From The Militant, Vol. V. No. 24 (Whole No. 120), 11 June 1932, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
It is to be expected that Communism will become a much more serious challenge in these coming presidential elections than hitherto. That is so mainly because of the vital working class issues of the economic crisis and mass unemployment which is pressing harder every day for a solution, or at least for some measure of relief. There will, of course, be no solution found in the elections under a capitalist regime, and it is not for this purpose that Communists participate. They will foster no such illusions within the working class.
Nevertheless there is an opportunity, by the medium of the election campaign, to advance the development of the Communist movement and strengthen the working class politically. It is in this sense that the more serious challenge is presented.
But the Communists are not the only force appealing in the name of the working class, calling for its support and endeavoring to rally its ranks. Even the bourgeois politicians have not lost any of their power of demagogy. And, it is well to remember that capitalism still controls all the main avenues of working class influence, propaganda and education. The Socialist party hopes to at least raise itself to its former level of a contending force. It is stepping forward with a brand new platform, but as before cleverly designed to appeal to the working class and to the petty bourgeoisie. The tone and form of a number of its demands have a more radical flavor than usual, even here and there a smell of militancy. Yet it is so construed that it contains no serious offense – not to speak of danger – to the bourgeoisie. That, of course, is its object. While it will bear more analysis later, it suffices here to say that it is a reformist platform through and through.
For the revolutionary workers the choice presented in these elections is an easy one. Their choice will be the Communist party. It is our choice. To many workers, however, who may be entirely sincere in gaining relief measures for their class, the distinction is not so clear. Many of those will undoubtedly yet have to learn by bitter experience. But even the elections should become a valuable lesson.
It is in view of this that the platform presented by the Communist party assumes special importance. The needs of the workers come more to the fore during election times. Demands for amelioration of their distress become more pressing. The Communists fight for these demands. But they do not expect a solution to issue out of the elections. That is entirely bound up with the revolutionary way out. Immediate or partial demands contained in their platform are there for the purpose of more directly focusing the working class attention, to become the central points for the struggle of today, which must steadily develop toward the revolutionary way out. Hence that latter objective must first of all be clear in the Communist platform.
Is that the case with regard to the platform submitted by the official party leadership? Not at all. It presents the revolutionary way out as a workers’ and farmers’ government – even in several instances calling it a “revolutionary government”. What does this mean? Does it mean the Proletarian Dictatorship? If so, it should be stated so precisely by that term. If this is not meant – and it cannot be under that formulation – it becomes an opportunist adaptation to reformist views. The slogan of a workers’ and farmers’ government is not an adaptation to American peculiarities, for here the working class constitutes the overwhelming percentage of the population. The term a workers’ and farmers’ government in the accepted American sense is the reformist sense. When presented that way in a Communist party platform it becomes a mockery on Marxism.
We would, of course, not propose that the Proletarian Dictatorship become an objective for these elections. But as to the revolutionary way out it must be stated in that manner so that its definite proletarian and revolutionary basis becomes clear.
Only in this way can there be continuity in a revolutionary sense with the immediate and partial demands advanced. Otherwise they stand alone as mere reform measures.
Among the immediate demands, contained in the party platform, which generally correspond with the working class needs today there appears, however, the one for self-determination for the Black Belt (for the Negroes). It would have been far more in keeping with Marxism to substitute in its place the correct slogan for economic, social and political equality for the Negroes. But is it accidental that there is no demand for the shorter workday? Even the socialist parties in the pre-war period demanded the eight-hour workday, during elections and after. Today the demand should be the six-hour workday without reduction of pay. As a part of the platform it would become a means of focusing attention upon it as an immediate objective which can become helpful in building, strengthening and unifying the movement today. Its realization will naturally mean a step forward to a stronger class position.
One proposition in the platform reads: “Even to force concessions NOW from the three capitalist parties, there is no weapon so powerful as a vote for Communism and participation in the daily struggles led by the Communist Party.” (emphasis in original). And, it adds the direct inference that the capitalist politicians may grant such concessions to “keep the masses from turning to Communism”. This approach has nothing in common with Marxism. We do not ask the workers to vote Communist in order to force concessions from the capitalist parties. We do not ask them to participate in the daily struggles for this purpose. We ask the workers to do so because of our revolutionary objective and to strengthen their position toward finally reaching this objective. Concessions gained are by products of the class struggle, not our aim, and gained only because of our strengthened position against, and over the opposition of the capitalist parties.
If we fail to educate, to organize and to prepare the working class for a clear understanding of, and for the attainment of the revolutionary objectives, temporary concessions gained can, instead of becoming partial victories on the way, be turned into retardation of the struggle.
Last updated: 24.6.2013