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Arne Swabeck

4 Years Of The Militant

(November 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 46, 12 November 1932, pp. 1 & 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

At this moment there is a new and perceptibly growing wave of sympathy and support to the Left Opposition in America. It is taking on a form distinct from the past slow process of winning a worker here and there who became convinced by individual propaganda. Those who have followed The Militant attentively will also have noticed that, in entering the fourth year of its existence, its contents begin more directly to reflect the struggle toward revolutionary developments in the country. That itself is a material expression of the growing support coming in the direction of the Left Opposition.

The reasons, of course, lie in the very conditions of the working class movement. The economic crisis is producing a new orientation. It is generally speaking a Leftward one. A working class force is beginning to emerge in the United States. It is emerging slowly, painfully, with much stumbling and with many bitter experiences in its course. But for the actual proof of its emerging one needs only to cast a glance at the election campaign just concluded. Willy-nilly, of the main contenders, the capitalist parties, the working class issues

forced themselves to the fore. The conditions created are also beginning to put the various working class and, revolutionary currents more definitely to their test. This, however, will be far more marked in the coming period of more intense struggles. But already now there is evidence that the Left Opposition is commencing to rind its place on the solid grounds of the class struggle. And we can say today that an estimate of the significance of this new wave of support quite decisively indicates our future much greater role.

Some Examples of Growth

We have at this moment a series of new contact established, which are becoming included within our active ranks. A new branch of the League is organized in Davenport, Iowa. Branches are in formation in Des Moines, Iowa, in Pittsburgh, Pa., and in New Castle, Pa. Our existing branches with but few exceptions, are in the process of growth.

The enormous advantage of a correct theoretical foundation – a Marxian foundation – belongs to the Left Opposition. But we are compelled to carry on by the most primitive means, made so by the isolated position from which we began and by our sadly limited physical resources. Every step toward our objectives therefore of necessity had to be modest ones.

In both respects, both in regard to a correct theoretical foundation as well as in regard to our limited means the four years history of The Militant, furnishes eloquent proof to our contention. But while the latter is apparent, it is the former, which in terms more convincing than we could possibly utter, has attested to its enormous advantage. Just look at the healthy contrast between four years ago and today.

Then we had a handful of comrades coming forward with an unshakable conviction, having from the past received a certain preparation for their position, but also carrying over remnants from the past which still caused some unclarity and lack of experience in applying the International Left Opposition platform to America. We made some mistakes; we must, of course, record shortcomings. Yet we are justified in giving emphasis to the healthy transformation which has taken place. We are justified in taking pride in the accomplishments. The Militant reflects today an organization small in numbers but functioning actively in the endeavor to attain a Marxian platform not only by theoretical discussion but also in the realities of the life of the class struggle.

Some Trade Union Experiences

We have mentioned our organizational growth, yet it is such experiences as those recorded in the Illinois mine field which begin to indicate both substance and form to our organization. We do not at all boast of control of the movement there or any section of it – a contention which we are repeatedly accused of by the scribes of the official Lewis-Walker organ and which they so hypocritically curse as a shield under which to continue their nefarious schemes of regaining control in the only sense understood by them – in the sense of autocratic domination. We did not contest the official party for control. But we did contest it in the struggle for correct policies and if anything then more definitely so do we in this sense contest the reactionary forces at work within the new union. We have in the past, we do today, and we will continue tomorrow, to counterpose our views to theirs and will seek further, on the basis of practical experiences, to convince the miners that they should follow these views.

In this sense we have achievements to record which will multiply in the future because they indicate already today certain substantial proofs of the correctness of our views. This is first of all measured by the actual results. And here we can definitely record the fact that the only force fighting directly for a Left wing union position at the Gillespie convention were those delegates who supported the views of the Left Opposition. They had earned the right to do so by their past record of struggle and by their leadership given to the strike. Numerically this force represented only four actual delegates. Thus it will be seen that our beginning is modest from the point of view of numbers but significant in political content.

The Working Class Orientation

Proceeding from this the important question occurs as to what it signifies for the future. The Leftward orientation within the working class ranks flows today in two main directions. It is away from the capitalist ideology and toward both the Communist and the so- [line of text missing here] the latter has so far gained the most.

It is well to remember the definite contrast between the two. Communism is based upon the proletarian revolution and struggle to achieve this goal. Reformism has no such objective and therefore lands in the position of avoidance of actual and serious struggle. Within the Communist movement contradictions from false policies come quicker to a head. This is so because of its decisively marked out objectives and the heavier class pressure upon it. This has in the past, and it inevitably will in the future also, cause disappointment within the ranks and result in members leaving the party while others are repelled

before becoming members. But, as particularly the recent experiences have proven, this also offers additional possibilities of clarification with the result that the actual revolutionists turn toward the Left Opposition. Within the social reformist camp, however, the most decisive disillusionments are still to come and at an accelerated tempo in future struggles.

That there will be such struggles in the period we are now entering is clearly indicated by all developments to date. Is it to be assumed that Centrism, which is a basic phenomenon and not a mere chance one produced by a certain situation, can change and avoid its contradictions of false policies? On the contrary. As the class struggle develops in intensity it will become the more deeply involved in these contradictions with a cumulative effect. On the other hand, when we pose the question of the party to extricate itself from Centrism, that, of course, is an entirely different matter which cannot be decided in advance. This is not a question merely of individuals but of a system of leadership. Thus it has its important relations not only to the members now within the party ranks but also to the workers who are coming in the direction of Communism.

On Future Contacts

It follows from this, that is provided we continue to pursue a correct course, that our future contacts will be recruited much more directly from the class struggle. That itself presupposes that we become an ever more important factor within it. In this respect the experiences from the Illinois coal fields should furnish important material for study. But that also, aside from the general conclusions at which we will arrive therefrom, points to the importance of the role that the trade unions will play in the future struggle. Hence it is so much more significant that one of the milestones in our most recent development of growth is so closely connected with the realities of the trade union question. But from this the further steps must lead in the direction of much deeper penetration into the trade unions.

At this time of the fourth anniversary we see the road of the Left Opposition clearly marked out. We have attained a basis. A modest one but a significant one. While we do not forget the fact that the international revolutionary developments work in our direction with accelerated speed, it is nevertheless correct to say that our future growth and developments will be achieved at a pace corresponding to the degree with which we more actively engage ourselves in the class struggle.

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