Felix Morrow

The Socialist Party Meets the Problem
of the ALP’s War-Mongering
by – Saying Nothing

(20 October 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 80, 20 October 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Oct. 7 issue of The Call, official organ of the Thomas Socialists, proudly announced that “two well-known Socialists,” Harry Laidler and Frank Crosswaith, had been nominated as New York City councilmanic candidates by the American Labor Party.

On Oct. 4, the state executive committee of the ALP adopted a “special resolution on the European conflict” which put the ALP on the side of Anglo-French imperialism and on the basis of this fundamental orientation drew two immediate corollaries: support of Roosevelt’s proposals to aid Anglo-French imperialism by lifting the embargo on munitions; and denunciation of Stalin and the Stalinists for shifting from Anglo-French imperialism to Hitler. The next day the ALP state executive committee made “subscribing to and reaffirming” this pro-war resolution mandatory upon all ALP candidates, and an “acid test” of ALP membership.

The resolution was submitted to a city conference of ALP delegates on the night of Oct. 4, and, along with the war-mongering Louis Waldmans and assorted pro-Roosevelt labor skates, the Norman Thomas socialists, led by Jack Altman,voted for the pro-war resolution. Shortly afterward the press reported that the “well-known socialist,” Frank Crosswaith, had “expressed unqualified approval for the resolution.” The terms in which his fellow-socialist, Harry Laidler, accepted the resolution have not been published, but it was evidently satisfactory to the war-mongering ALP leadership. All this was, of course, in plain violation of the official stand of the Socialist party.

The Call Applies Gobs of Whitewash

One awaited with interest, therefore, the following issues of The Call. Would the Socialist Party adhere to its official anti-war position and consequently condemn Jack Altman, Frank Crosswaith and Harry Laidler, and place the Socialist Party in unequivocal opposition to the war-mongering resolution? Or would it, like the Lovestoneite Workers Age, justify voting for the resolution?

These were the two horns of the dilemma which the national leaders of the Socialist Party faced. How would they meet the problem?

They have met the problem so far, in the two weeks since Oct. 4, by a very simple method: utter silence. The October 14 and 21 issues of The Call are out, and they carry not a single word on this important question! Nor have any statements been issued to the press – other than Crosswaith’s “unqualified approval of the resolution.”

The latest issues of The Call find room for many things, if not for material on the crucial ALP resolution. The main headline in the Oct. 14 issue is “AFL warns of war danger” – a thorough and – to use the more accurate term – servile whitewash of the AFL bureaucracy,which, far from really fighting against the war, railroaded through the convention support for what the Socialist Party has called the first giant step to war: Roosevelt’s program to aid Anglo-French imperialism by lifting the embargo.

As if this were not enough,the Oct. 21 issue of The Call provided further whitewash:

“There can be no question that the convention did plan and speak effectively for all labor in the matter of opposition not only to any involvement of the United States in war but as to the measures preparatory to war in terms of “M” Day plans and war boards.”

Proof? The mealy-mouthed AFL resolution which proposed, as a solution for “wartime dictatorship” – that organized labor be represented on the war planning boards! In neither issue is there a single, solitary word about or against the convention’s adherence to Roosevelt’s program for lifting the embargo!

Where The Call Finds Encouragement

The latest issues of The Call have room for many things. That of October 14 wrote:

“An encouraging note was struck by the AFL convention here when it gave a tremendous ovation to Gerhart Seger, former member of the German Reichstag, who spoke to the delegates on behalf of the German labor delegation in America.”

Why is it “an encouraging note” that Seger received a “tremendous ovation”? The Call does not say, nor does it accurately describe who he is. Gerhart Seger may speak on behalf of the “German labor delegation” in America, but that means speaking on behalf of those who, having capitulated to Hitler without a struggle, now are making as much propaganda as they can for their present program which is: their return to Germany behind British and French – and American – bayonets. Seger is one of that despicable group of war-mongers who are providing “German” testimonials to the purity of the war aims of Anglo-French imperialism. That he receives a tremendous ovation from the AFL convention is an “encouraging note,” says The Call. Encouraging to whom?

More things of the same kidney find room in the issues of The Call which keep silent about the ALP resolution. The Call had printed a message from the “German Independent Labor Party,” ostensibly as an anti-war document. Not being anti-war, Alfred Baker Lewis, state secretary of the Socialist Party of Massachusetts, writes a communication in The Call, October 14:

“I think it is only fair to your readers to state that the mes-sage from the German Independent Labor Party ... also included a statement from the Society of Sudeten Germans which reads: ‘Hitler’s defeat is an aim common to all those loving peace, liberty and humanity. We are in accord with the British and French peoples who stand up for the freedom of the world.’ It would be a mistake to leave the impression that our courageous German comrades regard the outcome of the war with indifference on the ground that it is only a clash between rival imperialisms.”

(Mr. Lewis writes in the same pro-Ally vein in The Nation and elsewhere, but that is all right in the Socialist Party where only left wingers must “obey discipline.”)

These Gentlemen Do Not Denounce

The Call, issue after issue, prints reams from Devere Allen, national executive committee member, now in Brussels, who cannot find warm enough words with which to praise the Catholic-Socialist coalition government of Belgium (and the Congo) which is operating, he says, “with a spirit of poise and sincerity which must evoke the admiration of the world.” As for example – Mr. Allen doesn’t mention it – the Belgian government’s recent arrest of Walter Dauge, leader of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (Fourth International) for issuing a manifesto calling for struggle against the war.

“It is not for us to denounce the immediate choices of our European comrades in their present terrible dilemma,” wrote the Socialist Party in its Declaration Against the War (The Call, September 23).

It is in the same strain, no doubt, that The Call feels that it is not for it to denounce the immediate choice of its American comrades in their present terrible dilemma in the American Labor Party.

To vote against the pro-war resolution – why that would mean a break with the Dubinskys and Hillmans and all the other bureaucrats in the needle trades; would mean that the Jack Altmans would no longer be welcome in the corridors of the union officialdom; it would mean to put their much-touted principles above the interests of the Crosswaiths and other retainers of the union bureaucracy. As for the very thought of disciplinary action against the war-mongers in the party like Crosswaith, Jack Altman, Alfred Baker Lewis et al. – expulsions and such weapons are for the Altmans to employ against the left wingers in the party, never against such “leaders.” For that’s the Socialist Party of Norman Thomas.

Last updated on 15 February 2018