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The Communist and Election Activity

A Criticism of the Stalinist Methods in the Campaign

(August 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 35 (Whole No. 131), 27 August 1932, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The approaching election finds the parties of reaction, reform and revolution in full swing. The stock market is bolstered up, the bourgeois economists speak of a revival, the papers talk of wage increase, the politicians dodge the real issues and spout demagogy. The reactionaries do this in an effort to keep the workers from moving to the Left.

And to the left, the parties of Deform: the socialist party; the socialist labor party; the farmer-labor party, etc., are struggling in their own way, to keep the workers from moving into the revolutionary stream, toward the Communist party, to paralyze their militancy

The capitalists have done all in their power to keep the revolutionary party off the ballot. At present we have only 11 states on the ballot. In many states a struggle to get on the ballot has not yet been won. Meetings throughout the country have been broken up by the police. Foster, the presidential candidate, has been arrested several times in different parts of the country on his national tour.

Favorable Chances for Communism

This third presidential election campaign of the Communists in America is the most favorable we have yet entered. The reactionary parties have exposed themselves and have shown incompetence in handling the situation. The reformist parties are weak and as yet cannot be compared to the reformist parties in Europe. This leaves the Communist party an open field.

Can the party be equal to this task? This depends upon the program the Communists present in the present campaign and how the Communists conduct the campaign. Previous articles in The Militant criticized the C.P. platform for its opportunism. The program divorces the immediate demands from the ultimate demands, and presents immediate demands that are not satisfactory. A program that does not formulate the immediate needs of the class in coordination with the revolutionary goal is opportunist. Let us determine the party action since the Nominating Convention in Chicago and find out if it has corrected these mistakes.

The party must present its immediate demands as the election platform, demands based upon class struggle and connected with the revolutionary end to be attained. In the campaign, local, national and international issues develop which momentarily gain the spot light of the class attention. The Communist must utilize these struggles to more forcefully bring to the attention of the workers, a revolutionary program in opposition to the reformist and reactionary ones. Or, one may pose the problem this way: The election campaign should be used by the Communists to bring our INTERNATIONAL PROGRAM to the attention of the class through our immediate demands in conjunction with the national and international struggles that develop in the election period. Only on this basis will we be able to put in motion the class and bring recruits to our ranks, workers who come to our ranks on the basis of Marxism.

The Opportunist Course of Stalinism

Several important events have happened since the Chicago Nomination Convention, events showing how far into the swamp of opportunism, Stalinism has taken the Communist party. The Bonus March flared across the political horizon and the Stalinites dashed in unconditionally for the bonus. They carried on a campaign in the Daily Worker that overshadowed the election campaign and shifted to the background the main slogan for Social and Unemployment Insurance.

On August first – the calendar day set aside by Stalinism to fight against imperialist wars – the demonstration on Union Square in New York forgot the War Danger, forgot that Fascism threatens Germany and devoted their main blows at Hoover who drove the veterans out of Washington with machine guns, tear gas bombs, and tanks. This important climax of the Bonus March was elevated above the more important question, rather than used as a springboard to the explanation of the war danger connected with threatening Fascism in Germany. We pointed out before that the demand for emergency relief for the farmers was wrong and must be changed to emergency or immediate relief for the WORKERS and Farmers. In New York the party tried to correct this error but only created more errors. The party-controlled unemployment councils called a conference on August the 15th, and a Relief March on September the 10th. The whole program is based upon immediate relief for the workers. They first separate the demand for immediate relief from the more fundamental demands against capitalism and second, they forget entirely that capitalism which is the cause of unemployment must be overthrown. Nowhere in their propaganda, articles, or speeches are these three factors coordinated. First to leave the demand out of the program and then to base a campaign in New York exclusively on the demand of immediate relief that was omitted from the platform – these are flip-flops, detrimental to the party and the class.

The platform forgets the struggle for the shorter work day. However, the bosses have not forgotten this struggle and are busy trying to reorganize labor power (overpopulation to production accumulation), a necessary step for their way out of the crisis. If they succeed in reorganizing and “reducing hours” at the workers’ expense it will give them a breathing spell. On the other hand if, through class struggle we force through the “Six Hour Day, Five Day Week, with NO REDUCTION IN PAY”, our class will be able to take a big step forward. The Communists must give the lead in this struggle.

For a Realistic Defense of the U.S.S.R.

In the election platform the defense of the Soviet Union is linked with the defense of the Chinese people. Events have proven that the danger of Fascism in Germany is the determining factor in world politics and the election platform and campaign can only put life into the slogan of the defense of the Soviet Union by mobilizing the workers to support the fight against Fascism in Germany. The Stalinites fail in this major task.

In New York the party has issued the slogan, “For Bread and Freedom, – With Foster, Ford and Amter.” As the election date nears we find Stalinism floundering deeper into the swamp of opportunism.

These activities – the Bonus march, reduction of hours, immediate relief, Anti-War activity and German struggles are not utilized in the election campaign to contrast the party of revolution to the parties of reform and reaction. Rather the party’s way of handling these tasks under the Stalinist leadership has pushed the membership and the party farther to the right, farther into opportunism. Not satisfied with the distance to the right the leaders have dragged the members they top the whole thing with a statements in the Daily Worker which has nothing in common with Marxism.

Who Was Exposed?

First they issue a blast against E. Haldeman-Julius, the well-known reformer, a socialist. They “expose” him. Catch him red handed stealing Foster’s acceptance speech. He changes the word Communist to socialist and prints Fosters speech for his platform. We know Haldemann-Julius. It is not Haldemann-Julius who has made a mistake. It is not Haldeman-Julius who should be criticized. He recognized his reformist wares even when they were labeled Communism. Labels don’t mean much to reformers. Purcell and Hicks recognized the wares of the Anglo-Russian Committee. Chang Kai-Shek recognized the wares of the “four-class party.” Barbusse, Rolland and Sinclair recognize the wares of the Stalinist World Anti-War Congress. The name, Communism, without the content of Marxism frightens no one.

The election campaign must be based upon the pressing immediate needs of the class, formulated concretely, but not divorced from the class struggles of the world that develop between the convention and election day. The political consciousness of the workers during the election campaign can only be transformed into class consciousness by the correct coordination of these two factors on the broad basis of our International program which must run as a red thread through the election platform and the election campaign.

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Last updated: 31.12.2013