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Fight for Left Opposition Proposals
in Pittsburgh Hunger March Conference

(November 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 48, 26 November 1932, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

PITTSBURGH. – Friday evening, Nov. 11, the United Front Hunger March Conference of Pittsburgh was held at Walton Hall. According to the report of the credentials committee, 69 delegates representing 22 organizations were present. The report said these organizations were such as the ILD, the IWO and also mumbled something about A.F. of L. locals.

But the names of the organizations were not given. From the faces of those present, it was, however, easy to ascertain that the vast majority were party members or members of organizations directly controlled by the party. Aside from the two delegates of the Communist League (Opposition) we know of only the two delegates of a single Unemployed Citizens Committee (Musteite?) as being non-party workers in attendance there. This is sufficient to characterize the “united front” nature of the conference as well as the new and latest turn toward “genuine united front work” made by the recent Stalinist plenums on a national as well as on an international scale. Characteristic also of the caricature “united front” was the fact that in this heart of the steel industry the “representative of the steel workers” was a frail girl comrade, who herself told us that she comes from – the Hill Section, that well-known citadel of steel production ... She was the delegate of the party’s Steel and Metal Workers Union, the only one to speak in its name at the conference.

The Left Opposition Takes the Floor

After two very matter of fact reports, dealing with practical directives rather than with the outline of a political program of action, by comrades Kearns and Myerscough, discussion was opened. The discussion dragged along at a slow tempo for about half an hour, the participants dealing with minor questions, which though important in themselves, were in place at practical committee meetings rather than at a united front conference. It was not until the delegates of the Left Opposition took the floor that the conference became alive mainly due to the anxiety of the party bureaucrats to drown out the Leninist united front proposals of the Opposition.

Comrade Gordon took the floor for the Communist League of America (Opposition) and in the brief time allotted to him greeted the conference in the name of our organization, pledged support to its work and outlined in concise form the Leninist united front policy of the Left Opposition on the unemployment question. After criticizing the official reporter for not drawing the highly important lessons of the Chicago hunger march, explaining the latter and calling for their application in Pittsburgh, the delegate from the League closed with a presentation of the unemployment platform of the Leninist Opposition (immediate relief, supplemented with the demands for unemployed insurance, the six-hour day without reduction in pay, long term credits to the Soviet Union, etc.). He repeated the pledge of loyal cooperation with the conference and its committee, in spite of differences in policy, and took his seat amid vigorous applause from the other delegates.

Immediately, the party fraction started with its organized attack. A certain Menken made himself ridiculous with the charge that the Opposition wanted to cooperate with the treacherous Bill Green and by slinging with some asinine slanders about the local group. A whole string of others followed with the same half-hearted and lame arguments, all of them calculated and discredit the Opposition and all certain to reflect more purely on the stupid and servile character of those who made them, as the everyday struggle continues to prove the correctness of the Leninist position of the League. Finally, the discussion was summed up by Myerscough, who softly side-stepped all the political issues, and, forced to defend himself for forgetting altogether about the great lessons of the Chicago incident resorted to picking up the cheap slanders of those who preceded him. No votes on policy were taken. Resolutions were relegated to the last point in the order of business.

29 to 1 – An Insufficient Majority for the Bureaucrats
Against the Leninist Oppositon

Next, the conference preceded to elect an executive committee. Comrade Jim Sifakis, of the Pittsburgh branch of the C.L.A., was nominated among others. Immediately another flurry started among the party members. The committee was supposed to consist of 25 members. 25 were nominated and accepted and a vote was in point. But Sifakis was among the 25 and it was impossible for the bureaucrats to stomach even this lone Left Oppositionist on the conference body. The “leaders” immediately got into a huddle and hit upon this clever maneuver to keep the League out of the committee: There were not enough women workers on the committee! And with this, nominations were once again opened. Once the nominations were re-opened, representatives of the National Student League, the Musteite Citizens Council and any number of other organizations were asked to add their representatives to the committee. And then the fight against the Opposition’s nominee began in earnest. The Stalinist representatives did not shrink from the worst methods of slander, provocation and demagogy in this fight, in which the security of the Stalinist “line” was threatened – on a committee of 30 – by a single Communist League militant! Significant enough.

Comrade Sifakis took the floor to defend his candidacy. Again the Lenin policy of the Left Opposition was brought before the conference, our comrade reminding the delegates, many of whom knew him from the past, of his long record of militancy in the Pittsburgh revolutionary workers movement. The party speakers, under Stalinist influence, were then forced to grasp – as to a last straw – on the word “Opposition” in the official name of our organization, to make a demagogic appeal to the sentiments of the audience, stressing that “Opposition” means – a desire to disrupt.

Comrade Gordon again took the floor, to tear down the veil of demagogy and to bring the discussion once more up to a political plane. He reiterated the Left Opposition’s unemployed platform, stressed again our loyal desire to cooperate in the work of the conference committee, in any case, and called upon the delegates to put the Communist League to the test in actual everyday struggle, to judge it and its policies on that basis.

Myerscough once again summed up the discussion. Forced at first to argue politically, he repeated the Stalinist myth of the “united front from below” as against the Opposition’s Leninist united front policy. Heckled and forced to retreat there, he stopped to an attack upon our Illinois comrades. Interrupted in his slanders there, he finally resorted to sterile demagogy borrowed from the previous Stalinist speakers, revolving around the slander about the word “Opposition”. This closed the discussion and a vote was taken. In spite of all the efforts of the Stalinists, they were able to obtain only some 30 votes against Sifakis, most of the others abstaining and 7 voting for the Left Opposition candidate.

In spite of all these provocations, the Left Opposition was the first to pledge a definite sum in financial support of the Unemployed Conference. The conference then adjourned with a hasty reading of resolutions. Others wanting to propose resolutions were magnanimously invited to bring these to the committee’s headquarters.

The Left Opposition’s action at the conference will not remain without effect on the revolutionary workers of Pittsburgh. An important wedge for the Leninist regeneration of the Communist movement and for the progress of revolutionary labor movement in Pittsburgh has been driven.

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