Macdonald Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Dwight Macdonald

Sparks in the News

(14 January 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 2, 14 January 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

What Happened to the Workers Alliance?

As the Roosevelt-Woodrum-Bricker-LaGuardia drive against the unemployed shifts into high, as federal, state and local relief standards are forced down to ever more subhuman levels, many of the unemployed are no doubt wondering what hit the Workers Alliance. How can it be that a once-militant union like the Alliance has collapsed so miserably?

For an excellent brief description of what has happened to the Workers Alliance we have only to go to Herbert Benjamin, who has been for years the Stalinist power behind the throne of Alliance president David Lasser. Writes Comrade Benjamin, in an article on The Unemployed Movement in the U.S.A.:

“The great masses are still subject to the illusion that some easy and ‘painless’ way can be found of solving their urgent problems. Opportunist elements cater to these illusions ... They encourage the workers to believe that mass action is unnecessary, that the leaders can induce relief authorities to improve relief standards and eliminate abuses. In place of mass action they employ more or less friendly negotiations between unemployed leaders and relief officials, who are quite willing to encourage this kind of relationship because they realize that it will undermine the power of the unemployed organization ... The membership is deprived of its initiative, its militancy is vitiated, illusions are promoted, and its leadership becomes corrupted.”

Comrade Benjamin is not “confessing”. He wrote these words in The Communist for June 1935. The history of the Workers Alliance – a history he himself is largely responsible for – bears out word for word the accuracy of his analysis. No, Comrade Benjamin is not “confessing” – but can he put off the day much longer?

Socialism Comes to Finland

For weeks now the Daily Worker has been reporting Red Army victories in Finland, victories which have been suppressed by the rest of the press. So, too, with the advance of socialism into Finland behind the tanks of the Red Army. Of the giant strides towards Stalino-socialism reported by the Daily Worker day after day, not a word in the N.Y. Times. But now at last a stride has been made that is so gigantic that even the lying bourgeois press doesn’t dare to suppress it.

It seems that on December 11, 1939 – historic date! – the inhabitants of the Finnish village of Karku assembled and elected a “committee of the Working People’s Front in Karku”. (The Times does not specify just where Karku is, but we may assume, considering the progress of the Red Army, that it is fairly close to the border.) This was no paper organization. At once the Working People’s Front swung into action. Boldly, it took over the goods of a local trading company and, after making a careful inventory of them, it proclaimed a reduction in the price of matches from 2 marks to 1½ marks. Nor did the Working People’s Front stop there in its headlong rush towards socialism. It marked salt down from 2½ to 1½ marks, and slashed the price of coffee from 20 to 16 marks a pound.

This revolutionary action – coming dangerously close to outright expropriation – was in line with the equally daring program of Comrade Kuusinen’s “Finnish People’s Government”. It is true the Kuusinen regime felt it prudent to proclaim their respect for private property. (After all, they’re respectable bureaucrats, not adventurists and putschists.) But they didn’t hesitate to raise such revolutionary demands as the eight-hour day and even vacations with pay. Nor can Comrade Kuusinen be blamed if these particular demands happen to have been won, years ago, by the Finnish labor unions. He hasn’t been in Finland for a long time.

But it must be admitted that Comrade Kuusinen made a bad mistake when he omitted from his revolutionary program any reference to collective farming. He had excellent reasons for this omission: he thought the Finnish landlords wouldn’t like it. But nonetheless it turns out to have been a bad tactical error. For now, according to the N.Y. Times of Jan. 5, the Mannerheim-Tanner regime is expected to introduce “the Russian collective farm system” itself in order to prosecute the war more successfully.

Discouraging days for Comrade Kuusinen, whose revolutionary program turns out to be lagging behind not only the Finnish labor fakers but even behind the Finnish bourgeois government itself. But anyway, matches now cost ½ mark less in Karku.


Towards the end of last week’s column this amazing statement occurred: “The handful of families at the top, those with incomes of over $10,000 a year (more than half the total number of families in the country) actually spend more each year than their incomes ...” This should read: “The handful of families at the top, those with incomes of over $10,000 a year, save half their income, while all families with $l,000 or less income (more than half the total number of families in the country) actually spend more each year than their income”, etc., etc.

A Little Anthology of War Poetry, No. 2

The British Broadcasting Company recently broadcast to the Empire a new war song, which goes as follows:

Run Adolf, run Adolf; run, run, run;
Look what you’ve been gone and done, done, done;
We will knock the stuffing out of you,
Field Marshal Goering and Goebbels too.
You’ll lose your place in the sun, sun, sun;
Soon you poor dog, you’ll get none, none none.
You will flop with Herr von Ribbentrop,
So run Adolf, run Adolf; run, run, run.

The title of this song, according to the British Broadcasting Company, is Run, Adolf, Run.

Macdonald Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 16 July 2018