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A Midwesterner Is Flabbergasted
by the New New York

(28 December 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4 No. 52, 28 December 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

I've just sat through most of a two-day convention of the New York District of the Socialist Workers Party. I’ve come away with the impression that maybe I've had an attack of amnesia and accidentally wandered off to my old bailiwick out in the mid-west, where a party gathering has always meant a gathering of workers.

When I first entered the convention hall. I was struck by a flaring banner. “Beat Minneapolis in The Fund Drive: Quota $1,000 Each.”

Now, I know the New York local from the old days, when a sign like that would have wound me up with taped ribs from laughing so hard. The idea of New York’s dilettantes challenging Minneapolis teamsters to anything! But things have changed.

From start to finish this was a workers’ convention. In its composition and in its serious concentration upon the problems of the working class this convention reflected the fact that the New York section of the party has at last overcome the poison of its petti-bourgeois past and is spreading deep roots into fertile proletarian soil.

Almost the entire two days were devoted to reports and discussion on trade union problems; to the recital of experiences in the organized labor movement; to planning the party's program for advancing the principles of militant class-struggle.

Active union fighters in the food, maritime, ship-building, electrical and radio, garment and other industries spoke. Their reports painted a graphic and living picture of the workers’ struggles in the New York area, a picture made real because these delegates are a vital part of these struggles.

Gone are the phrase-mongers, bohemians, and fake intellectuals. Gone with the wind-bags, – the petty-bourgeois splitters of last April. In their place are loyal and serious-minded workers striving to plunge themselves deeper and deeper into the task of organizing and leading the working class to the conquest of power.

Who’s Who Now in New York

Over 50 percent of the New York party members are active trade unionists. 35 percent of the New York party members are concentrated in the three huge and vital industries, food, electrical manufacturing and marine transport.

An additional sizeable sector of the party are workers in trades and industries as yet unorganized. These, taken together with those in organized trades, make a party membership that is decisively proletarian in character. A complete reversal of the condition that existed just eight months ago under the domination of the petty-bourgeois play-boys!'

A day and a half of listening to reports distilled from the daily experiences of the class struggle has convinced me that the old days of phoney gab-fests that passed for an SWP convention in New York are ended – but definitely!

One incident which occurred during the convention deserves special mention. Two former SWP members from Gloversville, N.Y„ workers who had been misled temporarily into the ranks of the petty-bourgeois opposition at the time of the split, paid a visit to the convention. They had just come from a call on the so-called Workers Party.

“But we couldn’t find any workers there,” they explained, “So we’ve quit them.”

A few hours in attendance at our convention revealed enough real live workers. They asked for re-admittance into the SWP and were immediately welcomed by vote of the convention.

Watch Their Smoke, Minneapolis!

Every phase of party activity came in for thorough discussion. A vigorous drive was made on the question of building the mass circulation of the party press. Real plans were outlined; and they won’t be pigeon-holed either, like in the old days.

I might not have believed it, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. But I’m here to tell the Minneapolis comrades not to take lightly the New York challenge about beating them in the Trotsky Memorial Fund Drive. Stop reading last year’s newspapers, Minneapolis. You’re not confronting Bronx hill-billies. You’re up against proletarian fighters. And they’re not kidding!

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