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Why Join the Workers Party

A.J. Muste

Why Join the Workers Party?

Letters to a Worker Correspondent – IV

(30 March 1935)

From The New Militant, Vol. I No. 15, 30 March 1935, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


You say that quite a few of the men you have been talking to have been impressed by my arguments about the need of overthrowing the present economic system and of building a Marxist revolutionary party to lead the workers and their allies in doing the job. You have, however, a member of the Communist (Stalinist) party in your shop and he says that the C.P. is the only revolutionary party, and the Third (Communist) International the only international revolutionary organization. You are against the Soviet Union, according to him, if you are against the C.P. The C.P. is the party that is doing the fighting for the workers, the Negroes, etc. Of course it has made some mistakes, but it has corrected them, and “any one who attacks the C.P. or builds another party now when the C.P. is being attacked by Hearst and others is helping Fascism and attacking and undermining the Soviet Union, and is no better than Hitler himself.” The Workers Party is ready to meet that argument and to meet it in no uncertain terms.

We hold that the C.P. and C.I. are no longer revolutionary organizations. They have in recent years organized and are now organizing defeats and not victories for the working class. Insofar as they have influence, they retard the building of a healthy and vigorous revolutionary movement everywhere. Furthermore, the policies of the Stalinist leadership which dominates the Soviet Union and the C.I. do not strengthen the defense of the Soviet Union, the one workers’ state in the world; they are weakening and destroying those defenses; they are preparing the way for the overthrow of the workers’ state.

We must not be deceived by the paper programs of the C.P., by the claims it makes for itself, or the fact that it still has a considerable number of members and adherents. The Social Democrats called themselves Marxians, claimed to have the only way to establish Socialism and maintained big parties of the Second International in various countries after the betrayal of the masses into the hands of nationalism in the Great War of 1914-18. But the Social Democracy had ceased to be a progressive force, had become a hindrance to the onward course of the workers’ revolution. The vanguard workers, the best fighting elements left the S.P. Under Lenin’s leadership the perspective of building the new, Third, International was raised. Although the number of those who accepted this line was at first small and they were apparently isolated from the mass movements which had plunged into support of the war activities of the imperialist powers, the future was with the forces looking toward the new International. Very soon, in the crisis in Russia in 1917, they demonstrated their soundness and their power by giving the final blow to Czarism, overthrowing the middle class and establishing the Workers’ State. Even so, the future today is with the parties and groups looking toward the Fourth International.

I do not have the space in this letter to go fully into all the evidence to back up our estimate of the C.P., the C.I. and the Stalinist leadership of the Soviet Union. We have dealt and will deal with them in the New Militant, the New International and in pamphlets and books. Here I want to list just a few points which I am sure will convince you and which you can use in discussion with workers who are still under official C.P. influence.

1. The Third International has not had a Congress since 1928 – seven years! Why not? Back in the days when the Soviet Union was being attacked on a dozen fronts World Congresses of the C.I. were held in Moscow every year. If the leadership of the C.P.S.U. prevents the holding of World Congresses now, it must be because it does not care to or dare to face a World Congress – or both. What kind of a vanguard international party of the working class of the world is it which in these years of the triumph of Fascism, in these days of war preparations everywhere, holds no World Congress? What evidence is there that the present leadership of the Soviet Union is interested in the world revolution? How many more years have to go by without a Congress of the C.I. before the C.P. will admit that in reality there is no longer a C.I. and will graciously allow that it is not “counter-revolutionary” for the workers to build a new International?

2. Consider the debacle of the Communist Party in Germany. Here we had the mightiest Communist Party in the capitalist world. Ever since the war a powerful Communist movement had existed in Germany. Yet this movement collapsed like a toy balloon at the advent of Hitler – without a gesture of resistance, without a single fight in the streets. Surely this is evidence of a terrible degeneration in the C.I. How many debacles like that in Germany do we have to permit before the workers have a “right” to call a halt, brush the C.I. aside, and build a new International?

3. All the leading policies of the C.P. of the U.S. in recent years have proven bankrupt and have recently been tossed overboard. The A.F. of L. unions are company unions and must be smashed; “revolutionary” unions dual to the A.F. of L. must be built; a federation of labor dual to the A.F. of L. must be established; we do not enter into a united front with the S.P. etc. but only into a “united front from below” with the members of the S.P.; Socialists are social-fascists, “Social Democracy is the twin of Fascism”; those who advocate a labor party are simply trying to keep the masses out of the C.P. – these have been the basic policies of the C.P. in this country for six years. They were reaffirmed by a unanimous vote (all votes are unanimous in the C.P.) at a party convention last June. Any who questioned any of these policies were denounced in the most vicious and scurrilous manner as counter-revolutionists and social-fascists. Today all these policies are tossed overboard without even the formality of a party convention. A somersault in fact has been executed. Stalinists have to go into A.F. of L. unions. C.P. leaders fawn upon trade union bureaucrats and S.P. leaders. They are silent as the grave about the dearly beloved united front from below. It seems that there are no more social fascists on the earth. The C.P. takes the initiative in building a “labor” party – a mass, class, federated, class-struggle, not reformist, not revolutionist, highest form of united front ‘’labor” party! I cannot imagine that this group of workers meeting at your house will “fall” for this C.P. “conversion”, a conversion like that of the habitual drunk at the Rescue Mission; and for the colossal impudence of the C.P. plea to American workers: “We have a 100 percent record of failure on all our policies. Everybody else saw it years ago. Even we see it now. Consequently, we are the only qualified revolutionary leaders of the working class!”

4. A Dictatorship of one man, Stalin, exists in the Third International. Earl Browder, secretary of the C.P.U.S. is his messenger boy. Under these conditions the C.P. is utterly incapable of correcting its mistakes. It can only execute zigzags. Consider what happened a month or two ago. The C.P. Is against a “labor” party. Browder steps off the boat; just returned from Moscow. He hurries to Washington. A non-party gathering, the Unemployment Insurance Congress, is in session there. Some Lovestoneltes (whose main aim in life, curiously enough, is still to get back into the C.P.) distributed a leaflet calling for the building of a labor party. Using the type of argument at which they shine most brightly, the Stalinists tore up the leaflets and beat up the Lovestoneite distributers! Then the meeting opened and Browder made them a speech informing them that they were now for a labor party!

What happened? True, some of the comrades turned pale momentarily and experienced that sick feeling at the stomach. There had to be some explanation in the Daily Worker. The nature of this explanation is the best evidence anyone could ask of the low intellectual level which has been reached in the C.P., and that includes the “intellectuals”, critics, novelists; poets, artists, social workers, preachers, etc. who are C.P. members or stooges.

The Daily Worker explained: The Labor Party question is one of tactics not principle, so we can change the line without much ado. Anyway, it was not really a change of line; we always were for a labor party under proper conditions. As for having a party discussion before changing the line, in the first place in the C.P. the members have such confidence in the Political Committee that the Committee can act without consulting the membership; in the second place, in the C.P. discussion does not precede action – we discuss and act at the same time (though to the eye of the simple-minded outsider it looked as though Stalin gave the order, Browder obediently repeated it, the party leaders and members blinked their eyes, swallowed hard, accepted the order like the robots they have become, and only then indulged in a little “discussion”, a very little “discussion” in which no one breathed the least doubt of the omniscience of Stalin, “the beloved and genial leader of our party and of the working class”, as he is now described in the Soviet Union with a fulsome flattery which Lenin would have had a word for). Naturally enough about all that emerged from a “discussion” conducted on that level was that “Trotskyist” opposition to the labor party or criticism of the way in which the turn in the party line had been effected was part of a counter-revolutionary plot to assassinate Kirov!

5. Many an honest worker in the C.P. and outside finally swallows all its mistakes and crimes and remains loyal to it, because he accepts the C.P. argument which runs something like this: The Soviet Union is the only workers’ state in the world. It is the workers’ fatherland. It is in terrible danger today. Our main, practically our sole task, is to defend it. Save the Soviet Union and all is saved; lose it and all is lost. “Attack” the C.P. today and you attack Stalin; attack Stalin who has the full support of the workers in the S.U. today and you attack the S.U. Any one who does that is doing just what Hitler does: he lines up with Hitler, he is an assassin of Soviet leaders, he is that vilest of all creatures, one who under the disguise of a revolutionist would destroy the Soviet Union and the October Revolution.

We too believe that the Soviet Union is a workers’ state. We point to the achievements of the workers in the S.U. as evidence of how planned socialist production even in the face of the greatest obstacles and when as yet only the beginnings of the foundations of a socialist system exist alongside of vestiges of capitalism, can do more for the masses than capitalism can. We stand, and we alone, for the real defense of the Soviet Union.

To hold that you can defend the S.U. and advance the interests of the Soviet workers only by accepting the Stalin regime and not criticizing Stalin is like saying that in order to defend unionism in the U.S. and advance the interests of organized labor yon have to accept the regime of Bill Green, John L. Lewis, Matty Woll and Dan Tobin and have to regard any criticism of these bureaucrats as treason. Our contention is precisely that in both cases the interests of the workers can be advanced only by defeating the present leadership.

The Stalin theory is that Socialism can be built – that is, poverty abolished, classes done away with, etc. – in the Soviet Union alone and although capitalism still holds sway in all other lands. It is natural that under these circumstances those who believe this and especially office-holders in the S.U. should become lukewarm about the revolution in other countries, should concentrate all their attention on “building Socialism” in the S.U., and tell the Communist parties in other countries that their only job is “defending the Soviet Union”.

What is the result of the working-out of this theory? The international revolutionary movement is emasculated. Not a Congress of the C.I. has been held in seven years, as we have pointed out. The Communist parties in capitalist countries are forced to change their line mechanically as the exigencies of the foreign and domestic policies of the present leadership of the S.U. dictate. Upon parties thus weakened Fascism inflicts one defeat after another.

The Soviet Union not being able to count under these circumstances on the backing of any powerful revolutionary force in capitalist countries, the Stalinist leadership leads it further and further into a swamp. In order to postpone War, the S.U. enters the League of Nations which Lenin described as a league of imperialist robbers, and Stalin proclaims this as a victory for the workers. A military alliance or “understanding” is entered into with imperialist France. Non-aggression pacts are signed with various countries. “Leagues against War and Fascism”, mainly composed of middle class intellectuals, are organized. Workers are imbued with the pacifist illusion that peace can be maintained by these means. But oven that is not the worst that Stalinism can do and has done.

The Bolshevik party in the S.U. has been destroyed. Of the Political Bureau of the party in Lenin’s time no one but Stalin remains. All the rest are in prison, exile or retirement. Party opponents of Stalin are sent to Siberia or shot. In their place men like the present Soviet ambassadors to London, Paris, Berlin, Washington, who were bourgeois professors or Mensheviks or actually engaged in counter-revolutionary activity at the time of the October revolution, are elevated to office, and along with professors and social workers in the U.S. who discovered Russia yesterday, become authorities on how to defend the Soviet Union!

Recently one of these 1935 model Bolsheviks, Troyanovsky, Soviet ambassador to Washington, spoke to the big shots of the Bond Club of New York about non-aggression pacts (with capitalist powers) as a means to preserve peace. He argued that the nations must go further – “dig to the bottom of contemporary troubles”. How? “It is necessary to work out practical plans for the economic rehabilitation of the world, but especially for Europe.” In order to make it perfectly clear that he meant rehabilitation under capitalism he added: “Probably the advice of broad-minded business men would be available and useful in this connection.”

Thus the way is prepared for Communists (Stalinists) to work for the rehabilitation, not the overthrow of capitalism and to fight for some imperialist nation when war comes on the ground that this nation is allied with the Soviet Union and that failing to fight for it will mean to weaken the “defense of the Soviet Union”. Thus also the destruction of the workers’ state in the Soviet Union is prepared, for a war in which the S.U. is involved, while the revolutionary working class movement is demoralized and impotent can only end in the overthrow of the workers’ state in the S.U. – and the triumph of Fascism or the utter breakdown of modern civilization.

All the policies of the present leadership of the S.U. lead in that direction. Their paper protestations that the destruction and defeat of imperialist powers is their aim mean no more than the declarations on peace and socialism of the Social Democratic leaders before 1914. The defense of the Soviet Union today and the liberation of the masses in capitalist countries depends today upon the building of new revolutionary parties and the new International.

Sometimes workers have protested that these are “Russian” questions and do not concern American workers. But it is clear that nothing can concern American workers more directly than questions of the trade union policy, labor party, war, and on all of these the situation in the C.I. determines the policy which the C.P. tries to impose on American workers. Whatever weakens the revolutionary movement and strengthens Fascism anywhere directly concerns us, in this world where peoples do not live within sky-high national walls, where the workers must build a new international economy or perish in the slaughter created by the nationalists and imperialists.

It is just because it is so tremendously important that we build a powerful revolutionary party in the U.S. that we must deliver the revolutionary movement in this country from the domination of the C.I. and the C.P.S.U. That can be done only if we understand the fundamental reasons for the degeneration Which has taken place in them under the regime of Stalinism.

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