MIA : Early American Marxism : “Lovestoneite” groups

The “Lovestoneites”


The history of the various incarnations of the Lovestone organization (1929-1940) has been greatly improved. There were four names for the organization: Communist Party (Majority Group), Communist Party USA (Opposition), Independent Communist Labor League, and Independent Labor League of America. It appears that there were a total of 10 conferences and conventions of the organization—9 numbered and 1 without a numerical designation.




The 'Achievements' of the CC Plenum: Statement of the Communist Party-Majority Group. [Nov. 15, 1929] From Nov. 6-8, 1929, the Communist Party USA held the first plenum of its Central Committee in nearly 11 months. This is the critique of the changes and policies of the CPUSA established at this CC plenum by the Communist Party-Majority Group, headed by former CP Executive Secretary Jay Lovestone. The plenum approved a “new line”thesis, which the CPMG characterizes as “the most shameful document in the history of our Party,”including erroneous views of the international situation and the domestic economic situation, as well as a vague program which utterly underestimated the Negro question and the agricultural situation. Furthermore, the CC added 12 new members to replace those expelled in the recent party controversy, resulting in 9 of 15 places on the Political Committee for the “bankrupt, discredited Foster Group.”



“Clique or Class? What’s Happening in the ILD?” by Benjamin Gitlow [Jan. 1, 1930] This article by Ben Gitlow, a leading member of the “Communist Party-Majority Group” organization headed by Jay Lovestone, charges that a campaign was well underway in the International Labor Defense organization to change its nature from a non-partisan workers’ defense organization to the partisan legal defense arm of the so-called “’loyalist’ clique”—i.e. the CPUSA. Gitlow quotes the 6th Congress of the Comintern’s characterization of the ILD as “an independent organization standing outside of all parties which on the one hand defends all victims of the revolutionary struggle and on the other admits to membership without any distinctions of party.” He contrasts this with the political practice employed at 1929 gatherings, in which “every trick and manipulation” was used “in order to exclude the ‘renegades’ from the district and national conferences.” The conferences had their floors closed to speeches by “non-Party workers,” Gitlow alleges, and “not a single non-Party worker” was elected to the group’s 1930 national convention. Gitlow warns that this sectarianization of the ILD would soon be formalized. “At the New York conference Nessin and [Louis] Engdahl announced officially that the national convention would amend the constitution of the ILD by eliminating the declaration that the ILD is a non-partisan organization. Thus will the finishing touches be put...” he declares.




“As to ’Red Terror,” by Will Herberg [Dec. 15, 1934] Rather snotty editorial from the pages of the offical organ of the Communist Party (Opposition) attacking Norman Thomas and the Socialist Party for their protests against the mass repression which swept the Soviet Union in the aftermath of the assassination of Sergei Kirov. “To get aroused to white-heat over the instant meting out of full and irrevocable justice to the White Guard assassins and to the imperialist spies would mean to get aroused over the enemies of the Socialist Soviet Republic. That’s why silence in the case of Kirov and raucous anger in the case of Soviet justice,” the editorial declares. The “bogus democratic justice” of the “Social Democratic tear-shedders” is condemned and Soviet mass reprisals defended: “Thomas and his colleagues are to be condemned in the most unmistakable terms by all honest socialists for their attempt to cover up the trail of the imperialist right and its hired assassins banded against the Soviet regime. Every class-conscious worker can only hail the swift and complete justice accorded the culprits in the Soviet Union.”



“Soviets Doom Plotters.” [August 29, 1936]. Short unsigned news report from the front page of The Workers Age, weekly official organ of the Communist Party USA (Opposition), the political party headed by Jay Lovestone. The report uncritically notes “the chief defendants presented all the necessary evidence for conviction in their own testimony, wherein they vied in accusations of one another, and atempted to paint themselves as more involved, more guilty than their fellow-accused.” The report notes that “the trial also brought out the connection of the terrorists with the Nazi Gestapo, who, according to the testimony, furnished false passports for the Trotskyists to enter Russia.”


”The Russian Events” [unsigned editorial from Workers Age, Sept. 5, 1936]. A semi-official statement of the Communist Party USA (Opposition), published as an editorial in its offical organ. The recently completed trial and execution of Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov, et al. is criticized not from the standpoint of its lack of veracity, but rather as politically inexpedient: “The investigation made by the Soviet Government immediately after the Kirov assassination revealed the hand of a foreign, a bourgeois government in all the plotting against the USSR. The further revelations made on the occasion of the last trial, which was an open public trail at which the defendants had every opportunity to express themselves as fully and as freely as they wanted, showed still more clearly and established beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Nazi government had aided and abetted some of the Trotskyist terrorist conspirators. To some people this sounds fantastic, but if one considers the present character of the Trotsky program in regard to the Soviet Union, there is nothing fantastic about it but only quite a natural and logical outcome of the entire evolution of Trotskyism.” However, “while condemning sharply the terroristic activities and complete degeneration of the Trotskyites, we must state that we very seriously doubt the wisdom and tact of the Soviet authorities in inflicting the merited punishment of death on such personages as Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov, etc. Other and sufficiently adequate punishment could have been meted out without resorting to executions, and thus granting some recognition to the inestimable services once rendered by these erstwhile powerful figures in the ranks of the Bolsheviks.”



“The Moscow Trial in Historical Perspective,” by Jay Lovestone. [February 1937] As with Leon Trotsky, Lovestone looks to French Revolutionary history for an explanation of the Zinoviev-Kamenev-Radek trial of 1936—the first of the three Great Soviet Show Trials of 1936-38. Lovestone contends that while “the merest glance at the official proceedings...is enough to convince any candid person that some, at least, of the charges and allegations...cannot hold water for a moment since they are full of gross contradictions, material and psychological.” Lovestone’s chief interest is the political implications of the trial, seeing an extremely close historical parallel in the patently false charges of “monarchism” levied by the Jacobins against their Girondin and Dantonist opponents in order to justify their destruction. The truth or falsity of such charges is of little long-term importance relative to the political implications of the physical destruction of the defendants, in Lovestone’s view.


”The Moscow Trials: An Editorial Statement” [Feb. 20, 1937]. This unsigned editorial in Workers Age, official organ of the Communist Party (Opposition)—the “Lovestoneites”—attempts to make sense of the second of the three great Moscow Show Trials, the January 1937 trial of Piatakov, Radek, Sokolnikov et al. The argument advanced at the time of the first great Show Trial that the precise veracity of many of the specific charges was less important than the core allegation is repeated: “Discrepancies, contradictions, even sheer impossibilities in the charges and allegations of the two trials are not hard to find, but the impression seems to us inescapable—and it is shared by many observers not particularly friendly to Stalin—that, even after such material is discarded, there still remains a substantial bedrock of fact: that efforts at assassination and sabotage were indeed made by some of the followers and former followers of Trotsky and Zinoviev.” Doubt has begun to creep in, however, and certain “grave questions” have begun to emerge: “Does not the very regime of hero cult, personal exaltation of the leader, qualification for office by syncophancy, elimination of collective leadership, abandonment of democratic discussion—do not all these constitute a serious danger of more vital concern to every communist and real friend of the Soviet Union than even the deeds or the fate of the defendants on trial?” Further the running up of “revolutionary architects” on “the most atrocious crimes against the revolution” has dealt “a shattering blow to the moral foundations of Bolshevism” and raised the prospects of a dangerous period of bloodletting. “Only a complete overhauling of the whole system of political leadership and inner-party life in the communist movement, such as has long been advocated by the International Communist Opposition, holds out hope for the future,” the editorial opines.


”The Moscow Trials and the CI Crisis,” by M. Yomanowitz [May 8, 1937]. This article was printed in the official organ of the Communist Party (Opposition) as part of the pre-convention discussion in the run up to the 6th National Convention held in New York at the end of May. The author, identified only by his initials, is critical of previous analysis of the 1937 Moscow events in the party press: “The strategy of the Stalin regime as demonstrated at the trials and subsequent lynching and terror campaign is to pin the charge of Trotskyism to all forces not in agreement with its present policies. It is now abundantly clear to everybody that the suppression and physical extermination of the opposition forces is not limited to Trotskyites, for no one will honestly believe that Bukharin is a Trotskyite.” Yomanowitz continues: “Our efforts and hopes of reforming the Communist International did not bring the desired results. Instead of reforming the CI, the more reformist it became. It is high time that we draw the necessary conclusion and speak frankly and act boldly. In the past we were correct in stating that the chief source of the mistakes of the Stalin regime lay in the transfer of tactics applicable inside the Soviet Union to the other sections of the Communist International. This analysis is no longer sufficient.” Yomanowitz gives at least some credence to the charge that “the Stalin faction is fashioning the policies and tactics of the various sections of the CI to the needs of Soviet foreign policy... This position contains a lot of truth. This position does not invalidate our original view, but it rather supplements it.” Clinging to the idea of reforming the Comintern is senseless, Yomanowitz argues, noting that “we must be ready to discard our previous position that a new center without the CPSU in it is both impermissible and impossible.”


“The Meaning of the Soviet Purges,” by Jay Lovestone [June 18, 1937]. A lengthy reassessment of the burgeoning purges in Soviet Russia by the head of the Independent Communist Labor League. “It is with the deepest regret that I must admit that there is an acute crisis in the regime, in the inner life of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union,” Lovestone states. “If we cast a retrospective glance at Russian party developments, we will find that it was entirely natural and understandable—especially under the circumstances of the stifling inner party regime headed by Stalin—that the logic of the political positions of Trotsky or of Zinoviev, Radek, and Kamenev, should lead them to an out-and-out anti-Soviet course. However, it is obviously absurd to ask us to believe that suddenly, mysteriously, Yagoda, Tukhachevsky, Gamarnik, and Rudzutak became degenerates, became mortal foes of the Soviet Union, became agents of German and Japanese imperialism.” Lovestone is chagrined at the situation: “I am face to face with a Hobson's choice. I pick only the lesser of two very serious evils. That Stalin is an expert of trumping up charges against opponents or potential opponents is not new to us. Nevertheless, here I must stress we deal with a more flagrant type of frame-up than has ever been perpetrated in factional struggle. To me the recent demotions, arrests, accusations, suicides, and executions mark the low point of the Stalin hero-cult.”



“Extract of the Testimony of Jay Lovestone, Secretary of the Independent Labor League of America, Before the House Special Committee to Investigate Un-American Activities, December 2, 1939.” Extended extract of former Secretary of the Communist Party Jay Lovestone’s testimony before the “Dies Committee” of the US House of Representatives. While Lovestone’s appearance was not voluntary, once he appeared he testified expansively as a friendly witness of the committee. Lovestone’s testimony took nearly four hours and over 90 pages of the printed transcript (including appended documents), here distilled to 32 edited pages of committee interrogation and response. Lovestone’s main analytical idea is that (1) the function of Communist International evolved from a bona fide revolutionary organization intent on establishing an international socialist society in a crumbling world to a “puppet organization” with policies which were merely the mechanical reflection of Russian foreign policy; and (2) there took place a parallel evolution of the nature of Comintern decision-making process, from democratic participation of equals to a top-down rule by administrative fiat. In the beginning, Lovestone testifies, the Russian members of ECCI led “through prestige, through achievement, through the fact that they had conquered one-sixth of the world for socialism,” He declares that the Russians “were living a dream we had, and naturally we looked up to them. Besides, they treated us as equals, with equal respect...” Gradually a culture of “kowtowing to the potentates” emerged and worked itself into a formal system which Lovestone likens to “the story of Caligula” and the “Roman consul system.” Lovestone asserts that this shift began to take place not with the rise of Stalin to supreme authority, but before—with Lenin’s departure from politics and the rise of Zinoviev. With regard to his own time at the helm of the Communist Party, Lovestone reveals that average Comintern funding of the American movement in 1926-1928 averaged “no more than about $20 to 25,000 a year” with periodic additional funding for special projects and an independent channel of funding to the Profintern. He alleges that Profintern funding was used by the Foster faction to fund its factional war against the Lovestone faction. He also asserts that his late predecessor as Executive Secretary, C.E. Ruthenberg, was vigorously hostile at an earlier date than he to Moscow’s meddling in the American party’s political affairs. Lovestone asserts that the forced shift to the ultra-Left policies of dual unionism and the primacy of the fight against “social fascism” prompted the 1929 split. Lovestone advises the Congressmen that “you cannot fight Stalinism in this country, or elsewhere, by repression, by outlawing legislation,” which only strengthens the movement repressed by extending to them the mantle of martyrdom, but that rather that the battle must be fought by publicity on the nature of “Stalinism” and the action of the labor movement to cleanse itself. On the other hand, Lovestone acknowledges the right of nations to defend themselves against intervention in internal affairs via espionage or external control of unions by foreign governments.