Macdonald Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Dwight Macdonald

Campaign Notes

(November 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 30, 4 November 1940, pp. 3 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

As the Bronx Congressional campaign draws to its close. Max Shachtman is still far in the lead so far as speech making is concerned. Although it would be rash to predict his election on that account, there is no question but that Shachtman has made himself more widely known in the Bronx than any of his rivals. He has probably addressed more street meetings than all the other candidates put together. Their lack of energy is understandable: after all the election is pretty much in the bag for Boss Flynn’s man, Buckley, and so why should sensible men waste their time and wear out their throats campaigning? Shachtman differs from them in that, regardless of his chances of getting elected, he has a vital political message to put across to as many people as possible. He is one of the few candidates in this national election, in the country as well as in the Bronx, who has something to say to the people.


The American Labor Party has finally gotten around to printing a campaign throwaway for Jack Altman, Their Bronx congressional candidate. Nothing elaborate, of course, like the copiously illustrated brochures they have put out for Roosevelt – just a tiny square bearing his name, picture, and a few highlights from his biography. This inspiring success story – “Up From Socialism” it should be called – begins by pointing out that the London grammar school Altman attended as a kid has been “since bombed by Hitler”, No doubt that Nazi fliers had instructions to destroy this historic site, lest it become a future shrine for the international working class.


Flash! S.L.P. Spurns Shachtman!

“Interested in principles, not in mice or cockroaches” says spokesman

The “Shachtman for Congress Committee” recently sent out letters to four left-wing parties inviting them to support Max Shachtman as the only revolutionary anti-war candidate running in the Twenty-Third Congressional District. None of these parties – the Socialist Workers Party, the Lovestone group, the Socialist Labor Party, and the Socialist Party – has as yet indicated that it will support Shachtman in the Bronx.

I print below, as a document of possible interest to students of political psycho-pathology, the reply received from the Socialist Labor Party. This remarkable document is typed on a colorful letterhead bearing photographs of the S.L.P. candididates for president and vice-president (of the United States), as well as the notation, in red ink, that 1940 marks the “Golden Jubilee” of the S.L.P., which is fifty years old this year. The full text of the reply follows:

October 24, 1940

Mr. Dwight Macdonald,
Publicity Director,
Shachtman For Congress Committee,
114 W. 14th Street,
New York, New York


Received your letter of October 17 suggesting that the Socialist Labor Party “endorse and support” what you call your “revolutionary anti-war campaign.” Rubbish! An “Anti-war campaign” is not necessarily revolutionary, and yours definitely is not. As far as it is possible to judge an outfit such as yours (neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring) you are reactionary to the core. Whatever gave you the idea that the Socialist Labor Party, with its half-century record of Marxian Socialism, would be interested in your petty political, or would-be political, schemes? The Socialist Labor Party is interested in principles, not in mice or cockroaches.

Go patch up your quarrel with the one who logically represents your political quackery, Stalin. It may be interesting enough to watch swine rending swine, but it it neither inspiring nor edifying.

If you had possessed sufficient brains and common decency, you might have saved yourself a lot of troubles and headaches if in the past you had read S.L.P. literature. What you have discovered, or what you think you have discovered, anent Stalin and his gang, the S.L.P. foretold years ago.

There is only one revolutionary Marxist organization in the United States – the S.L.P. Revolutionists do not “support” reformers or phony “revolutionaries.” Go and fish for the kind of votes you desire where you are likely to find them – in the petty bourgeois lame duck-pond.


Sincerely yours,
For the Socialist Labor Party
Emil F. Teichert


No one can say that the Socialist Workers Party doesn’t hew to its political line, letting the chips fall where they may. And they fall in some very odd places sometimes. Thus the Cannon group refused to join the Workers Party picket line in front of the Soviet consulate protesting the murder of Trotsky. The reason? It might be interpreted as an attack on the Soviet Union! The current example of this kind of sectarian simple-mindedness is the decision of the S.W.P. to support, in the Bronx Congressional elections, the pro-war super-patriotic Jack Altman – whose war-mongering was so unabashed as to cause the Socialist Party to expel him recently – in preference to Max Shachtman, candidate of the Workers Party. The reason? Because the pro-war Altman is running on the American Labor Party ticket, whereas the anti-war Shachtman is the candidate of a “petty-bourgeois pacifist sect”.

Does this sound unbelievable? I quote from an editorial in the October 26 issue of Socialist Appeal:

“Apart from candidates of our own party, there are two kinds of candidates that we are prepared to support in the coming election. The first would be candidates of workers’ parties, no matter how small, whose platforms are similar enough to our own to justify such support. (I wonder just what parties these may be – D.M.) The second are those candidates who represent a substantial body of organized workers and whose success in the elections would constitute a gain for the principles of independent working class political action; these we support despite our disagreement with the platform on which they are running.

“Thus we support those candidates of the American Labor Party in New York and the Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota who are running solely as the candidates of their own parties and are not also the candidates of bourgeois parties.”

This includes Jack Altman, who is running on the A.L.P. ticket alone for the good and sufficient reason that there was no possibility of making a deal with either of the bourgeois parties in the Twenty-Third Congressional district. (Just how much of a blow for “the principle of independent working class political action” Altman’s candidacy in striking may be gauged by any one who drops in at A.L.P. clubhouses in the Bronx and tries to find some Altman literature in the snowstorm of Roosevelt-Wallace pamphlets on display.)

“It is equally clear,” concluded the political masterminds of the Appeal, “that no progressive purpose would be served by supporting the candidates of the various petty-bourgeois pacifist sects – the Norman Thomas Socialist Party, the ‘Workers Party’, the Socialist Labor Party, etc. Their platforms can only delude the workers in this time of war and militarism.”

And so, with iron logic, the S.W.P. concludes that the war-mongering labor faker, Jack Altman, because he bears a “labor” label, must be supported against the revolutionary anti-war candidate, Max Shachtman. If the Socialist Labor Party communication printed above may, be called an example of political psychopathology, this stand of the S.W.P. may be termed “political surrealism”.

Finally, the Appeal terms the Workers Party a “petty-bourgeois pacifist sect” and states that its program “can only delude the workers”. The platform on which Shachtman is running in the Bronx is printed elsewhere in this issue. I challenge the editors of the Appeal to demonstrate precisely wherein this platform is “petty-bourgeois” or “pacifist” and also just how it will “delude the workers.”

Macdonald Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 28.10.2012