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Towards a Concrete Program of Action

(June 1930)

From The Militant, Vol. III No. 24, 21 June 1930, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Social Insurance

The problem of social insurance in a program of Unemployed Demands is treated by the present Party leaders as an illegitimate child. This despite the spasmodic proddings of the Comintern and the R.I.L.U. upon the Party on different occasions to evince a little greater activity and sincerity in this field.

The demands for Unemployment Insurance, Old Age Pensions, Sickness Insurance and the like are treated by the Browder-Bedacht pontiffs as evidence of secret “social-fascist” cravings. They apparently envisage the demand for social insurance as purely parliamentary manoeuvering and not a by-product of the class struggle like all other reforms and concessions “granted” to the workers by capitalist legislatures. Social insurance does not fit in with the rantings of the “third period.”

Social Insurance as a By-Product of Struggle

But for the revolutionary party to surrender the representation of these demands of the socialist party, the Muste group or the other petty-bourgeois reformers would be a great blunder. If the Party does that it does not seriously have regard to the possibilities of a revolutionary utilization of parliamentary action. In fact the Communist Party is being misled by the adventurist leadership at its head into the frame of mind and tactics of the bourgeois “boycottists” in the history of the Russian social democracy. It will become so “pure” that it will end in sterility.

The presence of social insurance in Great Britain and Germany on the statute books for many decades has not prevented the development of the class struggle, and can not so long as the basic contradictions of capitalism dominate the social structure. The British workers have continued to organize great strikes and to move steadily to the Left. Bismarck’s legislation to “steal the thunder” of the socialists has not prevented the rise of a Communist mass party and the development of revolutionary crises that under revolutionary leadership could have resulted in a German Soviet Power.

Capitalist Responsibility for Unemployment

Will anyone revolutionary seriously argue that the Salvation Army, private soup kitchens, the network of social-service and charitable institutions maintained by the business interests are preferable to State insurance in the sense that they make the workers more class conscious or “pauperize” them less? The bourgeoisie in Great Britain is constantly seeking ways and means for cutting down the “dole”. W.I. King, the well known American statistician, attacks the dole on the ground that it is the real reason preventing an industrial revival. He wants a free market in the commodity of labor power, governed by “supply and demand”. He blames the trade unions and the “dole” for preventing the “deflation” of waves. And he warns the American capitalists that they are running the same risks if they permit the enactment of unemployment insurance in the United States.

W.I. King and his associate bourgeois economists make a deep mystery of the recurrence of the “business-cycle”. They find every explanation of it under the sun, but the real one of the anarchic character of capitalist production for profit. The capitalist system is responsible for the “business-cycles” and for the standing and recurrent mass unemployment. The Capitalist state must be compelled by the organization and struggle of the masses to shoulder the charges of unemployment.

Credits for the Soviet Union

Not the least of the derelictions of the Stalinist leadership of the Communist Party has been its failure to rally the unemployed around the demand for credits for the Soviet Union. Unremittingly and windily the Daily Worker “sloganizes” for the “Defence of the Soviet Union”, but when the whole international economic crisis favors the crystallisation of one of the widest mass movements yet for the real and substantial Defence of the Soviet Union, the Stalinist regime and its American agents, Browder-Bedacht-Foster do nothing but hamper the Party from measuring up to its great opportunity. The reason for this attitude of the Party leaders flows not from any malice but inevitably from their false theory of “national socialism” – Stalin’s Russian “exceptionalism”.

Economics and Military Defence

The Defence of the Soviet Union is not as the Daily Worker would like to impress its readers, a purely military question, a matter of preventing imperialist intervention. In this age military strength itself depends on industrial power. In the case of the Soviet Union it depends not only on industrial power but on the consolidation of the proletarian dictatorship and socialism. But socialism cannot be built up in the Soviet Union entirely out of its own inner resources and separated from the world market by a Chinese wall. The difficulties that the great Five Year Plan and collectivization are experiencing today in the U.S.S.R. demonstrates this exactly.

To hold anything else is a flagrant rupture with Marxist analysis and proletarian internationalism.

International Solidarity

The demand for credits for the Soviet Union at once reveals the inner link between the interests of the American working class and the workers of the Soviet Union. Millions are idle in the United States. But the socialist plans of the Soviet Union cry out for machinery and other industrial equipment. Employment here and collaboration with the Five Year Plan in the U.S.S.R. would be the consequences of large scale credits. Thousands of American workers would receive practical lessons in the implications of internationalism in the fundamental struggle between capitalism and socialism and the meaning of Communism. Thousands could be mobilized for the U.S.S.R. and against the capitalist government of the United States.

The slogan of credits to the Soviet Union is one that the labor bureaucracy and the international social democratic leaders will resist. They would sense in it the possibilities of a united front that would draw the rank and file away from them and towards the leadership of the Soviet Union and the Communists. They are right. “Credits for the Soviet Union”, is one of the most forceful focal points for a united front movement.

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