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Why Join the Workers Party

A.J. Muste

Join the Workers Party!

Letters to a Worker Correspondent

(6 April 1935)

From The New Militant, Vol. I No. 16, 6 April 1935, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


It may be some time before I get a chance to write you again. In this last letter I want to stress a couple points which are necessary for an understanding of the Workers Party and constitute additional reasons why it is the only party tor American workers.

In the first place, as was pointed out in my last letter, the workers in each nation do not live within four sky-high walls, isolated from other countries. What happens in any part of the earth, affects us here in the U.S., may be a matter of life and death for us. In these days of war threats we can all see that plainly.

The government of the U.S. is not “our” government for which we fight against the masses of other countries. The government is the bosses’ government which we aim to overthrow. The same is true for the workers in every other country, except the Soviet Union.


For these and other reasons, a revolutionary party cannot be nationalist in spirit and character. Nor can it be confined to a single country. It must be part of an international of revolutionary parties in which the forces of the workers throughout the world may be united against capitalism, Fascism, war.

Just as we had to take the forces that were ready in the U.S. as material with which to start the building of the new revolutionary party, so the forces in various countries which recognize the breakdown of the Second and Third Internationals must be used to build the new, Fourth, International. The W.P. has already entered into fraternal relations with parties and groups in Canada, Panama, Cuba, other Latin American countries, Holland, France, China, South Africa, Australia, etc. which stand on the same fundamental program as we, in order that as soon as conditions permit definite steps may be taken toward the actual establishment of the new International.

An army composed of battalions which exist only on paper will not do much fighting – except on paper or in windy discussions. Our biggest contribution to the revived international movement of the workers consists of building the W.P. into a powerful revolutionary force right here in the U.S.A., in the mightiest of the capitalist-imperialist nations. Nobody else can do that job for us. The responsibility rests on our shoulders. When a powerful revolutionary movement actually exists here in the U.S. it will change the whole face of the revolutionary movement throughout the world.

The W.P. seeks to be the party of the American workers – created by them, not imposed upon them. It enters into all their struggles; it gains experience and strength and recruits new forces out of these struggles.

We stand firmly upon our principles. We do not despise theory. On the contrary, without a theory we are lost, we become the victim of every kind of faker in this welter of the twentieth century. But as Engels pointed out in a well-known passage: “Our theory is a theory of development, not of dogma to be learned by heart and repeated mechanically.” It is our job to take the tested principles of the international working class movement and make them work in the American scene. There are revolutionary traditions in American history which can and must be used in this connection. The class struggles of the past in American history have been fought out in the most bitter conflicts. As a result “the right to revolution” has been written into the most basic documents of American history. Thomas Jefferson asserted that a revolution might be necessary about every nineteen years. Unless “the tree of liberty” were “watered with the blood of tyrants” that often, it was likely to die!

American Traditions

The conception of “a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” a nation in which no individual or group should be able to rule over or exploit another, is a part of the picture of America which the masses have been taught to cherish. Capitalism has made the realization of any of these ideas impossible. Only through the revolutionary action of the working class and its allies – against capitalism and for the establishment of an international socialist economy – can these ideas be made real in the twentieth century. Most important of all, there is a tradition of militancy and struggle in the American working class itself which stands forth on many brilliant pages of labor history and upon which we can draw today, as it becomes necessary to raise these struggles to a higher and higher plane, to the plane presently of outright revolutionary action for the overthrow of capitalism.

All the physical and material conditions for an economy of plenty and security for the masses are here. Fired with hatred of what capitalism has done to mankind and by the vision of what can be done with modern productive forces, the workers must march forward now to the battle to make that vision real throughout the world.

Study the Program

To those honest and militant workers who are today members of other working class parties, we of the Workers Party say: “We shall not call you counter-revolutionists and Social-Fascists if you continue to work and fight where you are – so long as you are firmly convinced that you are working in the most effective way possible for the overthrow of capitalism.” We do, however, ask such workers to take the program of the W.P. and the issues we raise and to demand that they be discussed in the parties and groups to which they belong. The W.P. is perfectly willing to abide by the result of any open discussion before the working class. If, however, any party refuses to face and discuss the issues we raise, such a party is not revolutionary and a true revolutionist cannot remain in such a party, For the first characteristic of a revolutionist is that he thinks for himself. Otherwise he would still be believing in the capitalist system like all workers who take their ideas unthinkingly from the boss press. If a worker joins a so-called revolutionary party only to lose his right to think, that is stultifying himself and stultifying the revolutionary movement.

Revolutionists Must Organize

Thousands of those who accept in theory the principles of the revolutionary movement, who in the past have taken part in labor struggles, are today outside of any political party. To them we say that today more than at any other time no one should be sitting on the fence or standing on the side lines. We have no time to lose if we ere to build the revolutionary party before the forces of reaction have too firmly entrenched themselves and establish some form of Fascism here in the U.S. also.

A revolutionist cannot be an individualist. He cannot work as an irresponsible free lance. He must work in an organized and disciplined way. That means he must belong to the organized vanguard of the working class, the revolutionary party. The process of integration and unification of the revolutionary forces has begun here in the United States as well as in other countries. The days of retreat and defeat shall end. Under the leadership of the revolutionary vanguard the American working class is organizing to prevent the triumph of Fascism here, and to join with the workers of other lands to wipe it from the face of the earth wherever it has already triumphed. Build the Workers Party of the United States! Build the New, Fourth, International!

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