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Stalinists in Bloc with Musteites
at Columbus Meet, Retard Progress

(July 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 35, 15 July 1933, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The United Front From Above

The July 4–5 Unemployment Leagues Columbus Conferences was a united front from above between the Mutseites and the Stalinists. Weeks before the conference convened the Musteite-Stalinist bloc was formed with the rank, and file of both organizations knowing nothing about it. The C.P.L.A. group ran the conference while the Unemployed Council representatives sat in as fraternal delegates waiting for the Musteites to pick the chestnuts out of the fire of the Ohio conference which was red hot with flag-waving, patriotic Americans who conducted religious revivals in the morning before the conference opened.

The united front from above called for a state federation of the Leagues and Councils; the adoption of the Unemployed Insurance Bill of the Stalinists; a committee of fifteen from the Leagues, Councils and the National Unemployed Federation; and a conference in Washington, in December, when Congress convenes, where an amalgamation of the unemployed organizations is to take place.

The Political Tendencies

The Musteites objected to any talk of political control or political tendencies. However, they saw to it that they elected fifteen Musteites out of twenty-two on the executive committee of the Unemployed Leagues. Other political tendencies within the conference struggles were the Right wing flag wavers the socialists, the Lovestoneites, the United Workers Party, the Stalinists and the Left Opposition.

The Musteites

The C.P.L.A. aim to use the Unemployed Leagues as the foundation for their Labor Party. Opposition to their Labor party aims did not come from the Stalinists who have formed a united fron from above with them. Opposition to the C.P.L.A. by the flag-wavers in the state conference forced them to concentrate their energies to retain political control, and for the time being open agitation for the Labor party was pushed to the background.

One must recognize the mass unemployed movement the C.P.L.A. have, but at the same time on must recognize that it is still flag-waving, religious, mass miseducated by Musteism. Much of the unemployed Leagues’ growth can be accounted for by the fact that the city and county reactionary forces are using the Leagues as buffers against the Unemployed Councils.

The Hunger March on Columbus, led by the Unemployed Councils, was met by the police with clubs while the Unemployed Leaguers conference in Columbus was approved by the authorities. The “Workers’ Patrol”, established by the Unemployed Leagues to keep order, armed themselves with clubs. The Musteites cannot be accused of arming this patrol but they are guilty of miseducation which led to this end.

Steam roller tactics of the steering committee of the Conference controlled by the Musteites equal those of the Stalinists in methods of cutting off opposition, trampling on workers’ democracy and’ gagging the delegates from discussion on the most vital problems confronting the conference. When the Musteites saw they could not control the conference 100 percent and obtain what they wanted, they referred very important question to the incoming Executive where decisions would be rendered. A conference that cannot decide the vital questions itself and refers such to an incoming executive that has not yet been elected is in reality no conference.

The Socialists

The few socialists on hand played a negligible role in the conference. If they did have policy differences, no one found it out because their steering committee wasted their time mainly on secondary points of order.

The Stalinists

The united front from above netted the Stalinists nothing. They did not obtain the committee of fifteen, they did not obtain an endorsement of their BILL, they did not obtain an endorsement of the December meeting. Muste gained the most out of the united front from above. However, this much can be said, now that the Musteites have the executive committee and the power to make the decisions that the conference should have made, they will be able to complete ths original agreement by the continuation of the united front from above. The bloc of Leagues and Councils lost at Columbus but they hope to make up for this by December.

While Muste and Hathaway were roaming the conference grounds arm in arm the Daily Worker, in an editorial, accused the Musteites of breaking the agreement. When the Stalinists steering committee saw how reactionary the conference was the Unemployed Council representatives decided it was time to be ready in case they had to change horses in the middle of the stream, to negotiate with the Left bloc of the conference around the National Unemployed Federation, of course trying to exclude the Left Opposition members present.

The Right Wing

In the state conference of the Unemployed Leagues the flag-waving patriots took the conference out of the hands of the Musteites. A revival atmosphere filled the air more than once. This bloc of Ohio delegates numbered 300 out of the 500 in the national conference, were mainly composed of Right wing elements. The bulk of the remainder were Musteites. They had tremendous influence on the national conference and determined its main course. The Musteites fought this Right wing where they threatened the Musteite control but the Musteites did not take one step beyond this in a political fight against them.

The Free Lancers

The Musteites catered to the progressive free lancers, slobbed all over them and roped some in on this basis. Dennis Batt was also present, but he paddled his own canoe. He was made chairman of the Constitution Committee that drew up the Musteite Declaration of Independence. In the main, Batt supported the Musteites.

The Lovestoneites

The Lovestoneites were criticized by Lovestone for their concessions at the Chicago Unemployed Conference so they came to Columbus ready to bargain with Muste. But Muste had already closed his deal with Stalinism and did not care to deal with the Lovestoneites. The Lovestoneites, through their unemployed organizations which are affiliated to the National Unemployed Federation, presented a draft program for a new federation to the Columbus conference. They did not present this to the Federation to which they are affiliated. If the Lovestoneites had been able to obtain a “better deal” at Columbus they would have deserted the Federation which they are affiliated with. The old Lovestone policy, the two-faced game, cannot be discarded by their group.

The Declaration of Independence or rather Declaration of Workers Rights, a political document of the Musteites is signed by the Constitution Committee headed by Batt and the Steering Committee of the Conference which includes four Lovestoneite signatures. Does Lovestone agree with the action of his fraction?

The political tendencies primarily carried on a struggle around the three positions; of the Right wing, socialist grouping; the centre, Musteite-Stalinist bloc and the Left wing around the National Federation of Unemployed which included the Left Opposition. Tine Lovestoneites flirted between the centre bloc and the Left bloc.

Left Opposition Delegates

A fraternal delegate from the Left Opposition was given the rights of a fraternal delegate but the Musteites overcame the problem of reporting a fraternal delegate from the Communist League by reporting through the credential committee that the report on the fraternal delegates will be given later. It was never delivered. Left Opposition members, representing unemployed organizations from all parts of the country as regular delegates and fraternal delegates representing a substantial number of unemployed in different organizations were at the conference.

The National Federation of Unemployed

The Unemployed Councils are affiliated to the Federation but they came to the Ohio conference fighting the Federation because they do not have mechanical control of it.

The Musteites have two members on the national committee of the Federation so they establishd a division of labor. The members of the national committee could talk for the Federation but the other Musteites took the floor to speak against a resolution calling for affiliation. One must listen to the words of leaders of the different tendencies but one must see that the action conforms to these words. At Columbus the words and deeds of the Stalinist-Musteite bloc were two altogether different things.

The Muste-Stalinist bloc attempted to establish a committee of fifteen, composed of members of the Leagues, Councils and Federation which would give the Muste-Stalinist bloc 13 of the 15. This committee was to call a conference to amalgamate all the organizations into one. The Left bloc objected to this attempt at mechanical control of the unemployed movement and the exclusion of other larger unemployed organizations on the provisional committee, for example, the California unemployed organization which has 150,000 members. Other organizations should likewise have been considered in the provisional committee.

So far the Stalinists obtained nothing from their united front from above, and the Musteites obtained, only a hollow victory. The Musteites are trying to marry their child, the Unemployed Leagues, to the Stalinist Unemployed Councils, but the reactionary child, the product of the miseducation of Musteism, objects to the marriage. However, the continuation of the united front from above will no doubt force the deal.

The Left Opposition fraction in the unemployed organizations will continue the work started at Chicago for the unification of the unemployed movement. The Muste-Stalinist bloc at Columbus and the Right wing flag-waving element prevented the working class from utilizing this conference to its fullest extent. The temporary setback can be overcome in the coming months by intensifying the work for the unemployed program of the Left Opposition and the building of the National Unemployed Federation.

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