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Plan to End Relief in N.Y.

(July 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 35, 15 July 1933, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

New York, N.Y. – Suspension of all jobless relief by the city administration stared in the faces of 2,000,000 unemployed workers and their dependents this week. The question is not yet decided as we go to press. Only vague promises of aid from the state government have been made. The situation of the unemployed remains highly precarious and a desperate tension exists in their ranks.

The suspension of relief came about as a result of a financial crisis due to the sabotage of Relief Bond sales by the local bankers. The bonds had been issued by the city government. The bankers are intent on cutting clown the city budget so as to enable the administration to pay them on loans due, or at least to force concessions profitable for them (e.g. a raise of fares to bolster up the traction interests they control).

On Monday and Tuesday crowds of workers milled around the relief bureaus voicing their protests and demands and anxiously awaiting word of the most recent developments. On Wednesday afternoon delegations of jobless appeared before a meeting of the Board of Estimate at City Hall to present their demands to the administration. And here, the whole sorry plight of the organized unemployed movement came to the fore. The delegates did not act in a body. Socialists appeared separately and Communists separately. No attempt was even made to get a united delegation with a united program.

The result of this split of forces was obvious. The Tammany fakers naturally used the one against the other. While some time ago, on a similar occasion, they allowed the socialist Norman Thomas to speak and ejected the Communist delegation, they this time turned the tables and permitted the Communist Robert Minor to speak, while ejecting the socialist representatives. The socialists are reported to have protested vigorously against the “united front between the democrats and the Communists.” It comes with ill grace from them. For they were in a similar situation the last time and may just as well be the next time. It

is true that Minor did not protest against their exclusion, but neither did Thomas when he had occasion to. The responsibility for split in the ranks of the unemployed, which is of the greatest aid to Tammany fakerdom, rests squarely upon the shoulders of both the social reformist as well as the Stalinist bureaucrats.

Minor to the Board of Estimate: “Now Comrades ...”

It is of special interest to revolutionary workers to observe how the delegate from the party-controlled unemployed council acted. Minor’s address to the Board of Estimate was the purest reformism and did not breathe a breath of the revolutionary spirit of Communism. On the contrary, it serves to breed further dangerous illusion among the broad masses as to possibilities of permanent relief from their miseries under capitalist government. He restricted himself almost exclusively, to a statement of immediate demands, never once even touched upon the Communist class struggle position. It could not be otherwise. Under the guise of revolutionary phrases, under the guise of “struggle against social Fascism”, the Stalinist leadership is making a new Right turn whose opportunist trappings hit the revolutionary worker right in the eye.

So engrossed did Minor become in his “positive, constructive” opportunist program that he forgot at one point before whom he was presenting it and broke out into the appellation: “Now, comrades ...” amid the smiles of the Tammany racketeers. He barely caught himself in time.

The whole position of the Stalinists flows from their past line. Their rejection of the Leninist united front and their “third period” unionization program has left them divorced from the broad mass with an artificial, “private property” – as to speak – mass movement on their hands. Unwilling to make the turn toward a correct united front tactic and union policy because that involves their shaky bureaucrat! prestige, and on the other hand, afraid of losing whatever non-party forces they still control, they mimic the reformists in the unemployed council headed by themselves and capitulate to opportunism within their own four walls, so to speak. How else can a speech like Minor’s be explained?

In the meantime, this policy does serious damage to the working class as a whole and discredits the very name of Communism. What the unemployed workers need in the face of the threat to cut off relief is a single, united unemployed organization that will be able to rally the whole million or more of jobless in the city solidly the serious Communists must strive under its banner. That is the task for at present. That requires the immediate adoption by the Unemployed Councils of the unity basis put forward by the Chicago Conference, which last May created the national Federation of Unemployed Workers Leagues, in which the Stalinists participated. On this basis, they will be able to challenge the social reformists to enter into the united front and to hold them responsible before the masses of workers.

The establishment of such a genuine, Leninist united front – with freedom of expression and criticism for every labor tendency – will also enable the Communists to carry out the Communist task in the mass movement – that of educating broad layers of the working class with demonstrative class struggle facts in the futility and rottenness of the capitalist system and in the inevit ability of the Communist way out of misery – the proletarian dictatorship.

The Tammany threat still impends. The need for the unity of the unemployed workers is indispensable, if it is to be defeated, if Tammany is to be prevented – by splitting the workers’ ranks – from reducing the unemployed to a state where they get not enough to live and just too much to die. The task of the Communists is obvious – a frank and open, Leninist united front proposal to the reformists, which will make unity possible and which will be of permanent value insofar as it will permit the Communists to implant class consciousness within broad strata of the workers.

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