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Albert Goldman

A Tribute to a Fine Socialist Spirit –
Antoinette Konikow

(5 August 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 31, 5 August 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Albert Goldman was the leader of the Minority Group in the Socialist Workers Party, a large section of which joined the Workers Party. This article on Antoinette Konikow is the first contribution by Comrade Goldman to Labor Action. He will be a regular contributor to the new eight-page LA. In appraising the deceased Antoinette, Goldman writes of a comrade with whom he was in close association.Editor


Antoinette Konikow’s contributions to the revolutionary movement were considerable. But even if that were not the case, the fact that she was active until she reached the age of seventy-seven, when she died, would by itself be a great achievement. Rarely do we find a comrade remaining active in a revolutionary party until ripe old age. Especially is this true at the present time when many who were devoted to the socialist idea have faded out of activity because of the dreadful defeats which the revolutionary movement has suffered at the hands of the Stalinists.

Not very many of those who left the movement embraced bourgeois democracy, as Max Eastman did. They simply became disheartened and discouraged and ceased being active. But not Antoinette Konikow. She remained in the struggle practically to her last days’ with an unswerving faith in the ultimate victory of the socialist revolution.

The fact that she was a professional person and did not have to toil in a factory in order to make a living made it somewhat easier to remain active in her old age. But if it is easier for a professional person to remain active, the regrettable fact remains that very few professional persons do remain active in the revolutionary movement during old age. Antoinette, however, to the very end remained devoted, and actively devoted, to the ideals of her youth.

Her last year of life was not a happy one – primarily because of the factional struggle in the Socialist Workers Party. I cannot, I must admit, produce documents to prove my statements. I can only say that she poured out her heart to me in several conversations. If I am challenged by the Cannonites then there will be no alternative for those who read the controversy except to believe either one or the other.

Her Attitude to SWP Majority

Politically she was with the majority. This means that she was opposed to the raising of democratic demands in Europe. She was opposed to the slogan of the democratic republic because, as she told me, the workers of Europe did not want and did not need a bourgeois republic. On this question she was an honest ultra-leftist together with the vast majority of the rank and file of the SWP. The leaders of that Party refused to say openly that they were for or against the slogan, but left the rank and file the impression that they were against it.

The question of unity was raised in the later stages of the factional struggle and in the one short conversation I had with Antoinette on that question she told me that she was definitely opposed to it, mainly on the ground that she did not like some of the comrades in the WP.

It was because of the struggle on the organizational questions that she was very depressed. Several times she apologized profusely to me. She felt that she should have participated in that struggle. Her heart was failing her, she said, and she could not become involved in the struggle – especially since that might mean making her situation at home somewhat difficult. She was very sad because customs and attitudes strange to her freedom-loving, socialist spirit were visible in the SWP.

The cheap build-up of the “leader,” the sneering attitude towards those who wanted to discuss and the name-calling that served as a substitute for argument were all obnoxious to her.

An Independent Socialist Spirit

Antoinette knew that there was something wrong with the training that the youth received in the SWP. What she wanted was a freer atmosphere. She wanted a party with a critical and independent membership and not with people who were blind fanatics. She promised that she would join the struggle for such a party if and when she would recover her health.

At bottom the difference between an Antoinette Konikow and the old functionaries of the party (and among functionaries one should include also those who are not actually on the payroll but are members of the clique) is that for Antoinette socialism was not only a theory to be accepted perfunctorily but a great ideal in the struggle for which petty maneuvers and distortions can never find a place.

Women of noble character like Krupskaya and Zetkin died without raising a voice – at least openly – against the Stalinist degeneration. I can attribute it mainly to fear that by raising their voices they might harm the Party which they helped to build. They did not realize that if by raising their voices in the interests of truth they would harm the party, then the Party is not worth while saving. It is useless to speculate whether Antoinette Konikow would have broken openly with Cannonism had she lived another five years. I can only say that her independence and understanding of what a Bolshevik party really is justifies my strong feeling that she would not have remained silent for long.

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