their demonstration.

One feels a trifle embarrassed to speak about such a simple subject, but when Shachtman mixes up with the united front tactic our tactic of giving critical support to the ALP, it is necessary to descend to the ABC’s. One can argue against the use of the united front tactic in a particular case; one can argue against the policy of offering critical support to any other working-class party at a particular time. But one must understand the difference between these two tactics.

Shachtman did not attempt in his article to enter into a discussion on the merits of the policy of giving critical support to the ALP at this particular time and under the particular circumstances. Anxious to offer some adverse criticism he simply mentions two points that are entirely insignificant and have no real bearing on the question.

The argument that ho devotes most space to is the contention that we concealed the Stalinist character of the ALP. That, he tries to show, is an indication that we are opportunists and defenders of the Stalinists. Unfortunately for Shachtman my article explaining the reasons for our adopting the policy of giving critical support to the ALP appeared in the issue of The Militant before his criticism appeared. There could be no question that my article was written before reading Shachtman’s criticism. And my article clearly mentioned the fact that the ALP was Stalinist in character and explained how that factor was taken into consideration in determining our attitude.

We can inform Shachtman that judging by one fact alone – obtaining valuable contacts through our campaign – the correctness of our policy has been amply confirmed.

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