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Hugo Oehler

The Proletarian Party Opposition

(January 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 4 (Whole No. 100), 23 January 1932, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

After a decade of existence as an expelled group from the Communist party, the Proletarian party is now proceeding through a period of internal struggle and split. The element that made up the P.P. pivoted around a section of the socialist party of Michigan as part of the Left wing majority expelled by the Socialist Executive Committee minority. And now the P.P. is repeating the process on a smaller scale with the Keracher minority controlling the apparatus, expelling the majority. All the Bureaucrat methods of the socialists or Stalinites are used by Keracher and Co.

This party, after a decade of existence as a sect devoting its time to theory – theory that now proves to the majority of its own members to be void of living Marxism, can only exist as a counterpart to bookshelf “activity”. The deep world crisis closed in from all sides on this placid condition causing internal motion that broke through the isolation. The first convention in Detroit was a replica of the Stalinist methods of proceeding over the disputed questions: on the analysis of the crisis, the trade union question, immediate demands, unemployment, etc. The revolt from this position of “theory” reacted to its opposite of “mass work,” in a hope of breathing new life into the P.P. The P.P. Opposition comes from a party of inactivity. While we were a minority expelled by the bureaucrats who did not allow our position to reach the party. The P.P. Opposition now constitute the majority of this party. This explains to an extent the reason they swing to “mass activity” and their accusations that the Left Opposition are too “theoretical and too much concerned with the Russian issue” but this does not justify or give them a Marxian base for their action – quite the contrary.

The split in the P.P. is national with the Left, through expulsions and withdrawals, holding the majority over six units and contacts throughout the country. The base of the Left is in the head quarters city and here it faces the great est internal contradictions as well as the greatest possibilities. They have an open forum two blocks from the P.P headquarters with a weekly attendance of over 200 while the P.P. has declined radically. Before the P.P. Opposition could organize itself nationally, Cleveland and New York had moved into the official Communist party. The Chicago P.P. Opposition can say this shows weakness on their part and dismiss it at that but facts prove it only reflects the weakness of the national center of the P.P. Opposition and disintegration will claim the rest unless drastic steps are taken at once to correct their international perspective.

Since the party fastly chopped off part of Cleveland and New York we should ask, where do we catalog the P.P. Opposition among the Communist currents? It cannot be cataloged with the Left Opposition, the Ultra Left nor the Right wing currents this they themselves admit. Neither can facts characterize them as an independent current of Communism, nor as the Marxian group in America. The P.P. Opposition itself is the best denial of this. The P.P. has tactical differences but no theoretical differences with the C.I. and always abstractly endorses the C.I. and all its policies. This shows, generally speaking, that they are a sectarian grouplet of the official Communist parry and concretely speaking a right-center sectarian grouplet supporting Stalinism. Stalin’s socialism in one country has its counterpart in the P.P.’s National Communism.

On the one hand, the expulsion of the Left Opposition from the C.I. was the most detrimental to the world revolution and the Soviet Union, on the other hand we can say the struggle within the P.P. and its majority under the influence of the P.P. Opposition is healthy and a step forward for American Communism. Now adrift, the P.P. Opposition has the key to the problem and will determine if they proceed forward or backward. Where are they today and what are they heading for?

The P.P. Opposition is not a homogeneous grouplet by any means. The action of Cleveland and New York already throws light upon the process of contradictions they brought out of the party with them and have not yet outgrown – or contradictions that may kill them as a grouplet, depending upon what their most advanced force does in the next several weeks. To join Centrism was no step forward, it was only a jump from the tail to the body, unless they go into the party with the intention of correcting the revisionist position. Another section of the grouplet under Bereiter’s influence have accepted the Grossman theory as the latest in Marxism. The Scandinavian grouplet and some American elements that dropped out of the P.P. before and others that were expelled make up some healthy element that would be an asset to the American Communist movement. To go forward the P.P. Opposition must answer the question of an International program, a question still unanswered in their group. It may be much nicer for some to have their own “play house” and play the game according to their own rules than to be a faction of the Communist International as the Left Opposition and take all the dirt and slander that goes with it. However, there is no choice for a Marxian, we do not make history out of the whole cloth, neither do we make a party out of the whole cloth that will carry through the successful proletarian revolution in the United States, but in order to build a party to accomplish our task in America we must have above all – a correct international program to be rounded out with revolutionary strategy and tactics for the peculiarities of America.

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