Written: August 1931.
First Published: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 17, 1 August p. 4.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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Experience is a costly teacher, but an effective one. Having suffered the full consequences of the “stay at work” policy during Schlesinger’s strike maneuvers, the Left wing in the needle trades is striving to avoid a similar debacle in the Amalgamated. The Rank and File Committee in the Hillman Union – the Left wing group dominated by the party – has issued a statement on the stoppage announced by the Amalgamated. The statement describes the stoppage as a stratagem to put over a deal between the Hillman bureaucracy and the bosses against the members of the union. It advises the clothing workers to “turn the stoppage into a real struggle of all clothing workers for better conditions in the shops.”
On both these points the statement of the Rank and File Committee is surely correct. It shows beyond all doubt that the Left wing militants in the needle trades have learned something from the bludgeoning they have endured as a result of the treacherous policy imposed upon them in recent times by the Centrist bureaucrats.
During the Schlesinger strike, the Left wing it will be remembered, had a different policy. At that time the Stalinists said, and not without a certain justification as is the case now in the Amalgamated, that the strike was a fake. And from this they drew the conclusion that the Left wing militants should stay at work while the Right wing workers went out. By this policy, which they enforced against all protests, they deprived the Left wing of all possibility to influence the masses of workers in the streets. They gave the reactionaries a powerful weapon which they used to the full against the Left wing. If Schlesinger were to give credit where credit is due for the present entrenchment of the Right wing union he would have to make heavy acknowledgments to the “stay at work” slogan of the Communist party.
The Opposition hammered this slogan and advised, instead, that the Left wing militants go out with the rest and steer the movement into the path of struggle. The advice was without avail them. An experiment was necessary to expose the complete emptiness of the Centrist policy. The experience was bitter but not entirely in vain. Nobody would dare to tell the needle trades workers to repeat that sorry performance.
We can only welcome the reversal of tactics in this respect. The policy of the party in the needle trades today, despite many changes, is yet by no means fully correct. But we can be thankful that the suicidal slogan of “stay at work” while the Right wing workers are on the street, is no more. This is progress painfully achieved but all the surer for it. It is another demonstration that the policy of the Opposition can make its way, even if after ruinous delays, when experience has reinforced and confirmed its correctness. But that is just the power of the Marxist platform of the Left Opposition: it stands up under the test of events.
Last updated on: 13.1.2013