Guy A. Aldred Archive
Transcription/Markup: Andy Carloff
Online Source: RevoltLib.com; 2021
Just after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Marx reasoned :
“ Germany will become a formidable rival of England, but the French bourgeoisie, distrusting England, will seek an alliance with Russia. French loans will develop islands of Capitalism in the sea of Russian feudalism, but if and when European war comes, neither Russian Capitalism nor its currupt feudalism will be strong enough to survive the shock. Power will pass to the workers and peasants, with the possibility of the revolutionary elements giving the next important impulse to social advance.”
This was a wonderful prophecy, based, of course, upon knowledge, as all prophecy and vision is. It is a pity that the important impulse to social advance given by the Russian Revolution was not sustained.
Lenin, as a faithful Marxist, in the first days of the Third International, notwithstanding his amazing compromises, did expect the Russian Revolution to be the real inspirer of world revolution and the very center of proletarian thought and action. He declared with fervor that life itself was with the Communist International, and that although the Communists of the Soviet Union might make mistakes, all revolutionists in the world would have to join it. If this fervent avowal seemed to be true when Lenin made it, it must follow that the Third International developed along lines not intended or suspected at the time. Even in 1920 it was obvious to many Anti-Parliamentarians that there was no place in the Third International for genuine revolutionists. Each succeeding year proved that the historic function of the Third International was to repudiate steadily the world revolutionist and to justify jailings and exiles that no revolutionist can defend or excuse. It is not that the Third International made mistakes. The errors of the Comintern were not mistakes but calculations. The entire organization was the criminal counter-revolutionary aftermath of glorious and triumphant insurrection.
Criminal counter-revolution spread out its tentacles from Moscow and grasped and crushed the Socialist or Communist movement in every civilized country. The record of its disaster was measured not merely by the corruption of the Communist Party but by the evolution of the Communist Opposition and by the continuous expulsions that served as so many mile-stones. By “ Oppositions “ the reader must not understand the various Anti-Parliamentary sections, some of them conceived before the Communist lnternational, and others definitely emerging from its ranks. The word “ Opposition “ is limited in its application to those elements in the Communist Party, who were compelled to form factions in defense of their principles; who regarded themselves as having to render allegiance to the Communist Party despite their factional principles ; who wanted to reform the Third International from within, and were excluded against their wishes and from the logic of events. In the end, these “ oppositions “ dissociated themselves from the Comintern and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union with tremendous reluctance. The cant phrase of abuse in connection with these sections was the charge of “ Trotskyism,” which had much the same significance in post-revolution Moscow circles as the word “ infidel “ had to the crusading Christian or the Mohammedan, and the word “ Anarchist “ to the pre-war Social Democrat. Sometimes Trotskyism was used as the counter-charge against the Stalinists by certain sections of the Right Wing, but finally all eIements of opposition that were not prepared to return to the Stalinist fold took on some phase of Trotskyism ; and Trotskyism at last liquidated itself in a semi-critical and fantastic militarist loyalism of the second world war. This completed the circle of post Russian revolutionary thought which left the Revolution of the world’s proletariat to pursue its own thought as though the great Bolshevik Revolution was some alien episode foreign too the real struggle of the world’s proletariat or some village incident far removed from the general evolution of proletarian struggle.
Trotskyism and internal party Opposition came into existence when the Enlarged Executive meeting of the Eleventh Session of the Communist International met at Moscow on April 23rd, 1925, to formally denounce Trotskyism. No one defended Trotsky’s position, and at the conclusion of the proceedings, Bucharin was greeted with applause, when he formally closed the “ discussion “ ! Bucharin prepared the way for his own expulsion and later execution. There commenced a system of heresy-hunting among the Communist Parties of the world, which reduced Stalinism to an absurdity and elevated Trotskyism into a magnificent heresy. As, the expulsions increased, the factions, financially weak, but intellectually strong, formed themselves into the International Left Opposition. Other factions accused of Trotskyism, and counter accusing the Stalinists of the same offense, formed the International Communist Opposition. In 1932, we find these factions brought together for discussion, with the result that the International Communist Opposition became the International Left Opposition. Threatening to become a genuine movement, the Trotskyist movement declared for a Fourth International which had been pioneered by Anti-Parliamentarians. Repenting of its boldness, it retreated at the end of 1934, and linked itself up with the Social Democracy, that Bolshevism had pretended to oppose for so many years, but of which it was actually an integral part. It must not be concluded that the record of Trotskyism during this period of opposition was worthless or futile. Trotskyism gave the working-class movement an invaluable history of proletarian development and supplied an unanswerable commentary on the development of an authoritarian bureaucratic party dictatorship over the working-class and its struggles.
By 1933, the Communist movement, inspired by Moscow, was divided into the usual three factions of Left, Right and Center. Since the movement had collapsed in Europe, the chief battleground of these groups was the United States of America. Here they proceeded to liquidate themselves.
The least radical of the Communist divisions in America was the Lovestone group. Its leader, Jay Lovestone, was expelled from the C.P. (U.S.A.) by orders of Moscow, in 1929. He was accused of Right Opportunist liquidation and also of taking the same position as the Trotskyists of the U.S.A., Love, Cannon, etc.
Actually, Lovestone had nothing in common with Love, who was condemned at the 1925 Moscow Enlarged Executive already mentioned. At this select gathering, Loveism was described as “ a manifestation of Trotskyism in America.” It was added that “ Love, the editor of our German organ, the Volks Zeitung, supports Trotsky ‘in every way he can,’ and criticizes and opposes the party’s work and influence among the farmers of the United States.” On which it may be commented that the Communist Party, as the avowed party of the laborers, had no right to be addressing itself to the farmers of the United States or any other country.
In August, 1929, the E.C.C.I. at Moscow, by cable to the C.P. (U.S.A.) instructed the expulsion of Benjamin Gitlow and others for acting as official leaders of the Lovestone group; and Herbert Zam and others for having solidarised themselves with this group. Members of the party in the United States were warned “ that any defense of Lovestone Opportunist opinions “ and “any political relations entered into witth him” were “incompatible with membership of the Communist Party.” It was added “ that such wavering elements should make a definite choice” and either join Lovestone “ in the swamp of the renegades of Communism “ or else take their stand by Moscow.
Heresy is a rapid growth in the Communist Party. Orthodox and applauded one year, the astonished comrade finds himself excommunicated and leprous the next. One day, he is the high priest, and no one is to be compared with him for genius and understanding of all the subtle meanings of Communism and the Social War. The next day, he is a veritable ignoramus, an illiterate, an impossible associate who knows nothing of Communism, never will know anything of Communism, and never did know anything of Communism. He is not merely an imbecile but a predestined imbecile, proceeding from the cradle to the grave along a fatal path of predetermined ignorance.
Only the year before his expulsion, Jay Lovestone had been the Executive Secretary of the Workers (Communist) Party. His writings were advertised in the American Daily Worker as the pure word of Leninism thus :
“AMERICA PREPARES THE NEXT WAR.
“By JAY LOVESTONE.
“ The United States is preparing for another war. Why?”
Here followed the statement of the different chapters on the role of American Imperialism; United States versus Great Britain; the Role of Reformism ; and of the Communist Party, etc. The announcement
added : —
“ This pamphlet should be in the hands of every worker interested in a clear analysis of America to-day and the attitude of the Workers’ Communist Party towards the coming war.”
As regards Gitlow, the same Daily Worker for November 3rd, 4th, and 5th, 1928, advised us what a great revolutionary figure’ he was. We are told that “enthusiasm and mass solidarity greeted Benjamin Gitlow, Communist Vice-Presidential candidate,” at New Bedford. He received “an enthusiastic ovation” and was met with “the singing of the International.” The tidbit follows : “a number of working women brought a bouquet of flowers which they had gathered.”
Big headings displayed right across the front page of the Daily Worker inform us:
“20,000 IN N.Y. RED ELECTION RALLY AT GARDEN: “FOSTER AND GITLOW HEAD 25,000 IN GIANT PARADE.”
Sub-headings read :
“WORKERS HAIL COMMUNIST NOMINEES AT HUGE MEET.
“TWENTY-MINUTE OVATION GREETS FOSTER AND “GITLOW: WORKERS ACCLAIM RED PROGRAM.”
The letterpress explained that, on Sunday, November 4th, 1928, Benjamin Gitlow with Foster was met with a roar of mighty welcome from 20,000 workers at a demonstration in Madison Square Garden, New York. He received a thunderous ovation and found himself the center of a sea of surging red splashed with red poster slogans that covered the high area of Madison Square Garden. The audience expressed its communist emotions with horns, whistles and other noise-making apparatus. The entire scene seems to have been a cross between the taking of the Bastille and a visit to Cony Island. When Gitlow appeared on the platform there was a tremendous outburst of communist cheering, and so on. The previous day there had been a huge demonstration from Park Avenue to Union Square. Gitlow and Foster sat in separate motor-cars placarded with C. P. slogans. They smiled and bowed at welcomes of flashlights, shouting and tooting of horns. In the rear of each car two Young Communist Pioneers stood at the salute as the cars followed slowly the Red Flag which headed the line. This was deemed a great event as this was the first time that the Red Flag, forbidden under the Lusk Laws, had appeared on the streets of New York since 1919. Thus the workers were persuaded, beneath big headlines, by the Daily Worker[i] that Benjamin Gitlow was one of the greatest communists the world had known.
The idea of Gitlow’s greatness was the main thesis of Communist Party publicity in the columns of the [i]Daily Worker for the year 1928. On May 28th of that year, this organ, which subsequently slandered Gitlow out of all recognition to himself, and expected its dupes to believe whatever it said, whether its mood was hot or cold, declared : —
“ BENJAMIN GITLOW.
“Born Elizabethport, N.J., Dec. 22, 1891. Father and mother both revolutionary Socialists. Public school education. High school, three years. Has worked in tin foil factory, clothing shops, millinery factories and department stores.
Joined Socialist Party, 1907. President of Retail Clerks’ Union of New York, an organization of department store workers, 1913–14. Blacklisted by Department Store Retail Merchants’ Association. Member of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America since 1918. Elected to New York legislature on Socialist ticket. Elected as Socialist assemblyman to the New York legislature on anti-war platform of 1917 — the only one of the ten Socialist assemblymen who remained consistently anti-war. Actively fought against the last imperialist war.
Manager of the New York “ Communist,” “ Revolutionary Age,” and “ Voice of Labor,” 1918–19. Member of the national council of the left wing of the Socialist Party in 1918–19. Helped to organize the Communist Labor Party of America, 1919.
Convicted as a Communist under the New York criminal syndicalist law in 1919 and went to Sing Sing prison to serve a termm of five years.”
Gitlow’s expulsion for supporting Lovestone was a consistent expression of the zig-zag policy of Stalinism. The Lovestone policy was instructed by Moscow in 1923, and was claimed one year later to be the basis of the American Party’s “ tremendous success “ during that year. It was a policy that required several years’ consecrated devotion for its successful development. Gitlow was expelled for pursuing it as a serious policy and not regarding it as a passing expedient, a mere political irritation, or imposture.
Every Communist Party leader in the U.S.A. pursued the same course as Gitlow. Only they turned when the Great Bear told its little children to turn. Explaining his enthusiasm for a farmer-labor party, W. Z. Foster, as editor, in the Labor Herald, for March, 1923, declared : “A Labor Party is one of the most vital needs of the American Labor Movement.” The report of the Central Executive Committee to the Third National Convention of the Workers’ Party, published in The Worker for January 12, 1924, naively stated that the Farmer-Labor policy was “the greatest step forward “ made by the Party since its foundation, and avowed that this was the “correct” policy “ finally formulated.” Correct policy ! For maintaining which, Gitlow was expelled.
Time has established that the Communist Party and the Third International never formulated correct policies : and of all its policies, the, most absurd was the Farmer-Labor policy. It declared that the Communist Party in the United States, immediately after the July 3rd, 1923, Conference, “launched a campaign to assist in the organization of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party “; that the party units had to raise this issue in all local unions, co-operatives, etc. ; that in not “ a single instance “ had “ a mistake “ been made in adopting this policy; that “the organization of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party “ had “ greatly strengthened the position of the Workers’ Party,” i.e., Communist Party.
The report also said :
“ During the past year the Communist Party in the United States has become a real political factor.”
The truth is, the Communist Party has never been a political factor in the United States nor in any other country.
Gitlow obviously could not be blamed by the C.P. for sticking to the Farmer-Labor party thesis. He did so and found himself in a minority of one in consequence. Despite his status in the party his persistency in the matter involved his subsequent expulsion.
Within a year of enunciating the Farmer-Labor slogan, Foster declared that it had lost its power. He received the support of the majority of the G.E.C. of the American Workers’ (Communist) Party, who had declared it to be a correct policy in the annual report already summarized. The Communist International ordered the Ruthenberg (Minority) and Foster (Majority) Groups to work together, and repudiate the ideology of Love, whom the Foster Group had defended in the Council, Foster voting for Love thirty times during the thirty ballots taken between March 7 and December 10, 1924. At that time Love was defending Trotsky’s position.
Writing in the New York Volks Zeitung, for January 6, 1924, Love averred that although Trotsky was “ in a minority “ in the Communist Party, “ in the end he will prove to be right.” Yet, when Gitlow was expelled he was accused of acting as leader of a group that adopted Love’s position ! Giving a Roland for an Oliver, Gitlow retorted by denouncing the Stalinists as “ Trotskyists,” and at a later date opposed Lovestone’s approach to Brandler, Amter, etc., on this ground.
Cannon, afterwards of the Trotskyist Communist League, supported the Farmer-Labor policy, and allied himself with Pepper, the Hungarian Communist, who played a counter-revolutionary part during the Hungarian Revolution. As “ Pepper “ he went to the United States and became leader of the American Party. A notorious adventurer, he was violently opposed to Trotsky since the Third Congress of the Communist International, sometimes posing as an “ ultra-Leftist,” at others as a pure “ Right Winger.” He was expelled from the Communist International for supporting Bucharin, but returned to the Soviet Union after his American adventures. In 1925, Cannon supported Lovestone against Trotsky.
Lovestone opposed the application to the C.P., U.S.A., of the decisions of the 9th Plenum of the E.C.C.L, February, 1928, and identified himself with Pepper. After Brandler’s expulsion, the Lovestone Group supported his policy, and formed the International Communist Opposition.
The Communist League of America, or Trotskyist Left Opposition, was formed in the United States in November, 1928. The same month it issued its paper, The Militant, which, whatever one’s criticism of the political history of the Communist League may be, deserves tremendous credit for its consistent educational propaganda. The Communist League took the stand that the first four Congresses of the Communist International were vindicated, and that the Communist International marched forward till 1923. The Communist League demanded the re-instatement of the Opposition and urged that the workers of Europe should adopt the slogan :”Soviet United States of Europe.”
Down to the city elections of June, 1933, the Communist League supported the Communist Party candidates, on the ground that it was, although the Opposition, an integral part of the Communist Party. In The Militant, for May 27, 1933, the Communist League published a letter to the Communist Party, dated May 19, criticizing the party in Minneapolis for making a United Front Workers’ Ticket instead of a straight Communist ticket. The League pledged its full support to the party in its campaign, criticism notwithstanding.
During the United States, Municipal elections of 1931, The Militant carried the slogan, “ Vote Communism,” meaning Vote Communist Party. Despite the Opposition’s excellent and informing criticisms of Stalinism, the C.P. program it supported was a mass of absurd reformism, as it is evidenced by the “ campaign literature “ issued by the party ;
(1) Communist Election Program;
(2) Communist Call to the Toiling Farmers ;
(3) Unemployment Relief and Social Insurance.
The first carried a list of over 60 “ immediate demands,” that is, reform measures, destined to strengthen the Capitalist State. It was simple Social Democratic Parliamentarism.
From the Toiling Farmers pamphlet, page 11, sub-title, “ How to Get Better Prices “, I select this gem : —
“ Out of the misery and hunger of millions of toilers of city and farm these monopilies coin enormous fortunes for themselves under the protection of capitalist law which makes private property and private profits from trade sacred. Only when capitalism is overthrown, when the poor and oppressed of city and country rise in united revolutionary action against the robber capitalist class and establish their own Workers’ and Farmers’ Government, can these conditions be ended. Only such a government will outlaw the robbers of the toilers and fix prices so that the city workers pay less, and toiling farmers get more for farm products.”
In other words in order that the “ small and middle farmer “ might secure better prices for products raised with antiquated methods, capitalism must be overthrown ! The Socialist Republic will see to it that the petty farmer under “ Socialism “ receives reduction in taxes, relief from mortgages, higher prices for their products (with higher wages for city workers so that their increased purchasing power may enable them to pay the higher prices asked by the petty farmers !), etc., etc. By parity of reasoning the petty corner grocer and small manufacturer will likewise survive in the new social system and will likewise be “ saved “ in line with the aforementioned recipe. Was ever such humbug, such reactionary imbecility advanced? Advanced brazenly, and with incredible impudence, in the name of Marxism ! And supported by the Trotskyist Opposition who cried :” Vote Communist “ !
Immediately following the excerpt quoted, we read :
“ The Communist Party demands the repeal of all such tariffs and INDIRECT TAXES on the poor in the interests of the rich.”
Little time need, be wasted on the third of the pamphlet trinity in the Stalinist “ Communist “ theology, viz., “ Unemployment Relief and Social Insurance; “ Demands are made for a seven hour day, when economic dictates, the maximum required be two or three hours at the most!
With respect to the special case of the United States bank depositors, the Daily Worker in its Issue of October 27, 1931, reported that I. Amter, the then C.P. candidate for the borough presidency of Manhatten, appeared before a gathering of about 1,000 of these depositors who had met to hear what the politicians running for office had to promise them in the way of securing restitution. A letter from Norman Thomas, the S.P. candidate for the borough presidency, was read, wherein, quite honestly, Thomas told them with incredible candor for his type, that the borough presidency of Manhatten could do nothing about banks, etc. Of interest, by contrast, was Amter’s C.P. performance. I quote the Daily Worker:
“ A great ovation was given to Amter when he was introduced. Several times during his speech he was loudly applauded. ‘ Norman Thomas says in his letter that he does not know what he could do if elected borough president. The Communist Party pledges to you that if I be elected, I’ll use all my official power as borough president, to organize all the 400,000 workers and small depositors, for a militant fight to get their money back,’ said Amter.”
Only a thorough fakir could have made such a promise ! Three days later, the Daily Worker carried a front page article, featured with a five column scare-line heading : “Fight for Your Baby’s Milk” ! The article criticized various efforts made by other reform bodies to purify the milk supply, and concluded :
“ The issue is, between the milk companies, of who gets the profits, the loose milk companies, or the bottled milk trust. But that issue is of no concern to New York workers. What is of importance to them is the question of PRICE. In another article we will take this up. But here and now we say: DEMAND THAT MILK, BOTTLED OR LOOSE, BE SOLD FOR NO MORE THAN EIGHT CENTS A QUART!”
Let me admit that the emphasis is mine, and let me add that, during the campaign made by Hillquit for the mayoralty of New York City in 1917, the “ burning issue “ was cheap milk for the babies ! The “ issue “ was symbolized by distributing broadcast advertising matter in the form of a milk bottle, with the inscription, “ Five cent milk and Hillquit,” with the implication, of course, that if Hiliquit was elected mayor of New York City, milk would be five cents a quart ! So that the C.P. backed by the Communist League, was somewhat behind the times in respect to this “ burning issue.” Even as in their demand for a shorter working day, they raised the I.W.W. slogan of a six hour day to a seven hour day, so they increased Hillquit’s price of milk from five cents to eight cents per quart. To support which was not only Stalinism but Trotskyism also !
The Militant admitted in 1934 that the Communist League did not attempt to criticize the details of the C.P. election platform, and referred students to its October issues for 1930 and 1932. It explained :
“ that the Communist Party is the only working-class party in the field, the only revolutionary party ... The Left Opposition, therefore, ranges itself alongside its party, and calls upon every worker to cast his vote for his party, the Communist Party.”
The Communist League took this stand because it considered itself a faction of the party !
Following on the Paris Conference of August, 1933, Lovestone, in his organ, The Workers’ Age, for September 15th, 1933, attacked Trotskyism and “ branded “ all attacks on “Socialism in One Country “ theory “ as dangerous anti-Bolshevism.” The International Communist Opposition, and The Workers’ Age, fought “ to liquidate the false tactics of the C.I., and not to oppose the policy of the C.PS.U. in the Soviet Union.” But H. Zam, in The Workers’ Age, for November 1933, declared for a new Communist Party in the United States and in every other capitalist country, and a new Communist International, outside the Soviet Union, and exclusive of any Russian section. A very sound advance on Lovestone’s position.
Unfortunately, Zam did not last the distance. In November, 1934, with Gitlow, he returned to the Socialist Party. The Left Opposition or Communist League of America could hardly have expected such a total collapse of Gitlow’s Communism, when it made him the guest of honor at its 5th Year Banquet Celebration, at the Stuyvesant Casino, New York, on November 4th, 1933. But then, the C.L.A.‘s own record was none too good and its great tendency to banquets, and its association at these banquets, were almost as bad as the petty bourgeois affiliations and entertainments of the C.P. itself. At this 5th Year Banquet, which was also celebrated as the 16th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution, there were present E. Sutherland Bates, a noted publicist; Edward Lingren, who was prominent in the early days of the Socialist Left Wing movement and a supporter of the Russian Revolution ; Diego Rivera, the famous artist; Sydney Hook, the anti-Marxist, chief of the Department of Philosophy at New York University, whom Swabeck of the C.L.A. hailed cheerily as “ Comrade “; and others whose names I have omitted.
Gitlow was accompanied by his aged mother, who rejoiced in the honor paid to her son. Shachtman eulogized Gitlow and declared that he knew in 1926 that a new International was needed and that he had found it at last. It is a pity that, in view of this knowledge, his party should have worked so hard to reform the 3rd International down to September, 1933. Gitlow spoke of Communist parties as being something that you must impose upon the masses and not a movement that came from them, for he declared that it was no use having a good party unless “you attached it to the masses.”
The C.L.A. was formed on November 4th, 1928. It had a great tendency to unity with the Intellectuals, supported the C.P. progamme, and consorted with Gitlow right up to the eve of his return to the Socialist Party.
After the events of February, 1934, the majority decision of the French Trotskyists, at their 3rd National Conference, was that they did not have the strength to stand alone any longer and that, therefore, they must enter the ranks of the Socialist Party. This meant that from being the Left Opposition to the Communist Party the Trotskyist movement was now the Left Opposition to the Socialist Party. From the 4th International, it had degenerated to the advocacy of the 2nd International. On learning of the decision of the French Trotskyist Group, the Communist League of America decided to effect a similar transformation and to enter the American Workers’ Party, previously the Progressive Conference of Labor Action. By a majority of 8 to 1 the C.L.A. National Committee commended the course of the French party and brought about the American merger on December 1st, 1934.
True to form, on Wednesday, January 9th, 1935, a testimonial dinner was given for A. J. Muste, National Secretarv of the Workers’ Party, at Irving Plaza, New York City, by the ex-members of the defunct C.L.A. The dinner commemorated Muste’s 50th birthday and the so-called 15th year of his membership of the revolutionary Labor movement. Sponsors of the dinner were of much the same type as the persons who were associated with the Barbusse Amsterdam Anti-War Conference organized by the C.P. in 1932, namely, intellectuals who had no real contact with the revolutionary struggle. Just as the 1932 association condemned the Communist Party so the 1935 association condemned the remnants of the C.L.A. The sponsors included Roger Baldwin, Ernest Sutherland Bates, Max Eastman, Sydney Hook, Oswald Garrison Villard, Stephen Wise and others, among whom were the ex-Communists Ludwig Lore and James P. Cannon.
The beginnings of the American Workers’ Party dates back to the time when Muste entered the A.F. of L. to organize the so-called education of the working-class under the auspices of the Trade Union bureaucracy. He started the Brookwood College in order to challenge the work of the Communist Party Trade Union Educational League. The work of this League was purely partisan and therefore no great improvement on any activity of the ordinary Trade Union. But the purpose of Brookwood College was not to challenge or destroy in the light of wider understanding the sectarian character or effects of the Communist Party organization but only to safeguard the Trade Union bureaucracy against competition. The purpose of Brookwood College was pure careerism. In the end it proved not sufficiently bureaucratic and the A.F. of L. organized the Workers’ Educational Bureau in opposition to the college. By way of protest Muste organized his Conference for Progressive Labor Action and established his organ, the Labor Age.
In January, 1931, the Labor Age demanded the recognition of Soviet Russia by the U.S.A. “ as a sound business policy in this era of depression.” The same issue declared that there was no class war in America, but that “ if there is any such thing in America as class war then it is the class war between the A.F. of L. and the Communists.” The following month the Labor Age congratulated in its editorials the British Labor Government for its conduct of foreign affairs and declared that its policy was “brilliant, bold and courageous.” It eulogized MacDonald on his London India Conference, which as everyone knows should have been a matter of no moment to a revolutionary labor paper.
1n 1933, at the time of the November Pittsburg Conference of the C.P.L.A. proposals were developed for a new International and for an approach to the Trotskyists. On November 11th of that year The Militant suggested that the Communist League of America should unite with the C.P.L.A., the condition being that the new party should be a Communist Party and that it should organize a Communist International. When at last unity was brought about the idea of Communism was dropped as being sectarian and the term the American Workers’ Party accepted because it was above both Communism and Socialism.
The first draft program was put out by the A.W.P. in the early part of 1934, and was an ordinary parliamentary Socialist document. The second draft was issued in the fall of the same year and endeavored to smuggle in the idea of parliamentarism under cover of vague revolutionary phrases. The Musteites wrote :
“ to defeat the capitalist government and to transfer all power, to the workers’ councils, the workers must be prepared to use whatever means are necessary.”
This sounds like insurrection and street fighting, or at least the General Strike. Actually, it meant the ballot box. On September 27th this revised draft was accepted by the Communist League as a basis for fusion.
After coming together the combined groups put out two documents : (1) A proposed new program, published in The Militant for October 27th; and (2) a declaration of principles, which appeared in The Militant for December 8th. The second statement was the end of the Communist League and the ideals of Socialist Soviet propaganda. Whereas the proposed program spoke of the workers using any means “ to defeat the capitalist government,” which could mean smashing the capitalist government, the declaration of principles amends this “ to take control of the State by revolutionary means.” The “ means “ are not defined but of course the term, “ revolutionary,” in the lips of Social Democrats implies nothing at all. Whereas the Communist League had stood for nuclei, the new American Workers’ Party stood for branches. Which meant that it was a political party.
The program of the A.W.P. nominally rejected the bourgeois social order and its economic foundation and all suggested economic reformisms, such as “ Social Credit” and Stale Socialism. It denounced the replacement of the real political movement of social struggle by the parliamentary electoral movement. It proclaimed its aim as the workers’ state based on the workers’ councils and declared that was not merely the goal but also the democratic instrument for solving the contradictions of the capitalist system and accomplishing the transition to Communism. It opposed the 3rd International because it was controlled by Moscow and was serviceable only to the interests of the ruling bureaucracy of the Soviet Union. It declared that the present crisis was the beginning of the end of the present form of society and that even to overcome that crisis would not reverse the decline of the capitalist system.
The A.W.P. admitted that economic contradictions existed in Russia and then spoke of the unlimitedly socialist character of Russian planned economy. Again the program dropped into pure Social Democracy by distinguishing between its final aims and its immediate aims, thus having a maximum and a minimum program. The end of a great deal of attack on the idea of employing parliamentary action was that the American Workers’ Party would function politically along the traditional American lines.
The truth is the A.W.P. was but a camping ground for the declassed intellectual reduced to poverty by the capitalist depression, and spurred on to careerism by his sense of snobbery and pedantic importance. The American continent has been singularly barren of real Socialist intellectuals. The New England school of Emerson and Theodore Parker seem to have exhausted the power of American genius, which has attempted no flights since the Civil War. The only real original Socialist thinker of the American continent was Daniel De Leon and he had a lawyer’s horror of all uncivilized action, and was hidebound by his sense of inferiority to Marx. The revolution had to be clean and bloodless to suit De Leon’s taste. This made his entire propaganda Utopian. He denounced the Socialist parliamentarians because he was at heart a parliamentarian; and he slandered the Anarchists because he stole from them the Syndicalist thesis. He combined an idealistic revolutionary parliamentarism with a reformist Syndicalism and urged the formation of industrial unions by the workers with a Socialist objective. This was attempting to do two things at once and was clearly impossible.
It is possible under certain market conditions to organize the workers into industrial unions but then it must be for a struggle on matters connected with the industry in which they are engaged. It is possible to organize the workers for Socialism but obviously this must be on the political or intellectual rather than the industrial field. The planned economy or action belongs to the industrial field, but the Socialist idea and propaganda belongs essentially to the political plane.
De Leon wanted the workers to capture political power peacefully through the ballot box and then the political representatives were to adjourn on the spot, sine die, and the industrial unions were then to become society. The only reason given by De Leon as to why the workers’ representatives in parliament should adjourn parliament was that if they did not do so, their action would be a “ usurpation.” Of course, to be threatened with a charge of this character would prevent a political careerist from attempting to cling to power where a threat of industrial or social force would fail to move it !
The Communist League, in The Militant, for October 27th, 1934, made a bold attack on De Leonism for its utopian reformism ; but actually De Leon’s position is no worse than that of many of the intellectuals who made up the propaganda committee of the A.W.P. and did not possess the vigor and consistency of doctrine that characterized the activity of De Leon.
The intelligentsia of the A.W.P. were the old pre-war intellectuals of The Liberator and The Masses, living under postwar conditions of being permanently “ broke,” with younger additions to their ranks, equally “ broke “ but entirely devoid of their claims to fame. Max Eastman connected the two eras.
Before the War Eastman had no Socialist record but was a plain bourgeois liberal, who flirted with woman’s suffrage in 1912, and afterwards pretended to poetry. The character of his paper during the War, once America had entered the struggle, caused Eastman to be charged with sedition. It is possible that if the United States had declared war in 1914, even this charge would not have been preferred against him. The three years of grace enabled him to develop his intellectual gymnastics without molestation so long as America was neutral.
In Court Eastman argued, as only a Greenwich villager could, after the style of his Chelsea prototype, that he was not for any war, which meant that he was against the withdrawal of the U.S.A. from the war, and that he was against the defeat of the U.S.A. James Russell Lowell has satirized this type in his immortal Biglow Papers, the type that combines nonchalant seeming anti-patriotism with a studied refusal to oppose the patriotism of the herd.
Eastman made no flirtation with politics until the romance of the Russian Revolution began to stir the vague understanding of the intellectuals. His interest was one of “ Copy “ and not of understanding. For a short time in 1924, he flirted with Trotsky and translated his writingss into English, until Trotsky, grateful for being translated, felt he had to repudiate Eastman since he did not want to be identified with Anti-Marxism. It must be acknowledged that Eastman made a splendid job of his translation and that for this work the revolutionary movement is under a great debt of gratitude to him. This fact does, not take him out of the category in which a study of his career places him; the category to which Sydney Hook and other leading lights of the A.W.P. belonged. The study of these persons’ careers reveal them as types who have dabbled in neurotics, supposedly naughty theories and sensational ideas, and have no interest in any really vital or radical principle. Their background may be less certain than that of the Bertrand Russell and H. G. Wells clique of Merry England, but they are woven out of the same shoddy cloth.
The United Workers’ Party was organized in January, 1933, and was composed of the previous Proletarian Party Opposition which had arisen in the Communist Party of the United States and then organized itself as a separate group in 1918–19. The first program of the U.W.P. contained eight points, which may be summarized as follows :--
The Permanent Crisis of Capitalism.
The Only Revolutionary Class is the Proletariat. Therefore there must be no concessions to the agrarian and petty bourgeois class, and no united Workers’ and Peasants’ policy. The party stood for a Workers’ Republic and a Workers’ Republic only.
Declared its opposition to Trade Unionism, and averred that Trade Unions were unable to obtain concessions.
Did not believe in urging unemployment reforms. But did urge an active day-to-day struggle for immediate relief.
Anti-Parliamentary. Present crisis of capitalism did not permit the revolutionists to waste time and energy participating parliamentary activity .
Whilst not necessarily opposed to the Third International, was most critical to it. Reprinted in September, 1933.
The dictatorship of the proletariat. On this point the attitude of the U.W.P, regarded the party as only an instrument of the revolution, not the revolution itself. On this point, the subsidiary character of the party to the Soviets or Workers’ Committees of Action, the U.P.W. position is anti-Bolshevik and to our mind in line with Anarchism. The U.W.P. claim was that this is a sound Marxist attitude.
In September. 1933, the United Workers’ Party defined its attitude towards the declaration of the National Committee of the Communist League of America on the question of a new party and a fourth International. It endorsed the view then put forward by the C.L. that it was necessary to reject the policy of reforming the old corrupt Communist Party and that what were needed were a new C.P. and a new International. The U.W.P. issued its statement as a pamphlet early in 1934 under the title of Bolshevism or Communism. From that excellent pamphlet we make two quotations :
“ We have no bureaucracy that is engaged in the competitive struggle with the apparatus of other organizations; we believe that the REVOLUTION IS NOT A PARTY QUESTION BUT THE JOB OF THE WORKERS AS A CLASS; and we are willing to work in the ACTUAL CLASS STRUGGLE, in spite of theoretical differences, together with the L.O. as well as with all other proletarian groups, hoping that our policy will in the course of the struggle be accepted as a successful one.”
“The U.W.P. does not recognize such invented things as Leninism; it only considers Lenin as a Marxist who was not able to free himself totally from the influence of the degenerated so-called orthodox Marxism of Social Democracy. The U.W.P., instead of going back to Lenin, revives real Marxism in its original form before the epigones had destroyed its revolutionary value. WE ARE NOT A LENINIST BUT A MARXIAN ORGANIZATION: In our opinion a distinction between Stalinism and Leninism is impossible, as the first was the result, the actual outcome of the latter. So in our opinion, a distinction between Trotskyism and Stalinism is only possible on a PURELY CONCEPTIONAL, THAT IS, UNREAL BASIS. In reality this distinction does not exist, and the failure of the Trotsky group to differentiate not only on tactical questions, but also on questions of principle, is more than proof of this. In our opinion, the policy of Stalin historically is not only defeated, but the WHOLE BOLSHEVIK POLICY, WHICH INCLUDES LENIN AND TROTSKY, HAS FOUND ITS LOGICAL END. The Bolshevism of all forms is bankrupt. THE QUESTION IS NOT STALINISM OR LENINISM, BUT BOLSHEVISM OR COMMUNISM.”
“ We can only line up with an organization which adopts as a principle and a tactic the recognition of the present crisis as the death crisis of capitalism. The necessity of a proletarian revolution as the only way to escape a situation of wide world Fascism. The recognition of State Capitalism in Russia, and with that the call for the overthrow of the present system in Russia by the revolutionary proletariat of Russia.”
On all these points, as also on U.W.P. endorsement of the position of Rosa Luxemburg in her controversy with Lenin (1904–08), my sympathies are with the U.W.P. The pamphlet, Bolshevism or Communism, and also the other pamphlet issued about the same time as a manifesto and program of the party, on Fascism or Revolution, should be widely read by all English-speaking workers.
The Anti-Parliamentary Communist movement of Britain is the real parent of modern Socialist thought; and possesses the merit of having opposed the pundits of the traditional movement, and despite its poverty of having lasted the distance. It was ridiculed in 1906 for attacking Trade Unionism and Parliamentarism by factions who were compelled, after various squirmings and attachments, to admit that the workers have nothing whatever to gain from either Parliamentarism or Trade Unionism.
It is interesting to note however that Anti-Parliamentarism, whilst not unrelated to Marxist thought, any more than it is unrelated to some of the literature that was inspired by the French Revolution, arose as a distinct propaganda in Britain, and that its pioneer was an English Socialist who had very little time for the study of Marxian economics or of Marx’s political writings. William Morris, in the days of the Socialist League, pioneered Anti-Parliamentary Socialism in opposition alike to Anarchism and to Social Democracy. He could not bear the want of fellowship that belongs to standing alone and so returned, reluctantly, a few years before his death, to an unfortunate association with the Social Democrats.