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Arne Swabeck

A Reply to Comrade Allard

(September 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 38 (Whole No. 134), 17 September 1932, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Dear Comrade Allard:

Your letter of August 31 (published as an answer to the party bureaucrats in last week’s Militant) calls for some clarification. First of all let us say that we fully recognize the enormous provocation from the bureaucratic party leaders to which you have been subjected over a period of time. You have acted as a militant on the firing line and in the leadership of a mass movement fighting for correct policies. This is the reason for the provocation. In view of this your reaction is understandable: but your conclusion is faulty.

The Party and Its Errors

Our attitude to the party we must define correctly and precisely. We defend the Communist party at all times, but we defend none of its mistakes. Our defense presupposes a fight against the false views, tactics, methods and policies of its leadership. In this sense we make a distinction between the party and its bureaucratic leadership, and only in that manner can we correctly defend the party.

This is not a new conclusion which we have come to just recently. On the contrary, it has formed a basic principle of the Left Opposition platform since its inception, and all experiences so far have fully substantiated its validity. This conclusion proceeds from our recognition of the great role assigned by history to the Communist party. The proletarian revolution is inconceivable without the leadership of the Communist party. To prepare for the attainment of that goal the everyday working class struggles require the active intervention and direction of the Communist party. In order to illustrate this latter point we need only cite the situation at present existing in the Illinois coal fields.

You have there a powerful movement now marching in a progressive direction. It is made up of workers who have learned many bitter lessons and who have therefore broken with the past. Its leadership is composed of elements of various views and tendencies, ranging from the outright conservative of capitalist ideology to the Communist view. These various tendencies will pull in different directions with the conservative ones applying the brakes upon the progressive development which is so necessary, and driving the movement backward. While a solid rank and file control is essential for the success of the new union it is just as necessary that it have a leadership conscious of its tasks and capable of pursuing a genuine progressive course. Is there any possible way of guaranteeing this without a Communist nucleus functioning actively, constantly exerting its influence and clearly showing this direction. You will readily agree with us that all genuine Left wingers should function in an organized manner within this mass movement to help insure a correct course. But that would also be a hopeless task without the initiative of a Communist nucleus. Needless to add that in general, in the decisive struggles which will face the new union, this responsibility of the Communist forces only multiplies. These examples we believe are sufficient to emphasize the role, the duty and the tasks of the Communist party in the revolutionary perspectives as well as in the every-day working class problems.

Blunders of Stalinism

However, and here we come to an extremely important question, it is precisely in this role and in these duties that the Communist party has failed most glaringly since its leadership fell into the hands of the Stalin regime. We have repeated time and again the examples of the fatally false policies pursued by this regime in the Chinese revolution of 1925–27, in the British general strike of 1926 and now being repeated in the extremely critical situation in Germany today. It is repeated again in workers’ struggles of today in America, though on a smaller and less decisive scale. From these false concepts and wrong policies flow the bureaucratic method and practices which not only stifles the party and renders it impotent, unable to develop and grow in objectively favorable situations, but strangles its activities and the movements it influences and controls. This prevents the party from fulfilling its groat historic mission, it prevents it from functioning as an active factor giving correct direction to the every-day struggles. It alienates the workers from the party.

Despite all this, or we may say particularly because of this, our duty becomes the more clearly outlined. We recognize that the Communist party can fulfill its historic mission and its tasks of today only through a correct Marxian orientation. We know how essential the Communist party is, and that it is the only workers political party. This is why we make the distinction between the Communist party and the mistakes of its leadership. This also defines our attitude to the party. We do not assume to function in its place in the sense of taking over the duties of the party. But we must combat the wrong reactions of workers who, because of these mistakes, turn against the ideas of Communism. We must uphold the banner of Communism, and hence, to regenerate the party, to restore, it to the basis of Marx and Lenin becomes the fundamental objective. Combining this with our active participation in the class struggle, in the solution of the everyday problems of the working class, we will carry forward the banner of Communism and fight for the realization of its ideas. This is our task to which we must devote ourselves in earnest. It proceeds through the kind of struggles in which you and others of our comrades are now so actively engaged.

Question of United Front

It is in direct accord with the above that we also want to correct the statement in your letter of invitation to “the rank and file of the National Miners Union” (for a united front). Maintaining this attitude would be to imitate the mistakes of tho Stalinist bureaucrats, in reversed form. The National Miners Union we consider as a bona fide workers’ organization. Moreover it is a Left wing union. Our attitude to this union as well as to the other unions named by yon must be that of a genuine united front. Hence we must approach these unions, and especially the Left union, officially, in our united front policy, as an organization to be invited through its elected leadership, simultaneously urging the rank and file membership that the invitation be accepted.

Hoping this will help to clear up these few points. I remain


Fraternally yours,
Arne Swabeck

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