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Arne Swabeck

An Open Letter to the American Workers Party

(January 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 3, 27 January 1934, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Provisional Organizing Committee
of the American Workers Party


After a thorough-going discussion of the results of the Pittsburgh convention of the Conference for Progressive Labor Action, the National Committee of the Communist League of America (Opposition) has decided to address the following communication to you for your consideration and action.

Your convention voted to take the measures it considered necessary for the founding of a new revolutionary party in the United States. “The revolutionary struggle of the masses against the capitalist system which more and more depresses their standard of living, takes various forms,” declares the report of your National Executive Committee adopted by the convention. “The primary form is the economic struggles of the worker and farmer. The struggle is, however, inspired, coordinated, carried to its goal of taking power, by the revolutionary political party.”

Our organization, having itself formally adopted the decision in September of last year to work for the creation of a new revolutionary party in this country and a new International throughout the world, is consequently directly concerned with and interested in the decision adopted by your Pittsburgh convention. We stated our position in our declaration four mouths ago and we take the liberty of calling your attention to the following essential paragraphs:

“The Communist League, as it is at present constituted, does not consider itself a party and has no intention of anticipating the real establishment of the new party by proclaiming itself as such. The task now is to recognize firmly that our role as a faction striving to reform the party of official Stalinism is exhausted, to strike out on a completely independent path, and to prepare, in cooperation with all other groups and organizations moving in the same direction, for the formation of a new party.

“In the course of its struggle to reform the official party, as a faction of it, the Left Opposition worked out a program, consolidated a cadre of principled militants and formed the skeleton of a national organization. These accomplishments can be regarded now as part of the capital of the new movement; not all that is necessary for the formation of the party, but contributions to it.

“What is needed now is the coming together of the various groups of revolutionary workers who have broken, or who are In the process of breaking, with reformism and centrism as well as those dispersed individual revolutionists who have been repelled by the Stalinist bureaucracy and remained without affiliation. It is self-evident that the working out of a common program and the eventual concentration of these forces into a single party must be preceded by an exchange of opinion and discussion and, very probably, will involve a transition period of cooperation before the final fusion.

“Whatever form the next development may take, the Left Opposition is ready now, to enter into open and comradely negotiations and discussions with other groups which seriously set for themselves the same goal. After its long and unrelenting struggle against the arrogant bureaucratism and ultimatlstic methods of Stalinism, the Left Opposition least of all can seek to impose anything on others or to demand the acceptance in advance of its proposals, its program or its ‘leadership’.”

It is with these ideas as our point of departure that we approach the question of our relations to the American Workers Party which your convention decided to launch. We are striving to build up in this country a genuinely revolutionary party of the working class whose final goal is the establishment of a classless society. We consider the founds ing of such a party the central and most important task of every true revolutionist in the United States today. Your declarations assert that you have the same aim in mind. There are grounds, therefore, for assuming that a serious effort can and should be made by the two organizations to unite their forces and energies towards a harmonious accomplishment of the task they have set themselves. Two organizations with the same objective in view would obviously be militating against their own common interests if they were to pursue two different and separate paths towards that objective.

Your declarations speak of the need of a new revolutionary party in this country, organizationally and politically independent both of the reformist Socialist party and the degenerated official “Communist” party. By a revolutionary party, we understand a Communist party – one deserving of that name, and not a bureaucratic caricature – with a fundamental Communist program. These are, as you know those who, in speaking for a new party, have in mind one which seeks to reconcile, or to oscillate between petty bourgeois socialism, on the one side, and Marxism on the other that is, social democracy and Communism. Far from dignifying such a party with the name “revolutionary”, we would consider it an elementary duty to fight against it in the interests of strengthening a truly revolutionary, or Marxian party. If by a revolutionary party you have in mind a conception that harmonizes with ours, we see absolutely no reason why we should not join hands for the purpose of forming it. Quite the contrary, there is every reason why our efforts in this direction, as well as those of any other group holding similar views, should be exerted in common.

Without in the least holding any narrow prejudices which would result in creating an abortive sect divorced from the life of the masses and their daily struggles and interests, instead of a vigorous, active militant party of the vanguard which has no interests separate and apart from those of the working class as a whole, we nevertheless lay the greatest stress on the question of the program of the new party.

We consider it futile, and even harmful, to proceed with the formation of a new party without having first laid down the solid foundation of a revolutionary Marxian program. It is only on the basis of a program, and the activities of the party which flow from it, that the creation of a new party distinct from the existing ones can be justified in the eyes of the working class. In our declaration, printed in the Militant of September 30, 1933, we outlined our conception of the programmatic basis of the new party.

On this score, we are obliged to state that your position is not entirely clear to us. Without any intention of anticipating in this communication the imperatively necessary preliminary and comradely discussions on this matter which we propose, we cannot, nevertheless, refrain from declaring that in many respects your position on the program for the new party appears to us to be marked by an ambiguity which can only weaken the new party before it is fairly launched. However, it is precisely because we believe that there is still an adequate opportunity to submit such questions to an objective discussion, in which neither side attempts mechanically and arbitrarily to impose its standpoint upon the other side, that we are addressing our proposals to your Committee.

Assembled and united on a sound and lasting foundation, the various revolutionary groups in this country which aim at forming a new party, would constitute a serious and substantial force. Unnecessary divided and apart from one another, their efforts might prove detrimental to the movement for a new party. We need hardly emphasize to you how urgent is the need for such a party in the ranks of the American working class, how valuable a factor is time and how little we can afford to lose any. In view, therefore, of all that has been stated above, we present for your consideration the following proposals:

  1. To select a committee from your organization to meet a similar body from our ranks for a preliminary discussion of our relations, for the purpose of determining the extent to which joint action for the formation of the new party is possible.
  2. As a next step, to make those arrangements which are considered necessary for the broadest and most democratic discussion by the membership of both organizations of their respective views. As an indication of what we have in mind, we would mention at this point the exchange of representatives ot the membership meetings of the two bodies; the convening of joint membership discussion meetings; the publication of an internal bulletin for which we are jointly responsible and in which discussion articles on programmatic and practical problems of the proposed party may be published; etc., etc.
  3. To invite other groups having a similar objective to participate in these arrangements and discussions.
  4. In order that this period shall not be confined merely to discussions to the detriment of the practical work which must be carried on at all times in the class struggle, we propose that immediately, without waiting until complete agreement is reached on every disputable point, the closest collaboration should be established between the two organizations in those fields in which a sufficiently common view already exists. We have in mind specifically the great possibilities for joint work of the two organizations in (a) work in, the trade unions; (b) the struggle against anti-labor persecutions, the manifestations of Fascism which are already visible in this country, and for the defense of class war victims; (c) work among the unemployed millions. Cooperation in these fields would not only be fruitful in itself, but would actually facilitate the discussion on undecided questions of program.

While we consider that these proposals are necessary preliminary steps in the work of forming a new revolutionary party in this country on a firm and healthy foundation, we are of course prepared to consider any alternative or supplementary proposals which your Committee may find it appropriate to present to us. We are animated in our views and our actions by a desire to consolidate the efforts of all those who are striving in a common direction.


Fraternally yours,
National Committee of the
Communist League of America (Opposition)
Arne Swabeck

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