From The Militant, Vol. V No. 6 (Whole No. 102), 6 February 1932, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
What can be done by a revolutionary working class leader to develop class consciousness when the capitalist class places its press at his disposal was taught us by Marx – “as contributor on the leading Anglo-American newspaper, the New York Tribune, at which I have now been engaged for eight years –” (author’s preface to Critique of Political Economy); by Lenin on numerous occasions; and more recently by Trotsky, particularly in his statement in the Manchester Guardian, reprinted in part in the N.Y. Times of April 13, 1931, under the title “TROTSKY SAYS SOVIET POINTS WOULD PATH.” How a working class “leader” can misuse the same opportunity to sow confusion in the working class was demonstrated by Stalin in two interviews he gave to representatives of the New York Telegram and New York Times toward the end of 1930.
Last week, Amter, faced with a choice between these methods, strove mightily to emulate his master, Stalin. It is true that Amter was not interviewed. He spoke over the radio. It is no less true that Amter is not Marx, nor Lenin, nor Trotsky. This he fully confirmed again by his speech.
The occasion of the broadcast was a dinner given by the Association for Better Citizenship, Inc.! attended and addressed in addition to Amter by Rudolph Spreckles, the financier, Chas. Solomon, of the Socialist Party, and Wickersham of the commission bearing his name. To this strange position had life brought Amter; from directing gangs to break up Opposition meetings, to speaking over the radio at a patriotic dinner together with financiers and a social Fascist! We do not wish to be misunderstood. We believe that it is correct to utilize such opportunities to speak to sections of the working class. We have nothing in common with those party supporters, misguided by Amter and Co., who call Trotsky a “counter revolutionary because he writes for the capitalist press”. We base our judgment of the speech or writing not upon the place of its appearance but upon its content. From this point of view Amter’s speech spelled confusion.
Spreckles, as his contribution to the Association’s program of “systematic enlightenment of better citizenship,” proposed, among other things, as a solution for the misery of the working class, a tax on short sales on the stock exchange, a tax on the export of capital to provide an unemployment insurance fund; and prohibition! Solomon gave a polite, innocuous and abstract exposition from the socialist point of view of the class struggle. It could have been given in toto ten years ago, so little relation did it have to the realties of the present international and national situation. Nor did Solomon offer any solution except a description of what Socialism is! Wickersham who followed Amter and was the last speaker launched into a eulogy of the physical grandeur of “our country”. As he was completing his lyric of patriotism the entire broadcast, having exhausted its allotted time, was cut off. We are therefore unable to comment on Wickersham’s proposals for a way out of the crisis.
Against the bankruptcy of Spreckles and the empty abstractions of Solomon, a Communist presentation would have stood out in the listening workers’ ears like a clarion call on a dark night. In our opinion Amter should have made a short statement of the extent and depth of the workers’ misery in the present crisis, followed by a brief explanation of its causes and a concise outline of the Communist solution. He should have mentioned the various capitalist attempts to solve their crises by wars (what about the war danger and the U.S.S.R.). And then he should have emphasized that the only .solution was an international proletarian revolution, that in preparation for it we must fight unitedly against the sweeping capitalistic offensive, for immediate demands such as the six-hour day, credits to the Soviet Union, unemployment insurance. His conclusion should have explained the role of the Communist party in this struggle for immediate demands today, and for the overthrow of capitalism tomorrow, and how it is distinguished from the socialist party.
But this is precisely what Amter did not do. He began by attacking the diners. Having “vanquished” them, he called upon the unemployed workers to “join the Communist party which fights hunger.” Similarly he called upon the employed workers to join the Communist party to fight wage cuts’ and upon the Negro workers to join the C.P. to fight for social, political and economic equality. He denounced “Walker’s open, shameless submission to the bankers of Wall Street”. At this point be was indistinguishable from a Republican Party demagogue of the type of, let us say – congressman MacFadden. And so on and so forth he rambled without plan.
A non-Communist worker listening to Amter would have come away not a whit enlightened as to what Communism is. what the Communist party stands for, nor how it proposes to fight hunger, wage cuts, lynching, deportation. Nor would we have suspected that the American Communist Party is a brother section of the German. C.P., which is facing a critical historical moment, upon whose success or failure in uniting the masses against Fascism depended to a large extent his own fate. Neither would he have dreamed that a war is brewing, nor would he have been enlightened on how to fight the war danger.
To the objection that Amter could not in ten or twelve minutes give an exhaustive analysis of the entire world situation, we can reply: Marx, in writing the program of the First International was forced to present his ideas in such a manner that his conclusions, which for political reasons he could not include, would follow inevitably in the mind of the reader. But, as we have already pointed out – Amter is not Marx.
Last updated: 25.4.2013