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Jack Weber

March of Events

(16 March 1935)

From The New Militant, Vol. I No. 13, 16 March 1935, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A Dangerous Alliance

An item in the press recently, in connection with the General Johnson-Huey Long controversy, reveals a growing line-up of forces that may prove of the utmost danger to the working class. General Smedley Butler came out in hearty support of the “two lions” Long and Coughlin. Here we have a triple alliance of three demagogues who supplement each other in the possibilities of building up the mass basis for an American fascist movement. To the forces of the Delta Dictator, Father Coughlin brings the aid of clerical reaction hiding under the pseudo-radical guise of “social justice”, and Smedley Butler contributes the strength of the military arm of reaction. The real motive of Butler in making his revelations concerning the attempt by Morgan interests to bribe him into leading and organizing a fascist movement here now becomes clear. Butler resorted to a clever bit of advertising to permit him later to act completely in the interests of capitalist reaction under the halo of a great lover of democracy.

The danger to the proletariat from these elements can hardly be exaggerated. They are the symbols heralding the conversion or transformation of the capitalist offensive to terrorize the working class so as to stop further organizing of the unorganized, into a fascist mass movement. The “white terror” of the bosses is intended to prevent the workers from fighting to regain lost ground in the matter of wages and living conditions. The offensive is apparent in the recent court decisions against the labor provisions of the NRA, the Roosevelt decision against the “prevailing wage”, the drive for company unions and against the A.F. of L., the Hearst anti-red campaign, the Sacramento criminal syndicalism case, etc. The answer to this offensive and to the incipient fascist movement will be given by the increased militancy of the working class.

* * *

The Labor Party Fallacy

Nothing reveals more clearly the utter fallacy and bankruptcy of those who call for the formation of an American labor party, than a speech by Alfred Bingham, Farmer-Laborite supporter and editor of Common Sense. The contention of the labor-partyites runs that the American toilers are “beginning to realize the need to separate from the bourgeois parties and to resort to independent political action in their own interests. Owing, however, to the political backwardness of these masses, resulting from historic conditions, they are far from ready to join any outright revolutionary organization. Hence, rather than permit the workers to fall into the clutches of the capitalists through an apparently working class party which is in actuality a third capitalist party, the vanguard must gain control of the movement by rallying the toilers around a program of proper immediate demands.

To separate immediate demands from the revolutionary tasks of the proletariat means to foster illusions in the minds of workers. It means to hold out the hope that the worker can win security and a better life by fighting for concessions under capitalism. This is all the more illusory in this period of the decline of capitalism when the bosses, far from granting more concessions, are actually wiping out all the previous “sops” granted to the workers. Unless immediate demands are made the means of rallying the workers in struggle for the purpose of teaching them at one and the same time the need for revolutionary action as the only real solution, the effect will be to disillusion the workers with false promises.

Our task is not to traffic on the ignorance and backwardness of the masses, not to attempt to win them unawares and by stealth, but on the contrary, to enlighten them and to show them the necessary steps to take along the road to power.

* * *

Shall We Compete with Fascism?

When it comes to immediate demands as such, divorced from a revolutionary program, we cannot hope to compete with the fascist demagogy of fake “promises”. Our answer to the demagogy of the Huey Longs and the Father Coughlins is not a different brand of demagogy, but enlightenment and clear revolutionary answers concerning the meaning of events. To compete under present conditions with the fascists on the basis of rainbow hopes, is to bring about the inevitable defeat of our class. Instead of building a bridge from the labor party to the revolutionary Marxist party, we would build a bridge to fascism. And it is precisely this that Bingham revealed.

He was peeved that Long and Coughlin were stealing a march on the Farmer-Labor Party (which might be substituted by any other labor party). As the New York Times reported: “The movement for a third party under radical-progressive leadership that is rising in the West is in imminent danger of being captured by the “demagogic movement” headed by Huey Long and Father Coughlin, it was asserted last night by leaders of the Farmer Labor Political Federation.” And to fight the demagogy of Long, Bingham proposed a similar type of demagogy – the “dramatization” of the appeal of “Plenty for All”. Bingham’s speech contains his own refutation.

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