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The S.P. “Lefts’” Program

(May 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 19 (Whole No. 115), 7 May 1932, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The “militant” socialists have forced their attention upon the American movement by issuing a Militant Program of the Socialist Party of America. The noise the Militants created in heralding their opposition to the party fathers prompted O’Neal to give them a spanking, issued as a criticism in the New Leader. But like all bureaucrats and upholders of the crimes of the Second International, O’Neal splashed a lot of words, set up a few straw men and evaded the whole issue. No doubt this kind of criticism will spur the “militants” to new conquests. In this advance of the “militants”, it is well to point out what their present step means and to lay bare some of the contradictions.

The deepening crisis has caused this stir and forces the more enlightened members of the S.P. to seriously question the crimes of the Second International. For the rank and file of the “militants” it is a step forward, but for those “leaders” who were formerly supporting the Communists it is a big step backward. At least, one will have to give these “leaders” credit for one thing. They have set themselves a big task. They intend to reform the Second International. Already sections of the more advanced workers in their rank and file are to the left of the “militant” program and are seriously questioning it.

The program is written in the fashion of a crafty lawyer who puts out a feeler, insinuating much, condemning considerably, but accusing no one in particular. The program points out some of the crimes of the Second International, not in America so much, but in Europe: but there is no hint as to who their American bed-fellows are. They seem to be afraid of stepping on somebody’s toes. Like good politicians of the capitalist orders these “militants” leaders have left the door open for proper adjustments with the fathers at a later date.

The “militant Program” accuses the Second International of crimes beyond class “redemption” and in the same breath advocates reforming this prop of Capitalism. Such a position is even more tragic than the position of the liberal who admits all the evils of capitalism and then sets out to cure it.

The reformers of the Second International speak of class struggle saying, “The moment this Marxian concept is abandoned, not only in theory but in practice as well, at that moment Socialism loses its significance.” We are told this in 1932 by the “militant socialists”, but this universal, open abandonment of the class struggle by Second International was heralded unashamed to the workers of the world in 1914 and ever since then, and it is from then on that “Socialism” has lost “its significance”. No group of “Lefts” can blow life into what is already dead. If the “militant socialists” blow anything into the American party we can be sure it will not be Marxism. They can blow into the Socialist Party some radical phrases, and make it more presentable for conditions of crisis. In this stage of increasing class struggle, capitalism must bring into life the American variety of social democracy, so ably presented by the German “comrades”. If a few sincere but non-Marxian worker “leaders” allow themselves to be utilized together with the conscious fakers so much the better for the development of reformism in America, for the capitalists. The Second International served its master well to Europe. Why not give it a chance in America, even if it needs a little doctoring up for presentation? American capitalism had better make haste while there is time and construct some kind of a storm cellar for the coming class battles. Will the rank and file “militants” of the Socialist Party help in this process, or will they take the next step toward the Communist movement?

The program says, “It is a fundamental principle of Marxism that Socialism cannot be achieved as a result of a series of reforms within the framework of the Capitalist State.” When the fathers of the party read this they became frightened, but as soon as they read the next sentence all their fear was quieted, for in its own peculiar way, in the language of the politicians, it lays the basis for the understanding of words and deeds. The next sentence of the program says, “Emancipation of the workers can begin only when the workers capture political power and constitute themselves the ruling class.” Just another way of saying, we will shoot the capitalist to death with paper ballots. The question of what to do with the capitalist state (smash it) and what kind of a state will replace it, is left for people to guess as they please. This is no accident on the part of the “militant” socialist leaders. These reformers of the reformers in America say the dictatorship of the proletariat is alright in Russia. But in America – that’s a different question. Years ago the intense class struggle in Europe forced the “left” Socialist to accept the dictatorship in Russia as a reality but in the next breath they said it was not for their country. And now, years later, the developing class struggle in America forces the “lefts” to say the same. Already we find some of the rank and fliers objecting to these clever formulations, this lip service to revolution and action for reformism. They demand another step.

The program says, “At the same time, we set ourselves firmly against dictatorship in this country as long as democratic means of transition to a socialist society are still available.” We will vote the capitalists out of power, and these defeated capitalists will give us the key to every mine, mill and factory; and the next day they will report to work in overalls. So say the “militants”, who are going to use the democratic means of transition to socialism. What a mess. Shapiro, Coleman, Sinclair and Blanchard and their like. What kind of a game do you call this? They may be able to convince some followers that they “don’t know any better” but we know them from before.

Every one remembers the last part of the Communist Manifesto and the last sentence. It is well to know the last words of the “militant socialist” program : “We must create and promote a spirit of intelligent hopefulness. Such an opportunity as is at hand for all of us to hasten the emancipation of the working class of America may not come again for generations. We call for action. Let us close ranks and go forward to Socialism in our time.” This gem of reform ignorance has two mistakes: ordinary and extraordinary. These reformers tell their followers that if they don’t get busy and help them reform the reformers at once we may not have another chance for generations. We can settle this problem by informing the “militant Socialists” that they will not reform the Second International in this generation and in the next generation there will be no need because the Second International will only be a terrible memory for the victorious world proletariat.

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Last updated: 12.6.2013