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Anthony Massini

C.P. Begins New Lynch Campaign
in Cleveland

(14 March 1942)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 11, 14 March 1942, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Stalinist frame-up artists are at work again. Their aim is to incite lynch violence against all militant workers who oppose their treacherous policies, and to create the kind of atmosphere in which they can undertake physical attacks against their working-class opponents. Their method is to slander these opponents as “agents of Hitler’’.

The leaflet distributed by the Stalinists in Cleveland last week and reproduced on this page is a typical example of how their lynch campaign operates.

The Stalinists in that city have been infuriated for some time by the regular distribution of The Militant at a large factory and the favorable response to the paper of the workers in the factory. The distribution of a paper which tells the truth about the war interferes with the attempts of the Stalinists – in the name of “national unity against Hitler” – to suppress all militant action by the workers against the bosses’ attacks.

The Stalinists threatened the distributors with violence, and they urged the workers to refuse to accept the paper, to tear it up and throw it into the face of the distributors. When neither of these methods proved successful, they issued the leaflet, We Accuse Hitler’s Agents At Your Gates, an incitement to mob violence and reactionary prejudices in the tradition made famous by the Nazis.

They charge the Trotskyists in this leaflet with concentrating on “spreading seeds of confusion among the laboring, people, for the purpose of disorganizing our fight against the Axis powers,” and with trying “to sabotage the war effort, mainly by creating disunity and conflict in the labor movement.” The “proof” they offer is distorted references to and quotations torn out of context from recent issues of The Militant.

The Way to Defeat Hitler

“Here is the proof”, they say:

“In the February 7th issue of The Militant – (1) A frontpage editorial says that the way to defeat Hitler is to overthrow the governments of the United States and Great Britain. The destruction of the Hitlerite government is NOT urged.”

The title of the editorial referred to was: How to Destroy One of Hitler’s Chief Weapons. It pointed out how Hitler kept the German people in subjection by playing on their fear of a second Versailles Treaty to crush and dismember Germany in the event of an Allied victory. The editorial said that there is

“a way to destroy this weapon of Hitler. There is a way to arouse the German masses to revolutionary struggle against their fascist oppressors. That way is by the establishment of Workers’ and Farmers’ Governments in Britain and the United States ...

“Hitler then would have no success in holding the threat of another Versailles over the German people, because one of the first acts of a Workers’ and Farmers Government in this country would be to renounce all policies or agreements aimed at oppressing or penalizing the German masses ...

“One of the first acts of Workers’ and Farmers’ Governments in Britain and this country would be to call on – and to aid – the German masses to overthrow Hitler, establish their own government representing their own interests, and join with them in the creation of a World Socialist Federation which by abolishing the economic basis for national antagonisms would be able to build a world of security and peace for all.”

The Stalinist charge that “the destruction of the Hitlerite government is NOT urged is thus a crude lie.” The “proof” that the Trotskyists are “Hitler’s agents” turns out on examination to be a program for overthrowing Hitlerism.

The Stalinists lie about this program because it is so sharply opposed to their own “way to defeat Hitler.” They refuse to call on the German masses to make their socialist revolution; they endorse the Atlantic Charter which promises in effect another Versailles Treaty, the fear of which is Hitler’s strongest weapon against the German revolution; they have no program to offer to the German masses who are in the last analysis the force which will overthrow Hitler.

The second “proof” of the Stalinists that the Trotskyists are Hitler’s agents:

“Another editorial, entitled CIO Wage Demands, calls for the ousting of the elected leaders of CIO unions ... In the February 14th issue of The Militant there is another attack on labor unity: ‘The defense of the workers’ interests demands a repudiation of the present leadership and its servile policies ...”

The editorial and article referred to endorsed the demands of the CIO, for wage increases and union security. At the same time they sharply criticized the national leaders of the CIO. Why? Because they issued no program for securing these demands; because what they “mean by ‘fight’ is to throw the demands of the CIO workers into the lap of the War Labor Board”; because their no-strike policy, decided upon behind the backs of the rank-and-file, paralyzes the struggle of the workers against rising prices, etc.

The editorial said: “The workers can have no confidence in such officials. The union ranks want officers who will lead them in genuine struggle against the present serious threat to their rights and living standards ... Above all, the strike weapon must not be surrendered ... The rank-and-file owe it to themselves to elect as their leaders those who put the interests of the workers before everything else.”

The charge about “ousting of elected officials” is clearly a distortion of a call to the workers to elect officials who will fight for their interests. The Stalinists don’t like it because they want the union leaders to place the interests of the war machine above everything else. What the Stalinists mean by “labor unity” today is unquestioning acceptance of every proposal advanced by the union leaders, even when those policies are contrary to the Workers’ interests and decided on bureaucratically behind the back of the workers.

The Trotskyist trade union policy is the opposite of the Stalinist policy, as expounded by Roy Hudson, their trade union expert, in the Daily Worker, March 3: “Strikes Help Hitler,” he said, “because they hinder the war.” The Stalinists say that the Trotskyists’ support of the right to strike makes them “Hitler’s agents.” Well, that’s exactly what the die-hard open shoppers of Little Steel and the poll-tax congressmen like Smith of Virginia say not only of the Trotskyists, but of every worker who tries to’ make trade unionism something more than a rubber stamp for the bosses.

The third “proof” of the Stalinists:

“Presenting the Trotskyists’ attitude toward the war, James P. Cannon, National Secretary, attempts to drive a wedge between the United Nations by falsely characterizing the war effort of the United States and Britain as imperialist in character.”

Cannon’s Statement On the War was a Marxist analysis of the causes of the second world war, reprinted by The Militant from the January 1942 issue of Fourth International. The statement declared that “Following Lenin, it made no difference to us which imperialist bandit fired the first shot.” The characterization of the war of the capitalist countries “as an imperialist war” was “determined for us by the character of the state powers involved in it. They were all capitalist states in the epoch of imperialism; themselves imperialist – oppressing other nations or peoples – or satellites of imperialist powers. The extension of the war to the Pacific and the formal entry of the United States and Japan change nothing in this basic analysis.”

But Cannon’s statement drew a sharp distinction between its characterization of the war conducted by the capitalist states and the war conducted by the Soviet Union and China!

“We defend the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is a workers’ state, although degenerated under the totalitarian-political rule of the Kremlin bureaucracy. Only traitors can deny support to the Soviet workers’ state in its war against fascist Germany. To defend the Soviet Union, in spite of Stalin and against Stalin, is to defend the nationalized property established by the October revolution. That is a progressive war.”

The statement also characterized China’s war against Japan as progressive because it is “a colonial country, battling for national independence against an imperialist power. A victory for China would be a tremendous blow against all imperialism, inspiring all colonial peoples to throw off the imperialist yoke.”

This analysis of the difference between the Soviet Union and China on the one hand and the capitalist countries on the other is what the Stalinists call driving “a wedge between the United Nations.” They do not dare to discuss Cannon’s analysis of these differences; they do not want the workers to think about these differences; they attack all those who remind the workers that the Soviet system is different from the capitalist system.

The Stalinists only last June themselves were loudly characterizing the war as imperialist. When Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, they say, the character of the war “changed”; “ the imperialist war of Britain”, for example, was changed into “a just war”. This is like saying that the British ruling class was fighting a war for markets and raw materials and the right to exploit the colonies on June 21, and then because of Hitler’s invasion it suddenly began on June 23 to fight for something entirely different. When it comes to “spreading seeds of confusion,” the Stalinists have no competitors.

Realizing that their “proof” will be rejected as slanders by anyone who has read the articles they refer to, the Stalinists seek to strengthen their charges by repeating old Stalinist slanders against the Trotskyists in other countries. But here again the falsity of their charges is apparent to anyone who knows even a little about Trotskyism and Stalinism.

“The Trotskyists” says the leaflet, “... were convicted by the Russian government at the Moscow trials for Fifth Column work in behalf of German and Japanese imperialism.”

In 1936–37 the Stalinists were trying to get an alliance with Britain and the United States. Everyone in the labor movement who opposed their policies was labelled by them as an “agent of German and Japanese imperialism.”

In the Moscow trials and the purges which followed them in this period,. Stalin murdered the Old Bolsheviks who helped to found the Soviet Union and whose only crime was that they criticized the totalitarian dictatorship of the Soviet bureaucracy which Stalin heads and asked for a return to the workers’ democracy which had been established under Lenin, The Moscow trials were rejected by world, public opinion at that time as frame-ups.

In 1939 Stalin made his pact with Hitler and gave him a free hand to go ahead in Europe. The slanders of the Stalinists against the Trotskyists underwent an abrupt change. Now instead of accusing the Trotskyists of being German and Japanese agents, they called them “agents of Anglo-American imperialism.” The Trotskyists had not changed; only Stalin’s alliance had changed.

When Hitler broke the pact last summer, the Stalinist lies about the. Trotskyists changed once again. Again they become “agents of German and Japanese imperialism,” although the Trotskyists remained what they always were, uncompromising defenders of the first workers’ state in spite of the Stalinist regime, and opponents of the Stalinist regime because its policies have helped to undermine the defense, of the Soviet Union.

“They attempted to wreck the development of unity among the Chinese people,” the leaflet continues.

In fact, the Chinese Trotskyists have bravely fought and died in the struggle against the Japanese invaders, have urged the Chinese masses to adopt the revolutionary policy which would drive Japanese imperialism out of their country.

These charges against them come furthermore from the Stalinists who signed a non-aggression pact with Japan less than a year ago, recognizing Japan’s conquest of Manchukuo, and virtually giving the go-ahead signal to Japan in China.

“They made common cause with Franco, Hitler and Mussolini in the destruction of the Spanish Republic. They helped torpedo the French Popular Front Government, thus paving the way for Hitler’s bandit armies.”

This lie about “paving the way” for Hitler comes from the Stalinists who supported the People’s Front that suppressed and demoralized the French working class and destroyed the workers’ power that could have defeated Hitler; from the Stalinists whose GPU agents murdered the Spanish revolutionists, collaborated with the Spanish capitalists to put down the revolution in blood and made easier the victory of Franco.

Stalinism fears free discussion in the labor movement just as it fears democracy in the Soviet Union, and it is ever on the lookout for opportunities to destroy its working class opponents by slander, incitations to mob violence and outright assassination.

The Stalinist lynch campaign is not confined to the Trotskyists alone. They have accused Norman Thomas and the Socialist Party of wanting “the defeat of the United States in the fight against. Hitler”; they have accused Louis Nelson, manager of Knitgoods Local 155 of the I.L.G.W.U., of carrying on “fifth column activities” and following an “anti-U.S.” line; they have charged Harry Lundeberg, leader of the AFL seamen’s union, with being “anti-democratic” and of sabotaging the war program. And by their declaration that “strikes help Hitler”, it is easy to see that they are prepared to extend these slanders to every force in the working class that wants to protect the interests of the workers in the war.

Stalinism is the syphilis of the labor movement. Just as the spread of syphilis is not checked by “not speaking about it,” so will Stalinist lynch campaigns not be checked by an ostrich policy, which makes them bolder and gives them the opportunity to finish off their opponents one by one. The labor movement – to protest its independent existence, its struggle for better conditions, its freedom of speech, its right to differ with the policies of the Communist Party – must speak up now and conduct an all-out fight against the lynch provocations of the Stalinists.

* * *

Cleveland C.P. Leaflet

C.P. Leaflet

Above is a reproduction of the Stalinist leaflet issued in Cleveland last week. Note the advertisement for a meeting on the bottom, in which the authors of this leaflet inciting lynch violence against the Trotskyists plead, “Let Freedom Ring for Earl Browder.”

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