Letter to SWP National Committee
Re: Weiss Article on Clark

by Sam Marcy
September 25, 1957

Dear Comrades:

I note with satisfaction the proposal of the Secretariat to initiate a discussion in the PC on the regroupment developments, and to follow it up with a Plenum.

This letter is intended to be a preliminary contribution to the PC discussion.

I want to protest most vigorously against the political line of the article by Comrade Murry Weiss in the September 16th issue of the Militant regarding the resignation of Joseph Clark from the CP and as foreign editor of the Daily Worker. Comrade Weiss makes the following important points regarding Clark's letter of resignation.

Clark has attacked the Stalinist version of proletarian internationalism as expressed by the Duclos letter to the recent CP convention, and expressed solidarity with the Hungarian insurrection.

Clark made an “open break with Stalinism” even though it “lacks consistency and thought-out conclusions.”

Clark bases “his break with Stalinism on a socialist opposition to American capitalism at home and abroad.”

Clark “gives promise of playing a vital and constructive role in the current regroupment movement of revolutionary socialist forces in the United States.”

On the contrary, the reality of the situation is that Clark is a Stalinist renegade who has cast aside his organizational ties with the Moscow bureaucracy only to reinforce his class subservience to imperialism.

What Do They Mean By “Stalinism”

No term has acquired such a multitude of different meanings to different people as the term “Stalinism.” This is not to be wondered at. For terminology, like all other weapons in the class struggle, serves class ends. The bourgeoisie and the Soviet bureaucracy, for diametrically opposite aims, have both with relentless vigor, systematically palmed off perfidious Stalinism as genuine Communism. In like fashion, but even more pernicious to the enlightenment of class conscious workers who are trying to free themselves from the ideological shackles of Stalinism, is the deliberate palming off of vulgar bourgeois anti-Stalinism as good coin for revolutionary socialist opposition to Stalinism.

Thus, when Joe Clark says that he is breaking with Stalinism, the inference gathered by many and implied in the article by Comrade Weiss is that he is breaking with Stalinism in order to move towards revolutionary socialism, or gives the promise to do so.

But let's see how Clark himself differentiates between Communism and Stalinism in this very same letter of resignation to which Comrade Weiss obviously closes his eyes. “Within our country,” said Clark, “communism has made an important contribution to the welfare of the people.” Indeed, one can say that Communism has made an important contribution depending on whether you mean genuine Communism or its counterfeit, Stalinism.

There was a period when Communism made an important contribution in this country, dating probably from 1917 until 1924; the days when Lenin and Trotsky headed the Soviet State and the Communism International. Then followed the Stalinist perversion from 1924 until the capitulation of the German CP in 1933. This in turn was followed by a period of the crassest opportunism and outright class betrayals of the most monstrous character, the so-called decade of “people's frontism” and support of the imperialist war, the decade roughly between 1935 and 1945.

Now, which of these three different periods does Clark refer to as having been “Communist,” as having made a contribution? The period of 1919 to 1924? Oh, no. It is, he says, “the decade of 1935 to 1945.” That's when he says “communism” had reached a “high point.” The crassest sort of class collaboration and the worst betrayals of Stalinism are passed off by Clark as the heroic age of communism, the glorious days of Popular Frontism and the imperialist war.

Is this an “open break with Stalinism” — with the class essence of Stalinism?

How could Comrade Weiss have missed this point as being the real tipoff on the direction Clark is traveling? A Stalinist worker could genuinely mistake the role of the Stalinists, but a flunkey like Clark who has decades in the CP leadership behind him, could this be explained as a mere “inconsistency,” as mere lack of “thought-out conclusions,” as Comrade Weiss puts it?

Clark and Deutscher

But Clark, Comrade Weiss says, is seeking a “serious explanation” for the debacle of Stalinism. Proof: “In one of his last columns in the Daily Worker," writes Comrade Weiss, “Clark tried to find the social basis for this rise of an autocratic bureaucracy in the Soviet Union by citing Isaac Deutscher's analysis of the historical circumstances which gave rise to Stalinism. It is well known that Deutscher, for all his profound differences with Trotskyism, had based his entire analysis of the Soviet bureaucracy on the theoretical work or Leon Trotsky.”

Let us for the moment disregard the fact that Deutscher does not base himself on Trotsky’s theory, but on a falsification and disembowelment of the revolutionary essence of Trotskyism. To follow Comrade Weiss’s reasoning, we thus get this: Deutscher bases himself on Trotsky — Clark bases himself on Deutscher; ipso facto, Clark is moving in the direction of Trotsky.

What other conclusion can one draw from this astonishing paragraph? To be sure, there is a common denominator between Clark and Deutscher. But this is exactly what Comrade Weiss fails to disclose. Deutscher, like Clark, is for the complete renunciation of the revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat, and its substitution by class collaboration. Deutscher, like Clark, is for capitalist coexistence. Deutscher, like Clark, is for imperialist democracy as the road for socialism in the West (of course, they're both for genuine proletarian democracy in the East!). Deutscher’s and Clark’s attitude toward the Soviet bureaucracy, like Cochran’s and Shachtman’s (whether it be in the one case of sympathy, and in the other of antipathy) has its origin in their attitude toward their own imperialist bourgeoisies, and not in their attitude toward the world proletariat. Deutscher's conciliationist approach to the bureaucracy is but part of his conciliatory attitude toward British “democratic” imperialism, and Clark's antipathy for the bureaucracy is based on the current fierce hostility of American imperialism, and is in no way related to the imperious demands of the workers for a revolutionary class-conscious struggle against the bureaucracy.

Trotsky's struggle against the Soviet bureaucracy, on the other hand, is an inseparable part of his revolutionary struggle against the entire imperialist bourgeoisie and all who conciliate with it.

But let us assume Clark knows the social basis of the rise of the Soviet bureaucracy. Does that, in and of itself, indicate that he is moving in the direction of revolutionary socialism? Is there a Cochranite, a Shachtmanite, or a Stalinist leader who will not admit, at least in private the social basis for the rise of the American labor bureaucracy — who will not tell you that they are labor lieutenants of American Capitalism, who will not grant you the venal role of this bureaucracy? But to proceed from these correct generalizations to carry on a ruthless, merciless fight against the bureaucracy, ah — that is something else again.

Democracy vs. Autocracy

“My view, is that socialism can be served only by a complete break with Stalinism. The latter perverted socialism by substituting autocracy for democracy. But Marxists have always advocated socialist democracy, which they uphold as more libertarian than any yet attained.” Comrade Weiss quotes this approvingly as part of Clark's search for a “serious explanation” for the debacle of Stalinism.

What is at the root of the problem? Democracy vs. Autocracy, as Clark infers? That is the vulgar, bourgeois-radical, non-class approach. Or is it the evolution (degeneration) in class attitudes of Stalin and his clique? Stalin abandoned the class struggle (which is what Clark is doing. This is where he has common ground, not only with Stalin, but with Khrushchev and Foster as well). Stalin conciliated with the world bourgeoisie (which is what Clark is doing) and set up a reactionary nationalist utopia of socialism in one country (to which Clark does not object). It is for this that Stalin needed terror in order to convert socialist democracy into bureaucratic autocracy. Abandonment of the class struggle was Stalin's crime; autocracy was the necessary and inevitable instrument to effectuate it.

"Socialist Opposition to Capitalism"

Comrade Weiss asserts that Clark is “basing his break with Stalinism on a socialist opposition to American capitalism at home and abroad.”

Unless all words have lost their meaning, this is a complete misrepresentation of the position held by Clark. One has only to go to the text of Clark's letter of resignation to fully confirm this.

Moreover, Comrade Weiss admits that Clark still stands on the platform of class collaboration. But Comrade Weiss attributes this to a mere failure to “see the relation of Stalinism to the basic policy of the CP in the U.S.” — the class collaborationist concept of a People's Front anti-monopoly coalition “and continued support to ‘lesser evil’ capitalist politicians.”

How can Clark be for “socialist opposition to Capitalism” and still be for class collaboration? Isn't socialist opposition to Capitalism in absolute contradiction to class collaboration? Is this not the most elementary of elementary Marxist principles? Can one be an exponent of class collaboration and at the same time be a candidate “for revolutionary socialist regroupment”?

“Nevertheless, by calling for a break with Stalinism,” says Comrade Weiss, “Clark has gone to the root of the problem that faces the disoriented and demoralized ranks of the radical workers who are seeking a revolutionary road out of the crisis of the CP.”

But is not the essence of Stalinism, its conciliationist (sell-out) attitude to the bourgeoisie, and to all social forces hostile to the proletariat, exactly what Clark shows a preference for? That is what he has not broken from. That is what he tenaciously holds on to.

Is a break with capitalist class collaboration fundamental to a progressive break with Stalinism? Or is it merely incidental, as Comrade Murry implies? When one retains class collaborationist politics, is he breaking in a bourgeois or a socialist direction? Is the mere break from Stalinism, regardless of the direction in which the break is made, progressive in itself? How does this approach differ from Cochran's, etc.?

“The only effective posture from which American Marxists can work for American-Soviet friendship — necessary if mankind is to survive in a time of hydrogen-headed ICBM weapons — is that of independence,” says Clark. What does he mean by “American-Soviet friendship”? Does he mean agitation and propaganda for class solidarity between the American worker and the Soviet worker? Does he mean friendship of the American workers to the Soviet Union as a workers’ state and irreconcilable class hatred of the bureaucracy? What Clark means is a rapprochement between Wall Street and the Soviet bureaucracy to maintain “peaceful coexistence.” Just like in the good old “collective security” days — it was necessary to “put pressure on the diplomats" to sign a collective security agreement, so now we must do the same. Clark is consistent. This is nothing but a 1957 version of Clark’s (and Stalin’s) as well as Khrushchev’s idea of a “collective security pact” between the imperialist powers and the Soviet bureaucracy to maintain “peace” — the peaceful subjugation, exploitation, pillage, plunder of the masses in the interests of predatory imperialism, and the maintenance of the privileges and emoluments of the Soviet bureaucracy.

Can one be for the imperialist status quo by a rapprochement between the Soviet bureaucracy and Wall Street imperialism, and be a candidate for “revolutionary socialist regroupment”?

Proletarian Internationalism

Let us take up another point — proletarian internationalism, which is the acid test for a revolutionary Marxist. To be sure, Clark in. his letter of resignation rejects the conception of proletarian internationalism as expressed by the French-Stalinist leader, Duclos. One must ask, however, what conception does Clark wish to substitute for that of Duclos? On this score, Clark is quite clear. He gives two concrete examples of what he means by proletarian internationalism.

One example is in 1956. In that year, Clark says “proletarian internationalism required solidarity with the Hungarian workers opposing Soviet intervention.” The other example is in the year 1939. “In 1939,” says Clark, “internationalism required support for the anti-Hitler war…” What does this mean? Clark is here saying that proletarian internationalism required that the workers of the world support the war of the imperialist “democracies,” the war of the “democratic” slave holder against the fascist slave holders for the domination of the wage slaves at home and colonial and semi-colonial slaves abroad.

Since the unspeakable record of the CP’s support of the war is only too well known to require documentation, one wonders what Clark’s complaint is all about. “In 1939,” says Clark (the year of the Stalin-Hitler Pact), "the French and American CPs should not have practiced the ‘shameful neutrality’ which they did during that period.” What should they have done? Practiced revolutionary defeatism? Lenin's profound doctrine of the prosecution of the class struggle by the workers in war time as in peace time? Oh, no! Perish the thought. What Clark means is that there should have been all-out support by the working class for the imperialist Allies during that period just as there was during the war. In place of the CP's hypocritical, shameful “neutrality,” Clark would substitute outright, unashamed class treachery. Now if a Stalinist worker who had broken with Stalinism said this, one might contain his indignation and patiently explain the A-B-C’s of proletarian internationalism, particularly as it pertains to wars of imperialism, whether they be conducted by the fascist or “democratic” varieties.

But it is something else again when this comes out of the mouth of a Stalinist leader, a pen prostitute who for upwards of two decades has been in the inner councils of the CP leadership and knows inside and out the arguments of revolutionary Marxists against the permissibility of supporting one’s own imperialist government in any war it conducts.

Clark’s apparently contradictory and irreconcilable conceptions of proletarian internationalism, that of the Hungarian insurrection of 1956 and of the Stalin-Hitler Pact era of 1939 present Comrade Weiss with a dilemma. He enthusiastically seizes upon one example, the Hungarian one, naturally, and conveniently omits from his article the example of 1939.

That fact that Comrade Weiss eliminated Clark’s virulently chauvinist position on a crucial phase of the second imperialist World War, and hails his position on the Hungarian insurrection as proletarian internationalism, shows that Comrade Weiss does not know which is the acid test of proletarian internationalism. Anyone can be for a foreign “revolution,” especially if it is hysterically supported by the entire bourgeoisie, as well as the labor bureaucracy from one end of the world to the other. But to be for proletarian class struggle at home, especially during war time, that’s another matter.

Worse still, Weiss substitutes for Clark’s direct and unequivocal statement, a vague, clumsy and belabored reference to Clark’s failure “to connect the policy of Stalinism in the Second World War and the present foreign policy of the Kremlin with the Stalinist perversion of socialism.”

Instead of Comrade Weiss trying to think out what lies behind Clark’s example Number 1 (Hungarian insurrection) and its apparent irreconcilability with example Number 2 (Stalin-Hitler Pact era), Comrade Weiss has succumbed to the easy way out, by eliminating from the article Clark’s second example and affirming that Clark’s “open break with Stalinism” lacks only “consistency and thought-out conclusions.”

Oh, no, Comrade Weiss, it is not Joseph Clark who lacks consistency. On the contrary, he is remarkably consistent. It is you who lack consistency. Clark is only inconsistent in form, but not in class content. In both instances, Hungary and the Stalin-Hitler Pact period, Clark is taking the same identical class position that his own bourgeoisie is taking. This is consistency with a vengeance!

Clark and the CP Convention

“I was among those who greeted the progress recorded at the last convention of the Communist Party. It affirmed the American character and its dedication to constitutional democracy,” said Clark. Its dedication to imperialist Wall Street democracy! The same democracy that is being dished out by Wall Street to Egypt and Jordan, and only yesterday to Korea and China!

Is the break with imperialist democracy fundamental or incidental to a revolutionary break with Stalinism? Can one be an exponent of imperialist democracy and at the same time be a guide to the “ranks of the radical workers” who are seeking, according to Comrade Weiss's own words, “a revolutionary road out of the crisis of the CP”?

The servile groveling at the feet of Wall Street democracy is not the only thing Clark applauded with enthusiasm at the CP convention. Even greater was his enthusiasm for the convention’s coming out four-square for “independence” and against “dogmatism and sectarianism.” What independence? The rank and file undoubtedly want independence from the monolithic stranglehold of the CP. But what does Clark want? To switch his allegiance from Moscow to Wall Street!!!

But what “dogmatism” was condemned? The reactionary dogma of class collaboration? Of peaceful coexistence? Of popular frontism? (Including its latest variety, anti-monopoly coalition) Just to raise the questions is to answer them. And what about sectarianism? Was it condemnation of genuine sectarianism, such as in the Third Period, etc.? Or does it mean condemnation for building the Progressive Party instead of remaining faithful to the capitalist Democratic Party machine?

The long struggle which Trotsky conducted on all these critical issues is part of the great revolutionary heritage of Marxism, and constitutes the dividing line between Marxism and reformism. Clark is the very incarnation of the latter. Yet Comrade Murry concludes that he “gives promise of playing a vital and constructive role in the current regroupment movement of revolutionary socialist forces in the United States.”

This in turn raises the question of the whole meaning of the regroupment process.


“Many workers in the party,” wrote Comrade Weiss in last winter's issue of the International Socialist Review, “recoil from the Gates group and tend toward the Fosterites, precisely because of the fear that Gates and his associates want to break with Stalinism only to lead them into the swamp of State Department ‘socialism’. On the other hand, these same workers display a keen hostility towards Foster's thinly disguised plans to turn back the clock and reestablish the power of the old bureaucratic machine in the party.”

Now if anybody could be called an ideological associate of Gates at the time Comrade Weiss wrote this article, it was Clark. Only Clark was more outspoken than Gates. Now Clark has broken from the CP. Clark was a Gatesite. The rank and file of the CP feared that he was trying to lead them into the “swamp of State Department socialism.” Clark’s article of resignation confirmed their fears. “The militants are recoiling from the Gatesites and are either tending toward the Fosterites or dropping out of activity altogether,” wrote Murry last winter.

What should be our policy? Expose Clark, while relentlessly stepping up the fight against Foster! Gates is a product of Fosterite ideology, which in no way is distinguished from orthodox Stalinism (if such a term can be employed). Fosterism inevitably brings about Gatesism. The liquidation of Stalinism into bourgeois reformism — that is what Trotsky predicted long ago. Our appeal to the militants in the CP must be based not only on a ruthless struggle against Fosterism, but against its end product, Gatesism, the tendency towards capitulation to imperialism; To appeal to the latter against the former will only lead us into a morass.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what Comrade Weiss proceeds to do. He in effect transforms Clark from a Stalinist renegade turned bourgeois-reformist, into a desirable candidate for “revolutionary socialist regroupment.” To paint up Clark as a would-be revolutionary socialist when he has obviously embraced imperialism, is not only to do a disservice to the party; it is to close the door of the party to revolutionary militants in the CP who know Clark’s role only too well. To do that is to tighten the reins of the Foster group on the remaining rank and file under his influence, and thereby help not only Foster and Khrushchev, but Wall Street as well. Such is the meaning of Comrade Weiss’s article on Clark. It takes a concrete case to show up the actual meaning of a political' generalization. It points up sharply the meaning of this whole regroupment business.

As long ago as November 5, 1956, at a Political Committee meeting when I presented a resolution together with Comrades Grey and Flint on the Hungarian insurrection, in the course of a speech I stated that it was not possible to have in the next period, a genuine regroupment of revolutionary socialists, because all the other tendencies in the labor movement were moving to the right, and the net effect of the Khrushchev revelations was, under the existing circumstances, to plunge the Stalinist movement further along the path of bourgeois reformism, rather than a break in the direction of revolutionary Marxism. In the absence of a militant resurgence of American labor, based on new catastrophes of either an economic, political or military character, or new developments abroad, no serious regroupment of revolutionary elements could take place on a programmatic basis.

Also, that our orientation should be to redouble our efforts in an assault against the Stalinist leadership, and attempt to win the militant rank and file away from the Fosterites. To do this effectively, we must make it crystal clear that we are in no way holding out a hand to the Gatesite leaders — to these capitulators to imperialism who had shown their political physiognomy before the Hungarian insurrection.

In a memorandum submitted to the Convention last spring, I summed up my view of regroupment in point 10:

“Regroupment — No regroupment on a revolutionary Marxist basis is possible under present conditions because the general tendency among all the so-called socialist groupings is to the Right. They are not the emerging visage of new resurgent radicalism, but rather the rear of an old one.”

I deliberately put this in the form of a prognosis, and voted for the majority resolution, so as to make sure that my position could in no way be interpreted as obstructive of any effort the party may make concretely to reach the mass of disillusioned workers in the Stalinist movement.

However, ever since the regroupment process started, it has become more and more clear to me that the objective role of the so-called “regroupers” — this motley crew of ex-Stalinists, ex-Trotskyists, pacifists, social democrats and God-knows-what — is not to resuscitate the class consciousness of the socialist-minded workers, but to entrap them — to push them on some sort of puerile and harmless non-class struggle, non-Marxist and non-Leninist “socialism” — the type of socialism that is perfectly acceptable to the bourgeoisie.

Nevertheless, I am for participation in it for purposes of weaning away the militants from these renegades. But our participation has to be based on a merciless, persistent and consistent struggle to expose them publicly for what they are. This does not at all mean non-participation in concrete cases where civil liberties or other forms of working class action are possible, or debates where our attitudes are clear on the fundamental issues.

Comrade Weiss’s article is evidence of a conciliatory attitude to all those tendencies in the labor movement which it is our duty to mercilessly and publicly expose.


Sam Marcy
Buffalo, 9/25/57


Last updated: 13 June 2017