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T. Stamm

Unemployment and the Party

(January 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 5 (Whole No. 101), 30 January 1932, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(Continued from last issue)

For us, it is axiomatic that we must continue to fight. What we must do, is to add to the slogans of Unemployment Insurance and relief those practical slogans which, while answering to the needs of the workers will appeal to them in terms of work. Such slogans exist. They are principally: the slogan of the Six Hour Day, Five Day Week with no reduction in pay and the slogan of large scale, long term credits to the Soviet Union. In addition to their applicability to the present condition of the working class both at home and abroad, which has been elaborated in the columns of the Militant and by comrade Trotsky, these slogans have precisely that quality which is so necessary in the present circumstances.

The Six Hour Day, Five Day Week, entirely possible with the high development of American industry is slowly winning the approval of sections of the American working class. It appears reasonable to them and a means of relieving unemployment, by cutting down the working day. and week and putting men to work. It is urged even by sections of the capitalist class. These gentlemen intend, of course, that the six hour day shall be accompanied by a corresponding cut in pay. We propose that there should be no wage cut. The workers will decide. If the party were to take up this slogan and launch a movement around it, it would penetrate all sections of the working class and stir them into motion to realize it.

The “work” aspect, so to speak, of the slogan of credits to the Soviet Union is no less valid. Increased trade relations with the Soviet Union as a result of a movement led by the party organized along the line elaborated by cemrade Trotsky in his pamphlet World Unemployment and the Five Year Plan, would result in concretizing the interest of the American workers for the socialist solution as expressed in the Soviet economy, and would alleviate unemployment here by opening factories now closed. For these slogans the workers will fight.

All these considerations together lead to the conclusion that the Six Hour Day should be the central slogan and that together, these three slogans constitute the essentials of a program on which the masses, both employed and unemployed can be united in a powerful movement. This is the program of the Opposition.

Unfortunately, the party does not see the problem in this light. The Dec. 3rd resolution of the T.U.U.L. Executive Committee affirms again that unemployment insurance must be the central slogan: “We must strive to organize the unemployed into the Unemployed Councils – with the demand for unemployment insurance in the center.” Although the demands for a seven hour day and trade relations with the Soviet Union are included they are not conceived as levers to unite the masses and set them in motion. This is obvious from the method laid down to overcome the separation of the “unemployed movement” from “the red union movement”.

This unity is to be affected as follows: “in order to abolish these weaknesses it is important during times of strikes to draw the unemployed into the strike committees, into the mass picket lines, – and on the other side, to place in specific shops concrete demands regarding the unemployed. For example, the re-hiring of laid-off workers, etc.” But what if there are no strikes; are the movements not to be united? On this question the resolution is silent.

It is apparent that the party still conceives the fight for unemployed insurance as a movement primarily of the unemployed. This is borne out by the organizational forms by which the resolution proposes to carry out the party program on unemployment. On this subject the resolution says, “The basic form of organization of the unemployed council is the neighborhood council, elected by the workers in the neighborhood, unemployment agencies, soup kitchens, etc.” This, no doubt, will be the purest form of the united front from below. There is no mention here of uniting the employed and unemployed. This makes a mockery of the resolution’s declaration that, “These organizations (of the unemployed) must be organized on the united front basis.” Nor is this distorted conception of the united front redeemed by adding at the very end of the section dealing with this question, the sentence, “All the unemployed councils have representatives of employed workers.” It is not explained in the resolution how the employed workers who have already signified their refusal to enter the existing mechanically controlled, narrow councils are to be brought into them.

The program of the Opposition proposes that the unemployed councils be genuine, broad united fronts consisting of representatives of organizations of workers of all political or no political tendencies, as well as unemployed workers from agencies, etc. This, of course, is possible upon the basis of a correct program and a regime of working class democracy in the councils. The Stalinist version is now too well known. It is anathema to workers in the A.F. of L. and out of it. On this score, the resolution is silent too. This silence is an ominous sign. It signifies that the policy of expulsion for holding non-Communist and anti-Stalinist views will continue. On such a basis there can be no united front.

It is plain that the party’s program on unemployment and the organizational forms it proposes are essentially the same as those with which it has failed to unite the masses for unemployment insurance. There is, therefore, no need to repudiate the opportunism of Browder and his former policy. On the contrary, it whitewashes them. “The present developments do not require a change in policy ――”

The Stalinists are preparing another defeat for the fight for unemployment insurance. The results will be disastrous. The despicable demagogy of the Pittsburgh Reverend, Cox, is a warning that if the Communists do not learn how to lead the fight for unemployment insurance, all sorts of riff-raff will divert movement into channels harmless to the capitalist class.

Against this danger and for the correct policy, the Opposition will continue to fight. For this, it has been created. It calls upon its comrades in the party to fight shoulder to shoulder with it for the six-hour day, unemployment insurance, credits to Soviet Union; for genuine united front unemployed councils; against bureaucracy, for working class democracy in the councils; for the unity of the Communist vanguard.

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