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In the Elections

‘Labor’ or C.P. Ticket?

The Lovestoneites Propose a Reformist ‘United Labor’ Slate

(October 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 42, 15 October 1932, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Political elections at this stage of development in the United States offer, from our point of view, opportunities for revolutionary propaganda and activities. It is because of this that they can be utilized to advance the working class political level. More than this we should therefore not expect from them.

Elections do not decide the important issues of the working class which we approach in the sense of being essentially issues of power. That is, as the issue of which class shall hold power in society. There is no other way to approach it.

But elections can become stepping stones for working class advance only when they are correctly utilized to help make clear the existing class relationships. The collisions of the conflicting interests between capitalism and the workers are manifested daily in the shop, in the unions, in demonstrations and on the picket lines. There the economic basis is established. In the elections they can become the focusing points around which the workers can express their Interest from a class point of view and to that extent further prepare themselves for the struggle for power.

Reformist or Revolutionary Objective?

In that particular objective the essential difference between a reformist and a revolutionary policy becomes apparent. The reformist policy can never educate the workers to the concept of power, nor can it serve to advance them in that direction because that is not at all its objective. It is definitely circumscribed by the limits of the existing capitalist society and conforms to the rules of the capitalist state. It cannot step beyond these limits because that would lead to a conflict with the state power and lead to revolutionary conclusions, which is something the social reformists would never permit. The logic of the class struggle, however, presses inexorably beyond these limitations and the social reformists, fearing the revolutionary conclusions, betray the interests of the working class and give up even the struggle for reforms.

What is the Right Wing Position?

The revolutionary policy, on the other hand, does not at all reject the struggle for necessary reforms. On the contrary, considering reforms as by-products of the revolutionary struggle, it takes the everyday needs of the working class as the basis of its immediate demands. But it sets for itself the objective of change in the class relationships, the objective of replacing the capitalist power with the working class power, the objective of revolution. Only when this is made clear in political elections by the revolutionary party, will it fully perform its duty and only on that basis can it fully justify its participation in them.

It should follow from this, that the Communist party in a political election is also duty bound to appear before the working class directly under its own banner, planted solidly upon a revolutionary platform. With this, the Right wing Lovestone group is in total disagreement. True to its opportunist position in every respect, this group proposes a “united labor ticket” for the New York mayoralty elections. The fact that it is advocated for New York should not deceive anybody for if it is correct for that city there should be no particular reason for its being wrong elsewhere.

In the Workers Age of September 24, a leading editorial, in addition to waxing extremely indignant at the “tin box” corruption of Tammany Hall and in the City Hall, gives precisely such advice. To make sure of no misinterpretation, we quote directly from this editorial:

“The job of the labor movement in this situation is clear: to unite all its forces and all its organizations in support of a UNITED LABOR TICKET (emphasis in original), standing foursquare for the interests of labor and determined and able to make a clean sweep of the whole dirty mess.”

Which labor movement is here referred to? Perhaps the trade unions are taken into account. Be that as it may, there need be no doubt that the editorial aims at the Socialist party and the Communist party as both are mentioned in this connection – a united election ticket of the reformist party and the revolutionary party. Only from a politically degenerated group could such a proposal emanate, despite its attempt at still covering itself with the name of the Communists.

A United Front or a Reformist Sham?

We have often in these columns commented upon and emphasized the necessity of a working class united front for specific and limited objectives of struggle. We have important historical experiences of working class unity of action in the sense of revolutionary and reformist organizations or parties joining forces to attain specific and limited aims upon which members of both were in accord and which were of general interest to the broad mass movement. The threatening Fascist menace in Germany still demands the united front of the Communists, the social democrats and the trade unions to defeat that menace. A united front in this country for the struggle for freedom of political prisoners is a vital necessity. A united front of the Communist forces, the socialist forces and the trade unions in the struggle for the immediate needs of the unemployed would be entirely correct, and help to put the social reformists as well as the reactionary leaders of the trade unions to the test on their professed claim of favoring actual relief measures from capitalist society. But political elections are an entirely different matter. None of these issues is decided by elections. They are decided only by actual struggle.

Where is the common point of interest between the two parties in an election? To propagandize and to rally the worker’s for the attainment of reforms or for the working class revolutionary objectives? To win expression of support for the candidate voicing the reformist program or for the candidate voicing the aspirations of the revolutionary program? To educate the working class in an election campaign, to obtain reforms under capitalism or to educate to the concept of the struggle for power? Obviously there can be no point of common interest between the two.

Among the brethren of the various reformist stripes there would be no obstacles in the road to unity in elections. Their objectives in essence coincide. The Lovestone group should therefore have confined its proposal to that camp where they could find full harmony. Their group would only complete the circle, that is, with the exception of the workers within, it who still see the revolutionary objectives, who will separate from it and march with the revolutionary sections.

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