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Dobbs and Carlson Address Nation in Broadcasts from SWP Convention

Call for a Workers and Farmers Government
As Only Answer to Wall Street War-Makers

Inspiring Five-Day Gathering Opens
Presidential Campaign Of Socialist Workers Party

(6 July 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 28, 12 July 1948, pp. 1 & 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

NEW YORK, July 6 – Cheering to the echo the choice of Farrell Dobbs and Grace Carlson as first Trotskyist candidates for U. S. President and Vice-President, the 13th National Convention of the Socialist Workers Party summoned the American people to join with the SWP in a forward march to a Workers and Farmers Government and socialism.

In an atmosphere charged with confidence and enthusiasm, the delegates, who sat in session from July 1 to 5 at the Irving Plaza Hall here, ratified the nominations of Dobbs and Carlson and launched a national election campaign for revolutionary socialism that recalls the day of Eugene Victor Debs.

Climaxing and high-pointing this inspiring convention, were three national radio broadcasts from the sessions. They included the keynote speech over ABC of James P. Cannon, SWP National Secretary and 40-year veteran of the American class struggle, and the acceptance speeches of Comrades Dobbs and Carlson over Mutual and ABC. Another address is being delivered by Dobbs tonight over the NBC network.

Powerful Appeals

These radio addresses are unquestionably the most powerful socialist appeals that have ever been made to the American working class, the working farmers and Negro people. Never has such a propaganda blow, been struck in this country for the socialist cause. That millions of people heard the SWP call is shown by the flood of letters and postcards that hit the SWP National Headquarters in the first post-holiday mail deliveries this morning.

Thus, the SWP, convention, it is already clear, marks a turn of the tide in the fight for the socialist emancipation of the American masses. The first great upsurge began in 1904 under the dynamic leadership of Debs. It took another brief leap forward in the early twenties with the pioneer Communist movement inspired by Lenin and Trotsky, before it was corrupted and betrayed by Stalinism. Now, after many setbacks, the SWP election campaign marks the socialist resurgence on a higher plane.

After 20 years of uphill battling as a small and isolated group, the Socialist Workers Party celebrated its coming of age at this convention. It revealed itself united in principle, tested in action, rooted in the working masses of America. From first to last, this convention showed that the Trotskyist movement – the authentic heir of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Debs and Haywood – is prepared to take its rightful place as a national political force in America.

That fact is attested to not only by the SWP national election campaign but by the SWP’s demonstrated ability to grapple with the most complex problems cf American life and to give the most realistic and scientific answers.

Negro Discussion

It was no accident that the same convention which nominated the first national candidates of the SWP also adopted, after a full day’s discussion, a rounded resolution on the Negro Struggle that makes the fight for Negro rights a front-line task of American Trotskyism.

Every major question of international and national political life came in for full-scale reports and discussion. Prior to the convention, drafts of resolutions had gone out to the membership for study. These covered the crisis of world capitalism; American imperialism and its war preparations; the militarization of the U.S. and the fight against the coming imperialist war; the struggle for the independence of the American labor movement and the building of the labor party; the political developments of the election year and the Wallace movement.

To all of these questions, the delegates from more than 30 cities gave the most serious attention, illuminating each with the light of Marxist analysis. The vigorous and intelligent discussion from the floor revealed a party in which the decisive voice is the membership – a membership trained in the labor struggle and alert to safeguard the principles of the Marxist party.

Fighting Campaign

They showed they could not only analyze but act. The nomination of presidential candidates and adoption of a fighting election platform were accompanied by decisions for conducting an election campaign such as no party of comparable size has every undertaken in this country.

First came the decision to raise an initial $25,000 Election Campaign and Party Building Fund. This decision was adopted with tremendous enthusiasm on the second day of the convention.

The convention also adopted a report by Election Campaign Manager George Clarke outlining plans for election activities on a most ambitious scale. These will include national tours by Dobbs and Carlson, mass meetings, radio programs, street corner rallies, addresses before public forums and social affairs. Hundreds of thousands of pieces of election literature will be distributed.

An important part of the campaign will be a special Militant subscription campaign, to secure, thousands of new regular readers of our weekly paper. Workers will be urged to subscribe during the election campaign for 15 issues of The Militant for 25 cents.

Party Platform

The adoption of the election platform was a key convention action. This platform, as the delegates pointed out, is not window-dressing. The SWP means business.

Arthur Burch, who introduced the draft platform prepared by the National Committee, pointed cut:

“Above all, this is a revolutionary document that calls for nothing less than the mobilization of the American people for the coming socialist revolution. Our Platform calls for a Workers and Farmers Government – a socialist government.”

The ratification of the party’s presidential candidates previously nominated by the National Committee, followed adoption of the platform. United on program and principle, the convention was unanimous in endorsing by tremendous ovation Farrell Dobbs for President and Grace Carlson for Vice-President.

Murray Weiss of Los Angeles had the honor of placing Dobbs’ name in nomination. He stated that “we are a party founded on principle and those who take these principles seriously.” Dobbs, he said, “is a symbol of our ideas and way of life, whose whole adult life has been devoted to the emancipating movement of socialism, a man tested in life on the field of action of the labor struggle.”

Grace Carlson’s name was put in nomination by Genora Dollinger, Flint, leader of the Women’s Brigade in the 1937 GM sitdown. Comrade Carlson, she said, has held the Trotskyist banner “firm in her hands, even in the face of the greatest intimidation by the most powerful imperialist government in the whole world.” Grace had the opportunity to make “a brilliant mark” in the educational and scientific world, the speaker said, but “all these honors and posts she gladly forsook for the greater but more difficult road of the socialist revolution.”

Keynote Address

When Comrade Cannon, founder of the American Trotskyist movement and its leading figure since 1928, stepped to the ABC mikes before the packed convention hall and amid ear-shattering cheers of the audience to deliver his convention keynote speech to America, everyone felt he was witnessing history in the making.

He spoke of the Two Americas, the America of the imperialists, “of the little clique of capitalists, landlords and militarists” who exploit the American people while “simultaneously threatening and terrifying the world.” Against them is “the other America which we, the Socialist Workers Party, by our program, represent – the America of the workers and farmers.” He concluded with the ringing words: “We, the National Convention of the Socialist Workers Party, summon our America to her great world destiny – not as dominator, oppressor and exploiter, but as the liberator of the world.”

The acceptance speeches of Dobbs and Carlson on Friday night over the Mutual network and on Saturday afternoon over ABC continued and developed the keynote struck by Cannon. In his first address, Dobbs described the basic plank of the Socialist Workers Party, For a Workers and Farmers Government, as the sole realistic answer to the capitalist war program. Grace Carlson, speaking on The Only Road to Peace, reminded American mothers and fathers of the promises made them by Wilson and Roosevelt and their betrayals. “There is only one way to fight war,” she said, “that is, to do away with the capitalist system, which, breeds war, and replace it with an international socialist society.” (Text of two speeches on Page 4).

ABC Addresses

Their second addresses, over ABC on Saturday afternoon, continued to explain the basic issues. Dobbs spoke on Socialism or Barbarism, tearing apart the lie that American imperialism plans war against the Soviet Union to destroy “totalitarianism.” Stalinism “will be removed, not through capitalist wars of conquest, but by the unpostponable struggle against capitalism itself.”

Addressing herself to the most oppressed sections of the population, the Negro people in particular, Grace Carlson, spoke on The Struggle for Civil Rights, concluding with a direct message to the Negroes of the Deep South, “the most oppressed, the most exploited, the most humiliated” people in the land. “We want you to know, brothers and sisters,” she said, “that for us there can be no talk of freedom in the United Statqs until you are free.”

The final address in the radio series, tonight over NBC, will be Dobb’s speech on Why Labor Needs Its Own Party. In this speech, he will expose the fakery of the “anti-war” program of the millionaire Wallace, and tell why the American labor movement must break with the capitalist parties and form its own class party. (Next week’s Militant will publish the last three radio speeches.)

Convention discussion on the election campaign was concluded by National Secretary Cannon’s report on Election Policy and Party Perspectives.

Our Concept

“Our concept is not a routine Socialist Labor Party type of campaign,” he said, “but a fighting campaign, an aggressive, slugging campaign against all other parties. We must exploit all legal possibilities for propaganda.” In this connection, he spoke of the need for funds for radio time, hailing the convention broadcasts in which “the revolutionary program for the first time is flaring out over the radio.”

J. Lyons, of Chicago, presented a minority report, with equal time, criticizing the party’s election policy. Representing a minority of the Chicago local, Lyons attacked the party’s characterization of the Wallace movement as a “capitalist third party” and called it instead a “step in the direction of a labor party.” After a thorough discussion, the minority resolution was put to a vote, and received three votes, with four abstentions. Cannon’s report was adopted.

In keeping with the internationalism of the Trotskyist program, the first report on the convention agenda was on the international situation and the world Trotskyist movement.

International Report

M. Stein, SWP National Organization Secretary, gave information on the recent World Congress of the Fourth International, which was attended by delegates from 22 parties in 19 countries on five continents. He deplored the fact that the SWP, because of Voorhees Act, was forced to disaffiliate from the Fourth International, but declared the party’s firm ideological solidarity with it.

“At a time when the American capitalist class tries to purge itself of all isolationism,” he said, “it seeks to impose isolationism on the working class and to destroy working class internationalism.” “But,” he said, “we rejoice at the successful conclusion of the Second World Congress of the Fourth International.” The SWP convention unanimously approved Comrade Stein’s report.

A thoroughgoing discussion was held on the key political resolution: The Militarization of the USA and the Tasks of the Socialist Workers Party.

William F. Warde, National Educational Director, delivered the report on this basic document. This resolution, he pointed out, analyzer the insoluble contradictions facing American capitalism, which is resting on the shaky foundations of world capitalism in mortal crisis. “The temporary postponement of the maturing capitalist crisis, purchased by the Marshall Plan, will be paid for later by the accumulation of conditions for an even more catastrophic military or economic explosion.”

In the discussion, B. Lenz and D. Weiss of New York criticized the resolution for what they claimed was a failure to put forward adequately the SWP’s program for trade union control of military training as an answer to capitalist conscription. The convention rejected their amendment on the grounds that it made it mandatory for the party to advance this program to front position without regard to its immediate effectiveness. The convention left it up to the National Committee to determine when and how to advance this program most effectively.

The resolution on the Negro Question evoked a truly inspiring discussion. J. Meyer gave a brilliant summation of the party’s position on the Negro question that won a tremendous ovation. (This report is summarized on Page 5). He gave the historical background of the Negro struggle and showed how the Negro people are the greatest allies of the working class in the battle for socialism.

After his report, the convention, with Negro delegates taking the lead, discussed the resolution with great earnestness and animation. The contributions of the Negro delegates showed that the SWP has developed a cadre of Negro Marxists who are going to play a decisive role in the struggle for Negro freedom and the socialist emancipation of labor.

The convention approved the report of Comrade Meyer, adopted the basic line of the resolution and voted to open a six-months discussion to educate and train the party membership for the great tasks ahead in the Negro struggle.

Trade Union Report

A vital part of the convention discussion centered on the work of the Trotskyist militants in the trade union movement. The report on the trade union resolution was delivered by E.R. Frank, active for many years in the industrial unions and Acting Editor of The Militant.

He pointed out that just as the crisis of 1929 and the betrayals of the AFL craft leaders produced the CIO industrial union movement, “just as surely, just as inevitably, the growing economic hardships and the encroachments of a creeping military dictatorship plus the abject surrender, the inadequacy, the helplessness and betrayal of the new CIO bureaucracy are right now working, germinating, producing the forces that will go into the making and eventual emergence of a new type of leadership in the labor union movement.”

The floor discussion centered on the question of how to build a genuine left-wing on a class struggle program in the trade unions. Numerous trade unionists’ spoke of their experiences in auto, steel, rubber and other basic industries on the question of building the left wing, pointing cut that a left-wing movement will grow out of the struggles within the labor movement from a crystallization of the most militant and progressive forces against the bureaucracy.

The final action of the convention was to close the discussion on unity negotiations with the Schactmanite [sic!] Workers Party, which split from the SWP in 1940. This group in 1944 opened attempts to penetrate the SWP with a “unity” maneuver. Paul Stevens, who gave the report, described how this maneuver, was designed to split the SWP and how it finally resulted in a complete exposure of the unprincipled politics of the petty-bourgeois WP and a major split in its own ranks.

A leader of the former Johnson-Forrest tendency which split from the WP and returned to the SWP told the convention that since rejoining the SWP the Johnson-Forrest group was “overwhelmed” by the revolutionary dynamism inside the SWP and would yield first place to none in their devotion and work for the party.

When the convention concluded on schedule yesterday afternoon, every delegate and visitor felt imbued with the spirit of revolutionary action. The walls shook as they sang Solidarity, We Shall Not Be Moved and the workers’ international battle-song The International.

The delegates – 74% of them active trade unionists, young, bold and permeated with the will to revolutionary socialism – are going forth to their shops, factories and homes to put the Socialist Workers Party “on the map” in the campaign for Dobbs and Carlson.

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